BTS took over The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon last night and also Twitter. They were trending before the show started and then as soon as the show began, several hashtags related to their appearance dominated on the platform, including #JungkookEnglish because at one point, during Jimmy’s interview with the band on the subway, JK answered a question in English. This is how excitable the ARMY is. Also trending – John Cena, LOL, because he’s ARMY, he loves them, and they love him, and they’ve never met, but they did prove that they’ve watched him on WWE.
Here’s the interview – and it’s pretty cute…
…but what’s even cuter is what they do next: playing Subway Olympics with Jimmy, a series of stupidly random games like balancing rubber ducks on their hands or racing to pin Post-It Notes on each other which inevitably devolved into cheating. The reason this works is because it’s designed to show off more of the members’ personalities. And while their personalities and how goofy they are is not news to their fans, for the uninitiated, there is a perception out there that BTS came from a factory. That they’ve been manufactured and that their success comes out of a studio rather than a combination of great musical production, exhaustingly intricate dance choreography, talent, skill, and practice, and the chemistry that exists between the seven of them, which has everything to do with who they actually are as people.
The amount of content that BTS generates outside of the music is, frankly, overwhelming. In addition to the albums and the music videos, they’ve released four seasons of Bon Voyage, their travel docuseries, and they film what can only be described as a variety talk show called Run BTS! every other week or so on the VLive app that runs between 30 and 45 minutes featuring all of them playing games, like the ones they played on The Tonight Show – but even more stupid and random. And hilarious. Like there’s one game where they were made to get into pyjamas, lie down on bean bags, listen to a children’s song, and then fall asleep, only to be awoken half an hour later, at which point they were told to compete to see who could remember the song, and sing it, for prizes and penalties, all while trash-talking and joking with each other. It’s batsh-t. While I was watching it I kept saying to myself, what the f-ck is happening here, and still I couldn’t turn it off. Naturally the ARMY is obsessed with it and have consumed all the episodes – THERE ARE OVER 90 OF THEM!
With that kind of volume of creative content, what’s emerged over the years, is an authenticity that directly challenges the misconception that these young men are puppets of a system. And that’s why their fans were so offended by The Hollywood Reporter cover story last year.
Still, in the West, a lot of people don’t know about those programs. Which is why the Subway Olympics was a good idea, and also their appearance tonight on Carpool Karaoke, on top of their previous appearance on James Corden’s show when they played hide and seek with James and Ashton Kutcher.
The Subway Olympics also serves as a kind of cultural meet-and-greet. What’s standard social behaviour here in the West is not what it is in the East. And it’s a full-body experience from facial expressions to sartorial presentation. The way they laugh is different and considered campy or even silly or juvenile over here. In Asia, it’s pretty normal. Same goes for how they’re styled, their makeup, their hair, their clothes, their whole look. Western men don’t walk around like this, they don’t perform masculinity like BTS. But it doesn’t make BTS’s masculinity any less valid.
After the Subway Olympics, Jimmy and BTS went to the famed Katz’s Deli. This to me wasn’t the strongest segment but that’s probably because I’m reasonably well educated where BTS is concerned. Which means that I’ve seen enough of their food segments from their own content. They are f-cking obsessed with food. They eat all the time. They talk about food often. Several of them are food experts and regularly have long ass conversations about what to do with kimchi and what it can be added to and when the best time is to eat ramen and where to get the best hot dogs. I can’t remember where I saw it but there’s one video out there of Jungkook comparing the hot dogs that you get backstage at The Voice to the hot dogs you get served when you’re a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I think he said that Ellen’s sausages are too salty but that her hot dog buns were better than The Voice’s. This is not a euphemism, it’s actually his verdict on American variety show hot dogs.
Anyway, there’s not much of this on The Tonight Show for time and, probably, due to the translation, it would have been too much of a challenge to showcase so it ended up being kind of a time filler to get to the main event: the performance of their new song “ON” at Grand Central Station.
The whole draw here is that they shut down Grand Central Station. Once you get past that fact that, yes, it’s impressive that they shut down Grand Central Station, at the risk of pissing off the fans, I wasn’t all that into it. The choreo is AMAZING, for sure. I will never not love watching them move. I just don’t know that the setting was all that… exciting? It’s pretty much the exact routine from the “ON” music video (the first one, a second one is apparently coming on Friday) that was released last week. Only that’s a proper music video, so it’s understood that they’re just mouthing to the words, the way people do in music videos.
What they’re doing here in Grand Central Station though isn’t quite a music video but it’s also not exactly on a stage, like at an award show, where it would make sense for them to have mics on, but they’re also not singing live so, for me, there was a weird disconnect. I’m not one of those people who insists on outlawing lipsynching – in fact, I almost prefer it sometimes for certain artists – but it has be to in the right setting. In this setting, the whole thing felt like more of a dance routine as opposed to a band’s performance of a song, you know? And given that the “ON” video is just SOOOOOO good, like crazy f-cking good, so well-produced, so slickly edited, seeing them in Grand Central doing the same was kinda underwhelming.
You know what worked way better though? It was during the farewell, at the very end of the show, and now the band’s playing, and they’re freestyling over the credits, it’s a dance party, and nothing is rehearsed, and they’re just kickin’ it, showing off their skills; V is especially sexy here in his all-white track suit, just grooving to the vibe, and there’s real energy in the space now, instead of what we just saw before when their “ON” choreography seemed trapped inside the dome of the station. This is a better reflection of their appeal beyond what they’ve already shown they can deliver in a music video.
Attached - BTS arriving back in Seoul the other day.