The Transcendental Nature of Music

For a recent post, I wrote about how to listen to music in another language. Continuing that theme, on March 24th, I got to put those skills to the test in real-time as I attended a concert for BTS’s The Wings Tour at the Prudential Center. Now I do have a confession to make, I’ve only been listening to BTS since October 14th to be precise when it just so happened that a friend of mine showed my roommate and I the music video for “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.” At first, I thought the video was a little strange, but I remember liking the dancing and of course, full disclosure, the boys themselves are gorgeous. Eventually, the song got stuck in my head and I decided to watch the music video again and from that point forward I like to say that is when I officially fell head-first into the fandom affectionately known as A.R.M.Y. Flash forward to March 24th and I’m driving from Gettysburg to Newark, New Jersey to attend what I believe was one of the best experiences of my life thus far.

Picture taken before the concert from my seat!

In short, the concert was amazing. After having watched BTS videos on my computer for so long, it was a surreal experience to see them live. Over the years, I’ve been to numerous concerts including One Direction, twenty one pilots, and Imagine Dragons; however, I can easily state that K-pop concerts are somewhat different than other concerts. First, the fans are super dedicated. That’s not to say that fans at the other concerts I went to were not dedicated, but at K-pop concerts it is virtually a necessity to sing along and participate in fanchants. For most Korean pop groups this includes yelling the group members’ names during songs e.g. “Kim Namjoon! Kim Seokjin! Min Yoongi! Jung Hoseok! Park Jimin! Kim Taehyung! Jeon Jungkook! BTS!.” Additionally, many fans organize and hand-out banners for everyone to hold up that usually say some inspirational phrase or quote. K-pop groups also have light sticks that fans can buy and hold up during concerts, which creates what is known as an “ocean.” In BTS’s case, this light stick is called an ARMY Bomb. During the concert, fans had organized a “Rainbow Ocean” where we put different colored bags on our light sticks to create a rainbow throughout the arena.

The Rainbow Ocean created by the crowd during the concert. Photo courtesy of BTS_official (@bts_bighit).

In terms of the concert itself, the video interludes were well-produced and connected the various storylines that BTS had created with their albums. The performances were stunning as BTS really knows how to work a stage. It was clear that a) they are incredibly talented, b) captivating performers, and c) amazing dancers, singers, and rappers. Throughout the show, BTS would communicate with fans causing the decibel level to rise a dangerous level in the arena (I’m pretty sure I lost some hearing for a few days after). Often during songs, BTS would hold out their microphones thus causing all of us to sing the lyrics even louder. Considering that most of BTS’s lyrics are in Korean this is an impressive feat for an audience where most of the people don’t know what they are saying or how to say it correctly. Nevertheless, we tried our best to nail the lyrics, which earned us a few thumbs up from the members every so often.

Likewise, it was touching for me to hear them speak English, a language they are by no means fluent in, as they tried their best to convey their emotions and feelings. Member J-hope stated at the end of the concert that we are BTS’s wings and “we can fly higher together.” However, one of the most poignant moments for me was when member Rap Monster, the sole member who is nearly fluent in English, stated that “music and performance transcends language and countries and races” and “like a rainbow, [it doesn’t matter] if you’re red,…blue, orange, green, purple, or yellow either.” Afterwards, he decided to teach us the Korean word for together: “hamkke,” which he explained that “if we are hamkke we never walk alone.” As someone who fully believes in the power of music, I latched onto what Rap Monster said and I think that it will stick with me for a long time.

To reiterate my point in listening to music in a different language, it really doesn’t matter if you can’t speak or understand the lyrics to a song. As mentioned in my last post, there will always be translations available online somewhere and most importantly the lyrics may mean something different to each and every person. In terms of the future of BTS, I wish them the best of luck on the rest of their world tour and I look forward to hearing the new music and performances they will create.

BTS 101:

  • South Korean K-pop group
  • Short for Bangtan Sonyeondan or literally Bulletproof Boy Scouts translated into English
  • Seven members: Rap Monster (Kim Namjoon), Jin (Kim Seokjin), Suga (Min Yoongi), J-hope (Jung Hoseok), Jimin (Park Jimin), V (Kim Taehyung), and Jungkook (Jeon Jeongguk)
  • Debuted in 2013 with the song “No More Dream”
  • Latest albums Wings and Wings: You Never Walk Alone charted high on the U.S. Billboard charts
  • American leg of Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour consisted of five sold-out shows (2 in Newark, NJ, 1 in Chicago, IL, and 2 in Anaheim, CA)

Songs you should check out!

Cover photo courtesy of BTS_official (@bts_bighit).

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