[A Thread] ⬇️
BTS lyrics reflect inherent things that are wrong with political and social SYSTEMS rather than focusing on and blaming INDIVIDUALS. They focus on intergenerational problems and a disconnection in time and space between the older and younger generations.
This is a prominent issue young people feel, especially living in Asian countries where conservative older generations and parents often try to dictate young peoples lives without understanding just how much the environment in which young people live today has changed.
Rapid urban development, technological expansion, exposure to western media, and immigration has changed the landscape that Asian children grow up in. The environment today is full of anachronisms because of the dramatic changes that happen within a short period of time.
I think BTS often displays a Critical Theory perspective in the way they aim at the core ideology that enables certain people to be privileged and others to be oppressed. There's a whole lot to explain so I'll just link this if you want to learn about it:
In all of BTS' songs put together they identity core issues and ideologies that justify social hierarchies, identify people willing to change the system, as well as provide advice for coping and inspiring social change. I will be analyzing some songs that show this.
Overall, BTS focuses on the effect of systems created by past generations on people right now. They tell these stories through a Korean perspective but they are universal themes anyone around the world can understand if they live within a classed system.
They owe some of their global popularity due to the universal worth of the “hidden” political nature of their lyrics and concepts.
A prominent message I find in their songs (also reinforced by their choreo and performances) is a very honest one: that we are all slowly being turned into "techno-obsessed", consumerist, studying machines lacking depth and true emotion.
However they emphasize that IT IS NOT OUR FAULT and we shouldn't blame ourselves for falling into these “temptations” produced by living in a capitalist society. They provide advice for coping with the state of the world today and moving towards reconciliation.
/ / PART 1: "N.O." (2013) / /

I think "N.O." is one of their most relatable songs and is one that has explicit social commentary. You will definitely relate to this if you grew up with traditional asian parents like me.

*turn on CC:
First of all, there is a large stigma on acknowledging the importance of mental wellness in Asia: Most parents are only concerned about your physical health, formal education, future career path, and money.
They often discuss these like they are the only facets of life, ignoring their children’s own opinions and emotions. (*I speak generally on this from my own and many of my friend’s experiences, obvs. not all parents are like this but MOST Asian parents are).
You shouldn’t blame your parents for being like this, it is a product of what they learned growing up and what their parents learned growing up, and so on. It’s hard to blame a certain entity other than the controlled environment in which we live in.
From N.O.: “They say I’m on my way to happy, than why am I so unfortunate?”

“They” are the parents/older family members/teachers/media. This is a response to the commonly spun narrative that going to school and getting into a highly ranked university will lead to a better life.
The myth says that it will get you a good job leading to good money and thus happiness. BTS criticizes this narrative by saying it’s too simplistic and complicates it by adding a self-actualizing statement -“Why am I so unfortunate?”
This statement alone defies expectations and pulls human emotion into the conversation. They are telling their parents to look at reality of their children’s lives because it’s nothing like what they imagine.
“My bankbook is nothing but vagueness” - where is the evidence that going to school will translate into making money? Nothing is guaranteed for students being in that strange period between childhood and being a “full grown up."
“My sadness is exceeding of limit” - Is suffering now worth being potentially happy in the future? Young people have a different mindset these days, most see achieving happiness as the true goal and they realize that money will not guarantee happiness.
Ironically, it’s actually the very structured process of trying to make money - for example going to school and working part-time - that makes us depressed to the point of asking if its all worth it.
Is it really worth the time? We work to make money so we can “have a good life” but why can’t we just start to have a good life now? We work in order to live, but aren’t we sacrificing our lives to work?
This is actually a common criticism of capitalism discussed a lot in literature. Marx describes capitalism as “vampire-like” in its nature. It produces labour that sucks the life force out of us to the point where we become machines of waged labour-
- basically selling portions of our lives out for money while competing against our peers and destroying true friendship/love. But being “number one” and gaining money doesn’t equal happiness:
// PART II: "SILVER SPOON" (2015) //

Aaah….they call me BAEPSAE!!!

*turn on CC also note that the choreo matches well with the lyrics and expands on the meaning:
Many have already explained the meaning behind terms in the song so I’ll make this part short.

Yes the word we all have heard if you are a fan: Baepsae. The term comes from a korean proverb that translates roughly to "If a crow-tit walks like a stork, it will tear its legs.”
“Baepsae” is the crow-tit trying to be the stork. Thus, roughly meaning a “try-hard” in english. “Silver spoon” comes from the english saying of being born with a silver spoon in your mouth meaning being born into a rich family.
A good analysis of "Spoon class theory” and its usage in Korea and in the song "Silver Spoon" can be found here:
This song is probably the most explicit in its criticism of the class system and again the focus is on SYSTEMIC issues. J-Hope’s first verse they manage to bring up three factors that have failed the youth all at once: Jobs, school, and the media.
A good description of the meaning of “passion pay”:
This not only works to expel the myth that youth have it easier these days but points to the EXPLOITATION of young people and their perceived naivety. They are exploited by being paid less than minimum wage and being told they should be happy +
-with the fact that they are getting anything at all. We hear political leaders time and time again say that they value and care about the youth because they “are the future of the nation” but this often isn’t shown in practice.
Older generations are respected by custom and some abuse this “automatic” power given to them, just like how “silver spoons” tend to abuse the power and money automatically given to them at birth.
BTS comments on this unfairness: of being automatically given power based when and where you were born and not based on anything you have actually accomplished. These privileged people are the storks/silver spoons while anyone not blessed at birth are the crow-tits/try-hards +
- because they are immediately at a disadvantage within the social and economic system. I really love these few lines shown below. The privileged always tell the less privileged to "work harder and magically you’ll be just like me!!” narrative.
There are some instances of people climbing from the bottom to the top based on hard work, talent, and skill (members of BTS an example) but in reality this is really rare and may never happen. Generally, success is made into an object that privileged classes have a monopoly on.
“It’s all just fruitless labour” describes the false hope given to the lower classes. Just like in N.O., they criticize the labour system that keeps capitalism in check.
In all, we are giving away the time in our lives, our energy, and our happiness for a fabricated hope designed by those wanting to keep their positions at the top.
/////// PART 3: "AM I WRONG" (2016) ///////

I can't believe this song wasn't censored on tv, I love how sneaky BTS is and
I love Jin’s ironic “Just Say Yes!” t-shirt he wore at this performance:

*turn on CC
"Am I Wrong" gives political commentary on Na Hyang-wook, the head of Korea’s Ministry of Education’s policy bureau’s controversial comments made in mid-2016. He said that 99% of South Korea’s people could be treated “like dogs and pigs” +
- because they have no ability to move up in the world simply being fed and kept alive. This caused an uproar in South Korea at the time and drew attention to the extremely classed and elitist structure of their government.
By referencing this incident in their song, BTS comments on how citizens shouldn't idolize the formal education system and trust it to improve their social circumstances.

The Minister of Education also shows a racist worldview in continued comments about the American class system:
Furthermore, he exemplifies what was talked about in “Silver Spoon” shown through his indifference for a 19 year old subcontractor killed by a subway train. Again, this shows the government’s exploitation and negligence of the league of young people working under minimum wage, +
The lyrics go like: “We’re all dogs, pigs, become dogs because we’re angry.” By simply including this one line they make the connection to Na Hyang-wook.
Later verses comment on how crazy the world is because of the indifference of people like Na and how lack of empathy shouldn’t be something to be praised. Not many government leaders should be seen as role models because of this indifference:
BTS was even discussed on the “Political Desk” program on JTBC where they talked about why their song wasn’t censored on national tv because of the phrase containing “we’re all dogs and pigs”:
They even went down on their hands and knees acting like animals in their choreography and, like in many of their songs, used the expression “Storks vs. Crow-tits” (Hwangsae vs. Baepsae) to express class struggles.
Overall this song is a rallying call for people to prove Na wrong. People AREN'T dogs and pigs and have the ability to make change. It's a wake up call for people that aren't angry at hateful comments and if you have no reaction to hate then you are just as "abnormal" as Na.
/ / / / PART 4: "PIED PIPER" (2017) / / / /

This song deviates a little but still ties into the whole criticism of systems and industries that exploit people for money.

(This is my fav off of Love Yourself: Her it makes me wanna disco so hard wow)
So in this song they kind of make fun of themselves for being within and going with the whole kpop industry. BTS are different in the fact that they are actually trying to NOT be seen as just manufactured puppets produced by entertainment companies +
+ but at the same time BTS themselves can’t deny that they are still very involved with it. They have merchandise with their faces on them (keychains, stickers, socks, posters, cards, etc), commercials, dvds, and many other products that turn their images +
+ into nothing other than pretty faces used to make money. Hence, they are like the "Pied Piper of Hamlin” (in the folktale) who has an ambiguous character state. The “Pied Piper” is both a saviour and curse.
In “Pied Piper” they acknowledge the “brainwashing” qualities of THEIR OWN KPOP INDUSTRY and the problems with being turned into fangirls, fanboys, etc by the media. It is especially in this song that they show SELF AWARENESS and their internal struggle +
+ with knowing that they are also caught up in a system that seeks to make money off of their looks and personalities and young fans’ impressionable minds.
Just like in other songs, they take the focus OFF of the faults of the individual. Many fans think that this song disses ARMY for their obsessive behaviour: for skipping classes, neglecting homework, and sacrificing their social life in order to watch and analyze BTS vids, +
+ but I think it does the OPPOSITE. By opposite, I don’t mean the main point was to diss themselves for being a part of the industry, but to diss the industry ITSELF. While BTS members are the “Pied Pipers", the Pipe itself - the magical flute - represents mainstream media, +
the instrument that they use to attract legions of fans all around the world. In J-Hope’s verse, he symbolizes that the media is to blame for hyping BTS up so much and making them seem so desirable (like how the flute entices children in the folktale), +
+ because they are in the media a lot these days we can never really escape from them - thus “You can’t escape, never.” The reality is that both BTS and ARMY can’t escape from the powers of the “flute”/mainstream media.
BTS can’t help but utilize their image on media out of greed sometimes, the temptation of their own success (like agreeing to be in commercials for products unrelated to music - phones, cosmetics, food, etc). They may or may not face a lot of pressure to be in these ads.
They acknowledge this with lines like “I’m a bit dangerous,” and “I’m here to ruin you” (and our wallets 😭).
The “I can’t even handle myself” line in JK’s bridge shows that they know that their own image in media can be turned against them at any time and used w/o their consent (by antis, tabloids, etc). They have no control over what their image is used for once it's out in the public.
“Don’t worry, my hands they’re only warm for you” is a sweet message reminding the fans that it is ultimately not the money or fame, but pleasing ARMY and spreading love and happiness that makes them work so hard within the industry.
In the end, mainstream media uses us all to make blind profit. Celebrities and their fans have a unique relationship in this regard. They are both enticed by the power of the flute (like pied piper and the children) but in different ways like two opposite sides of a single coin.
/ / / / PART 5: “2! 3! (Hoping for More Good Days)” (2016) / / / /

Now I’m going to move on to the advice contained within their songs about personally dealing with all these inequalities you will experience in your lifetime.

"2! 3!" is another song addressed directly to their fans where they provide practical advice for coping with injustice and inequality. I want to point out that a lot of BTS lyrics are left intentionally vague so the listeners can apply their own experiences +
+ and find their personalized meaning behind them. The broad purpose of “2! 3!" is to be honest with fans and tell them not everything will be alright in the future and that’s okay, that’s just life.
Most days will not be “good,” all we can do is hope for more which is not necessarily a negative outlook. Rather than take this as a negative, the act of "hoping for more good days" can be your reason to live. This is shown in RM’s verse:
They use their own personal experiences reflected in the rap line’s verses to convince us of this. Writing down your lived experiences is one of the most powerful tools in fighting hate because it shows the real physical and emotional toll that it has on individuals.
In Suga’s verse, he shows that he has turned some prejudices and hate he has received into positives in his life. It may refer to the past comments he and RM received during their trainee days that criticized them (they used to be underground rappers) for “selling out” +
+ and going into the Kpop industry when it is not accepted as “real” hip hop. There are many negative preconceptions about the Kpop industry like this that has to do with the companies’ treatment of idols, lack of meaning in lyrics, plastic surgery, and +
+other money making practices. This causes many people to dismiss Kpop before they even listen to it or actually learn the history behind it. Suga comments on this close-mindedness and actually thanks “haters” for making him realize he has proved them all wrong with BTS’ success+
+ The way they have challenge the Kpop industry and stereotypes are actually a part of the reason they have gained so much popularity. Just because others say that you are on a road towards unhappiness doesn’t mean you have to fit into that mold.+
It’s his own way of saying to forge your own way in life and find your own happiness whilst also thanking the fans for being the ones with the hands clapping him on and providing him with confidence.
In JHope’s verse, he deals with his own fears of becoming a disappointment to his fans. It may have to do with his “sunshine” image and the way he likes to act as the “anchor of positivity” of the group.
As a result, he is not used to expressing his troubles and pains publicly in fear of backlash. This may reflect how a lot of people feel within South Korea b/c of the stigma around mental health.
He is saying that he is not being “fake” with this sunshine image because all he wants to do is make others smile. If he succeeds in this he becomes happy too.
They are writing their existence into being and doing this challenges the stigma of openly discussing mental health in+
+in the Kpop industry and also in Korean society as a whole.
They don’t sugarcoat things at all like in other mainstream pop songs. Their broad message is that the world is shit BUT+
+you can live through it by knowing yourself and your position in the world, providing love and support to others, being unafraid to seek love when you are sad, and of course ultimately learning to love yourself and appreciating the ones that reciprocate your love.
///// PART 6: "TOMORROW" (2014) /////
This song is like "2! 3!" in the way it provides practical advice to the listener telling them to find freedom in their own right.

Lyric video:

Just like in "2! 3!" they don't sugarcoat anything in this song, and it is simultaneously depressing yet uplifting - a bittersweetness like this is present in a lot of their songs which can be seen as a metaphor for life. (its cheesy but its true: life is bittersweet).
The chorus goes: “Follow your dream like breaker, Even if it breaks down, oh better.”

The reality is that you will probably fail many times in your life, what makes it “better” is that you keep trying by learning from your mistakes and experiences.
Don’t delude yourself into thinking everything will turn out perfect. There is beauty in failure itself. Maybe its actually the people that are born into success (i.e. into a rich family) that can fall the hardest because they don’t know how to deal with failure when it does come
(because it will eventually, everyone will experience it in their lifetime). Maybe it’s the greed that comes after receiving material success and believing that the road will be smooth for the rest of your life that makes life difficult bc it creates unrealistic expectations+
+that you and others can't possibly meet.

These are Yoongi and Namjoon’s verses in “Tomorrow”:
It amazes me how they can capture the honest feeling that a lot of ppl in their teens and twenties are experiencing today: stuck helpless in a constant rhythm of work or school.
The constant questioning nearing the end of Namjoon’s verse like “what’s the use?,” “why am i getting weaker?,” “where am i going?,” “is there an end to this maze?” directly addresses YOU, and forces you to think CRITICALLY about the job/education SYSTEM aka the “maze” you are +
+stuck in. The message is to question everything and the structure of what you perceive as “success.” I think the key message is finding happiness instead of just wanting material wealth. Sadness communicated in the song is shown as a product of being stuck in a constant,
directionless, and prescribed rhythm. It is important to remember that you define your own success and not to listen to traditional ideas of what “success” is. Break out of the maze and do what you think will make you happy and don't live according to someone else's ideas.
////// PART 7: NOT TODAY (2017) //////

(turn on CC):
To me, Not Today expresses times of political protest - reminds me of the energy of street protests held by everyday people (baepsaes) whether they are just taking time out of their day to join a march or literally risking their lives in a passionate public show of rebellion.
That ENERGY that is only felt when you are surrounded with people that you love and fighting for a common cause - the UNITY
(Interlude ~I highly recommend going to a protest/march at least once in your life preferably many many times. Its a unique feeling to actually be standing in the streets with ppl with the same beliefs to try to change the system DO. IT. It will change you) :)
From the very beginning, RM’s intro establishes this song’s message. His passage grounds the song in an “underdog rising up” narrative from the get go that is very purposeful. They also use “baepsae” a lot connecting it to the theme of their previous songs.
Interestingly, I think this song connects to the message of Tomorrow, perhaps reflecting the other side of the same coin. For me, Tomorrow reflects a quieter desperation for a better future; Quietly wishing and hoping for a better future but not quite taking action just yet to +
+ make that change. Perhaps because of something holding you back like fear of the consequences (“I hope tomorrow will be different from today, I’m just wishing”). I think fear was a strong emotional presence in Tomorrow but in Not Today they are saying to throw away the fear +
+even if its just for one day (“Forget about the fear in your eyes”). Just one day of confidence, of facing your fears, or standing up to your oppressors what ever or whoever they are can change your life.
You don’t have to continually have that energetic spirit in you EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. cause that’s just so unrealistic. We all get burnt out from life at one point and burnt out from fighting your demons whatever they may be. Not Today is like that fire still burning in your heart,
+that desire to keep going, that ONE DAY once in a while that you feel reckless and want to not think too much and just DO SOMETHING. Not Today reflects a different kind of hope shown in Tomorrow. A “Louder” type of hope if that makes sense.
Beyond thinking about breaking out of the maze but actually trying to do it even if its just for one day and not thinking about failing.
THIS is how they encapsulate that feeling of a political march to me, which is just everyday people that, realistically don’t have much power individually, but when they join together they can get attention and possess a lot of power:
The concept of TIME is really interesting in this song. Many lyrics in the song alludes to thinking about the present and not the future like in “Tomorrow,”
RM in the Billboard cover story says this about the word “future” in korean and It’s this thought of “the future is today” that encapsulates this song.
They let the listeners apply their own situations to the song but also insert a verse that is telling of their own personal investment. In terms of their own connection, the verse below reflects that feeling of being pumped up from their own success on international charts.
Now more than ever, with each succeeding comeback they rise and position higher (on Billboard for example) breaking their own records. I’ve always wondered why they used “trampoline” as an analogy of having this “high” feeling instead of something more stable like a mountain.
Because bouncing on a trampoline has both “highs and lows” and the process of getting to those highs and lows are also important, I think they used it bc it is more realistic than feeling this “high” happy feeling ALL the time.
You are not realistically going to be standing on a mountain your entire life, ESPECIALLY if you are a baepsae/underdog.
To me, the “high” they might be referring to is whenever they release a new album and it charts really good, and the “low” is the period between comebacks when they are preparing to launch - the writing and the production process of the album itself.
One other thing I want to point out is that there is sort of a contradiction in this song when the message of them being underdogs, but they aren’t anymore. Yoongi mentions this in the Billboard cover story:
They talk about being baepsaes in the first half of the song, using the pronoun “we” a lot referring to the members themselves. And then after the verse about believing in BTS together I feel like they switch gears a little bit saying “Forget about the fear in YOUR eyes” +
+ and “Break the glass ceiling that cages YOU” maybe signifying their success as an example of how believing in yourself and the people around you can lead you to great heights. It feels like they are directly talking to us and passing the message on. //
Overall, I think BTS has used their platform in a very clever way. Especially living in Korea where respect is expected from the younger generation towards older members,+
they have found a way to criticize the “older” mindset without placing blame on individuals themselves, but on the system that they have grown up in.

And like what RM says in last screenshot of the Billboard article above, I think they’re overall goal is to SPARK CONVERSATION+
+and get people, esp. young ppl talking about issues that will effect them in the future. Since they are not technically baepsaes anymore, they will keep writing music about their pasts and more music also about and for fans, everyday people.
A lot of us are baepsaes, we identified with BTS in the first place for this reason and we should continue connecting with each other and having conversations.

***if you got to the bottom of this long ass thread thanks for reading. I hope it made sense to someone other than me :P I did this mostly for me as an outlet for my own thoughts and it makes me happy if even one person read this so thanks ;) ***
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