When did we start doing this? There’s always been a Song of the Summer, obviously, but it was about a decade ago that debating the Song of the Summer online, and then declaring and crowning it, became an annual summer tradition. I remember back in 2012 when Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was the Song of the Summer, it defined the modern qualifications for what a song should be to earn the title. First…
Everyone to know it. Like on a mass scale. Your aunt has to know it. The Song of the Summer has to be so popular it’s almost uncool – without actually getting to be uncool. Also, the Song of the Summer can’t be a bummer. That’s a very precise requirement and it also means no track from Taylor Swift’s folklore meets the criteria. But it’s also been a very unpredictable year, no one song has emerged as the undisputed Song of the Summer. Certainly there are candidates, and my vote right now would be either “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion ft Beyoncé or Chloe x Halle’s “Do It” but, again, that’s me and your mileage may vary. And besides, as multiple people have pointed out, is there a Song of the Summer when we’re in a pandemic and summer sucks? According to The Atlantic, “the Song of the Summer is in chaos”. Amid that chaos though, a new contender has emerged.
Yesterday while connecting with their fans on the VLive app, BTS revealed that they’re releasing a new song:
"We have prepared a new single for ARMY, set for August 21. We are preparing an album for the second half of this year, but decided to first release a single because we wanted to reach our fans as soon as possible. Due to COVID-19, people around the world have been going through tough times and we wanted to share some positive energy with our fans."
The band elaborated:
"The song is upbeat and sung in English, just like 'MIC Drop' and 'Waste It on Me’. We thought that the song sounded perfect as it is in English. We recorded the guide version and felt that the result was something totally new and fresh."
To be clear, of the two Steve Aoki collaborations they namechecked, only “Waste It On Me” is entirely in English; “Mic Drop” has a few English lyrics here and there but it’s mostly in Korean. “Waste It On Me”, however, does not feature all seven members of BTS. This new song then will likely be the first all-English BTS single where the entire group is represented. At the risk of pissing off the BTS ARMY, I have complicated feelings about this.
BTS is the most successful band in the world – and until Taylor Swift released folklore, they owned the top-selling album in the world, including in the United States, this year. For the last several years, they have sold out world stadium tours, they chart repeatedly, they are HUGE. And they did this WITHOUT singing in English. They did this by circumventing the status quo, proving that popular music does not need the endorsement of western cultural gatekeepers. Had they wanted to, they could have initially succumbed to the temptation of pleasing the western record industry but they resisted that bullsh-t, believed that their work was universal, no matter the language, and proved that a South Korean band singing in Korean could play on the same court as everyone else – and win.
Despite all of this, as we know, the Grammys, the chart bosses, and radio stations in the west have obtusely refused to give them the respect they deserve, while at the same time using BTS for clout. Which is one of the reasons I have complicated feelings: will this move be seen as a concession?
On the other hand, they’ve been at this for seven years. They’ve already established their brand, they’ve already demonstrated what they’re all about, they’ve been ambassadors for their culture, their style, and their commitment to their philosophy, so it’s not like an English language song would undermine that. It shouldn’t undermine that. In fact, maybe this is an actual flex. One of the biggest flexes. As in…
Look what we’ve already done with our music in Korean. Now watch what we’ll do with our music in English. Who else can say the same? Our peers have English hits, but could they have a Korean hit? “How you think ‘bout that?”
And now we come back to the 2020 Song of the Summer. BTS can smell an opening and they’re going for it. They’ve just told us in their statement that the song is “upbeat” and “fresh”, what a Song of the Summer needs to be. And they’re daring the west’s music establishment to not play them now. If the barrier was the language thing – which is a bullsh-t excuse, a good song is a good song – well then on August 21 there should be no excuse.
On top of that, August 21 is about ten days before the deadline for Grammys eligibility. So if the song is a smash, it should put their album, Map of the Soul: 7, back into conversation for Grammys nomination voting. This, as usual, is excellent BTS work strategy. The band has consistently shown us how good they are at planning and marketing, even when a global health crisis forces them to be adaptable.
Speaking of BTS’s work though…
Can we just talk – again! – about how 2020 has not slowed them down?! They’re sharing on this VLive with this song announcement like their fans haven’t been well-fed this whole time. Excuse me, sirs, but what the f-ck are you talking about?
Let’s recap what BTS has done in 2020:
-released an album, Map of the Soul: 7 and several music videos to go with it
-released several new episodes of their reality show, Run! BTS (and they’re continuing to film new episodes)
-released a docuseries about their last tour
-rehearsed and performed a virtual live concert, Bang Bang Con: The Live, that broke records for a virtual audience, with over 750K viewers
-V released a worldwide chart-topping solo called “Sweet Night”
-Jungkook recorded and released – FOR FREE – a song called “Still With You” to celebrate the band’s anniversary
-Suga released a whole ass mixtape, D-2
-released a Japanese language album, Map of the Soul: Journey, JUST THIS MONTH, with two entirely new songs
-released several new commercials for their brand sponsorships including Samsung and Hyundai
-donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter
What’s even more amazing is that all of the above was first class work, no half-assing. Also this is an incomplete list and I’m sure ARMYs will be nitpicking all the things I’ve left but … I AM TIRED! BTS does not stop! And now there’s not only a new English song contending for the 2020 Song of the Summer but a new full-length album on the way before the end of the year. Which means a BTS comeback is coming. Now the lyric that’s coming to mind is “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” No, BTS is not throwing away their shot. But that’s a conversation for another time.
Oh and now there’s some kind of countdown happening that directs to a website and I’m too stupid to do the math and what the clocks mean:
Meanwhile I can barely make it to the kitchen to refill my water.