BTS’s new album, BE, will drop in two days, on Friday November 20. Last week I wrote in the open to expect exhaustion – from me and from our content – because a typical BTS comeback is LOT. And it’s not like over the last couple of weeks they haven’t been performing fan service, making sure ARMY is properly fed, dropping selfies and other photos; and if you’re ARMY, you know where to go to get your daily vitamins, and the thirst is moderately satisfied.
If you’re not ARMY though, and in particular if you consume entertainment news from mainstreamish entertainment outlets, particularly western outlets, the BTS drip rate on this comeback is much less intense. That’s partly because, as usual, of the xenophobia. But also, I think it might be their own design.
Ahead of the release of “Dynamite” in the summer, BTS’s game plan was big push – they intended to take over western music charts, it was a clear and stated goal, and they supported that goal with talk show appearances, performances, interviews; it was a BTS takeover of western media which resulted in their first Billboard Hot 100 #1 for two weeks in a row. That marketing strategy, however, fit the actual product.
“Dynamite” is… well…explosive. It’s not subtle. It’s an in-your-face song. And so was the in-your-face promotional tour.
So far, going by advance materials, this is not the tone of the new album, BE. RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook have talked about how the vibe of BE is more reflective of what they experienced this year, sharing in the frustration that many people around the world can relate to during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. In a statement released by their label, Big Hit, the album “reflects the thoughts, emotions and deepest ruminations of BTS while working on the album.
The title and first track off the album is “Life Goes On”, a theme they touched on when they addressed the UN General Assembly a few months ago, encouraging people to stay hopeful during these troubling times. According to the BE tracklist revealed last week, “Dynamite” is the final song on the album…
In other words, the introspection that represents the mood of the album as it builds towards a release. The party happens at the end but the party is the blast after the work, as it always is, especially where BTS is concerned. So the fact that they haven’t been aggressively all over the place on this comeback and are much more quiet, by their standards, on the promo totally matches the vibe of this work – another example of how deliberate they are with their marketing.
Speaking of the work though… Grammy nominations are coming next week, right after BTS’s album release and their upcoming performance at the American Music Awards on Sunday. And the question is, after BTS’s accomplishments this year, will the Recording Academy finally figure it out (three years later) and include BTS among the nominees? BTS members have made no secret of their desire to be nominated for and win Grammys. They’ve also honoured the Grammys by participating in Grammy events and lending the attention of their considerable and influential fanbase to the Grammy Museum.
Interestingly enough, an article (author unknown) was published about BTS and the Grammys on Weverse last week. Weverse is own by BTS’s label, Big Hit, so you have to assume that the piece was endorsed by their team – and it is a critical but objective meditation on the Grammys’ historical shortcomings and myopia, the Recording Academy and the western music industry’s failure to recognise female artists and artists of colour. This essay isn’t just about BTS but traces past Grammys’ shortcomings and resulting backlash, positing that this is an institution that has been slow to change and has been losing relevance citing so many other artists the Grammys have done dirty.
Is this a preemptive case for an imminent Grammys snub? Is this a sign that BTS already knows they won’t be nominated? Or is this BTS’s way of saying that of course, while they definitely want a Grammy, it doesn’t mean they’re measuring their own value and success by the Grammys; don’t get it twisted, they know exactly what the Grammys are. They are telling the Grammys about themselves.
Here’s the teaser trailers for the “Life Goes On” that was posted yesterday, directed by my bias Jungkook.
Not surprisingly, the two clips have already or are currently breaking and rebreaking YouTube records.