BTS’s ‘Black Swan’ punctuates reality of international stardom

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BTS songs are unpredictable, with the seven-member group dabbling in a wide range of musical styles. From rap, R&B and rock to EDM and pop, the band traverses these genres while managing to also intertwine them, creating an eclectic sound that is utterly unique. BTS’s latest release, “Black Swan,” sees the band return to the mesmerizing avant-garde symbolism that it is known for.  

In the face of the massive BTS fanbase, as well as the mainstream notoriety the band has attained, we rarely see BTS members without a smile on their faces, positive energy practically rolling off of them in waves. That being said, there are the rare moments when we see unfiltered versions of the members. In one instance, while onstage at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, Jin revealed that the group considered the possibility of disbanding because of the insurmountable pressure the members felt with their newfound success. 

Largely considered BTS’s magnum opus, Wings was a defining album for the group. Filled with mystic imagery and extravagant symbolism, the band’s work during the Wings period was critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The album was lauded for not only its unique themes, but also for each member’s individual songs. They openly discussed their loneliness, love of music and fears. 

As the years progressed and BTS’s popularity exploded, the band’s music continued to shape-shift. “Black Swan” is a return to music reminiscent of the Wings era; the intensity of the topics the song brings up while intertwining its lyrics with an upbeat beat is eerie. It’s packaged intentionally, at the surface, to be a radio-ready hit, with its use of auto-tune and a trap-heavy beat. 

The work is haunting in many ways because of the biting honesty that laces the lyrics. BTS member Suga admits that the passion the band once had for music was dissipating, singing: “The heart no longer races/ When hearing the music play.” This is made even more painful with the fact that early works, like the song “First Love” off of the Wings album, often underscored the love Suga has for his craft. 

The beat of “Black Swan” is its strength, carrying the amount of passion in the members’ voices with a pleasant air. Their voices, however, are extremely processed through the entirety of the song. The waves of the auto-tune work for the initial listen, but can grow grating with repetition.

As they weave through the flashes of impassioned emotions, V and Jimin sing, “No song affects me anymore/ Crying out a silent cry.” The song depicts their fight for control in their artistry, for the sound that defines the group. “Black Swan” gives fans a stark look into the extreme trials and tribulations that BTS has dealt with, something the band might have been afraid to do in the midst of trying to win over a mainstream music audience. “In the deepest depths/ I saw myself,” sings rapper J-Hope. 

BTS’s story is hailed as a miraculous one: Relative unknowns becoming some of the world’s most in-demand artists. BTS has undoubtedly defined this generation’s music in terms of the versatility and international popularity the band has achieved. This new song is an honest look into the years the band spent fighting for its own place in the industry. “Black Swan ” is as triumphant as it is poignant. 

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].