BTS, an abbreviation for ‘Bangtan Sonyeondan’, also known as Bangtan Boys, is a seven-member Korean boy-band that debuted in 2013. BTS is highly known to be very versatile in the sense that they are capable of indulging in many different genres of music, ranging from EDM all the way to ballads. The group originally had started off as a hip-hop group, composed of four vocalists and three rappers. Their image and concept initially was supposed to be very rebellious to represent the youth of our generation. This is evident in the meaning of their name ‘Bangtan Sonyeondan’. “It has a profound meaning…‘Bangtan’ means to be resistant to bullets, so it means to block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim on adolescents like bullets, to preserve the values and ideal of today’s adolescents,” BTS member J-Hope said in an interview with Affinity Magazine.
As such, BTS’ discography is filled with pieces of work that criticize our society and focus on social commentary. Many of their topics include speaking on class differences, social hierarchy and mental health; something that is still relatively not talked about in Korea due to their conservative climate. Unlike other K-pop groups and even many Western artists in this generation, BTS are one of the few to continue emphasizing social matters through their music. Another unique aspect of BTS’ work is each album they produce is inspired by pieces of literature and psychological concepts. They also have specific themes that go along with sets of albums, which are usually referred to as concepts where each album is given a number depicting them such as Part 1, Part 2 and so on.
The song I will be critiquing is their single ‘Spring Day’ which is an alternative hip-hop song, surprisingly mixed with British rock and electronic music. Spring Day is also theorized to be inspired by the piece of work written by writer Ursula K. Le Guin in 1973; “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.
‘Omelas’ starts off by describing the first day of Summer in Omelas, portraying a city filled with happiness and delight as if it is a daily norm that would never end. The citizens are neither poor nor are they rich, they are still cultured, intelligent and happy. Omelas has no famine, poverty or any instances of sickness. The narrator reflects that 'Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time. Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all.' The narrator automatically assumes the reader does not believe that such a perfect place exists - how can we when it is depicted to be undeniably so perfect? Therefore the narrator finally elaborates on the reason for the happiness in Omelas; its one fatal secret. The city's constant state of serenity requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in a dark room with no sunlight, in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery until its death. Each citizen is exposed to this atrocity and is given an ultimatum. To either acquiesce to this one injustice that allows the city to thrive or silently walk away from the city and never return. The story ends with 'The place they go towards (the people who choose to leave and never return) is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.'
‘Omelas’ plays with the themes of suffering and happiness, justice and freedom of one’s decisions, the individual and their relationship with society and most importantly, the coming of age and loss of one’s innocence. Rather than the story itself, these themes are more important to allow us to discuss and contextualise ‘Spring Day’ which appears on their full-length studio album ‘WINGS :You Never Walk Alone’ which was an extension of their previous work ‘WINGS’. The youth of Omelas are told to choose to either accept injustice for the sake of their own and the society’s happiness or to walk away from the injustice in an act of individual resistance. This is very in line with many of BTS’s other work, the series that Spring Day is a part of is called ‘The Most Beautiful Moment in Life’ where each subsequent album follows the journey through youth to adulthood, Spring Day in particular was a marker to an end of this era, thus it makes sense that the group’s final concept is a conclusion and somewhat a final goodbye to their youth and innocence.
Lyrically, Spring Day relies heavily on metaphors and imagery. Regardless of whether or not the listener is able to understand the lyrics, the music and tone itself fascinatingly instills a sense of melancholy and hope to all. The lyrics tell the story of two friends who have grown apart over the years. The leader of BTS; RM wrote the main melody of this song and thus he is the one to start of this song with a melodic rap.The first verse emphasizes that the narrator truly misses their friend and complains about how upset they are over it. Here is where the first metaphor is established, comparing Winter to longing in their heart as their longing ‘falls like snow’ and stating that ‘winter even comes in August’. The narrator expectantly awaits for the return of Spring which is another metaphor for their heart to finally still.
The metaphor of Winter is further elaborated in the bridge, this is where the vocalists of BTS come in, where the narrator bemoans that they would be able to reach the person they are longing for if they were like the snow flowing through the air. The chorus then reads “The snowflakes fall, you get further away, I miss you, how long do I have to wait, to see you?” The relationship between these two friends is therefore contrasted with the change of seasons. The melodic and sweet vocals further intensify the sense of sorrow that this song is trying to showcase.
The second verse starts off with another rap and deepening the story of the song as the narrator wonders who had changed in the relationship; their friend or the narrator themself? The conclusion they come to is that change is unavoidable but the narrator still resents the friend who grew distant.