Commentary

‘We’re almost there…’: BTS
reads the world’s mind yet again

Viewed by 1.33M worldwide, their 8th birthday
celebration reflects a humanity re-opening up

BTS behind the scenes of BTS 2021 Muster Sowoozoo (From BTS Big Hit official Twitter)

From BigHit official Twitter, the rich imagery of the BTS 2021 Muster Sowoozoo set, that dwarfs the band onstage

(“We’re almost there…”

Jin said it so casually yet emphatically at the end of the first night celebration, the BTS 2021 Muster Sowoozoo, to mark the 8th birthday of BTS last June 13.

Evening view of BTS celebration at Seoul Olympic Stadium: Burst of colors and shapes (From BTS Big Hit official Twitter)

The eldest of the BTS members was talking about how BTS and ARMYs—indeed the world—are already halfway into this pandemic, trying to cope with self-isolation. What he meant was that the world must already be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, when BTS and ARMY—or the world at large—could be seeing each other soon. Just wait a little more.

These guys, young as they are (in their 20s, or as the youngest Jungkook loves to say of his eldest hyung—“30”), have had a way, for years now, of speaking out what a complex adult world has always felt. And their celebration last June 13 and 14 was no different.

Their timing and message are spot-on, as usual. They echo what the world must be feeling right now. Their celebration in the grounds of the Seoul Olympic Stadium was festive and expectant, even exuberant—like a world that’s so looking forward to having its old life back. BTS 2021 Muster Sowoozoo reflected a world that is beginning to re-open up.

Their Muster was a departure from their 2020 Bangbangcon Live, their first virtual concert in the pandemic, which was toned down and sober, even in its song selection—much like the world that was confined to its home, afraid to go out, and just trying to survive the loss, pain and isolation brought on by the virus. Even the MOTS: ON:E online concert that followed that year remained laid back, even ponderous.

BTS 2021 Muster Sowoozoo, however, broke free from the shackles of the pandemic, as if in telepathy with the world’s collective mind and mood, and embraced celebration again—outdoor celebration, in one of Seoul’s biggest venues, not in a confined studio where the stage was augmented reality.

The set—in the shape of a mammoth “8” to signify BTS’ birthday and to use the symbol of infinity—was awesome, a burst of shapes and colors viewed from the sky in a spectacular camera work. Columns of light shot up from its wide expanse as BTS performed their powerhouse hits.

Seeing BTS perform Fire and Idol—among the showstoppers of their world tours and award-show performances—gave you a lift; you suddenly remembered there was once a world with such high positive energy.

And just as important, BTS filled the stadium with ARMYs—not physically but virtually, with real-time ARMYs’ videos mounted on rows and rows. Like in a physical performance, the video screens faced the stage so that BTS could see them while they performed and even walked around them. Indeed this Muster became what must have been the world’s first huge interactive virtual event—the ARMYs’ singing and cheering recorded in sync with the BTS’ numbers and their selfie videos showing them holding up ARMY bombs or their countries’ respective flags. Way before Muster, ARMYs got notifications asking them to send their recorded BTS songs and “applications” for video inclusions.

This must have been the world’s first huge interactive virtual event—the ARMYs’ singing and cheering recorded in sync with BTS’ numbers

In 2021 Muster, BTS and their firm Hybe (or BigHit Music) showed the world how to use technology to mount an interactive virtual event, how to establish real-time connection, even as the world begins to allow big physical gatherings.

A sidelight in the finale: the members halted their farewell remarks because they saw an insect at their feet on the floor. Like boys being distracted from their teacher in class, they bent and crouched to see what that insect was doing on their stage.

A funny, raw, human moment. A BTS moment. Our BTS diaries:—Editor)

It’s vintage Bangtan—taking care of ARMY

By Nikko Dizon

BTS wrapped up their 8th anniversary Festa celebration with a two-day fan meeting aptly called “muster.” This year is the 6th iteration of muster and they called it “Sowoozoo,” Korean for their song, Mikrokosmos.

It’s a song that talks about how small we all are compared to the vastness of the universe yet it is we who make up the world and brighten up the night sky.

In their Love Yourself world tour in 2019, BTS wrapped up each concert night with Mikrokosmos, where hundreds of drones lit up the sky, forming constellations and the BTS and ARMY logos.

It’s a blissful song that fills one with hope. It makes you smile and feel unburdened.

In Sowoozoo, BTS and HYBE once again showed they are a step ahead in the music industry. BTS ditched the standards set for online concerts during the pandemic, namely, augmented reality (AR) and other special effects. Instead, the world’s biggest band staged a live, outdoor show at the Seoul Olympic Stadium grounds. The kind of concert we used to have before the world turned upside down.

Whether it was an intended message or not, the concept for Sowoozoo represented our collective vision of the normal life we all want to reclaim.

“We’re almost there,” Jin told ARMY.

BTS’ concerts in 2020—Bangbangcon Live and Map of the Soul ON:E—were all done indoors with impressive AR. Because the world was on lockdown at that time, Bangbangcon’s concept was entertainment in different rooms (“bang” is Korean for room).

When HYBE first announced the staging of the 6th muster, it said that having a physical audience would depend on the government’s pandemic regulations. On the second day of Sowoozoo, BTS themselves said they really wanted an outdoor concert.

In Sowoozoo, the huge pastel-colored balloons simply gave the show a happy vibe.

BTS had a gigantic stage in the form of number 8, also a symbol of infinity. To both BTS and ARMY, as the band’s fans are known, that meant being together forever.

Since ARMY couldn’t be there in person, the clever alternative was to have the video screens arrayed as seats to face the stage so that RM, Jin, Suga, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook could see ARMY while they performed. It was as close as Bangtan and ARMY could be face-to-face. It was much better than having a video wall of faces behind them. The guys walked around the screens and even touched the faces of ARMY.

Certainly, we all still yearn to see each other face to face. As Jungkook said, Sowoozoo made him happy, but he still wanted to look ARMY in the eye.

It’s worth noting that BTS opened the show with their Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: Life Goes On, Butter, and Dynamite—songs that not only gave birth to new fans but also spread so much positivity and lifted our spirits.

There were just so many surprises in Sowoozoo, like the whole band performing Daechwita and Chicken Noodle Soup together or singing while riding vintage convertible cars onstage.

BTS’ performances got everyone on his feet even in one’s home. ARMYs waved their light sticks and screamed like they would in an in-person concert—only this time in their homes. That’s the power of a BTS concert.

As Yoongi said in the ARMY Corner Shop (another anniversary event shown on YouTube the night before Sowoozoo): “Once you get a taste of BTS, you can’t go anywhere else!”

And it’s really more than just the performances. It’s Bangtan being candid and funny onstage—and even offstage where fans spotted Jin fighting a bug off cam while Suga and Hobi performed Daechwita, or RM casually saying, “this pandemic sh*t.” Jin granted a fan’s wish for him to have an “apple hair”—actually, a sprout on his crown. (Like an apple? No, Samsung, Jin wisecracked. And Apple and Samsung trended on Twitter the next day.)

Jin and his ‘apple’ hairstyle: No, he said, Samsung. Then Apple and Samsung trended in Twitter the next day.

A review of Sowoozoo is not complete without mentioning how fine all seven members looked. From the “fetus” Bangtan, they are now all grown men. Jungkook especially. The maknae became the night’s bias wrecker. But the little boy in him still showed through. He chased V (second to the youngest, inherently playful too) around that vast stage to spray water on him, as the other members sang So What. He kept up the mischief with eldest hyung and partner in crime, Jin.


Jin and JK in playful moment onstage, with V’s voice greeting ARMY

The hot Seoul weather made them peel off their outer shirts on the first day of their concert, except for Jin who almost never shows any skin. They revealed their toned arms and chests, a result of their daily workouts (j-hope and V said they weren’t exercising, but how, pray tell, did they get so muscular, too?)

ARMY hyperventilated mostly over RM’s and Jimin’s beautifully sculpted bodies and wished that it would be hotter in Seoul on Day 2 of Muster. The temperature indeed spiked the next day but Bangtan didn’t shed a single piece of clothing. Instead, they gulped down water every chance they got. Jimin, though, brushed up his hair to reveal more forehead, a look that made ARMYs swoon. He was bias wrecker for Day 2.

The bug on Day 1 got special mention, too. The onstage scene-stealer. Before giving his message to ARMY, j-hope told the boys that there was a bug in front of him and everyone (except Yoongi, true to his no-nonsense form) gave it his full attention —as if forgetting they were in a live concert. Jimin even greeted it a Happy Birthday. One of them said the insects were as pretty as ARMY. Another added, “The insects don’t live a day. They live longer.” Just another ordinary conversation among Bangtan, with their ARMY of possibly more than a million listening in at that moment.

Insect becomes scene-stealer in the finale as it catches the attention of BTS. 

BTS also apologized profusely to the neighborhood around the Seoul Olympic Stadium who might have been bothered by the concert fireworks. They asked the residents not to report them to authorities. It may sound funny to the audience, but that gesture showed how considerate and humble BTS remain despite their global success.

A couple of days after Sowoozoo, both BTS and ARMY are obviously missing each other. The guys have constantly been posting on Twitter and Weverse, making sure their presence lingered long after the show.

It’s vintage Bangtan—taking care of ARMY.

Why BTS reigns supreme for this ‘ajumma’

By Alya B. Honasan

A post I saw on Facebook by ARMY said it all: “Eight years later, and still performing like their lives depended on it.”

For a while, I got worried when I saw Jin, RM, Jungkook, Suga, V, j-hope, and Jimin sweating like crazy during their 6th Muster Concerts last June 13 and 14. They looked exhausted, and jokingly said they didn’t have enough water. Then song after song came, and they soldiered on—indeed, like their lives depended on it. (I later learned it was 38 degrees in Seoul, in the open air.)

After eight years, billions of dollars, a secure future, tens of millions of fans, rooms full of trophies and records, and an indelible legacy that has certainly gone way beyond what a “typical K-pop band” was supposed to accomplish—BTS was still not taking anything for granted. Even if they had forgotten their lyrics, messed up their choreography, and showed indifference or lack of energy—I’m thinking of Johnny Rotten performing with the already bickering Sex Pistols and saying into the mike, “This is no fun, we’re just fooling all of you!”—ARMY would certainly have forgiven them. But this is BTS, so they never did anything of that sort. The performance was flawless, as usual.

Some lucky fans got to have their images seen on TV screens—so many obvious moms, older sisters, and aunts among them

Some lucky fans from all over the world (including a couple of Filipinas, to my knowledge) who sent in applications online got to have their images seen on TV screens, facing the stage like an actual audience. I was delighted to note that there were many obvious ommas, noonas, and ajummas (moms, older sisters, and aunts) among them.

PH flag visible in rows of ARMY videos (Contributed photo)

PH ARMYs or Filo ARMYs join virtual audience sending their love (Contributed photo)

Video screens of ARMYs make up virtual audience.

In short, even as haters (who have been extra active these days in light of BTS’ unbelievable star power, but more on that later) insist that BTS’ fans are hysterical, illogical teenagers—although yes, a number of them are—many of us are also grown women with careers, lives, our own money to choose what we spend it on. And many of us are spending not on designer bags or martinis that we can afford, but on tickets and albums and merchandise of our favorite band, our Disneyland, our Prozac, our rays of sunshine. So yes, we are in more of a position to tell haters we don’t care what they think (and truly mean it), and persuade them to stick their insults where the sun doesn’t shine.

Case in point: There was a recent fuss over graduation photographs of students from the Jose Rizal Memorial State University in Dipolog (why protect their identities? Own it, boys) holding signs that said “BTS biot.” (“Bayot” is a pejorative word for a gay man in Filipino slang; they couldn’t even spell their insults correctly. I shudder to think of their future, or lack thereof.)

Despite being a fan, what alarmed me was NOT the slight against BTS (although one incensed fan wrote, “Why is it always the ugly ones who are so mean?”—I feel you, girl), but the use of gender discrimination today, in 2021, by obviously immature Filipino boys who think they’re swinging very big d—ks. The “biot” could be a sibling, a cousin, a neighbor down the road, or any gay boy or man who you know is being bullied for their gender preference. And we all know your d—k has nothing to do with how much of a man you are. Although the sub-humans have already made the news and angered some Koreans, as they should, I draw small comfort from knowing that BTS has had, and fielded, their (undeserved) share of insults. But I digress.

So for Muster, like many avowed fans, I hunkered down to watch. The night before, the boys already had a rather emotional sharing of memories to commemorate their Festa, the anniversary of their debut on June 13, 2013. There was RM, talking about how hard the early years were, when they were being lambasted by haters even as their fame grew. There was Jungkook, the Golden Maknae, who actually said he was “not good at anything in particular.” (!!!) There was the word association, where, in response to the word “respect,” RM and Suga said each other’s names—and the most beautiful words were associated with “ARMY,” from “partner” and “friend” to “miracle.”

RM

Jungkook

Thus, every BTS fan will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the love shared by these boys is genuine, and is not more important than all their success and money. They reached the point where they almost disbanded in early 2018, uncertain of how to deal with their success, which means some compromises became difficult—and the money and fame are NOT paramount in their lives.

At the Muster Concerts, the unscripted candor and affection were evident, as they played around onstage—Jungkook memorably chasing V, at high speed, to douse him with water—and obviously relished performing, even if the audience was virtual and the energy was not live.

Most generous performance was Agust D’s Daechwita, which showed how every single member could rap respectably

The most generous performance of the first night, for me, was a highlight for fans: Agust D’s Daechwita, which had already been foreshadowed by Korean fans who eavesdropped on rehearsals at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. The song was the biggest hit for Suga’s tough-talking alter ego, and it would have been understandable if Min Yoongi, now a brilliant blonde and noticeably buff—“giving off hot drug lord vibes,” we joked—had enjoyed his solo moment in the spotlight.

Instead, in a realization that caught viewers by surprise when it was Jimin (instead of Suga) who opened the catchy rap song, Daechwita became an ensemble piece that showed how every single member could rap respectably, with Suga taking over only in the last verse—notably, after j-hope absolutely demolished the original high-speed lyrics in his own style. Asked later how he thought the other members did, Suga answered like the proud hyung (older brother) he was: “It was perfect.”

Jimin 

Suga

The ensemble work continued on the next night. j-hope’s Chicken Noodle Soup, the dazzling remake for which j-hope went to LA to record and shoot with singer Becky G, again had all the members filling in. Jungkook’s soaring tenor voice made up for Becky’s parts, while RM and Jimin took over the verses in Spanish. Again, what could have been j-hope’s solo success was shared in a hilarious version by all of BTS—with Jin and Suga giving the high-speed choreography a whirl!

j-hope on Chicken Noodle Soup set

At the end, for their last messages, the seven members again reiterated how much they missed the fans. Jungkook said he wouldn’t cry, and didn’t, but you could feel the emotion when he said he still wanted to make eye contact with a live audience.

So many K-pop bands can sing and dance like a dream, their members looking like Prince Charmings in tight jeans and glittering costumes. Only BTS does this all with so much love, it spills over into the audience, to their fans, to the world, to anybody who could use a little of it at the moment. And that’s why we love them right back. Spoken like a true ajumma.

Read more:

Why I’m proud to be BTS Army Tita

How 28-year-old Suga teaches 56-year-old me about mental health

Otsu Seiromushi on my mind—the resto of BTS Jin’s brother

Do as BTS—Keep a journal to fight pandemic anxiety

BTS: Awards no longer define you

About author

Articles

Nikko Dizon worked as a journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades until the pandemic changed her life plans almost overnight. She now works in the fintech industry, happily discovering what an exciting world it is. But nothing will match her fascination with the Korean Wave in general and in particular, South Korean mega-group, BTS, and actor Ji Chang Wook.
Alya B. Honasan is a writer, editor, breast cancer and depression survivor, environmental advocate, dog mother to three asPins, Iyengar yoga instructor and BTS Army Tita. She edits part-time for a broadsheet, but is headed towards a full-time vocation as an online English writing coach and grammar nazi.

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