In recent years, Korean boyband BTS has taken the entire world by storm. Their names, Kim Namjoon (RM), Kim Seokjin (Jin), Min Yoongi (Suga), Jung Hoseok (J-Hope), Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, and Jeon Jungkook. Through a combination of their music, visuals, performances, personalities and relatability, they’ve racked up a huge fanbase. ARMY’s, their collective fandom name, come in large numbers, about 90 million worldwide. It is a fact that BTS fans do not take streaming their songs and music videos lightly, demonstrated by the fact that three of BTS’s music videos have over 1 billion views on YouTube. Today, we’ll be going through their top 3 music videos, ranked by the cinematography/aesthetics, wardrobe, choreography and the overall message, starting from the bottom of the list.
Starting off with a bang, we have number 3, the Fire MV. It was released on May 1st, 2016 and has 201 million views. This was ranked number 3 because despite its energetic and fun approach, it lacks direct meaning. Though, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with your own interpretations of the significance of Fire! In terms of the concept and cinematography, it was profoundly cool. The idea of setting everything and everyone on fire just because they can is a much more lively style than concepts they’ve previously covered. For example, the opening scene where Suga sets someone on fire and later they set a car on fire. Another example could be the final scene, being very grand and at the end they set the entire building ablaze, swiftly walking away from the explosion. The choreography matches the song perfectly as it is fact-paced and full of energy.
The wardrobe was also skillfully picked, as their outfits match with the whole concept of the characters BTS portray in the video; young boys confidently living their lives while setting things on fire. These points bring us to the overall theme of the video. The combination of the components of each category breakdown in the song makes it seem like they want the world to know that they are on fire and untouchable. That they’re untouchable because despite being so famous, they are still real people. This can be shown in the music video, where, although they made the world an inferno, they are terrified of a small fire coming from the stove, the one place fire is normal. Nearing the last segment of the video, BTS is having a concert, and this correlates to their overall message, it’s the world’s privilege to have BTS, not the other way around.
In second place, with one of their more recent songs is the Black Swan MV. It was released on March 4th, 2020, part of their Map of the Soul: 7 album with a hefty 276 million views. The music video is about BTS transforming into Black Swans as a metaphor for portraying the perception of passion & fear with the use of shadows. This was ranked number 2 because aside from being visually pleasing and having a good message, it’s extremely unique. Black Swan shows how fear blurs everything together making the world hard to comprehend and even touches on the challenges of self-expression. Firstly, the cinematics are a 10/10! The royal-like structures and illustrious mirrors in the background really complete the elegant swan theme of the video. Throughout the MV, there were clean transitions and amazing shots that spotlighted the solo dances some members did, for example, Jimin. Jimin in the music video illustrates the ‘swan’. The black wings they used were very grand and also contributed to the grace of the song and video. From beginning to end, the purity and luxury of the backgrounds created a one-of-a-kind music video that screams rich sophistication.
Supporting the cinematics are the colours that set the entirety of every scene, which related to the wardrobe. The basics, being black and white but also various hues of violet and dark blue. They start out with all white suits representing the ‘white swan’ and end up with black suits for the ‘black swan’. The overall message seems to be very personal and really come from BTS themselves. It is fear about their music. The music video demonstrated how something that brings them so much joy and fulfillment, can ultimately be the same thing that they fear the most. So, through the video, they dread the future and try to grapple with the fact that one day their music and performances might not reach the same level of meaning and excitement it once did. The whole representation of this fear is portrayed through the choreography.
In first place, more like a short film rather than a music video is Blood Sweat & Tears. Released on October 16th, 2016 with a whopping 737 million views. Blood Sweat & Tears is a six minute video which, along with all the regular components of a music video, tells a story about 7 young boys being tempted into sinning, while losing their innocence and giving into their desires; from their “body, mind and soul”. Blood Sweat & Tears, more known by the acronym ‘BST’ was one of those music videos that had fans going crazy over theories, in fact, many theories are still being made today. The music video is also brimming with symbols from all over history. Beginning with the cinematography, it is extremely aesthetic and artistic. The way they presented themselves and showcased the artwork was beautiful. The opening scene looking like an art exhibit was amazing because it gave us a glimpse of marvelous (renaissance) paintings, statues, glittering chandeliers, props and the overall aesthetics. Throughout the video, all the scenes were shot with expertise. This is shown when Jungkook is laid upside down on a swing, in front of historical paintings and when Taehyung’s silhouette was illuminated by a smooth satin sheet. Other examples could include when smoke was slowly rolling out of Namjoon’s mouth, the dark green and pink splashes of water while J-Hope sits in front of a statue, or even at the end of the video when the statue cries green along with Jimin. During the video, there is a moment where the music is paused and is instead replaced by a picturesque interlude. Yoongi is spotlighted while playing Passacaglia on an organ while Jin kisses the Lucifer-like statue we were introduced to in the beginning. It is also revealed here that Taehyung seems to be a sort of ‘fallen angel’, as the scene reveals the scars of the nonexistent wings on his back.
Their wardrobe fit with the aesthetic and vibe of the video perfectly, being very fancy. They also play a role in the meaning of the song, showing how the lavish clothes and material can’t satisfy them. The choreography of Blood Sweat and Tears is one of BTS’s hardest dances. In order to perform it you need a lot of energy, a fair amount of body control and need an extremely practiced amount of floor work. They also did strikingly well with the facial expressions. The choreography has elements of contemporary with a bit of hip-hop, which make it exceptionally flowy and intricate. At last, the message of the Blood Sweat & Tears MV is that although people hope there is a way to keep sin from visibly tainting them, the reality is that humans can never hide the evidence of their immorality from others. This point is shown through the many references to the novel “Demian” by Hermann Hesse, famous historical paintings and symbols. In the novel “Demain”, the characters live in a world of life and death where you need to decide between good and evil. This is essentially what the music video is based on. For example, Namjoon’s monologue is a quote from the novel:
“He too was a tempter; he, too, was a link to the second, the evil world with which I no longer wanted to have anything to do”.
“Demian” by Hermann Hesse
It references the spiritual struggle between the good world of internal truth and the evil world of illusion.
Their defiance of God is shown through the painting “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The shot of them standing around a long dinner table with silverware mimics “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. The music video portrays every member being tempted by their desires. For example, Jin’s desire being the wings. When he walks up to the
‘Lucifer’ statue, the camera angle makes it look like he models the dark wings, foreshadowing his “fall from grace”. Then, when he kisses the statue he submits into the temptation, sacrificing himself for the others, made clear when his face begins to crack amid the last few seconds of the video. Some symbolism in the MV also includes two of the members, those being Yoongi and Jungkook. In the course of Yoongi’s scenes, he is seen sitting on top of thin glass, which could symbolize how close he is to falling into the abyss. Later he is joined by Jimin, who is in the same position as him and his fate is portrayed at the end of the video when his green tears match those of the ‘Lucifer’ statue, meaning he gave in to temptation as well. Swings are usually correlated to childhood, which could connect to Jungkook having lighthearted feelings and wanting to bring back his youthfulness because he was seen swaying on a swing.
In the middle of the video, we can see Taehyung fall off the ledge of a balcony while smiling, implying that he is ‘evil’ and has accepted that fact. Overall, we can see each boy being faced by their desires, whether it be through colours or a pair of wings, relating to the fact that there isn’t any other word to describe this music video other than a masterpiece.
In conclusion, BTS has shot and produced many music videos to go with their many songs and albums. Some honorable mentions are the Fake Love MV, because of its cool aesthetics like the fire, water and earth elements and CGI + dangerous stunts, like Jungkook’s falling floor scene. Followed by the I Need U MV, because of the concept that we were in Jin’s mind reliving his memories with him, because of the fact that his hardships caused him difficulties in letting go of his youth and growing up. Though, the three MV’s, being Fire, Black Swan and Blood Sweat & Tears are some of their best because of their lively, emotion filled and storytelling factors.