It’s music video day so let’s keep it going. Not that it’s a competition but what was the biggest video that’s dropped today? It depends on how you measure “big”, right? And there’s no one right way to measure it. Taylor Swift is a global superstar. In the western world, she’s dominating the headlines with her video for “The Man”, she’s all over radio chatter and the entertainment news shows – she’s the top story. And that’s not wrong, because Taylor is her own ecosystem of gossip. She occupies a large part of the culture. What’s interesting though is that, usually, when Taylor is the centre of attention, she has both the intangibles and the tangibles in her favour. What’s unquantifiable is her star power. What’s quantifiable are her numbers. She’s used to bringing in the best numbers, the most this and the most that. Today though, she’s not winning in the numbers game.
Today the numbers game belongs to BTS. As of this writing (11:30am ET), Taylor’s video for “The Man” has 1.2 million views after three hours on YouTube. That’s a lot.
BTS dropped their new video for “ON” at 10am ET. Within 15 minutes – I repeat, 15 minutes – the view count topped 3 million. Right now it’s over 14 million on YouTube. The reason this is significant is that just a few weeks ago, Billboard changed its measurement metrics, and YouTube streams now count towards album sales. By the time you read this, BTS’s “ON” video will have surpassed 20 million views and all of those will be a factor in its first week album sales for their new album Map of the Soul: 7, already expected to the be the #1 album of the week and possibly the biggest release of the year so far. Remember, even though we’re only approaching March, Eminem and Justin Bieber have already released albums in 2020. BTS’s album could leapfrog their sales – significant not only because Eminem and JB are huge artists but also because BTS’s album is mostly in Korean. A film that is entirely in Korean just won Best Picture at the Oscars. An album that’s Korean may be the bestselling album of the year to date. That’s why this is worth your time – for what it says about the culture and whether or not it’s shifting, if we are witnessing a shift as it happens. Or not. Perhaps it’s too early to say. One film and one band don’t mean that change has arrived. But my point is that I think you should pay attention.
Because BTS is f-cking going for it. You don’t put this much into a video, with considerable expense, if you’re not aiming high, the highest. This is an on the nose statement, for sure, especially when you see how the video ends, but like Taylor Swift, they’re not being subtle about it either. This is several levels of ambition.
The professional ambition is undeniable here, we’ve established that. They’ve taken their game outside of their borders and are disrupting other spaces. But the personal ambition, of course, connects with what they’ve always stood for – their message is positivity and self-love. This is five minutes of the most extra display of believing in yourself and moving past your obstacles. And then, on top of that, their ambition extends beyond them. It’s the biggest ambition: BTS wants to save the world. Or rather, they believe they can save the world with us. And they are telling that to us by referencing every film and major television series they can think of.
This is religious, it’s medieval, it’s dystopian, and Disney!
I see Braveheart, Maze Runner, The Last Temptation of Christ, Three Musketeers, Shawshank Redemption. Sarah says there’s a nod here to War of the Arrows at the very beginning, a film by director Kim Han-min. And Game of Thrones – V aka Taehyung, the beauty of the band, totally has greyscale, right?
And, of course, The Lion King. My beloved Jungkook is apparently both Jesus and Simba, leading the team to the top as seven doves of hope, like the seven members of BTS, take flight up to the heavens. They’re not there yet but, like I said, it’s extra as f-ck. And they’ve always been. For them it’s a question of scale: how much bigger can BTS possibly get?