A tribute to BTS

The K-pop group BTS are having a hiatus. It’s big news in our house where they have been an essential part of the grieving process.

BTS group


I can’t remember when I first heard the name BTS and I think I thought at the time that it was another mail carrier firm rather than an all-singing, all-dancing mega K-pop boy band. It was many moons ago and they are now like additional members of the family. I now know more about them than perhaps about my cousins or uncles and aunts. I’ve been sat on by one daughter and forced to watch video after video and then quizzed about each member’s different characteristics and interests.

We have, over the years tracked their movements around London, been to the shops they have visited, found a restaurant [fortunately not too expensive] where they had dinner, learned Korean, been to art exhibitions that they have sponsored and I’ve escorted daughters two and three [daughter one was also a fan] to a concert at Wembley. Daughters two and three recorded themselves at said concert and basically all you can hear is them screaming hysterically. They emerged completely exhausted but on a high which lasted several weeks. They have, of course, revisted the concert online many, many times.

Now the group is taking a ‘hiatus’. This news was met with total gloom in our house. There had already been worry about the different members having to do military service, which was offset by in-depth arguments about how they might be spared due to being South Korea’s biggest export. Now we have a pause and the inevitable solo projects. I have tried different tactics to lift the gloom. Solo projects mean more songs. They can return to their roots and dispense with the more commercial stuff aimed at the US audience that they have been doing of late [daughters two and three prefer the songs in Korean with multiple layers of meaning]. They will be happier. I said I would dearly love a hiatus – or some kind of career break. Only son misheard this and thought I said Korea break.

Some of this has trickled through, but daughter three had been working hard at the weekends to save money for a ticket to their next London concert. Both girls were hoping at some point to have raised enough money to go to Korea.

We’ve been through this kind of thing in the past with daughter one and One Direction, although she very quickly jumped from One Direction to goth rock. The thing is that BTS is more than a pop band for our family. They have been there for daughters two and three the whole way through the last two years of grieving for their sister. Their last album came out just after she died and helped them immensely through the lockdown months, the trying to study while their minds were locked in the trauma of all that was going on around them, the terrible realisation of the incredible fragility of everything around them.

I don’t think that I could truly thank each and every member of BTS enough for keeping them company through all of that. Music has a power that is so essential at times when it is hard to put how you feel into words and when you need something to take you away from it all.

We went to the George Michael film this week. We knew that, like everything, it was going to be an event for their sister, who would certainly have been there in person and was there in every other way – a present absence. She was cool enough to like all kinds of music, not just the edgy stuff. Daughter three emerged from the film looking shell shocked and sad. She didn’t speak all the way home except to say that it was very sad, particularly the songs George Michael wrote about grief, but that she was glad she went. Daughter two, meanwhile, played George Michael songs all the way home, but only the upbeat ones, trying to lift everyone’s spirits. We have learnt over time that you cannot outrun grief because grief – like the person who died – is part of you and always will be. You just need time to absorb it fully and music helps enormously in that process.

*Picture of BTS: YouTube: [LTE 연예뉴스] ‘MMA 7관왕 방탄소년단’의 감동적인 수상소감 – View/save archived versions on archive.org and archive.today. Author: TV10/TenAsia courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

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