While BTS have become renown for their tracks tackling societal issues, it takes some time to show some love to their songs about precisely that—love.
Lyrics are just as meaningful as the melody. It’s knowledge that BTS have time and time again have demonstrated to be well-versed in. Part of the South Korean group’s appeal is their thoughtful and well-crafted lyrics that touch upon the human experience—from the heartache and wonder of blossoming youth, contemporary issues and an unfair status quo, loneliness and mental health, to the fighting spirit. Despite a persistent language barrier, BTS’ songs are able to transcend in their universality.
Though, a somewhat underrated department when it comes to group’s lyricism is their exploration of love. Ultimately, relationships after all—be romantic, familial, or platonic—are part of the human experience. It is not often acknowledged enough that BTS’ romantic songs are just as meaningful as the rest of their repertoire.
Let’s get started.
In 2013, BTS debuted with 2 Cool 4 Skool and their following releases would come to make up what is referred to as the school trilogy. While discussing the struggles of being a student, romance was a topic rarely touched upon until the group’s second mini album appropriately titled, Skool Luv Affair.
하루만 (Just One Day)
In contrast, to the album’s aggressive lead single, “Boy in Luv (상남자)”, the group takes a more dreamy and gentler approach in “하루만 (Just One Day).” In the track, the group draws on their imagination, recounting what they would do if they had the chance to spend a day with the object of their affection in the midst of a busy schedule. The lyrics envisions romance even in the most mundane of things like going shopping, and getting brunch; even the sound of their breathing is poetically framed as their BGM. However, there’s a sense of longing attached the song with an awareness that such a fantasy can only be that.
If the album opened with the rap-heavy “Skool Luv Affair: Intro”, then it’s only fitting that it closes with the vocalists taking charge of the final track, “Outro: Propose.” Member Jin credited for writing the song. The first thing listeners here are a few gentle taps on the microphone and its subsequent squeal before being hit with dazzling ascending piano chords. The track embodies this innocent yet naive infatuation that is characteristic of much of the album’s theme of schoolyard romance. The chorus becomes a bold declaration of promising to give their all to their romantic other in spite of and while navigating their youth.
The first track featured on BTS’ repackaged album, Skool Luv Affair (Special Edition), “Miss Right.” It opens with some clever wordplay, that if they were to lose their lo,ve it would be a “miss, right? Miss right?” The song’s bridge puts it simply, that the reason the listener is the person in question because they’re them, perfect in their strength and flaws—perfect in the way the way they only can be. The track describes them as someone who can only exist in fiction, that they’re too good to be true. There’s a lovely line about imaging a future with a pair of baby sneakers between their couple shoes.
In BTS’ first full-length album, Dark&Wild, is distinct for its angst and dark edge. Although, half-way through the album, their music shifts towards a more emotional and sentimental sound with “Interlude: 뭐해 (What Are You Doing Now)” being the turning point
이불킥 (Blanket Kick/Embarrassed)
The tenth track on the album, “이불킥 (Blanket Kick/Embarrassed)”, is a rather wholesome song about kicking your blanket in embarrassment and letting the regret sink in over actions during the day. The lyrics describe awkward endeavours and misadventures at romance, acting cute while pretending to be drunk and missed opportunities to steal a kiss ruined thanks to a cell phone call. It captures feelings that those in their teens or young adulthood are not unfamiliar with. In the end, poor sheets become victim to high kicks, jabs, and hooks over love-related frustrations.
In the following track on the album, BTS compares every day to being a date day in the light-hearted “24/7=Heaven.” The lyrics speak of a heart-fluttering excitement in looking forward towards seeing your beloved. It talks about staying up all night and fantasising about the one you like, resenting for the clock’s hand being so slow. There’s also a sweet comparison of the romantic other being the rising sun on Sunday, the day that they plan to meet. It makes for a cute metaphor—that the day begins and ends with them, the centre of their Solar system that is BTS’ life.
2015 saw the start of the beginning of 화양연화 (HYYH) series. The group centred their focus on the precarious nature of youth, its angst and thrills. Within the era, the group released two mini albums, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2, and a special repackaged album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever.
잡아줘 (Hold Me Tight)
Known as the first track that V participated in songwriting and making the melody for, “잡아줘 (Hold Me Tight)” is a wistful song that explores a love faded, and a desperation to save it before the feelings disappear completely. In the bridge, there’s an understanding that them parting is inevitable, something that they can see like a mighty high tide. However, it’s countered by a refusal to let go and to share one final embrace—one the lyrics described as rose-like, tender-hearted and passionate yet guarded by prickly thorns that BTS are willing to be cut by.
Initially released as the third track on The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2, “Butterfly” comes in two versions—the original and the prologue mix featured on The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever. The track conveys the fear of loss through the simile of the delicate butterfly in its ephemerality. The subject of the song can be interpreted to be many things, including someone sorely loved. Lyrics suddenly become a plea to stay by their side if they were to let go as it is in something, or in this instance, someone’s nature to have freedom like a butterfly.
A playful track, “Converse High” takes inspiration from RM’s then ideal type, a girl in a white t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of red converse. Rather the stars in the night sky, BTS would want to see the trademark stars decorating your shoes and that despite their feelings of infatuation, there’s a plea not to wear Converse Lows. There’s even a jab at expensive brands like Chanel, Alexander Mcqueen, and Raf Simons. Although, in his rap verse, SUGA jokingly pushes for his Jordans agenda and begs not to wear Converses because they’re too difficult to take off. What an implication.
Love Is Not Over (Full Length Edition)
Originally the closing track to The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1, “Love Is Not Over (Full Length Edition)” is the 18th track on 화양연화 The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever. Youngest member Jungkook is known for being involved in the song’s production, and the song opens with his vocals accompanied by soft piano chords. The lyrics lament the conclusion of a relationship while clinging onto hope for life’s next chapter. As an outro, the track only featured the group’s vocalists; however, the full-length version, sees the group’s rappers add their verses, adding to the track’s emotional depth.
The namesake of BTS’ fourth Japanese single, “FOR YOU” is one of the group’s more light-hearted releases in their entire discography. BTS lyrically explore a relationship troubled by distance, but the song’s message is coloured by a hopeful optimism—that despite the space between them, they will always they stand under and share the same sky. While there is an acknowledgement of insecurities that come with relationships of the sort, such feelings are triumphed by a love carried by the wind. The tracks also paints vivid visual images of flower petals falling and the shimmer of the sun.
In 2017, BTS would tackle the issue of self-love in their Love Yourself series comprised of Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’, Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’, and Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer.’ Throughout the tracks, a lover is used as a metaphor for a newfound sense of self to explore themes of infatuation and disillusionment when it comes to self-understanding. It is also important to note that this metaphor significant other has no specified gender—in fact, BTS has been gender neutral in their songs exploring since their 2016 studio releases.
Serendipity (Full Length Edition)
Initially, the intro for Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’, “Serendipity (Full Length Edition)” is the third track on Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer.’ In line with its name, Jimin soulfully sings about discovering someone to love by chance, delving into themes of destiny and fate. In the second verse, the metaphoric flower that blooms when a lover calls their name alludes to Kim Chunsu’s poem “Flower.” Although, while references to “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is more explicit in the song’s music video, the same flower can be interpreted as a reference to the protagonist’s object of affection, a rose.
Trivia 承: Love
RM takes the lead in Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer’s sixth track, “Trivia 承: Love.” The track opens with questioning what love is, its definition complex. Though, there’s an understanding that love is gradual and unhurried like the moon rising after the sun, and the change in seasons. The song features a recurring play on words with the Korean characters of person (사람) and love (사랑). The lyrics express that in finding love, the hard edges to a person eventually begins to erode. This also continues into English, love being able to transform an I to an O with the words live and love.
The albums in Love Yourself series marks BTS most thematically cohesive endeavours thus far. Though “Her” was the final track to its namesake, Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’, it still finds a place within the narrative to Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer.’ The track demonstrates to be a turning point—the coming down from love’s high to realise its complexity and compromise. The group’s rappers outline that to experience love’s passionate bliss; there must be an experience of pain and tears. In saying that, rather than angst, the song carries an undertone of vulnerability.
In the news that there was going to be a third release to the era, “Epiphany” and its music video was unveiled as ultimately the perfect introduction to the conclusion of the Love Yourself series. Jin delivers a sentimental ballad about the importance of self-love with his moving vocals about self-love. The song champions the thought that fundamentally a soul can be imperfect but still be beautiful; the epiphany realised in the tragedy of neglecting to be true to oneself as previous tracks.
Thoughts? Did you spot your favourite love song? Perhaps, it was left out. Oh well. Tweet us at @ForeverBTScom!