The legacy of wandering youth: BTS’ ‘HYYH Pt. 2,’ 5 years later

By Courtney Lazore 

Released on November 30, 2015 as BTS’ second installment in their “youth” trilogy, The Most Beautiful Moment in life Pt. 2, commonly known as HYYH Pt. 2 in a nod to its Korean title, is both a celebration of adolescence and a consideration of its growing pains. With thematic expressions of restlessness, love, frustration, longing, and a healthy dose of the social commentary BTS is now well known for, HYYH Pt. 2 established itself as an album that many could relate to. Even today, five years later, the album lingers in the minds of many fans as one of BTS’ most impactful eras.

A continuation of themes from its predecessor HYYH Pt. 1 in April 2015, HYYH Pt. 2 helped solidify BTS’ rising success. While the group received its first music show win with HYYH Pt. 1’s “I Need U,” HYYH Pt. 2 became BTS’ first album to debut at number one on Gaon’s Weekly Album Chart, later topping the Monthly Album Chart, and cracking the top five of Gaon’s year-end chart. “Run” saw similar success as the group’s first song to top Melon’s real-time chart upon release. 

But HYYH Pt. 2 did more than extend part one’s themes and bolster BTS’ commercial success. The album also contributed to BTS’ fictional Bangtan Universe (BU). In particular, the music video for “Run” fits within the larger fragmented narrative of seven young men trying to survive and find happiness. Much of what is seen in the video is linked to the BU storyline, such as RM at the train tracks, V’s graffiti, j-hope and Jimin in a hospital room, Jungkook and Suga’s fight, j-hope’s fainting, and the beach scene at the very end. 

The BU narrative, which began with “I Need U,” effectively allows BTS to delve into additional stories as extensions of their album concepts. These stories bring in themes ranging from severe poverty and broken homes to abuse and suicide, all serious subjects otherwise unexplored in BTS’ work. Though difficult for some, these themes appeal to others as a way to confront and potentially resolve one’s own issues. A story without a definitive end, the BU still generates many fan theories and explanations. 


HYYH Pt. 2 also continued BTS’ emphasis on its members’ artistic contributions. Nearly every track on the EP was co-written by at least one BTS member, and all but two members received songwriting credits from this release.

The album opens with the gritty “Intro: Never Mind,” written by Suga, RM, j-hope, and BigHit producer Slow Rabbit. In his impassioned solo performance, Suga reflects on his youth and his decision to pursue music, encouraging others to also “never mind” the naysayers and to keep pushing forward, even though it’s hard. The track’s themes transition nicely into the title track, “Run.”

With RM, Suga, V, Jungkook, and j-hope contributing to the songwriting, “Run” carries a lot of weight on this album. Lyrically, the song expresses the tormented nature of a young love where the narrator has lost himself, unable to stop running towards this love despite his wounds. Similarly, the music video utilizes movement well, with many scenes of BTS running and ample dynamic camera shifts. The members are depicted as uncouth hooligans and shown vandalizing cars, fighting, graffitiing, and evading the police. Though its themes are slightly extreme, many can appreciate the representation of reckless youth and the underlying melancholic feel of the track that, combined with the video’s visuals, helps drive the message home.

Many of the remaining tracks on the album feature contributions from Suga, RM, and j-hope. “Butterfly,” for instance, is a calming but emotional song that conveys the narrator’s hesitations and fear of losing love. “Whalien 52” utilizes a clever portmanteau, referencing the 52-hertz whale, which communicates at a frequency no other whale can hear, a metaphor used to illustrate loneliness and isolation.     

Like BTS’ earlier “Satoori Rap” from their 2013 album O!RUL82?, “Ma City” honors the members’ hometowns across Korea. Injected with identity and evoking Korean dialect, or satoori, “Ma City” is representative of BTS as individuals who came together to form a cohesive unit. Though a subtle mention, j-hope’s line “Everyone press 062-518” refers to the Gwangju Democratic Uprising —062 is Gwangju’s area code, and 518 stands for May 18, when the movement began.

Social commentary is the most substantial in “뱁새 (Silver Spoon).” Co-written by RM, this song relies on the Korean idiom “If a crow-tit tries to follow a stork, it’ll tear its legs,” meaning that those who try to imitate someone will only hurt themselves in the process. With crow-tits (뱁새, baepsae) representing society’s lower class and storks representing the upper class, this track takes a jab at society, calling it unfair and unjust. Identifying with the crow-tits, BTS speaks out for those who suffer under modern socioeconomic inequality.

“고엽 (Autumn Leaves),” with Jungkook also credited for songwriting along with the rappers, details a love that is withering away like dead leaves. That theme segues into the final song, “Outro: House of Cards.” The only track not co-written by BTS, this smooth jazz song featuring only the bands’ four vocalists is burdened with agony over a failed relationship that just won’t end. The emotional performance by the singers ties into the running themes of pain and sadness expressed throughout the album.


Overall, HYYH Pt. 2 highlights the distress felt by many young people and communicates a message of perseverance. Nowhere does BTS suggest that suffering should cause one to surrender to misery—instead, the tone is that of experiencing one’s emotions, no matter how painful, and then pressing on. This album also exists within BTS’ larger conceptual timeline, which begins with the rebellious boys of the school trilogy, moving into the tormented youth trilogy, and then into dark temptation. The journey continues with self-love as a focus (Love Yourself), and currently ends with the introspection and self-development of the Map of the Soul series. 

HYYH Pt. 2 is an album with timeless themes and messages, standing as a testament to both BTS’ songwriting skills and focus on storytelling—two factors often cited by ARMY as reasons for becoming fans. As part of the “youth” trilogy, this album was one of the first catalysts in BTS’ now seven-year journey to the top. Their experimentation with new musical styles and shift towards more story-based music videos created a foundation for later concepts, resulting in an ongoing narrative focused on growth and acceptance. And with the “youth” trilogy launching the BU, BTS’ more recent work owes much to this early series. Since the success of HYYH, BTS has consistently presented albums in a similar format: music with stories at the center that resonate with people around the world. 

bts kcon la 16 los angeles 2016 bangtan
by Yasamine Entesari

Like the ending screen of “Run” reads “HYYH, 2015.04.29 ~ Forever,” BTS’ story of youth and growth is truly never-ending.

What’s your favorite song on HYYH Pt. 2? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

KultScene is a writer-driven website dedicated to creating a platform where diverse voices’ takes on K-pop can be heard. This article was funded by a KultScene team writer. If you like this post and would like to see more by helping support KultScene’s writers fund, please email us for more details.

It’s time to stop infantilizing K-pop idols

By Shaazia Ebrahim and Fatima Moosa

One of the greatest impacts of the global pandemic and sweeping social movements against police brutality and for Black Lives Matter is the questioning of the celebrity. As a society we have increasingly been questioning the role of the celebrity and how much power we, as fans, attribute to them. K-pop idols are not exempt from this conversation. 

Throughout pop music history, groups and bands have formed close relationships with their fans. Pop artists around the world owe a lot to their fanbase and interact with fans in various different ways. They release new music and special merchandise, hosting concerts and releasing special interviews, documentaries and films specifically targeted at fan audiences. This is doubly true for K-pop, as fans and the idols they stan share a unique relationship, built over years and through different media narratives. That bond is a large part of the allure of being a K-pop fan for many. 

It’s been long understood that K-pop artists interact with their fans differently. K-pop idols are particularly deferential towards their fans, and just about all K-pop groups and idols have special names for their fans. Idols have been known to write songs specifically for their fans. They interact with their fans through online platforms and in real life through fan meets and concerts. In turn, fans give their all for the artists they love, through things like time, action, and money spent on them to help further their presence in the world. 

But this relationship is not always positive. K-pop fans are fiercely protective over their favourite idols and only rarely hold stars accountable for problematic behavior.

On K-pop Stan Twitter especially, there is sometimes a tendency to ignore criticism against idols. Fandom in general closes ranks and defends their faves by attacking the critic. This is accompanied by a need for those fans to “protect” the artist, fearing what it will mean to the artist if they find out about this criticism, or what the repercussions will be. 

Often artists are subjected to harsh comments and hate. New music, content and even public behaviour from idols are scrutinised by internet users and rival fans. This hatred can and has had severe consequences on the artists subjected to it. 

But for fans, there is a responsibility to identify and distinguish between valid criticism as opposed to the hate and unnecessary criticism. Just because something is not positive, does not automatically make it hateful or toxic criticism. 

Often, when some fans call out their faves’ problematic behaviours they are labelled as antis. There’s no arguing against the fact that within the K-pop industry and K-pop fandoms, anti fans are a big thing. Antis are people on the internet who find every fault with artists they dislike. They are often part of rival fandoms and will dig up any questionable actions idols or groups have taken in order to discredit them. Antis are also known to usually bring forward these harmful types of information before a comeback or any such important event within the group, seemingly attempting to negatively impact conversations. They can also threaten idols using social media. 


But every criticism leveled against an artist is not an attack from an anti. Idols should not be protected to the degree where they don’t end up taking responsibility for their problematic actions or even understand why their behaviour is wrong. 

By labelling any and all criticism against their faves as being the work of antis, fans are in danger of absolving them from taking responsibility for their behaviour. Well-meaning enough in its intention, by constantly making these excuses, fans could actually be infantilizing their idols.

The most common definition of “infantilization” is treating someone like a child, even if they no longer are. When fans treat their idols like someone who needs to be protected from all the ills of the world, this kind of behaviour can be seen as infantilization. Another way this manifests is when fans presume to know what their faves are thinking or meaning with a particular action. 

This can be seen in the way some fans responded to BLACKPINK’s use of a statue of a Hindu deity as a prop in their music video of “How You Like That.” During Lisa’s solo scene, she is seated on a throne with a statue of Hindu deity Ganesha on the floor beside her. Hindu fans demanded an apology from YG Entertainment saying that Hinduism is not an aesthetic and that it’s disrespectful to place a deity on the floor, trending things like #mycultureisnotyouraesthetic and #YGApologise. With the uproar, YG eventually edited it out, but didn’t publicly acknowledge the issue.

Some fans defended Blackpink saying the group has no control over what they wear or the staging for their music videos, with some even harassing Indian and Hindu Blinks. Fans accused those calling Blackpink out as antis, dragging the group so their own particular favorite groups can shine. These Blinks trended #YGPROTECTBLACKPINK imploring YG to protect Blackpink from “defamation” and “malicious tweets”

Blackpink have been accused of cultural appropriation before and each time fans defended them without considering nuances. In the video of “Kill This Love,” for example, Jennie wore a Bindi and Maang Teeka and Lisa wore box braids.

Another instance of this behaviour happened when AB6IX’s Youngmin was caught drunk driving in June 2020. No one was seriously injured during the incident but Youngmin left the group following the incident. Some fans decried this decision and expressed their sympathy for Youngmin.

But his actions could have had serious repercussions. If he was old enough to drink alcohol and drive a car, then it is evident that Youngmin should take responsibility; whether that means leaving his group is up for debate. The same act of taking responsibility and changing his ways would be expected of any person of his age, and fans should be more aware of this, rather than trying to defend their favorite stars’ wrongdoing. 

BTS member Suga was also recently the centre of attention. Some online users pointed out in his latest mixtape, he used cult leader Jim Jones’ sermon to introduce his song “What Do You Think?” The cult leader has been associated with the mass murder-suicide of 909 people, and for preying on Black people in particular. While BTS’s company, BigHit Entertainment later issued an apology and removed the sampling, many fans defended him and felt that it wasn’t necessary. 

Fans also excused the sampling saying that Suga meant to criticise Jones in the song, infantilizing the artist by framing his own creative endeavor in their own perspective, regardless of the actuality of his feelings.“If you don’t know why he used it then shut up pls, literally causing unnecessary hate to bring good people down That way of sampling speech to mock someone was used by hip-hop artists many times before,” an ARMY reportedly tweeted, offering an interpretation as defense, regardless of the artist not saying such. 

Fans regularly provide similar excuses for idols engaging in problematic behaviours, especially seen when K-pop idols engage in culturally insensitive behavior at best, antiBlackness at worst.


Recently, Stray Kids released an episode of their variety show, Finding SKZ: God Edition. During the episode the members dressed up in various costumes with Hyungin wearing thick red lips and a curly-haired afro wig. This look donned by Hyungin seemed to be an imitation of Michol, a character which has been criticised for being a Blackface caricature. 

But fans took to social media to say he was putting on a caricature of a Korean cartoon character called Go Eunae. They also said anyone calling Hyungin’s “look” racist don’t understand Blackface.

Others took to social media to explain that saying those caricatures were racist and shouldn’t be explaining to Black people what Blackface is. 

This isn’t the first time the issue’s come up, and fans reacted this way: similar excuses were made for EXO-CBX when Baekhyun applied lipstick to Chen’s face, making his lips extra huge, in what looked like Blackface. Chen then said that he looked like Michol.

Hyungin and Stray Kids later addressed the issue. They posted on Instagram a message saying: “Yet, we are still lacking in many things and we are trying our hardest to become better. We would like to apologize to anyone if we have stepped on a rake. It was never our intention but due to our lack of understanding.” However, the initial reactions from many fans showed he isn’t even allowed to be accountable. Instead, fans seek to explain his behaviour away saying that this is something he grew up with.

Given how entrenched racism and antiBlackness is globally, it is especially important to hold idols accountable when they are displaying behaviours that perpetuate racism and anti-Blackness. Criticism and conversations, not denial, is needed. 

It’s important to question how fans hold their idols accountable. Fans must be aware that their faves are adult human beings, capable of making mistakes and repenting like any other. Idols’ problematic behaviours going unchecked is a reflection of an uncritical and complicit society. When idols engage in behaviour that harms certain groups of people through cultural or religious insensitivity or racism or when they engage in irresponsible behaviour, they must be called out. Their platforms mean that their actions can be detrimental to marginalised groups and set harmful precedents for their younger or more dedicated fans. This is not to harm, it is to help them grow and avoid hurting others in the future with their behavior.  

This is particularly important as we support movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Celebrities have the power to amplify or derail these movements given the platform they have. But more so, fans have the platform to overpower these important movements if they consistently defend their favs without consideration for the impact of idols’ actions. 

Want to support Black people and Black-led movements for justice? Donate to the TGI Justice Project, sign this petition demanding justice for Toyin Salau, follow/donate to the African American Policy Forum (donation link here), and learn more about many calls to action here.

KultScene is a writer-driven website dedicated to creating a platform where diverse voices’ takes on K-pop can be heard. If you like this post and would like to see more by helping support KultScene’s writers fund, please email us for more details.

Thoughts on IU & Suga’s ‘eight’

Animated image of IU looking out a plane window in the music video of "eight" by IU and BTS's Suga.

I don’t really know what “eight” is about, but while listening to it there was a lot flying through my head. IU and Suga have both been longtime loves of mine, people whose music I often turn to when I’m sad and need to find kinship in the music of those who have put their feelings and thoughts on adulthood and life into the world. Many artists do it, and, of course, I listen to many others, but this pair are two I especially turn to time and time again when I get introspective. So when they announced their collaboration, I knew immediately that it would be devastating and something I seek solace in. Once I read that the song by the soloist and the BTS rapper-songwriter is about their feelings of being 28 (as per Korean age reckoning) and the latest in IU’s series of age-based reflective singles, I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time thinking about it once I heard it.

Waking up this morning to a text from a friend about whether I had heard the song yet, I sat there staring at my phone. I couldn’t. I knew I needed to shower and have coffee before I was remotely in the mental space where I could absorb it; I have been having a lot of sleep problems lately, and I knew that I wasn’t in a state of receptiveness for something I was sure was going to make a sizable impact on me. That was a bit of a mistake on my part, though, because as I was checking my email and Twitter while making coffee I inevitably saw other responses to the song, and went into it and its music video with some preconceived notions, the most notable one being, based on a series of connections audiences had made, that the song is about Sulli and Jonghyun, two stars IU was close to before their untimely passings, both of whom have relations with the number “eight”: Jonghyun’s birthday was April 8, 1990, and Sulli and IU were friends in the public eye for eight years.

Watching the music video, I feel inclined to believe that there is the potential of that interpretation being intentional, considering that IU’s “Love Poem” similarly felt reflective and, more importantly, the animation adds to this theory: the cartoon IU exists in reality, on a plane crying, while watching the fantastical view of another woman flying around on the back of a dragon after the futuristic, real-life IU tears up when the woman jumps onto the dragon’s back. The woman she’s looking upon is clearly not IU herself; she doesn’t have the singer’s iconic beauty mark. Is she Sulli? I don’t know; she too had a beauty mark and the animated woman does not. But it feels like that’s who she is an allusion of, similarly to how the dragon is a near-reference to Jonghyun’s well-known dinosaur-like features. Does this mean the song is about the pair, and that’s who the woman and the dragon are representing? I don’t really know; I may be looking too deep into it and they’re mere representations of childhood whimsy that’s been left behind. We won’t really know unless someone who worked on the song and/or music video lets us know that, but I’d like to think that they’re homages to the pair, with the song’s lyrics expressing how beautiful goodbyes take place in memories.

The girl and the dragon in IU and Suga's "eight"
The girl and the dragon in IU and Suga’s “eight”


While I wouldn’t put it beyond the pair to dedicate the song to the duo of beloved individuals, and I’ve thought much of the same about other recent songs from IU, I’ve spent a lot of the morning (it’s around 2PM as I’m writing, but I woke up at 10:30am so… don’t judge) thinking about how the song may not, or not only, be about lost loved ones but also lost selves, with “eight” serving as a reflection of an apparent conversation between the self of the present and the self of the past, an individual who travels between memories. In fact, even though I already had the idea that people were interpreting “eight” to be a memorial song, this was what took up the forefront of my mind as I was watching the music video for the first time; I could see the connections to the lost pair, but I was drawn more to the allusions I saw towards the past of IU herself.

Not only are the lyrics reflective, poignant in the way they look back on the past, but the music video jumped out at me with what I thought might be intentional references to past IU music videos, such as with the white dress she wears not only reflecting the color of mourning in Korean culture but also the dress she wore in “Mia (Lost Child)” while the maroon shirt with a peter pan collar immediately recalled what she wore in “You&I,” which fit in the trend of IU self-referencing past releases in her work. While watching again, I also saw glimpses that reminded me of “Palette” and “Twenty-Three,” but I couldn’t decide if I was looking too hard for a pattern.

In “eight,” IU is singing about being “forever young” and happiness, and the music video begins with her actively choosing to save her memories; it’s unclear based on the futuristic setting whether she’s offloading her memories to a storage system entirely, or merely saving them beyond her own mind because they’re something of value that she wants to make a backup of. Either way, the interpretation can align with the emotions expressed in the song, about how memories are beautiful things that remain “forever young,” the way they were, as memories crumble into the sands of time, with only the “sandcastle” of memory, as Suga adds, impermanent and impossible to recreate in the exact same way, with the exact same specifics, ever again, both wonderful and poignant.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the music video for “eight” enough times, and I haven’t listened enough times yet. In part because there’s no such thing as “enough,” and in part because I constantly reassess art as I interact with it in different moods, and that’s the most wonderful thing about art, in my opinion: it changes and shifts as we as humans do. I’ll probably watch a few dozen more times before the end of this week, as I try to get lost in the artistry rather than in my own thoughts. “eight,” like so many IU and Suga songs, make me think about how we, as humans, interact with our thoughts and memories, how those memories shape how we interact with the world, and how everyone’s interpretation of memories and the past is different, so I wanted to turn some thoughts into words before I lost this stream of consciousness as I found comfort, and contemplation, in “eight.”

What are your thoughts on “eight?” Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

A closer look into the messaging behind BTS’ ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

Last week, BTS released their long-awaited album Map of the Soul : 7 on Feb. 21. At its heart, 7 is a celebration of BTS, their fans called ARMYs, and the love they have for each other and the art that BTS creates.

Seven years into the group’s career, it’s time for some reflection on their time as BTS. They call back to their previous eras, including elements and samples from Skool Luv Affair, 2 Cool 4 Skool, and having 7’s lead single title “On” come from O!RUL8,2?’s “N.O.”

The last message BTS promoted was to “speak yourself” and this full Map of the Soul era can be a follow up to that, continuing their journey. Along with reflecting on the group’s career, 7 ponders how to deal with speaking yourself if you may not have answers to the questions asked in “Intro : Persona” (which officially started the Map of the Soul era last march): “Where’s your soul? Where’s your dream?” 

Suga’s solo “Interlude : Shadow” is the first of 15 new tracks on 7, and truly continues what was started with Map of the Soul : PERSONA. “Shadow” brings a darker mood to the MOTS era (which was previously light and pink with PERSONA), both lyrically and musically. Suga raps about wanting to be at the top with fame and success, and the dark shadow that ends up coming with it. Even once you achieve your dreams, there will be difficulties. That shadow and fear that stays with you, and will conflict you and leave you wondering about what you truly want in reality. 


Following that, “Black Swan” discusses a possible side effect that shadow might bring: passion and the loss of it. The death of passion is something that is unfortunately far too relatable. This far into their lives as artists, the members of BTS have had their fair share of questioning; as have ARMYs in their many passions. After you realize what you’re going through and admit that you’ve lost passion or motivation, you’re just stuck asking “what’s my thing?” Hearing these global superstars ask the same is quite comforting, and makes it so easy to connect with the band.

The first solo track from the vocal line is Jimin’s “Filter.” This song is definitely a step away from his previous solos “Serendipity” and “Lie.” Jimin sings of presenting himself in different ways and being seen in different perspectives. Jungkook’s solo “My Time” brings us back to the main theme of the album, as he reflects on his time in BTS from his early teenage years to now. Similar to Suga, Jungkook speaks of a negative aspect to his career: trying to find time within his hectic life. Both of these tracks represent the singers and their talents well. 

Next track “Louder Than Bombs” brings up the shadow again. Echoing the crux of “Shadow,” this track explores the pain that comes with fame, but this time offers a light to it all: ARMYs. BTS promises to “sing endlessly to [ARMYs]” because the pain they feel is also felt by their fans that have been with them during these seven years. Lead single “ON” continues that promise, challenging life to “bring the pain on.” Musically, this song perfectly encompasses that energetic determination to carry on and fight through whatever pain following your passion throws at you. 

The rap line’s track is often one of the most powerful songs on each album, and 7’s “UGH!” is no exception. RM, Suga, and J-hope rap about the empty rage that comes from haters and the rage the artists feel in return.Contrasting the rap line’s track is the vocal line’s “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” directly after it. This song is like a sweet reaffirmation to ARMYs. It re-enforces the relationship between them and BTS, and the amount of love there is. Having your favorite band tell you “you’re gonna be happy” provides that special kind of connection that BTS has with their fans that they’ve built in their seven years. “Zero O’Clock” also fits into the group’s story, almost like a sister song to “ON,” saying that even though today was full of pain, the clock will reset and a new day will bring better ones. 

V speaks to himself from years ago on his solo track “Inner Child.” V’s previous solos “Stigma” and “Singularity” were sultrier, but this one packs an emotional punch. The opening notes sound like the stars he sings of being speckled in the sky one by one, showing the song’s inspirational and dreamy feel. “Inner Child” is a beautiful look at V’s life, from being the dreaming kid who worked so hard and was fearful of his outcome, to the happy and successful person he is today. 

V and Jimin team up for the happy track “Friends” that celebrates their unique relationship. Stories from over the years about the two “soulmates” show that being in BTS has allowed them to find themselves and know that they will always be together even throughout their personal difficulties.


Jin continues the band’s promise to ARMYs in his solo “Moon.” This focus on the fans is different than Jin’s “Epiphany” and “Awake,” where he explored his relationship with himself. Comparing himself to the moon orbiting ARMYs’ earth, Jin promises to always stay by their side and be the light in their lives. 

On “Respect,” RM and Suga discuss what the meaning of ‘respect’ is. This track just seems fun at first glance, but can also fit into the album’s theme. As they begin to understand “respect” as being able to look at someone and their flaws and still see them as good, they ask to not be respected so easily because they’re not sure they should be or in case the weak them ends up coming out. ARMYs can go on and on about how much they love and respect BTS, but there’s still the apprehension of being praised that can make it hard to believe. The pain of fame and success contributes to that, and “Respect” is an interesting, but fun, take on that struggle.

“We Are Bulletproof : the Eternal” plainly states the relationship between BTS and ARMYs that has come from these seven years and encapsulates Map of the Soul : 7’s purpose. “We were only seven, but we have you all now.” After seven years of hard work and even doubt, BTS knows they have their fans with them and always will. No matter what happens, no matter what pain the group faces, they will always have their reason for all of it: ARMYs. 

Closing out the album is J-hope’s “Outro : Ego.” J-hope has the more cheerful style of the rap line, which absolutely shines through on “Ego.” On this track, J-hope looks at the hardships faced as what made him him. 
Map of the Soul : 7 looks back on the past seven years of BTS, their experiences, and what has come from them. Although there has been, and is, pain, BTS always has ARMYs to remind them of what they have achieved and the massive amount of love they have earned. Utilizing different genres and the members’ varying personalities, this album shows the connection between BTS and their fans, and why it continues to exist. There is not just one piece that fans hold onto, but an array of reasons to love the group that come together to speak their message. No matter what new project BTS could explore, ARMYs will continue to support them because their message of love and perseverance will always stay the same.

What’s your favorite song on the album? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-pop Unmuted: The best of the decade part 1

On Episode 47 of Kultscene’s K-pop Unmuted, Joe, Scott, Stephen, and Tamar look back on the last decade of Kpop. In the first of two episodes, we discuss our personal Kpop journeys over the last ten years, we pick our Artist of the Decade, and we list our picks for Top Five Music Videos of the Decade.

You can also listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Spotify, SoundcloudGoogle Play Music, and the Apple store.

K-Pop Unmuted: BTS & the MTV VMAs

On Episode 44 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Teen Vogue’s Aamina Khan joins guest-host Scott Interrante and Stephen Knight to discuss the 2019 MTV VMAs, the new Best Kpop category, and the BTS snub. Our Unmuted Kpop Picks are Ha:tfelt’s “Happy Now”, Suran’s “Surfin'”, and AGUST D (Suga)’s “So Far Away”. 

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on SpotifySoundcloudiTunesGoogle Play MusicStitcher.

Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2018

One of the most important aspects of any K-pop single is its accompanying music video, and though 2018 is over, it’ll be a while before we’re over the MVs released by Korean artists throughout the twelve month period. Taking a look back, the KultScene team took a look at what exactly makes one music video better than another, and several writers shared their perspective on why one K-pop MV or another from last year is superior and memorable in its own way.


Doesn’t matter if you look into BTS‘ music, videos, performances, fan-dedicated released content or even the fandom-driven activities on or offline. Whatever it is, there is always so much going on that you might either get confused or fascinated, but never bored. The music video for “IDOL” is no different. Filled with dozens of references (some that only fans will get, some that only Koreans or Korean culture aficionados will get), the music video plays with a lot of stereotypes that are often attached to BTS, to K-pop “idols” and just generally for being Asian men. Displaying a powerful choreography and a deliberate overwhelming aesthetic, the boys show that they don’t have a problem with whatever is it that you think they are (“idols” or “artists”). Because, at the end of the day, they are confident enough in their skins to be anything -or everything at once- while still being, above all things, themselves.

-Ana Clara

“Lullaby” by GOT7

“Lullaby” was not only a blessing to the ears but visually just as impactful. Aesthetics, aesthetics, on top of freaking aesthetics. There was never a dull moment visually or sonically throughout the three minutes and forty-two seconds of the music video. With the exception of the first three seconds, the video was never without vibrant colors, compelling backdrops or snazzy outfits. Colors aside, GOT7 kept the viewers anticipating what was to happen next with each scene, especially since each member had separate sets and themes. And although there were many individual scenes, the members always brought it back together with a unified group choreo and some fancy footwork. But speaking of footwork, the highlight of the music video definitely goes to go to Mr. Dance Machine Kim Yugyeom, as the astounding dance break and sharp moves of his solo stole the show. Even if you didn’t like the music video as a collective whole (don’t lie to yourself, you liked it), there were more than enough things about it individually that should’ve pulled you in.


“Apple Box” by nafla

On paper, nafla‘s “Apple Box” reads like an organized crime agenda (“put the money in an apple box,” possibly referring to a common way of accepting business bribes), but in action it reveals to be much more comedic. Under the creative direction of Digipedi, the music video portrays gang activities rather facetiously – a brutal beating in one scene is mitigated through deliberately cheesy special effects and nonsensically looped clips. In another, gambling is done with apples instead of currency. A bit of a step away from the kind you’d do after grabbing a kiss918 Download, right? Ultimately, these all act as red herrings for, as the least suspecting character (a hostess perhaps?) makes off with a chest of golden apples, we are forced to contemplate the ignorance of these traditionally male organizations. Because of its quirky approach to one of film’s most enduring genre’s, “Apple Box” may be nafla’s best work to date.


“Singularity” by BTS’ V

Captivating in its theatricality, the music video, or comeback trailer as it was dubbed, for V‘s “Singularity” ahead of the release of Love Yourself: Tear is an exhibit of the sort of artistry that BTS has thrived on over the years. With a luxurious blue-red-purple color palette recalling that of the group’s 2016’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” this new music video stunningly represents the struggles with one’s self and the various masks that we wear. With watery allusions to the Greek myth of Narcissus littered throughout, the vivid cinematography enhances the impactful song as V explores the lush neo soul sound. And if that weren’t enough, the music video for the song graced us with one of the year’s most inspired choreographies, giving new meaning to the idea of dancing with oneself.


“1, 2, 3!” by Seungri

Big Bang’s Seungri breathes life into “1, 2, 3!,” his first solo comeback in five years, with a ’50s-inspired video set in the singing and dancing world similar to that of Grease. Like the musical, the music gives insight into his character, our hotshot hero who only loses his cool once he is bewitched by the heroine, played by a stunningly gorgeous Anda. As he grabs her hand and pulls her into a swing, he sings: “When I count to three, you’ll fall for me.” An ensemble dance cast, all outfitted in mid-century modern pomps, tea-length dresses, and oxfords faithful to the era, further integrates song and video by filling out the percussive claps and the hook’s polyphonic three counts. After taking us from one period set to the next, it all comes together celebratorily at the end with a nod to the iconic dance scene from Pulp Fiction between our leads and in a single freeze frame moment, we know he was right. It’s this kind of happily ever after that can make society nostalgic for a past it never knew. Between this and the one-take style reminiscent of Broadway productions, “1, 2, 3!” just feels like an immersive experience that is more motion picture than music video.


“One and Only” by Go Won

Of all the videos for LOONA‘s pre-debut project, none feel as suited to and in need of its trappings quite like Go Won‘s. As the second to last girl of the month, Go Won’s “One and Only” came late into the game. And it would almost seem that she would have too many obligations to the lore to have any sort of personal identity. Instead, along with LOONA regulars Digipedi, she finds herself within it all. Unlike her lyrics, which are confident from the start, the video shows this self-discovery in action. She begins covered in shadows, trying to embrace whatever light she can, but is still afraid of the temptations of Choerry’s apple, or the chase of Yves and Chuu. It’s in the act of watching herself where it comes out. Looking and singing into a mirror, watching her shadow dance to her own song, or imagining herself a princess with a crown on her head. The 1:1 aspect ratio helps her, making each image have an obvious and single point of focus. One image, one thought. Despite this, allusions to David Lowery’s A Ghost Story from 2017, reminds of the dangers of the never ending cycles of LOONA’s own universe as well as that of our own. Go Won finds a way out of her draping, suffocating sheet but how long is it before her time comes back around and she has to do it all over again?


“Dally (feat. Gray)” by Hyolyn

Hyolyn is a hip-hop diva in full control of her life, her body – and of your attention! – in “Dally,” the second music video released under her own label, BRID3 Entertainment. The artistic concept of the video is pretty simple – but seriously, do we need anything else when we have a team of such skilful dancers, led by a magnetic performer like Hyolyn, executing one of the most difficult choreographies seen throughout the year? In “Dally,” it’s hardly possible to take your eyes off of Hyolyn, or to doubt that she has everything it takes to keep wowing us with her self-managed works from now on.

-Ana Clara

“Now or Never” by SF9

As time passes, SF9‘s concepts continue to get more charismatic and sexier *phew, wipes sweat.* And it is totally working on their behalf. The group’s previous tracks and music videos had flavor to them but “Now or Never” really took it up a few big notches. The song and styling were both executed to perfection as the concept had just the right doses of cool, seduction, and dreaminess. The choreography was simple but alluring, and it played well with the bass. And how about that Michael Jackson homage? Classy. The cinematography was exquisite; the colors and abstract backgrounds made this music video fitting to be played at a museum. The track itself is solid but the visualization and styling gets an A+.


“What Is Love?” by TWICE

Sometimes it pays not to take yourself too seriously, and when ruminating on the immensely philosophical question of “What Is Love?,” TWICE served us up with one of this year’s most fun music videos. Throughout it, the nine women parodied the likes of La La Land, The Princess Diaries, Romeo & Juliet, and a wide range of movies from across the globe while trying to depict what the idea of love look likes. They then paired casual scenes of the nonet chilling at a slumber party while watching the films with elegant scenes where they perform the questioning choreography, serving up one of the most fun visual experiences of 2018. Since their start TWICE has always exuded a sense of infectious vibrancy in their music videos and “What Is Love?” overflowed with that to the nth degree.


“Moonlight” by Neon Punch

Neon Punch‘s “Moonlight” is how you make an effective K-pop music video on a smaller budget. It’s a classic example of the genre with no real story, just the members dancing, singing, and looking pretty in random locations. Its first minute is so brilliantly made though that all those tropes feel fresh. Song and video seem to become one, as they bounce off each other, reacting to each turn. Extremely simple but great visual effects are used to make this melding feel real, as the music bends the visuals while it builds and releases. This also makes the editing feel musical all by its own which gives the video great impetus to keep moving. As the effects start to dwindle the editing keeps the same sense of pace and wonder that they had built up. The funkiest bass line of the year feels at home among these vibrant visuals.


“Instagram” by DEAN

Sitting alone in a warehouse full of random objects, DEAN strums a skateboard as if it were a guitar. He sports a short mullet under his cap, along with generously slitted eyebrows, a (potentially appropriative) grill, a bandage under his right eye, and black overalls that cover part of his sweatshirt. Like the feed he scrolls through, he is a mess of different aesthetics and styles. “Instagram” the song is about endlessly scrolling through the app in moments of sleeplessness, reflecting our loneliness and insecurity back to us as we see others enjoying themselves on our screens, and the song emulates that.

From the warehouse room’s walls leak black paint, becoming screens that play a stream of videos and images characteristic of a social media feed. As the images spread further across the room, the video abruptly goes black. “Sometimes I feel alone, even when I’m with a lot of people,” a strange voice says in the dark. The video cuts back to the warehouse, and DEAN begins laughing hysterically, overtaken with the misery of his sleepless Instagram scrolling.

The video is simultaneously simple and complex, capturing a very unique relationship between phone and human, account and user. Using social media is repetitive and endless, an unhealthy distraction we know all too well. In bringing the feed to life in all its chaos and stress, the video highlights the emotional and psychological toll we endure in using social media every single day.


“Playlist” by DPR Live

“Playlist” is a colorful adventure following DPR Live as he vies for the attention of a mysterious woman. The song incorporates tribal and bossa nova beats as Live maintains his signature rhythm and swagger. While the song is a new turn for DPR Live, the music video expands the Latin trend in Korean music by including some aspects of African influence in Latin American culture through instruments and religion. From the beginning we are met with vibrant colors, gravity defying visuals and psychedelic art transitions set in a replica of a Peruvian neighborhood. Stand out moments include the shaman’s rain dance and spinning neon umbrellas during the instrumental breakdown of the song, as “Playlist” offers a glimpse of the creativity DPR Live has in store for the future.


“Kiss Me Like That” by Shinhwa

Simplicity is key and Shinhwa had that and then some in the “Kiss Me Like That” music video. The styling was sharp and neat; the linen button ups and suspenders? Crisp. Those blue silk suits? Elegant. “Kiss Me Like That” doesn’t have a pivotal climax but that worked out perfectly because it really didn’t need one. The music video gives a sense of relaxation. It doesn’t make you think or analyze. You just gotta kick back, grab a mojito, and enjoy the guitar strings. The video wasn’t over the top, just very clean, straight forward, occasionally flirty and wholeheartedly fun to watch. Shinhwa’s just really out here living their best life on that ship though. Next course of action, petition to have Shinhwa do a yearly cruise with fans (like New Kids on the Block)!


“Egotistic” by Mamamoo

Kicking off with a guitar riff, tropical plants, and neon buildings that add an Old Havana-like vibe to the video, Mamamoo is bold in aesthetics throughout “Egotistic” as they issue a warning of a lover scorned. How can anyone forget the intensity Hwasa’s stare-off with a jaguar?
The Flamenco inspiration is apparent in the core of the beat of the song, the choreography, and the flowy dresses the ladies wear in the video. Their take on Latin-inspired tracks plays up the girl crush concept Mamamoo has become known for with fiery makeup, confident attitudes, and sexy dance moves. They also included the ultimate girl crush move: dancing in a ring of fire in front of buildings while executing a choreography filled with hair flips and and seductive shimmys. Overall, “Egotistic” captures a small portion of Latin America’s musical richness and is welcomed contrast to the highly mainstream trap beats that accompany the usual Latin trends in K-pop.


“Something New” by Taeyeon

Inspiring fan speculation and theories since it was released in June, Taeyeon’s “Something New” music video is, like the artist it belongs to, uniquely enigmatic and hard to place. Beginning on the red carpet at a ritzy celebrity event, the video quickly transitions to a hotel, where Taeyeon instigates a fight by suddenly throwing a hammer at a suited man during an elevator ride. The fighting then continues with her hotel room’s maid-turned-murderer, who leaps at the singer with a knife during a room service delivery.

It’s around this point when “Something New” begins to feel more like an action-packed spy blockbuster than a music video for an SM Entertainment artist. The scenes are fast-paced and cinematically captured, and they move artfully with the pace of the song. Most interestingly, Taeyeon takes the fights in stride, seemingly unfazed by them after they happen.

The end of the video, in which Taeyeon shoots suitcases of cash over a cliff facing the sea, is probably the subject of the most interpretation and discussion. Worth noting to most theorists is that Taeyeon has never been shy when discussing the hardships of celebrity life. Is the cash a representation of the net worth she’s built over the years? Are the fight scenes emblematic of encounters with online and offline haters? While it seems that “Something New” is an in-depth commentary on the difficult life of a celebrity, the beauty of the music video lies in the fact that it is truly up to interpretation. For dropping one of the most cinematic and mysterious MVs of the year, Taeyeon gets a nod from me.


What were your favorite K-pop MVs of 2018? Let us know your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Pop Unmuted: October 2018 Roundup

On Episode 36 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, Stephen Knight, Tamar Herman and Alexis Hodoyán take a look back at a busy October in Kpop. We discuss NCT 127‘s “Regular,” BTS’ RM‘s “seoul,” BoA‘s “Woman,” EXO’s Lay‘s “Namanana,” fromis_9‘s “Love Bomb,” and April‘s “Oh My Mistake.”

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of October 2018 in K-pop’s and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Life after the ‘Answer’: BTS’ RM embraces uncertainty on ‘mono’

When Korean group BTS released Love Yourself: Answer, in late August 2018, completing an album trilogy that reflected a narrative of self-love discovery through romantic joys and deceptions, it seemed like the septet finally figured out the formula to be in peace with their true selves. “It’s alright, I am my own salvation / (…) My sky is clear / Say goodbye to the pain,” RM, the leader of the group, raps in “I’m Fine.”

But knowing the answer doesn’t mean it’s easy to put it in practice —and that’s what we experience with mono, the latest release of the leader, rapper, and songwriter, born Kim Namjoon.

Released on Oct. 23, only three days after announcing (and merely two months after BTS’ Love Yourself: Answer!) the mixtape —or playlist, as he calls it— is composed of seven tracks all written, composed, and co-produced by RM. He collaborated with artists such as English duo HONNE and Korean rock artists eAeon and NELL.

Playlist or Mixtape

The fact that mono is branded as a playlist instead of a mixtape connects with RM’s personal habit to share song recommendations with fans through Twitter. However, it might also have been a decision that shows RM’s awareness of where the music industry is heading to. It alludes to when Drake (RM has said many times he’s an inspiration) released More Life in 2017, which was labeled as a “playlist” in a move then considered innovative in a industry still based on album releases. (If there’s any truth in Drake having inspired RM, we may add to the list of coincidences the handwritten, black and white, minimalist design of the cover of mono which resembles the art cover of Drake’s 2015 If you’re reading this it’s too late).

At the time More Life was released, lots of music critics emphasized the significance of playlists in the era of music streaming. An album, the NY Times said, is:

[A] creator’s complete thought expressed in parts. A playlist in the streaming era, by contrast, is a collection of moods, impressions, influences and references; it’s a river that flows in one direction, ending somewhere far from the beginning (if it ends at all).

A mixtape, per se, strays from the sense of commitment that an album must have to a concept. So by nature, RM would be free from that commitment with a mixtape. But with a playlist, which theoretically allows even more freedom than a mixtape, it seems that it’s RM’s intention to release the pressure to deliver a work with any congruence at all. As if he just wants to be free to do whatever music he feels like doing.

But, curiously, what we get in mono actually is consistent in its inconsistency, both in sound and lyrics. All seven tracks share the same vibe and, indeed, compose a consistent frame. The sonority of it is more loungy and chill than we’d expect from the rapper. Even if hip-hop influences are present, the playlist flows between lo-fi and alternative genres, with a few (amazing) moments of synthpop, a genre RM has shown before to be perfectly compatible with, like his & BTS’ Jungkook’s cover of Troye Sivan’s “Fools.”

As for the lyrics, it makes sense to contextualize mono as a continuation of RM’s path along with BTS in the group’s previous works; there is a connection between everything. And because RM worked in the lyrics of everything he sang and rapped, then, all lyrics written by him can be used as material for us to ask: How is the leader’s life after he found the Answer?

Credits: Big Hit Entertainment


RM before “mono”

Who shall I be today: Kim Namjoon or RM?

Airplane pt. 2

The lyrics above came from one of BTS’ darkest albums, Love Yourself: Tear, in which the group addressed the deceptions faced after the happy-go-lucky illusions of the previous album, Love Yourself: Her. The Love Yourself trilogy was completed with Love Yourself: Answer, a more upbeat album in which BTS suggests to have finally learned that, in order to find love anywhere, you should first find love inside yourself. But would that lesson be enough to make them happy?

To be fair, it’s worth pointing out that in Answer: Love Myself, RM says: “Maybe there is no answer / Maybe this isn’t the answer either / (…) I’m still finding myself.” However, one could think he was content about that if things ended there. From the album design to the sound of all the original tracks, everything about Love Yourself: Answer is more about joy and lucidity than pain or sorrow. Even “Trivia: Love,” RM’s solo moment on the album, has a joyful vibe. If not having all the answers is the answer, then we’re ready to move on and live a happy life, right?

Life is not that simple to anyone, of course.

This leads us to mono. Interestingly enough, either sonically or lyrically, mono recalls more the RM of “Reflection” (the one who said “I wish I could love myself,” in BTS 2016 album “Wings”) than any other thing we’ve seen from him after that. So, was the whole path to the Answer not worth it then?

It’s not that it wasn’t worth it, it’s just that, from what it seems, it’s still not enough for RM. Understanding that it’s okay not to have all the answers is still not enough for him to be okay.

Journey from “Tokyo” to “forever rain”

The first two tracks of mono are named “Tokyo” and “Seoul,” making us feel as if RM is literally traveling, trying to find himself in different places.

A fun fact is that mono was released one day after BTS announced their partnership with the city of Seoul, in which each member has its own themed-playlist to represent what they most love about Korea’s capital. It’s not all love, though. In “Seoul,” produced by HONNE (a group who’s also familiar with the theme of seeking love in different places), RM, a native of Seoul-satellite Ilsan, seems overwhelmed by the city that became his home.

In clever wordplay (a tool RM is famous for), he sings: “If love and hate are the same words, I love you Seoul / If love and hate are the same words, I hate you Seoul.”

Ironically, “Seoul” is pronounced similarly to “so.” Then, by speaking out loud his love-hate relationship with the city, it’s almost as if he’s also speaking to himself, trying to find himself through the city.

Not having found himself in either Tokyo or Seoul, RM reaches for the moon in “moonchild,” a track that references the lyrics of “4 o’clock,” a song previously released on Soundcloud with his band mate V.

Some of the best lyrical moments from RM happen when he uses astronomy analogies (like “Magic Shop,”) and “moonchild” is indeed one of these moments: “We are each other’s night sceneries, we are each other’s moons.” Again, RM might be talking to himself the moon (him) is both the cause of his sadness (“born in the moonlight,” “born to be sad,” “all the pain, all the sorrow is your destiny”) and his relief (“only you, no one else, gives me that sense of comfort).

RM lands in “badbye,” another clever wordplay with the word “goodbye.” The depressive, short, repetitive lyrics suggests an RM falling into reality no more using Tokyo, Seoul or the moon to escape. He now has to face reality, kill the illusions and face himself: “Kill me softly / Make me into pieces of fragments,” he and aEeon sing. As the dark atmosphere of the song suggests, this process hurts. No wonder, the next track, “uhgood,” has the most painful lyrics: “All I need is me / All I need is me / I know, I know, I know / Then why do I feel lonely?” RM’s production skills also shine in “uhgood,” along with the touch of producer Sam Klempner (who previously worked with BTS in “Best of Me”). With mysterious synthesized sounds opening the song, the mood is set for RM to use his deep voice to lead us into an introspective experience, which the use of reverbs help make it even more ethereal.


The transition from “uhgood” to “everythingoes” is one of the most brilliant moments of mono: after telling himself some of the hardest-to-swallow truths, RM seeks to rebuild himself by saying that “everything goes, at one point, for sure… everything goes by.

The constant repetition of the line “everything goes,” through a four chord progression tailored in the technique of tension-release, summarizes the whole mood of the song: whether if you’re in the highest or lowest point of the curve, whatever you’re feeling shall pass one day. It’s all temporary.

And just like that, mono ends with “forever rain,” another great lyrical moment of RM justifying his love for the rain since it is both a friend who helps him hide (“In the rain, the umbrella covers my sad face” / “In the rain, people are busy minding themselves”) and be found (“When it rains, I get a feeling that I have a friend / That keeps knocking on my window, asking if I’m doing well.)” Just like in “moonchild,” in “forever rain” RM seeks to understand himself through events of nature. And, just like in all the other tracks that led to this one, we still don’t have any solid conclusions.

The overall mood of mono is one of uncertainty and solitude  not the type of solitude of not being surrounded by enough people, but the solitude felt between one’s many selves and conflicts. But it is also a mood of continuity.

From the lowercase stylized fonts, to the lyrics full of honesty about RM’s doubts, everything about mono reflects a journey that is still incomplete, towards finding identity, love, and acceptance a journey that could be anyone else’s.

The next steps of the journey will surely be portrayed in BTS’ upcoming works. In the meantime, we can appreciate mono not only for RM’s musical versatility, but also for his courage to expose, through so many beautiful songs of uncertainty, that knowing the “Answer” is way easier than knowing what to do with it.

[Lyric translation credit: SPOTLIGHTRM]

How did you like RM’s mono? Let us know your picks for fave songs and overall thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Pop Unmuted: LOONA Debut

On Episode 34 of KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted, M.O. Kng joins Stephen Knight, Joe Palmer, and Tamar Herman to discuss LOOΠΔ’s debut with [+ +] and the single “ Hi High.” We also talk about BTS’ “I’m Fine,” BerryGood’s “Green Apple” single and “Free Travel” album, and (G)I-DLE’s “Hann.”

You can listen to this episode, and previous ones, of KultScene’s K-Pop Unmuted on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play Music, and Stitcher.

Let us know what you think of LOONA’s and KultScene’s K-pop Unmuted in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.