In numerology, particularly East Asian numerology, the number 9 means completion, the end of a cycle. This year marks the 9th anniversary of BTS, and we are currently in Festa, the two-week period when they celebrate their anniversary (the exact date is June 13) with their fans. They just released their new album, Proof, an anthology, taking listeners through the biggest musical milestones of their careers so far as they complete their first cycle and prepare to begin the next.
What’s so smart about Proof is that it works as both a big group hug between BTS and their ARMY, tracking their history together through song, but also as a guided introduction to their catalogue for those who are just beginning their BTS ride. Over the last two years, BTS’s fame has reached unprecedented heights, but beyond their fanbase, as in those who know their English-language #1 hits, “Dynamite”, “Butter”, and “Permission to Dance”, there are people who aren’t familiar with their earlier work, the building blocks of their success. Proof, then, functions as a welcome crash course, particularly with the first section of the anthology – 19 songs personally curated by the band, sequenced pretty much in chronological order of the time of initial release, one hit building upon the previous hit, directing listeners through the BTS progression, and culminating with one of the three new tracks on the album, and the lead single off Proof, “Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)” …which happens to be the 19th song.
So to go back to the idea of completion and the closing of a chapter, “Yet to Come” is about RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook reflecting on how far they’ve come – a boy band out of South Korea that struggled early on to gain traction at home to the biggest band in the world, on the strength of continuously improving musicianship and with the help of arguably the most loyal and engaged fanbase of the modern pop culture era.
Here is BTS confronting the reality of their success and celebrity, wrestling with the notion of what it means to be the “best”, and what the “best” represents. Who gets to define it? By whose standard is “best” measured”? As artists, seven individuals who together became one global record-breaking phenomenon, how do you find the “best” in what comes next?
“Yet to Come” is BTS looking back at their history, formally completing their first decade, and promising to build on the foundation they laid – while adding to their own self-mythology, as the video that accompanies the track includes all kinds of layered nods to their past imagery and themes. There’s the sense here that they’re properly honouring the work they created before initiating a reset for year 10, and the beginning of a new cycle. If I’ve learned anything from these years of tracking their ascent it’s that there is always something in the pipeline, the output is relentless. In our present, they’ve just given us Proof of their past. In their present, they’re already working on the future.