‘Proof’ is BTS’ touching manifesto of stirring nostalgia, prospect

photo of BTS Proof album cover
BIGHIT Music/Courtesy

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Every ending is a new beginning. After its members chased their dreams for the past nine years, BTS’ anthology album wanders down memory lane boasting the tracks that helped realize the bandmates’ wildest aspirations. Released June 10, Proof features the discography that paved the pop supergroup’s miraculous musical legacy and warmly welcomes its members’ next chapter of embracing individuality.

Proof consists of three CDs, each possessing a specific purpose. The first fiercely kicks off with “Born Singer,” a rousing composition speaking to the band’s unsteady transition from trainees to newcomer idols. It was unofficially released in 2013, but surfaces as a remastered song on Proof. From the group’s debut song “No More Dream” to 2021 summer anthem “Butter,” the remainder of the first CD is a timeline of BTS’ iconic title tracks and an introduction to the band’s evolution.

“Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment),” the lead single of Proof, exquisitely rounds out the first CD. This sentimental heartsong reveals BTS’ own reflections on who its members are and how far they’ve come. But stardom isn’t by accident. The bandmates pay tribute to their childhoods — just regular teenagers who loved music and chased it fearlessly. As V sings, “Yeah, the past was honestly the best/But my best is what comes next,” the septet focuses on their future while drawing parallels to former eras and nodding to their younger selves.

The second CD compiles tracks handpicked by the bandmates that spoke to their individual “proofs.” B-sides such as “Dimple,” “Jamais Vu” and “Filter” are selected to illuminate the members’ reflections on their personal “proofs.” For instance, RM elaborates on how he chose “Stay” and “Intro: Persona” because of how his bandmates and fans unconditionally stay with him despite his ever-changing personas between artist, friend and human.

However, the standout of the sophomore CD is undeniably “Run BTS,” a hip-hop hit reminiscent of the group’s earliest punk phase. Its grunge and growl-like elements make the song both an addictive and infectious listen. It’s fitting that BTS has revisited its roots in this capacity, as it reaffirms the band’s versatility and gives fans a taste of what was surely missed.

To close the album, the septet dedicates the third CD to ARMY, BTS’ fanbase. The closing track, “For Youth,” begins with a concert sample of “Epilogue: Young Forever,” a wistful, touching acknowledgment of how BTS and ARMY go hand in hand; one does not exist without the other. The boys express wholeheartedly how ARMY is everything to them, as j-hope raps “Again, my youth, my grateful friend/ My pride, heaven and love.”

Candid unreleased recordings inspired by lead singles and demos also find a home on this album. The third CD serves as a blank canvas for the boys to bask in total artistic liberty. Although these songs are not available to be digitally streamed, fans enjoy the likes of Jungkook’s soulful, acapella version of “Still With You,” SUGA and Jimin’s spirited collaboration on “Tony Montana” and Jin’s tender spin on “Epiphany.” These hidden gems are like a breath of fresh air as well as a testament to each member’s unique creativity and finesse.

This anthology is followed by the group’s announcement that they are taking an indefinite break from group activities, allowing each member the space and opportunity to individually explore interests and projects freely before returning as one again. In turn, Proof emerges as a summation of the grueling, unpredictable road BTS has endured in its first chapter, but one that couldn’t be trekked without ARMY. It’s also a foreword to the next phase of its members’ careers and to whatever lies ahead.

Proof, in essence, marks the precious space between the ending and the beginning. It materializes as powerful and sensitive alike, but these qualities are integral to what makes BTS what it is today. To a group inflamed with passion and ARMY right behind them, listeners can only anticipate what is yet to come. It will truly be “the best.”

Contact Ashley Tsai at [email protected].