In the opening scene of BTS’s new video for their new song, “Permission to Dance”, a plate of pancakes with butter on top is being handed off and the metaphor is unmistakable: “Butter” is BTS’s current hit single, #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six straight weeks, and today, on New Music Friday, “Butter” is preparing to concede its place to its successor. That’s the goal here, isn’t it?
After all, when you’re BTS, and you keep moving your own goalposts – sh-t, when you play on an entirely different field, there are always new ambitions, new records to break, new targets to hit. They’ve already achieved FOUR #1 hits in less than a year with “Dynamite”, then “Savage Love”, followed by “Life Goes On”, and now “Butter”. They dominated the entire month of June 2021 on the charts, but what they haven’t done – yet – is knocked themselves out of the top spot. Which basically sums up the BTS: they are their own competition.
“Permission to Dance” is yet another catchy summer bop, written by Ed Sheeran, Johnny McDaid, Steve Mac, and Jenna Andrews. It is a pure Ed Sheeran melody brought to life by signature BTS energy. And, as you can see from the video, this is a jam for these times, particularly in parts of the world that are reopening, but with the kind of positivity that RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook have always been about – “Permission to Dance” is about resilience:
“'Cause when we fall, we know how to land”
That’s my favourite lyric in the song, and the key to it is one word – “when”. Not “if”, but “when”. Because it will happen. To everyone. We will fall. We will make mistakes. Sh-tty things will happen, it’s not a hypothetical. So I appreciate the writing here, the choice to use a firm “when” in the line to underscore the fact that this isn’t just bubblegum and rainbows, but a conscious acknowledgement that it actually isn’t always bubblegum and rainbows. And it certainly isn’t right now in many parts of the world, even though masks are coming off in other parts. But if you can find a moment to dance, or whatever your version of it is, hang on to that for as long as you can.
And dance with BTS, they’re inviting you. That’s why, by their standards, the choreography is so accessible, lol. But accessibility on multiple levels. You can see in the video that in certain sections, they are signing the lyrics. Which, again, illustrates just how thoughtful they and their team are about their work. The dance challenge they’ve just issued pulls specifically from that part of the choreo:
There’s been an obvious attempt to be as inclusive as possible in this video, from the dancing to the people we see on screen, from different backgrounds and of all ages and abilities and professions: cleaning staff, wait staff, office workers, postal workers, people who have been keeping things going for the rest of us through the pandemic.
But none of this messaging feels forced nor does it compromise the qualities of BTS that they consistently deliver, including the visuals. The western styling is both fun and fashionable – they look great, but they don’t take themselves too seriously, they’re coordinated but each members’ unique flair is represented. Just look at V in this red outfit.
So, once again, BTS is showing their work, disrupting the game, and possibly setting new milestones. Can they pull off a coup on themselves? Will BTS’s “Permission to Dance” unseat BTS’s “Butter”? As expected, they’re putting the full push behind the song, with multiple livestreams to activate their ARMY and drive streams and sales. And also a special three-song pre-produced performance that ran on YouTube today. They performed three songs, opening with “Butter”, then “Spring Day”, and of course “Permission to Dance”.
What kills me about BTS though is that for all their success, and it’s monumental success, the reason why their fans, me included, remain so dedicated, is because no matter how big they get, there are some things that won’t change – like how ridiculously goofy they can be. These are world superstar musicians, models, label executives (since they have shares in their company), ambassadors for social change, and still… look at RM, during “Butter” – if you don’t know who he is, you will now because he’s the one with no f-cks to give, and no dance rhythm, haha, hauling ass on that bus handle and jacking his hips, cracking up his bandmates, including j-hope who can’t hold it together because, well, nobody knows WTF RM is doing but nobody is complaining either. It’s hilarious, it’s amazing. That’s the BTS magic.