100 songs for the 2010s: BTS’ ‘I Need U’ #13


Hello!

And welcome to the entry (project info here) I was looking forward to writing the most! At #13, we have BTS’ – ’I Need U’.

2015’s ‘I Need U’ is not one of BTS’ most successful title tracks – there are plenty of others with more awards, sales, and chart records. And yet, even though the song isn’t even one of my personal favourites, I am quite glad that it’s the song to represent BTS on this list. While the K-pop group has come to dominate the global stage towards the end of the decade, their path to this domination was littered with nothing but obstacles. And ‘I Need U’ was the watershed moment when the obstacles began to be surmountable. They didn’t get smaller or weaker – but BTS got bigger and stronger. And I don’t doubt that they will continue to grow.

Turning the groups’ sonic direction to more electronic sound and expressing the confusing emotions of the youth, ‘I Need U’ came out around the time when I first heard of the band. It was their follow-up ‘Dope’ that temporarily caught my attention – and I let it slip away, purposefully. I was already so entrenched in the western pop-culture that I felt like I didn’t have time to look east too or I was surely gonna fail at ‘getting a life’. Well, if 2015 me would have known that 2019 me will be working towards making this into her life, she surely would not have made the same mistake. And by ‘making this into her life’ I mean two things – first, that I have realized that my interests are my life and second, that I’m currently doing a master’s media degree and my primary research (ever since undergrad days in anthropology) is in fan culture.

On a side note, I really thought about turning this post into some-kind of justificatory plea on why I like BTS so much. However, I have also come to realise that I shouldn’t feel the need to justify my interests to anyone. I love them a lot and that is the only reason that counts. I refuse to feel internalised shame about the things that make me feel like life is worth living. And I am not exaggerating by saying that – to be frank, music, and lately specifically BTS’ music, is the thing that drowns out the spiralling thoughts that threaten to engulf me and drag me into the dark and deep pits of doubt, self-hate, and overpowering negativity.

And yet, even though I have come to learn to not justify myself since I like waffling about things I love, let me tell you more specific reasons on why BTS are amazing. And if you don’t understand those reasons – well, I couldn’t care less.

First of all, their music: BTS’ range cannot be contained within the term k-pop, because this nation-specific pop, just like the general term ‘pop’ is completely is useless in describing actual music. BTS’ songs have a massive range, from hip-hop to EDM to slow ballads and so much more beyond and in-between that. Second, BTS’ music tells a story and that story has a deeper meaning that so many fans enjoy looking for and explaining to each other while also following in their personal lives. Some messages – like ‘Love Yourself’ – are not hard to find but are hard to follow. Thus, a constant reminder, which BTS put into everything they do, is welcomed and appreciated.

Not only is their music amazing for its range and message but they fully embody it as phenomenal performers. Their vocals, dance skills, and just general stage presence are unparallel. The team that works with them on their shows – choreographers, stylists, light designers, engineerings that arrange the music and its various remixes – are all also at the top of their game. All of that combined makes BTS’ stages into must-see events. I hope that I can experience such an event with my own eyes and ears soon.

While all the previous reasons, though personal, were somewhat objective, this one is a complete subjective preference: I like BTS as people. I am aware that I don’t know them fully (one can never know anyone, especially a celebrity, fully – also go stream ‘Persona’), I like what I am able to see – what they show their fans in live streams, reality TV programs, fan meetings, social media posts, etc. Some further reasons for liking them emerge from their personas – their work ethic and their friendship. The creativity and the dedication that the members put into their work is not something I have seen before and I have been a hardcore fan of an infinite number of artists throughout my life already. Plus, even though they are currently the biggest thing in the world, they have remained grounded and humble and that, in my mind, is a key feature of a geniuenly good person. Lastly, I love their friendship – I love seeing the familiar bond that the 7 member share and I strive to be a better friend to my friends in their image.

This nicely leads into my short throughts on ARMY – or the fandom with the best name (just don’t ask us what it stands for). While a lot has said about the bad things in the fandom (which are present in every fandom but tend to be blown out of proportion by the media for clicks), not a lot has been said about the positives and how BTS inspires the best in their fans, both in terms of striving for personal goals (like with the idea of loving oneself) as well as public aims (there have been countless official as well as fan-organized campaigns for charity).

Lastly, while BTS has broken a lot of boundaries globally, they have remained truthful to their home of South Korea and I am glad that through them I was able to be introduced to it as well as develop an interest in it. What is currently a small interest that is growing every day ranges from other forms of K-entertainment (dramas and variety shows) to the language, food, and traditions of the country. I do hope I can experience all of it one day too.

Lengthy one today, huh.

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