As Festa season continues, BTS have been releasing more and more special gems for ARMY. Perhaps the gift that has generated the biggest response from media and fans alike is the rap line’s new diss track, “Ddaeng,” the complexity of which is already apparent from the title itself: the word is used an incredible 6 unique times throughout the lyrics:
The word (or sound, depending on the context) is used in the song to mean:
- Wrong or incorrect
- To describe the sound of a school bell ringing
- To reference a Korean card came called “Hwatu” (flower cards)
- A freeze tag-style game (‘Ddaeng’ being the sound that is used to set another player free)
- An onomatopoeia for the sound a cash register makes when it opens
The word ‘thang’ is also pronounced as ‘ddaeng.’ Of course, it is also notable that in English the word also sounds like ‘dang,’ it is unclear whether or not this is an intentional effect. There may be further, more discreet meanings that I have failed to pick up on.
The track even merited a positive review from The Recording Academy and has generally received great praise from various sources in recent days. Even prior to researching the meaning of the lyrics in English, it is clear that the rap is bouncing with comfortable confidence. The rappers’ delivery has a personal quality to it, almost as if they are speaking, perhaps face to face with their critics. The rappers (RM, Suga and J-Hope) maintain a steady, relaxed pace throughout and sprinkle the track with careless laughter and other ad libs.
The dissing mood is apparent in the subtle message delivered through the track’s sound from the get-go. One of the most unique elements of the song is how the rap glides seamlessly along the melody of the various Eastern instruments. The presence of this traditional Asian sound seems like a direct response to those who have claimed in recent years that BTS’ music has become “too Westernised” and proves that they are still more than capable of taking control over their own style.
“Ddaeng” could be the most recent addition to a string of previously released diss tracks including Cypher 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as last year’s Mic Drop, which have all addressed criticisms and bragged of their current successes. RM in particular often responds to and reflects on the harsh criticism directed at him at the beginning of his career.
— Atifa✨ (@uhhuhlistenboy7) June 10, 2018
Some of “Ddaeng’s” lyrics include, ‘thank you for ignoring us until now’ and ‘we will fail again like you wish, so please keep worrying about us,’ relating back to the old days when BTS were often cut out of broadcasts and many predicted that they would not succeed. It is often joked within the group and fandom that when haters claim BTS and ARMY cannot achieve something, they tend to do exactly that. That joke has been proved to be no laughing matter many times over.
Some clear punches are thrown at the “Big 3” (for those less familiar with the Korean music industry, this refers to the three big entertainment agencies which have dominated the music market since, well, the beginning, until now) in Suga’s lyrics: ‘Friends from small companies, I hope you become big companies soon.’ Opinion has been divided over interpretation, with some reading this line as a sincerely supportive message to other artists from small companies like Big Hit Entertainment, wishing for their success as fellow underdogs. Others, however, have interpreted it as a shot at big companies which are now a fraction of the size of Big Hit thanks to BTS’ success. As it was reported this year, Big Hit’s growth has been overwhelming and their profits are now more than the big 3 companies’ combined.
Not that we would expect anything less, right?
The lyrics are, regrettably, difficult to decipher for a non-Korean speaker as they are bursting with specific cultural and linguistic references. That said, it would be hard for anyone to miss the calm but powerful emotion delivered through the punchy, brazen rap, proving the confidence of the group that has been built up over years of overcoming the odds. Perhaps the linguistically challenging lyrics which still ooze such clear intention in “Ddaeng” encapsulate the spirit of Bangtan overall: music is a language, and these boys speak it fluently.
Got any other thoughts on “Ddaeng?” Let us know by tweeting @BTSForeverCom and start a conversation!