Motor racing is one of the things on my mind this weekend because it’s the Monaco Grand Prix, the jewel of the F1 circuit, arguably the most prestigious race in the world. And while I have never paid much attention to this event, Drive to Survive changed all that for me this year. If we’re talking about music and pop culture in racing terms then, and the now annual tradition to crown a Song of the Summer, BTS’s “Butter” is on pole.
Last year, BTS’s contender for Song of the Summer, “Dynamite”, was released late in the summer, in August. It was, as you know, a smash hit, the band’s first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. This year BTS is coming out of the gate with their Song of the Summer entry early – and “Butter” is pure summer energy. This song is a BANGER.
“Butter”, obviously, has already broken YouTube records. Breaking might be an understatement – shattering is more like it with 10 million views in its first 13 minutes. At the time of this writing, it’s already surpassed 60 million views. And, remember, there’s a formula for YouTube that counts towards chart performance. So it’s probably a foregone conclusion at this point that next week, BTS will earn its fourth #1 on the Billboard 100… IN JUST TEN MONTHS.
What I like about “Butter”, aside from the fact that it’s a really fun song (the chorus is irresistible – you will not be able to escape “side step right left to my beat”) is that even though it’s light and fresh and funky and hits its purpose to get you in the right summer mood, it also hits the themes that BTS has consistently represented, serving up a message of self-love and confidence. “Butter” is super flirty, as RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook drop pickup line after pickup line and it certainly works as a standard seduction jam, if you want to read it that way. But there’s an argument to be made that the person they’re really seducing is themselves. Or ourselves, as we listen. “Butter” is self-seduction. “Butter” is the song you play when you are your own hype person.
“Oh when I look into the mirror
I’ll melt your heart in two
I got that superstar glow so
Do the boogie like me”
Not unlike Lizzo’s anthem, “Juice”, which I think by now we all know by heart:
“Mirror, mirror on the wall
Don't say it, 'cause I know I'm cute
Louis down to my drawers
LV all on my shoes”
“Butter”, then, is an affirmation bop. It’s BTS feeling themselves…and encouraging their listeners to feel themselves too.
And we haven’t even gotten to the visuals which include Jungkook’s multiple hair changes (he’s already cut it which I’m a little sad about because I REALLY like the way he’s whipping it around in this video), Jimin’s everything (can Jimin please be a guest on Drag Race because he always hits his poses), all those track suits, RM’s adorable suspenders and this incredible tribute to their ARMY…
…and of course the choreography which I need to get a better look at and it’s coming on Sunday at the Billboard Music Awards. Or they can just hurry up and release the dance practice video. If we’re talking about dance moves though, this is my standout from the whole video – Jimin in the elevator:
POV: YOU RUN INTO CEO JIMIN AT THE ELEVATOR BEFORE A MEETING pic.twitter.com/B3KOHsIJka— ayaâ· ðŸŒ· semi ia (@jiminstellation) May 21, 2021
And finally, a note about what “Butter” means to me, personally, even though this may not necessarily have been BTS’s intent with the song. What is the colour of butter? Butter is yellow. It’s a colour that is celebrated in Asian cultures, associated with royalty and victory, but a colour fraught with pain where Asians are concerned in the west because it’s been used to belittle and shame us. “Yellow peril” dates back over a hundred years and is still a dangerous presence today. I’ll never forget the time I was called a “yellow-belly chink” at school by a boy who claimed to like me. In recent years, Asian communities have reclaimed the colour yellow – as a point of pride, as a form of resistance. And so, for this band from South Korea, the biggest band in the world, to take over the culture on so many levels, from their music to McDonald’s, once again during May, Asian Heritage Month, with a song that is so F-CKING YELLOW…
Sometimes a song is more than just a song. “Butter” is the kind of the love we need to spread.