June 12, 2013 is a day all ARMY know as THE day. It is the day that BTS – Bangtan Sonyeondan – debuted in Korea for the very first time. This year marks the five-year anniversary of this important event in the fandom. There will be many activities taking place in the coming two weeks – known as “Festa” – celebrating and commemorating everything BTS.
In preparation for this, let’s look at BTS Then & Now – and reflect on how far they have come.
BTS started as a hip hop group, dedicated to authentic rap and sounds. “Bangtan” means bulletproof, and the boys felt they needed a tough image to literally deflect the negativity and pressures they faced personally and professionally. Now, BTS also means Beyond the Scene to reflect a maturing confidence both individually and musically. As the years have passed, they have shed the tough, hard edges, and are more comfortable presenting images more truly reflective of themselves.
BTS Members Then & Now
The physical transformation of the members between 2013 and 2018 is obvious. In 2013, the age range was 15 for the youngest, Jungkook, to 21 for the oldest, Jin. Many ARMY have been with them from the beginning and have watched them grow. Individual members share their personal style more freely, and the dark, glam/hip hip, severe clothes of debut are long gone. They are fully aware of what ARMY wants, so their stylists and photographers clearly give in to fan service – we are never wanting for beautiful photos and aesthetics.
Albums: 2 Cool 4 Skool vs. Love Yourself: Tear
Issued nearly five years apart, these two albums couldn’t be more different.
Then: 2 Cool 4 Skool (released June 12, 2013) is considered a “singles” album. The lead tracks are No More Dream and We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2. In total, the album contains seven tracks, including Outro: Circle Room Cypher and Skit: Circle Room Talk which are playful audio views of the members. This mini album introduces the group with hard beats, aggressive hip hop and a sweet, slow tempo song, called Like. With the two additional hidden tracks on the physical CD, the album clocks in at 23 1/2 minutes. Sales wise, the album sold around 100,000 copies.
Now: In contrast, Love Yourself: Tear (released May 18, 2018) is a fully formed conceptual album from start to finish. It continues the Love Yourself theme started with the “Her” album issued last year. RM contributed to writing on each of the 11 tracks. They have enlisted producers and writers from all corners of the world and from top industry collaborators. The songs range from neo-soul and pure pop, to Latin pop and the rap/vocal mix that ARMY have come to love. Reviews have been positive for the range and diversity of the 44 minute album. As of this writing, the album and individual tracks are breaking BTS’ own records for sales, and chart achievements. History is still being written, but the consensus is that BTS and K-Pop have achieved unprecedented heights. Soompi reported stock pre-sales of 1.4 million copies prior to the album’s release.
Debut Stage 2013 vs. Comeback Stage 2018
Then: It is hard to not think of the nerves and pressure the boys felt as they debuted in 2013. They were signed to a new, unknown, independent entertainment company that was low on funds. Most of them had been trainees for 2-3 years, scrapping by and hoping for debut. They only had a small singles album to promote and a small fan base. They performed two songs on the Melon Showcase in front of a small studio audience on June 13, 2013. The experience is well documented in this video.
Now: In 2018, the pressure and nerves are different. BigHit Entertainment is said to be the largest entertainment company in Korea. BTS has achieved global success and recognition. Suga has stated they wish to be global musical influencers. The worldwide premiere of the latest single, Fake Love, was showcased live on the 2018 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in front of an enthusiastic music industry crowd and an audience filled with chanting ARMY. The performance shook ARMYs around the world.
No More Dream vs. Fake Love
The raw stats of the music videos of the lead singles demonstrate the stark difference between Then & Now.
Then: Lead single 2013 – Music video, five years old: 36 million views
Now: Lead single 2018 – Music video, three weeks old, 121 MILLION views
It’s no coincidence that BTS has earned Social Artist of the Year at the Billboard Music Awards for two years in a row. Twitter is a good measure of their cyberspace influence. From the Dark & Wild era (late 2014), they had 419,000 followers. As of May 2018, they have 15 million followers. It is said that BTS and BigHit Entertainment (11 million followers) are the only entities in Korea to have over 10 million Twitter followers.
Then: ARMY gets choked up looking at these photos. There was a time when the group performed in parks and fan signs took place in parking lots. We have seen video of them performing at shopping malls, and get bottom billing at k-pop shows. There was no need for security or worrying about all the scrutiny. The boys were just happy to haven the opportunity to perform.
Now: For the finale of the Wings tour in December 2017, BTS performed two sold-out nights at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. This August, they will perform two nights at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium with a capacity around 70,000 for each night. They are recognized around the world, and have easily sold out the initial tour dates for Love Yourself for the Fall of 2018.
What do you think of how far Bangtan has come? What are you favorite moments of the last five years?
Have a very Happy Festa, ARMY!