Dance diary: Taking on Zico’s ‘Any Song’ challenge

By Nadine Kam I

I couldn’t resist taking a stab at Ziko’s any song challenge. It’s such a fun song and the choreography is supposed to be simple enough to allow anyone to take him up on the challenge.

Even though the choreography is pretty easy, I still had my challenges. First of all this was my first time trying to dance solo, and just to be different from the thousands of other found videos online, I decided I needed a different backdrop. In Hawaii, heading to the beach is a no brainer because everyone loves to see blue sky and blue ocean.

The only problem was I was heading to the Big Island so I needed to do it quickly and it was on a holiday and everyone was at the beach.

So, in addition to trying to remember the sequence of the choreography, I had the additional challenges of sun in my eyes, wind whipping my hair into my face, and hundreds of people walking by, including those so oblivious as to pass behind me while the camera was rolling. Doh!

There’s a lot of pressure when people are walking by which made it harder than it would’ve been if I had stayed home.

👁 Zico and Mamamoo’s Hwasa show the challenge choreography:

In fact, it would have been easy to stay home and not do this at all, but I love this song and was compelled to be in the moment. Perhaps it’s 2020 energy at work, which is about tackling your fears before you can attain abundance. It’s supposed to be a momentous year for those willing to take action toward achieving longtime dreams.

Plus, I can relate to a song about getting older and feeling tired and bored but recharging by putting on any song and dancing any way you want.

It’s such an upbeat, fun song that earned Zico the honor of creating the first all-kill song of 2020, meaning it topped six major Korean music charts.

👁 The official video:

In spite of the public situation I put myself in, and my inability to smile where necessary due to those conditions, I got through the dance and survived, so I await the next challenge!

Note: For the sake of having a personal archive of dances, I said I would be posting my beginning dances from last year but I have at least 52 since last March. And I’m definitely more excited about what I’m doing now, so going forward, I think I will start posting those videos with the theme “On this day last year” until I’m all caught up. I will start to post those older videos in mid-March.

BTS launches ‘Connect,’ a global art project

By Nadine Kam I

BTS is not only a music phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon, and one reason for the group’s popularity has been its use of its influence to foster optimism and forward thinking around the globe. This time, they’ll be doing it through art, with a new global project called “Connect, BTS,” a series of large-scale art projects involving 22 artists and five cities on four continents.

Experience the sights and sounds of a first via Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s “Catharsis,’ at https://catharsis.live

The intent is to connect people across continents, via art. The first work, an immersive audio-visual forest experience titled “Catharsis,” by Jakob Kudsk Steensen, opened yesterday at the Serpentine Galleries in London. Other works will be unveiled Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seoul, and New York through spring.

Kim Taehyung is the group’s resident art lover and painting enthusiast, and during tour downtimes is known for seeking out museums and galleries. He has surprised gallerists around the world by walking into their galleries and openings unannounced, and leaving with purchases.

You can read more about the project at the links below:

Art News: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/bts-art-project-1202675373/
BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-51106206

BTS’s V (Kim Taehyung) is known for his love of the arts and has been known to introduce himself abroad as Vincent Van Gogh.

While BTS is once again building bridges around the world and spreading their brand of positivity, inclusiveness, culture, artistry and intelligence, it made me think of their detractors, for whom BTS seems to be a trigger for their xenophobic and homophobic sentiments.

BTS’s army of fans has a history of going after such detractors, and in doing so, amplify their rants. Two of the biggest trash talkers have mocked Army for doing just that, and in so doing only spread the negativity and increased the audience of those pot-bellied buffoons with dinosaur-age thinking.

RM at a museum in Vienna.

They think of Army as no more than “a bunch of teen-age girls,” but already those “teen-age girls” are a force to be reckoned with and will be the ones wielding political might in the future. Yes, they pool their resources to do some pretty fangirl things, like buying billboards in Times Square, newspaper ads and subway ads to celebrate their favorite K-pop stars’ birthdays, but following BTS’s lead, they’ve also used their numbers and resources to build wells in Africa and fund humanitarian projects around the globe. Connected through a love of BTS, they’re able to mobilize for good causes.

Jin (Kim Seok Jin) in a key scene from the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” music video.

So, going forward, I am not naming those major detractors in favor of suggesting a new tack. That is, just ignore the naysayers. The impulse of Army has always been to protect and defend BTS, but for the most part, the antis are nobodies who want attention. So, don’t give it to them. Don’t give them a voice so they can just go back and crawl back under the rock from which they emerged.

Kim Taehyung in a key scene from the the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” music video, with a painting attributed to Pieter Bruegel the Elder. “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” in the backdrop. Just analyzing the artwork in this video could be the subject of a college course!

The ones most vocal in the west most only reveal themselves to be intellectually inferior, racist homophobes. History will have no place for them, but BTS is already in the pantheon of greats as musicians. As a force for change, fostering peace and diversity, they are doing much more than politicians. Imagine if they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize sometime in the future. Then the whole world would have to pay attention.

And based on some early numbers, there are more who want to hear their messages. Today their management company Big Hit Entertainment announced that “Map of the Soul: 7” has sold a record 3.42 million preorders in its first week of availability, making it likely that the album to be released Feb. 21, will top sales of last year’s chart-topping “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which sold 2.685 million preorders in its first five days.

BTS ‘Map of the Soul: 7 Shadow: Interlude’ shows Suga’s power

By Nadine Kam I

HONOLULU — In my corner of the world, people seem to need three weeks to recover from the holiday season, as slowly the social calendar is beginning to fill up with events.

But K-pop never rests, and in my anguish over the terrible treatment of X1 and their disbandment and the excitement of Treasure being liberated from its prison at YG, I overlooked the Jan. 7 announcement that BTS will drop the next chapter of its “Map of the Soul” series on Feb. 21.

Pre-orders for “Map of the Soul: 7” is going on now, and two days later Big Hit Entertainment released a beautiful comeback trailer, “Interlude : Shadow,” featuring Suga (Min Yoongi). This song makes me feel really sad to think of all that he and BTS have been through to get where they are, only to find how lonely it is at the top.

Ah, it’s so good, but I’m glad I didn’t know this was going to be out ahead of time. I probably would have tried to record a reaction video and end up crying as soon as his singing kicked in.

So instead, check out this explainer from DKDKTV’s Danny Kim on the Jungian perspective that defines the “Map of the Soul,” and a music producer’s perspective on the song.

Byeongkwan’s star on the rise with ‘Pops in Seoul’ gig

By Nadine Kam I

Congratulations to A.C.E.’s Kim Byeongkwan, who became host of Arirang’s “Pops in Seoul,” a K-pop music and news program on Jan. 6, taking over for Stray Kids’ Felix Lee (Lee Yong Bok), who had held the position since last July, but is leaving on a world tour with his group.

Byeongkwan should do well because he has such an outgoing personality and as the main dancer for A.C.E, he’ll be able to keep up the K-pop dance lessons that became so popular when Samuel Kim and Felix were hosts.

I’ve been seeing a lot more of Byeongkwan lately, after having wondered how well he was doing after finishing in fourth place on the K-pop survival show “Mixnine.” The show was to create a debut group out of the top nine finishers from either a girls- or boys-only team, but the debut never happened. He was really talented but one can only follow so many people, and because I arrived at “Mixnine,” going backward in time after having watched YG “Treasure Box,” I continued following the YG participants, Choi Hyun Suk, Lee Byoung Gon and Kim Jun Kyu.

I was reminded how outrageous Byeongkwan can be when he and A.C.E’s Wow released a cover music video of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” last month, which is so awesome.

I’m really going to miss Felix’s Aussie accent, but looking forward to what Byeongkwan will show us in the months ahead.

👁 A comparison of Byeongkwan and Felix’s dance lessons:

X1 debut marked by record win time

By Nadine Kam I

So my question prior to X1’s debut on Aug. 27 was, are they going to match or top Wanna One, the previous male band formed by the “Produce 101” franchise that disbanded earlier this year after their yearlong contract expired.

Well, considering their first big win, on SBS MTV’s “The Show,” for “Flash,” came five days after their debut, they’re off to a good start. They beat Wanna One, whose first award came nine days after debut, as well as the six-day record on MNET’s M Countdown, for a boy group, held by YG’s Winner after releasing its debut single “Color Ring.”

👁: X1 “Flash” music video

Whether they continue on this way is still a question mark for me because of that cloud over the “Produce” voting process that already prevented them from debuting on KBS2’s “Music Bank.”

It’s also hard for me to be objective about the group’s formation because I was with these members for four months during the “Produce X 101” competition, and feel too attached to some members to watch them as if being introduced to them for the first time.

I like the song and video, but is the song as strong as Wanna One’s “Energetic?” I don’t think so. Because I try to learn K-pop dances, I also noticed there’s no segment in the choreography that’s particularly catchy. So it lacks that dance hook that gets people excited to perform and share cover dances, also a measure of the success of a particular song.

I feel like 11 members is too many for newbies to become close to a group. I mean I’m glad that number accommodates most of my favorites, but I think an ideal group size is five to eight. If I were new to the group, the quick edits and dark styling of the music video for “Flash” would make the members seem intimidating, and it wouldn’t give me enough time to get to know their faces or to sort out who’s dancing or singing at any given time.

Luckily, they have a built-in audience of the millions who tuned into “Produce,” and already picked out their favorites, which for me are center Kim Yo Han and sub-vocalist and X-boy Lee Eun Sang, who I think is a rising star. Only 16 by American age, he has the poise of a young adult and presence to match members of the group who already debuted with other groups prior to joining “Produce.”

He is at the center of this teaser for M Countdown, which has him confessing his fears about the stage, only to be told by the hyung line and Han Seung Woo, that they manage their nerves by taking flash selfies.

Meanwhile the maknae line’s Son Dong Pyo shares that they quell their fears by dancing.

Eun Sang thanks them, then goes off to do his own thing.

Meanwhile, at a press conference for their debut, Yo Han had promised that they would all put their hair up in apple style if they won first place on a music show. On Sept. 3, they fulfilled that promise, which delighted their fandom, called One It! Very cute as you can see at the top of the page.

>>>>>>>><<<<<<

I was also curious to see what the Woollim trainees would come up with for their W Project 4 debut. They have some strength in dancer Hwang Yunseong, vocalist Lee Hyeop and rapper Kim Dong Yun.

But overall their dancing is not as precise and powerful as X1’s, and they have a way to go before they can match those groups in the upper echelons of the K-pop world.

👁: W Project 4 “1 Minute 1 Second”

EXO’s second Hawaii photo book on the way

By Nadine Kam I

I thought the EXO in Hawaii chapter was over when the group’s photobook “PRESENT; gift” was released in April.

Now a second 204-page Hawaii photobook, “PRESENT; the moment” is set to be released on Sept. 10.

Chen and Suho inside Kaimuki Laundromat.

SM has already teased a handful of photos. The last outing featured picturesque destinations. The teased photos showed the more mundane, with Chen and Suho pictured inside humble Kaimuki Laundromat, and D.O., Sehun, Kai and Baekhyun standing prettily in silk lei on a residential street. Shades of “EXO Next Door!” If I knew they were on my street I would run out of the house.

I did get a friend’s shared picture when we just so happened to make ourselves useful by hand-delivering bento lunches to EXO while they were at Kualoa Ranch. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hang around because they were headed to Secret Island Beach, and as soon as we got there a staffer grabbed the lunches from us to load onto their boat.

There was only room for a small crew, so they left about 30 other crew members behind. As they were heading out, my friend took a few photos, and below is one of them. I like to say this was the first time my future husband Chen saw me waving him off. LOL!

EXO heads out to Secret Island Beach at Kualoa Ranch, Nov. 30, 2018.

It’s not like I’m a stalker; I just wanted to see what they look like, how tall they are IRL. D.O., Baekhyun and Chen are pretty short. I think they heighten in their bios. Otherwise they look the same as their photos. The only surprise was D.O. I don’t care much for his looks in 2D—of this group Chen is my bias; if you include Lay it would be Lay—but in 3D D.O.’s features just pop and he is really good-looking.

That said, the second book comes along just at the time EXO-Ls may be missing our EXO members in the military Xiumin and D.O., and this keeps them at the top of our thoughts.

BlackPink’s summer diary in Hawaii available in pre-sale

By Nadine Kam I

BlackPink was on Oahu in mid-July to film various activities over a few days for a travelog, “BLACKPINK Summer Diary: In Hawaii.” At the time, I wrote a story for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about their activities.

Group members Jennie Kim, Jisoo Kim, Rosé (Park Chae-young) and Lisa Manoban posted dozens of photos from the Kahala Hotel, where fans also spotted and photographed them swimming with dolphins.

This image of Jennie kissing the dolphin Hua appeared on her IG account.

Well, YG Entertainment just announced the release of a photobook package, “2019 BLACKPINK’s Summer Diary (In Hawaii),” with photos and videos of the group vacationing in Hawaii (they’re always working vacations) after completing their first world tour. It must be noted that they kept smiles on their faces (mostly) even though some weren’t feeling well.

Rosé was feeling ill and posted these images to her IG, referring to, “A sick balloon for a sick Rosie.”

The photo book is available for pre-order through Sept. 8 KST on Amazon.com for $62.99. It will be officially released on Sept. 9.

YG artists regularly release winter season films and photobooks. This project marks its first summer season product.

Fall will be the battle ground for K-pop’s new supergroups

By Nadine Kam I

Because people know I listen to K-pop they often ask if I also watch K-dramas. I don’t because I’m afraid of getting hooked like I did with the music, because I really didn’t think that would happen.

My leanings were toward ’90s alt and metal so I actually didn’t find much to like on the American music scene in the post-grunge era. Since then I really only liked Jack White and … And You Will Know by the Trail of Dead. Not exactly precursors to K-pop.

I carried my anti stance into K-pop dance classes. Teachers were always curious to know which groups and songs we liked so they could tailor classes to our tastes.

“Whatever,” I’d always say. “I’m just here for exercise.” I didn’t know a single group or song. I found it odd that women my age would gush over groups of teenage boys. They were so fanatical and excitable. “Geez, K-pop lovers are a different breed,” I thought.

Then I became hooked and fell deep into the rabbit hole, so it’s not enough to know which groups are out there and which new song has been released. Now I follow trainees who have not even debuted, plus their companies, all the while trying to second guess their next moves and decisions, an endless chess game as companies strategize the optimal times to debut a group or release an album to beat the competition.

So, Korean dramas? I don’t need it. The world of K-pop is a living soap opera of real characters, raw emotions, heartbreak and immense tribulation, in other words, the kind of drama that hooks anyone who relates to these characters. I think I do because I sang in bands for about 5 years so I understand that strange desire to be on stage.

👁: X1 teaser

Anyway, the drama is really heating up as X1—the “nationally produced” group of 11 members voted in through the reality TV competition “Produce X 101″—prepares to debut Aug. 27 with a mini album, “Quantum Leap. “It’s exciting to see whether or not this band can top the accomplishments of
Wanna One, the last boy band produced in this series. Wanna One charted immediately and had several hits before disbanding when their contract ended after a year.

I was still fairly new to K-pop when they disbanded. I couldn’t believe that producers did not try to extend the contract for such a popular band. Now I realize that because of each member’s obligations to his own management company, such an extension is impossible. The different companies need their talent back to move forward with their own groups.

Because of Wanna One’s success, producers got smart and this time, members of X1 are signed for five years, 2-1/2 years promoting exclusively with X1, under Swing Entertainment management, and 2-1/2 years on joint basis when they will be able to promote with Swing plus their own management companies.

Their debut comes just as BTS is enjoying an expected two-month break from touring and media appearances. That clears the way for fans to cast their eyes elsewhere and X1 has a real mixed bag of types that different people will find appealing.

Usually groups have a uniform concept and members share a similar vibe. Because X1’s members were voted in (there’s continuing controversy over the legitimacy of the final tallies), half the members lean sexy and mature, the others are cute teens. All have their own charms, and fan bases built up through the show.

Interestingly, Billboard recently reported the group ranks at No. 6 on its social chart, without having released any music yet. Of course BTS has topped this chart for three years. Last year the group had competition from fellow Kpop groups GOT7 and EXO. Could it be time for a change, and could X1 be the group to topple the leaders? We’ll see!

>>>>>>>><<<<<<<

👁: Super M teaser

Not to be outdone, SM Entertainment is launching its own super group, Super M, comprising members of its already established male groups SHINee (Taemin), EXO (Baekhyun, Kai) and NCT (Taeyong, Mark, Ten and Lucas.

The group was formed in collaboration with Capitol Records, which likely eyed BTS’s success and wanted a shortcut to similar success. As I said in my previous post, K-pop is still a niche genre and it’s not likely for a typical group to gain the kind of following BTS amassed over six years. So Super M is counting on the combined fandom’s of SM’s three popular male bands to come together to support this supergroup.

Although there is negative feedback concerning SM’s overworking these members, I think they are all hard workers who love the limelight and would love a shot at winning over more Americans. Personally, I like the idea of these talented artists together and can’t wait to see what they will come up with to crack the U.S. market.

>>>>>>><<<<<<<

Starship Enterprise has been promoting its star trainees Ham Won Jin and Koo Jung Mo with some timely back-to-school imagery.

Another result of the fervor behind the trainees featured in “Produce X 101” is fans calling for the formation of a second group, comprising the remaining nine of the Top 20 finalists, who did not make the X1 lineup.
Fans have dubbed this group Be Your Nine (BY9), and most of the agencies have responded positively about considering it.

If this were to happen, BY9 could have success rivaling that of the winning 11 contestants in X1. But I have doubts BY9 will debut with the nine expected, because Up10tion’s Lee Jin Hyuk is on the path to a solo career, and three of the Starship Entertainment trainees—Ham Won Jin (16th ranked), Koo Jung Mo (12th ranked) and Moon Hyun Bin (32nd ranked)—will likely debut in their own group early next year.

Woollim Entertainment will launch its W Project 4 Sept. 2. The lineup, from left, Kim Min Seo, Lee Sung Jun, Kim Dong Yun, Hwang Yunseong, Lee Hyeop and Joo Chang Uk.

Striking while they are at the height of their “Produce” popularity, several other companies involved are debuting project releases by their trainees. Another of the biggest is Woollim, whose Hwang Yunseong finished in 18th place in “Produce,” qualifying him for BY9. But Woollim already confirmed his participation in its latest W Project lineup, along with other Woollim “Produce” trainees Kim Min Seo, Lee Sung Jun, Kim Dong Yun, Lee Hyeop (signed after “Produce” ended), and Joo Chang Uk. Woollim’s W Project 4 will launch Sept. 2.

Whether this “project” encompasses only a few singles, albums and music video releases, or a full debut band is unknown. If it is just on a project basis, conceivably Yunseong could promote with BY9 as well.

Others moving on are MyTeen’s Song Yu Vin and Kim Kook Heon whose company Music Works broke fans hearts with the news that MyTeen would be disbanded and Yu Vin and Kook Heon would be performing now as as a duo.

It’s interesting to see where all this will lead, but clearly, “Produce X 101” has been a major catalyst for getting name recognition for these artists who otherwise might have only gone on to be another face in a crowded field. The one drawback from the show is the ongoing investigation into voting fraud. Already, X1 has lost some sponsors who don’t want to be connected to members whose popularity may be in question because of the voting irregularities.

Super M: Avengers of K-pop coming to America

By Nadine Kam I

Everybody say “Yeah!” On Aug. 7, SM Entertainment formally announced the formation of Super M, a supergroup the company has dubbed “The Avengers of K-pop,” comprising a stellar lineup of SM stars from its established boy bands.

This supergroup, set to debut in October, will feature SHINee’s Taemin, EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai, and NCT’s Taeyong, Mark, Ten and Lucas (WayV). This is a crazy, crazy exciting lineup featuring multiple main dancers, vocalists, rappers and visuals. Wow!

It makes sense because there’s been a sort of “land grab” going on in the music industry as Western companies have finally awoken to the sizable following of K-pop around the globe, and all want a piece of the action. It’s not like they have the capacity to create their own groups so they are looking to Seoul to see who has the most potential to break through. First, Interscope signed a joint agreement with YG Entertainment to manage the global promotion of Black Pink, and this time Capitol Music Group and its independent label service Caroline announced their partnership with SME to promote Super M in the United States.

Members of Super M, top left to right, top to bottom: Taeyong, Mark, Lucas, Taemin, Ten, Baekhyun and Kai.

With BTS commanding so much attention over the past two years, this supergroup is just what SM needs to enter the American market in a meaningful way. Because, in spite of fans’ devotion, K-pop remains a niche market, and most groups are unable to sell out stadiums the way BTS has done. They need the power of many—like how KCON has been able to bring fans to L.A. and New York for concerts with diverse performances.

A lot of people assume people who say they like K-pop support many bands, but it is no different from American music lovers who really only love a couple of groups out of 100. A lot of BTS supporters will say they love K-pop, but really love only BTS. That’s because of the power of the fandoms that make people feel disloyal if they stan another rival group. The rivalry between BTS Army and EXO Exo-Ls is particularly intense, as big as the feud between the Montagues and Capulets of “Romeo and Juliet.”

👁 Check out the teaser for Super M!

By uniting the fandoms of SHINee, EXO and NCT, hopefully Super M will have the numbers needed to support a single act. Not to mention making the most profitable use (this is K-pop after all) of Taemin, Baekhyun and Kai before they are forced to enlist in the South Korean military in the next two years. It makes a lot of sense for Taemin because he is already promoting solo while the three other members of SHINee are serving their country over the next year-and-a-half. EXO’s lineup is also being slowly decimated as each member reaches the outer limit of service age.

The real biggie is that members of NCT 127 speak English. In SHINee, Key was the one English speaker. The others focused on speaking Japanese for the Japan market. EXO had no English speaker after losing its Chinese members, so it made it socially awkward when they tried to give interviews in this country when they could only say stuff like “Yeah,” “Come on man,” or just parrot the interviewer. It was painful to watch.

The move also will strengthen the recognition factor of relative newcomers NCT, guaranteeing a certain amount of fame so these members may also be able to strike out solo or do collaborative work with Western artists when Taemin, Baekhyun and Kai exit.

👁 Let’s see what Taemin has done on his own:

But the fandoms are fickle, and days ahead of the formal announcement, there was already a lot of negativity in the air, from worries about overworking the boys, to the need to promote their current groups better.

A lot of people have been saying that they wish Lee Taemin didn’t have to work so hard, but in his documentaries, his love for the stage is obvious, as well as his compulsion to work hard and further his career. Since his trainee days, he also has always wanted to be in the same group as his bestie Kai and as he reflected on his career during SHNee’s 10th anniversary promotions, he said that he initially did not want to join SHINee and always wondered what would have happened if he had debuted in EXO.

🎧 Let’s listen to NCT 127:


I think things worked out for the best. As a member of EXO, he might have been lost in that initial field of 12. With SHINee he got so much attention. So he can consider this his reboot. He must be so happy to be dancing alongside Kai again.

This push into the U.S. is necessary for the company as South Korea is now engaged in a trade war with Japan, stemming from grievances dating back to the Korean War.

Most recently, Japan targeted South Korea’s electronics industry, restricting the export of materials used in smartphones and chips, and removed South Korea from a list of countries granted preferential trade status. South Korea retaliated by launching a boycott of Japanese goods and services, ranging from cars, beer, travel and patronizing Japanese restaurants. The Associated Press reported that a recent survey showed 80 percent of South Koreans are reluctant to buy Japanese products.

👁 Here’s a Kai focus cam for “The Eve” (green shirt):

Tension between the two nations has been building over the past few years, and we already saw the anger directed toward BTS’s Jimin last fall when a photo of him wearing a Hiroshima atom bomb T-shirt in celebration of Korea Liberation Day resurfaced just before the group’s trip to Japan. A BTS TV appearance on a Japanese TV station was cancelled as a result.

Neither side shows any sign of backing down, and if the trade war intensifies over an extended period of time, it will likely have a negative impact on the K-pop industry. Currently, Japan represents 80 percent of the market for K-pop music. If Japan were to block import of K-pop music, merch and put a ban on concerts, Super M may truly be the Avengers who save SM.

I am really looking forward to seeing them together and seeing what they do come their debut in October.

My only prob is the name of this group. In the U.S., where they plan to promote, it’s gonna sound like sperm! That’s why I think all the Korean music agencies should hire me as an English language consultant. I could fix a lot of their mispronunciations when they’re singing! Some are cute but some are just painfully wrong.


Third BTS film ‘Bring the Soul’ is here

By Nadine Kam I

“Bring the soul” is the third in a series of BTS films, this time documenting the Korean super group’s “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” tour last fall, which took them from Seoul to the United States and Europe.

The film opens and closes with the group enjoying an intimate dinner party on a Parisian rooftop at the end of the tour, and press materials promised members would share “their own stories as never heard before.”

That promise of intimacy is what lured me in, but the film didn’t deliver in that regard. There is more intimacy in their VLive self-cameras and “Run” episodes than in this film. I would have appreciated more insight than I already know, and less of the fast-paced montages that fill up time without adding to fans’ knowledge of the group. The films, to me, always feel like an introductory calling card for non-fans who want to understand the BTS phenomenon that Army is already well aware of.

That said, I went with a super fan who doesn’t hesitate to fly off to their concerts, sang along with each of their numbers and on Day 2 of the film’s release, was watching it a second time. I think it’s safe to say she loved it.

Like “Burn the Stage” and “Love Yourself in Seoul” before it, the film contains a mix of concert and behind-the-scenes footage. In between performances we see a lot of them eating, sleeping and working out. I’m pretty sure fans feel some relief in seeing them sleeping because in addition to providing constant joy, they bring out the nurturing instinct in fans who worry about their health because we understand their drive to push themselves to their physical and mental limits to put on their best performances for their millions-strong Army.

This point is driven home from the start when, all smiles on stage, maknae Jungkook bursts into tears off stage after the initial Seoul concert because his voice cracked during a song and felt he didn’t show his best. RM shrugs off that minor incident, saying he missed two verses of a song.

Fans will feel a roller coaster of emotions, from the exhilaration of their high-energy performances to the pain of seeing how much the boys suffer for their art and for their audience. It really hurt to see Jimin in a leg brace, and it reminded me of hearing in real-time last fall incidents in Europe when Jungkook’s heel injury prevented him from dancing. There was reference to Jimin’s inability to perform in London a day after Jungkook’s injury, but the film didn’t show him in the back brace on his birthday, when he suffered severe muscle spasms.

In light of the severity of their ailments, much less attention was focused on Hoseok and Taehyung’s illnesses which were brought to light here. I recalled hearing Taehyung was sick, but it’s more visceral to see it, and again, their heartbreak when they are unable to be at their best for fans. I actually cried when I saw him unable to sing on stage, but mouthing his lines, with the fans filling in the gap with their own vocals. Of course they know every line.

Backstage, he starts crying but even then must smile for the cameras because press photographers are waiting, which has to make fans wonder how many times they are forced to smile through tears.

BTS members, from left, V, Jin, Suga, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope.


I know there are a lot of anti-fans out there, and people who just don’t understand the devotion people feel toward this group. Antis and the oblivious seem to think of them as just a trivial, lightweight K-pop band. A typical response among those I know is, “I don’t get it.”

My K-pop professors at the University of Hawaii at Manoa would often say to our class, “Do you believe BTS really loves you? Don’t believe everything you see. It’s show business.”

Yet, fans often mention how BTS helped them get through dark times and how the group saved them with their messages of light, hope and self love.
I think a lot of fans do believe in BTS’s sincerity that sets them apart from other groups, both western and Korean. With cameras on them at all times, I really don’t think they can hide who they are. I think most people are smart enough to detect B.S. Even when they do indulge in their share of B.S., other members quickly call them out, letting the audience in on the hilarity of the situation.

You can bet the rest of the music industry is trying to dissect the BTS formula for success. But it can’t be replicated because it is the sum of these particular seven guys: Kim Seokjin (Jin), Min Young (Suga), Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Kim Namjoon (RM), Kim Taehyung (V), Park Jimin (Jimin) and Jeon Jungkook (Jungkook).

I think about this a lot. Even the casual observer can see their talent. On the surface, they are not much different from any Korean male group. Some would say they don’t even sing or dance as well as others. So, why this group above all their contemporaries?

I think fans look deeper to see them as more than a singing-dancing phenomenon from South Korea. Beyond the obvious, we also see their human dimension, knowing them to be comical, hard-working, often hungry, worried, thoughtful, lonely. While others see the costumes and glitz associated with worldwide fame, we are fed with constant livestreams and news of plane trips that start at night, flying into night, the early morning wakeup calls, the detachment of unfamiliar hotel rooms, the longing for foods from home. It is this part that brings them closer to earth and so relatable. In spite of the joyful facade, we understand the hard work it takes to make it in their tough industry.

Western stars lack this relatable quality because they flaunt their wealth and have an air of entitlement and superiority over fans.

In their words and actions, BTS always makes it very clear they don’t take fans for granted. This film shows how much they put their fans’ hopes and expectations above considerations for their own health and well-being. Because few bands in Korea last five years, they know their time could be up tomorrow, so they make sure they are giving their best today.