“TELL ME your story. I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself*.” After 14 months and 62 shows in 13 countries, BTS has finally wrapped up their “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” tours with three final gigs in their hometown, Seoul. As BTS’ popularity continues to soar across music charts and continents, the tour’s core message has undoubtedly struck the hearts of millions of ARMYs** across the world.
Breaking the Scene: Breaking records and boundaries
BTS kicked off their history-making tour at Seoul in the summer heat of August 2018 and returned for the grand finale on a chilly autumn night of October 2019. Divided into two segments, the “Love Yourself” tour was the first half of the world tour that consisted of 42 shows across North America, Europe, and Asia. The “Speak Yourself” tour was a stadium tour*** that started off with the release of the Map of the Soul: Persona album in April 2019.
Throughout the 14 months of the tour, compliments such as “the first,” “record-breaking,” and “chart-topping” became the norm when referring to the sensational group. BTS joined the ranks of superstars such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Queen by becoming the first Asian artists to hold shows—sell-out shows—in Wembley Stadium in London. The group had also made history when the New York City Transit assigned more trains on the days of the New York Citi Field concerts. The economic scale of the tour is groundbreaking as well, raking in around \1.2 trillion around the world. BTS brought around \50 trillion worth of economic profits to Korea solely from the last three shows in October 2019 and boosted the tourism industry****.
BTS went through cycles of setting and breaking their own records during the course of the tour. In April 2019, “Boy With Luv,” the title of the Persona album, set the record for a Korean artist’s highest Billboard Hot 100 chart entry at number 8, breaking their own record of number 10 with “Fake Love” back in May 2018. They were the first Asian artists to win the Top Group Award at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. Just when people thought that things could not get better for BTS, they set a precedent by attending the 2019 Grammy Awards as presenters.
Below the Shine: “Speak Yourself the Final” in Seoul
The three-day “Speak Yourself the Final” in Seoul showcased a series of BTS’ most powerful performances. The opening of the show, “Dionysus,” was rough yet flashy, and the band’s record-breaking title track “Boy with Luv” left a deep impression with its bright melodies and colorful outfits. Then, as fans steadied their hearts after an exhilarating medley of songs from previous albums, the concert took a darker, mellower tone with “Fake Love.” Known for its grungy sounds and artistic choreography, “Fake Love” pushed the audience to the edge of their seats. Towards the end, “Mic Drop” provided a powerful pretense for the encore. Arguably one of BTS’ most popular songs, a remix of “Mic Drop” made by renowned DJ Steve Aoki became the group’s first song to be certified gold by RIAA***** in early 2018. The show finally drew to a close with “Mikrokosmos,” a song dedicated to their fans that alluded to a small universe where music connected everyone in the stadium. The song was a sincere message of “goodbye, and see you again” to the thousands of fans that attended the concert.
Additionally, the solo performances from each member of BTS, staples of the “Love Yourself” and “Speak Yourself” tours, were woven throughout different segments of the show. The solos showcased the unique talents of the members, from J-Hope’s charismatic “Just Dance” bursting with his passion for dancing, to Jin’s emotional “Epiphany” that recorded his journey of overcoming his struggles of self-love. Through the solo stages, the members’ individualities formed the group that is BTS.
Behind the Success: Secret to stardom
In a competitive industry where artists other than those managed by the big three companies—SM, JYP, and YG entertainment—have little to no possibility of rising to fame, no one expected BTS to become a global icon. BTS did not gain much attention when they debuted on June 13, 2013 with “No More Dream”; their debut song did not even make it into the Korean music charts. However, by 2016, Wings, the group’s second regular album, became the highest selling album of the year in Korea******. BTS soon saw global success when the song “DNA” entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2017. Still considered a miracle in the Korean music industry, BTS was able to win over the hearts of millions around the world through the messages in their series-structured albums, their constant communication with ARMYs, and their own variety shows. BTS’ albums have a distinctive feature of being organized into series with corresponding messages. Their 13 albums are divided into 5 series: School Trilogy, Youth Trilogy, Wings, Love Yourself, and Map of the Soul. These eras along with BTS’ delivering a clear message for each sequel keep the ARMYs anticipating for the next album which will develop the message of BTS’ series.
The BTS members’ constant communication with ARMYs played a huge part in their fast-tracked fame. BTS’ efforts to keep in touch with their fans even during their holidays and actively replying and commenting on individual fans’ posts convey the gratitude and love all members of BTS have for ARMYs. Also, BTS’ own variety shows such as Run BTS and videos on BTS’ official YouTube channel create a special bond between ARMYs and BTS due to the exclusivity of the content.
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BTS has conveyed their message through multiple mediums, from simple tweets to performances in stadiums across the globe. Through their tours, albums, and a variety of activities, 2019 has been an eventful year for both BTS and ARMYs. With the prospect of a new album and their possible attendance in the 2020 Grammy Awards, the world awaits what 2020 has in store for BTS.
Beyond the Scene: What does BTS mean to us?
BTS encompasses multiple meanings for ARMYs, from being a source of motivation to study to a comforting existence that helps fans cope with the stress of everyday life. As college students with countless responsibilities, BTS and their music serve as encouragement and comfort as we weave our way through the semester. With multiple songs and an array of entertainment shows to pull us out of a slump, BTS has so much to offer when it comes to motivating ARMYs to continue to work hard.
Back in 2015, SUGA shared his experience taking the Korean college entrance exam on Twitter. He concluded his motivational tweets with a piece of life advice: “don’t sweat it.” Taking SUGA’s words to heart, we should always remember that there are many more things to life than scores on a paper, so one should try their best no matter the results.
More than anything, BTS is a symbol of youth. For ARMYs, BTS helps us as we go through the trials and tribulations during our late teens to twenties. Undoubtedly, it is because of BTS that our youth becomes the most beautiful chapter of our lives.
*Remarks by BTS at the launch of Generation Unlimited, at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2018
*ARMY: official name for BTS fans
***Stadium tour: A tour where the concerts are only held in stadium venues; stadiums can hold up to 90,000 audiences whereas regular arenas can hold up to 20,000 audiences
****Korean Economics Daily
*****RIAA: Recording Industry Association of America
******The Korean Herald