by Sara Conway ’21 A&E Co-Editor
Among the bright stage lights, the confetti drifting throughout the venue, and the gradient of pink and purple lights, fans at Metlife Stadium on Saturday, May 18 heard various members of BTS repeating, “I love you guys!” and “We love you!” These were BTS’ final farewells to ARMY as they slowly made their way back to the main stage following the last song of the two-hour concert.
For those unfamiliar, BTS officially debuted on June 13, 2013 under the South Korean company Big Hit Entertainment, with the lead single, “No More Dream,” from their first album, 2 Cool 4 Skool. Since then, the seven-member boy band has released music marking four unique eras in their journey as artists, as well as three Japanese albums.
The School Trilogy lasted from BTS’ debut to 2014; the Youth Trilogy spanned from 2015 to 2016; the Wings era, which consisted of a full-length album and a repackage featuring three new songs, went from 2015 to 2016. The following year consisted of the Love Yourself series, which began with the mini album, Love Yourself: Her, released in September of 2017. The era recently concluded with the compilation album, Love Yourself: Answer, which was released less than a year ago.
Their most recent comeback—and the start of a new era occurred on April 12 with the mini album, Map of the Soul: Persona, and these songs were integrated into their extended Love Yourself World Tour, rebranded as Love Yourself: Speak Yourself. Besides the different setlist, the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself World Tour boasts venues including the Rose Bowl Stadium, Soldier Field, and Metlife Stadium in the United States as well as Wembley Stadium, which holds a capacity of 90,000 people, and Stade de France in Europe. BTS’ extensive tour continued with dates in Japan in July. After the group takes a brief hiatus—their first since their debut—BTS will conclude the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself World Tour with a concert at the King Fahid International Stadium in Saudi Arabia as well as three more dates in Seoul in October.
With the lead single, “Boy With Luv,” Map of the Soul: Persona is “just about us” as BTS leader RM said in an interview with Time; the band is telling the world who they are in this new era. Their latest album presents a narrower focus in contrast with the big statement they emphasized in their Love Yourself series.
It is no secret that “Boy With Luv” plays off of one of BTS’ earliest songs, “Boy In Luv,” from 2014. “Boy In Luv” is about seven young boys who are in love with a girl at school. They debate about how to approach her in lyrics such as the opening one: “I want to be your love.”
“Boy With Luv” reflects the members’ shift in mindset and the new emphasis of their music. The song gives BTS an outlet to get to know and understand their fans on a more intimate and emotional level. The members are not in love with ARMY because of their looks alone, which was a main focus of “Boy In Luv.” BTS speaks about their relationship with ARMY through the brighter and more upbeat “Boy With Luv” as indicated through the opening lines of the song in which the lyrics are written, “I’m curious about everything, how’s your day?”
BTS, almost six years later, no longer writes about wanting love but rather about a genuine relationship and the different kind of love that they have with ARMY. It is a comfortable and familiar love that comes from both sides. The song concludes with the members singing, “I want something stronger than a moment, than a moment, love. Love is nothing stronger than a boy with luv.” The members realize that they have a love that is truer in “Boy With Luv” than the love they wanted in “Boy In Luv.”
This journey of BTS’ and their growth as artists is then reflected in their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour. Through the new setlist, which is different from the original Love Yourself World Tour, the band looks back on their past, celebrates the present, and considers the possibilities of the future.
For the six years that BTS has been together, their music consistently “embodies change and fuels change,” as Zach Sang of the Zach Sang Show said in his interview with BTS backstage at the AMAs in 2017. The band’s music has always been inspired by their own lives, which, in turn, often aids in raising conversations that are difficult to start, like the stigma surrounding mental health. Suga, one of the producers and main rappers of BTS, stated during the Zach Sang Show interview, “there are some stories that only [BTS] can tell.”
These stories come together one more time in the recent stadium tour of BTS. Since it is an extension of the Love Yourself World Tour, a majority of the setlist is made up of the music from the Love Yourself series. However, songs from the new album and throwbacks to past eras make an appearance. During the concert at Metlife Stadium on May 18, BTS performed “Not Today” and “Outro: Wings” from their Wings era as well as “Burning Up (Fire),” “Baepsae” (also known as “Silver Spoon”), and “Dope” from their Youth series.
The songs performed from the Love Yourself albums included “Idol,” “Fake Love,” and each of the members’ solo songs. In addition, Love Yourself: Speak Yourself kept fan-favorites “So What” and “Anpanman,” where BTS tends to interact with their ARMY and show more of their youthful personalities without the complex choreography that is usually paired with many of their songs.
The music from Map of the Soul: Persona makes itself known from the get-go as the band opens their stadium tour with fire and the thumping beat of “Dionysus,” the song that actually closes the mini album. Near the halfway point of the concert, once the sun has set, BTS performs “Boy With Luv.” As a replacement of “Answer: Love Myself,” “Mikrokosmos” takes over as the last song following the members’ touching ending statements. Through “Mikrokosmos,” BTS ends their concert on a note of celebration and thankfulness for their unique relationship with their fans. BTS has always emphasized ARMY, those who have stayed by their side since the band’s debut. Their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour and their newest album, Map of the Soul: Persona, honors this deeper relationship that exists between BTS and ARMY. V, a vocalist of BTS, stated during their appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that BTS’ “fans are the best. They are our motivation.” It is because of ARMY that all that BTS has achieved over the years was possible; ARMY is one who stayed with them through the ups-and-downs. Regardless of where BTS thinks they will be in two, five, or 10 years, the seven members know that ARMY will be right there with them.
As the chorus of “Mikrokosmos” goes: “You got me / I look at you and dream.”