Screen capture of BTS in the music video of its new single "Yet to Come," leading anthology album "Proof." (BigHit Music)
On Friday, K-pop icons BTS released an anthology album, “Proof,” through which the act reminisces on its nine-year journey so far.
Four days later, the septet announced it will be taking a break as a group to focus on solo projects and their personal lives, which had been put on hold until now.
In the hourlong YouTube video announcing the news, the seven members celebrated their anniversary over dinner and said, after running tirelessly for nine years, it was about time they took care of themselves in order to continue as a team.
“We started because we wanted to make our voices heard, but following ‘ON,’ we didn’t know what to do,” the band’s leader RM said. “ON” is the lead single of BTS’ fourth studio album, “Map of the Soul: 7,” released in February 2020, following the global outbreak of COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, BTS has gone on to have unprecedented success worldwide, with a string of hit singles and high-profile awards and accomplishments. At the same time, though, the band has become increasingly estranged from their early identity.
“When we released ‘ON’ and ‘Dynamite,’ I felt like I had team BTS inside my grasp, but after ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission to Dance,’ I didn’t know who we were anymore,” RM continued. “When I write lyrics, it’s really important to me what kind of story they tell or messages they send. But all the stories and messages I want to write about are gone now.”
The members also expressed a desire to recharge and to focus more on themselves and their private lives.
“The problem with the whole K-pop idol system is that they don’t give you the time to mature. You have to keep producing music, keep doing something. I get up in the morning, I get my makeup and my hair done, and there’s just no time left for growth.”
Suga, the band’s rapper and producer, said: “The most difficult part for me was writing lyrics. It’s always been a painful process. The problem eight years ago was my lack of skills. The problem now is that I just don’t have anything I want to write about.”
While, in the past, the septet had only released solo projects in the form of mixtapes, the members will be recording solo albums in the future, with J-Hope’s coming out first.
And their solo projects may not only be limited to music. Jin, the oldest member of the group, reiterated his early ambitions to become an actor during Tuesday’s video.
“I used to want to become an actor because I wanted to try different things with every new role. But making a career as a K-pop idol, I was able to experience much more. So right now, I have no regrets about choosing this path, but you never know,” Jin said during Tuesday’s video.
J-Hope is scheduled to do a solo performance to accompany his album, which will be released soon. The rapper-dancer will be performing at 2022’s Lollapalooza on July 31 as the first South Korean act to headline the US festival.
V also has his first solo schedule in July, a TV reality show with his four best friends -- actors Park Seo-joon, Choi Woo-shik, Park Hyung-sik and rapper Peakboy -- often referred to by the clique's nickname "Wooga Squad." The series will be a spin-off of "In the Soop," an online variety program in which BTS had previously starred in, which will show the five friends taking a short vacation together. The four-episode will air in July via channel JTBC and released globally via online as wekk.
While focusing on individual careers, the band will continue to shoot new episodes of its online variety show, “Run BTS.”
BTS announces an indefinite hiatus on its official YouTube channel BangtanTV on Tuesday. (Bangtan TV)
The bandmates went on to say that they had recently left their shared dormitory with the ending of their housing contract. The seven have reportedly lived together in one house since before their debut in June 2013.
“The seven of us are all really different. We have different tastes and personalities,” Jimin said, to which Suga piped in: “It’s a miracle that we’ve managed to live together.”
“We’re more like a family than friends, and it’s necessary that we keep some space between us to protect our privacy,” RM said. V added: “Honestly, I think we’ve become closer after living apart.”
Expressing their regrets toward the Army -- the official name of the BTS fan group -- Jimin said: “I think we’re having a hard time, now that we’re starting to think about what kind of musicians we want to be remembered as by our fans.”
But V showed confidence in the act’s long-held relationship with its supporters.
“I actually think that the majority of our fans will back this decision,” V said. He added: “I bet 90 percent will be supportive of our music and our paths, whatever they may be.”
Following the news, BTS fans took to social media to express their grief but also to show heartwarming support for the decision.
An English-language comment on YouTube read: “Take the rest you need, grow individually and come back as BTS when you’re ready again.” Another comment in Korean read: “I’m happy to grow with BTS. Thank you so much for being honest with us.” Hashtags rooting for BTS such as “#BTSBestFriendsOfMyLife” and “#ArmyForeverBangtanForever” also trended on Twitter.
This announcement does not come as a complete surprise because of the mandatory military service that has been lingering over the band for the past few years. Under current conscription laws, all able-bodied Korean men are obliged to serve in the military for a little less than two years, with some exceptions for award-winning athletes and classical musicians. A bill calling to apply the exception to pop culture artists has been pending in the National Assembly. If the bill does not pass, BTS members will have to perform military service in the coming years. Jin would be the first up for enlistment and must sign up by Dec. 31.
BTS (Big Hit Music)
While fans have been fairly accepting of the news, BTS’ decision has hit the band’s agency Hybe hard, with the company’s shares plummeting by almost 28 percent following the news.
Hybe shares closed at 193,000 won ($149.40) on Tuesday afternoon and opened at 168,000 won the morning after. The agency’s share price dropped to its lowest during intraday trading to 139,000 won, the lowest since the K-pop powerhouse went public in October 2020.
BTS dropped “Proof” last Friday, a three-CD package spanning the band’s nine-year career. The album sold a total of 2.15 million copies in just 10 hours, becoming the second album from them to surpass sales of 2 million on its first day. 2020’s “Map of the Soul: 7” was the first time they achieved this.
The bandmates reassured fans that their break as BTS does not mean they have come to an end, but that it is just a pause.
“We’re each going to take some time alone to have fun and experience diverse things, and we promise to return even more mature than we are now," said Jungkook, reassuring fans.
“We want to continue as BTS for a long time, and to do that, I have to stay as myself,” RM said, adding: “Even if the time comes when we cannot dance like before, I still want to stay as BTS and as RM.”
By Choi Ji-won (firstname.lastname@example.org