I feel vindicated today. Sasha’s been mocking my BTS obsession for weeks. This morning she texted, probably after watching them on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. Her message:
“I do think my goal is to laugh as much as BTS.”
Exactly. That’s exactly why, as I wrote yesterday, that to assume that the band came out a factory is to be completely uninformed. But those assumptions are probably pretty common – so Carpool Karaoke is exactly the right segment for them, as was Subway Olympics on The Tonight Show on Monday night. So much more better for their purposes than a straight up performance, I think, because their goal right now is to have North American audiences become more familiar with them – and be interested in them, care about them. This, then, is all about personality.
And their personalities are perfectly suited to Carpool Karaoke. Watch this, if you haven’t already. Or watch again. They’re game, they’re funny, they’re goofy, they’re quick – they’re irresistible. That’s what happened to Sasha, she couldn’t resist them.
You know why, though? Why they’re so good at this? Here’s where Show Your Work comes in: they already do it. As I wrote yesterday, BTS has been variety show-ing for nearly a decade now. They’ve filmed almost 100 episodes of their online variety show Run BTS! which showcases the seven members playing dumb, silly games and eating and trash-talking each other and generally behaving foolishly. And the difference between them and their North American counterparts is that they don’t have any of that western self-consciousness. Which, of course, makes for much more entertaining TV.
And, also, as close to #SquadGoals as we’ve ever seen…right?
When the term “squad goals” was initially a thing, we were seeing celebrity friend groups perform friendship on social media in still photos or short Instagram stories or on Snapchat and/or on red carpets at award shows. This is partly why the expression was so quickly derided – oftentimes it felt staged. For BTS, a large part of their appeal, over and above their music, is their friendship, their chemistry. The ARMY loves that they love each other, that they are so close. And that this closeness is legitimised through all the bonus content that the band releases: Run BTS!, their travel series, and each member routinely broadcasts live on social media, vlogs that aren’t pegged to anything other than them sitting in front of their computers, eating or rambling, and what happens sometimes in these cases is that when their bandmates see that they’re on the air, they’ll come and join.
This is what, really, we wanted – and still do probably – from Taylor Swift and her friends during #Taymerica or Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson and their crew. Or, I dunno, Matt Damon, Chris Hemsworth, and John Krasinski, not that they’re out here putting their friendship on display but… a little bit, right? Behind a wall. A thick wall.
With BTS, of course there’s some detachment, which is necessary, but when you see them on Carpool Karaoke and they look like they’re having fun with each other? It’s more real than you think. For all their “manufacturing”.