When I look back on what and who held my hand while I struggled to find myself during my sophomore and junior years of college, I can cite some good friends, my Mom, God (my understanding of God). I cite music as what helped me heal and gave me a vocabulary to analyze and navigate my pain and confusion.
It’s Aura 32’s 5th Anniversary. To celebrate, I’m going to talk about one (or two, technically) of my favorite albums that came out over the past five years. I want to use this opportunity to give a shout out to BTS (방탄소년단; Bangtan Sonyeondan), and their mini-series The Most Beautiful Moment in Life.
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life is the beginning of the Bangtan Universe’s storyline, which finds its characters, expressed by BTS members, experiencing various struggles and tribulations as young adults neglected by the system. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life is a collection of snapshots that reveal the pain and defiant joy of youth not often talked about in the media or in the conversation of their country, let alone K-pop. Conventions, hierarchy, and perfection (in K-pop) demand that artists follow strict rules and steer away from certain topics. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life is the album through which I discovered that I wanted to be a part of BTS’s fandom for years to come. With their help, I walked through my sophomore and junior years of college even though at the time I wanted more than anything to fall back and fade away.
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, called 화양연화 (HwaYangYeonHwa), is their long-awaited victory over obscurity from being a “dirt spoon” group (as haters would call them; think the opposite of a “silver spoon”). Their rise was unexpected due to
They’ve consistently talked about the issues and emotions that they felt weren’t highlighted enough in their society: youth pressure by adults to excel at any cost, depression, anxiety, anger, feeling like a failure if a certain standard isn’t met, having to depend on and respect seniors who don’t always have their best interests at heart. BTS wanted to tell their stories and encourage others to tell theirs. Together with
The series The Most Beautiful Moment in Life is split into two parts, and later included a special compilation album as well as remixed tracks. They released the first on April 29, 2015 and the second on November 30, 2015.
This tracklist includes some of the most iconic songs from BTS’s discography like I NEED U, DOPE, and Converse High, a skit, and an intro written and performed by Suga.
Along with another skit, there are more iconic songs here: “RUN,” “Butterfly,” and “뱁새” (Baepsae) (though you could argue that all of BTS’s songs are iconic, to which I’d agree).
The series led to the rise in BTS’ international popularity and received many awards. But other writers have talked about that. Instead, I want to talk about how much these two albums and specific songs mean to me.
I NEED U
BTS debuted back in 2013 but I didn’t find them until 2017 (Don’t worry though! It doesn’t matter when you found them; you’re still an ARMY). I remember sitting in the lounge in my dorm building. It was past 12 in the morning; no one else was there. I can’t remember what day of the week it was. All of my roommates were home, so I felt uncomfortable and went to study alone. It was a rough year. All of my classes were pretty difficult; my roommates pretended I didn’t exist. There was a big secret I had been wanting to tell my Mom forever but didn’t have the courage to. Being a recent ARMY, I was going through all of BTS’s albums to familiarize myself with them but I kept coming back to “I NEED U”.
I was aware of fan theories and the Bangtan Universe storyline, so when I watched the music video for “I NEED U,” I knew that it was telling multiple stories. There was one in the lyrics talking about a love they needed in order to be stable. The lyrics have a monologue element to them, raw, poetic. Vulnerable. There was the video, the members playing characters (or different parts of only two characters, if you’re familiar with that theory) being pushed around, running away, being taken advantage of with no one to guide them.
And then there was my story, which BTS gave me the words to tell. I was feeling lonely and isolated, trapped in my own night, where it felt like no one could reach me. BTS knew what it felt like to be held under, and with all that they went through, they knew what that kind of suffering felt like. One of the members had depression for some years; another struggled with confidence; another one dropped too much weight because people called him fat. While listening to this song, I felt like they knew in some way what I was going through. At that time, I didn’t know what tomorrow was going to look like. I was just happy that I had BTS. They would help me walk towards better times.
This song showed me that at the root of who we are, we’re all similar. We go through heartbreak, family deaths, broken friendships. We hold onto friendships, heal and love again, carry the good memories in spite of the bad. Our dreams change, disappear, and come true. “Moving On” touched me because it was the literal interpretation of BTS’s feelings in their own words. It was their thoughts on their move from the dorm where they lived for three years as trainees.
I love songs like this, where fans can remember that the singers, rappers, songwriters, and producers behind the music are humans. In this song, the rap line breaks down their feelings towards moving in the verses while the vocal line sings a heartfelt goodbye in the chorus. Wanting a better future, being ambitious and having to be patient. Acknowledging the fights and laughter that’s happened within those walls. Connoting moving with necessity and desiring a day when you don’t have to move anymore. Listening to this song, it felt like BTS wanted their fans and listeners to know more about who they were and where they came from. But it was a cathartic moment for themselves too.
“If you feel like you’re going to crash then accelerate more, you idiot”BTS
This song gives me shivers up my spine. Suga delivered the intros for The Most Beautiful Moment in Life pt 1 and pt. 2. His voice is rough, the kind that grabs people by the collar of their shirt and tells them to listen. When he raps, it feels like a brother or an old friend turning memories into teachable moments without coming off as authoritative or oppressive. I hear Suga and I think “This guy has seen fire and made it out the other side.” And it makes me want to run right with him. That’s the magic that BTS has. “Nevermind” though? It’s the burn that comes after running for a long time but you won’t stop until you’ve reached your goal. When Suga starts the song with a cough, it sounds like a cough from an exhausted man.
I listen to this song when I’m nervous for a test and I act like it’s all I’m worth but really if I do my best, that should be enough. It’s nothing to give my life over to. I listen to this song while I’m walking down the street with only five dollars in my bank account and I need something to remind me that sometimes it’s the struggle that gives you character. I listen to this song when I think about my childhood, how I made myself fit the expectations and desires of others in order to stay on their good side because I thought that was my job.
“Like I always said hundreds of time every day, “Never mind me”
I can have a taste of failure and frustration and bow my head
We are still young and immature, don’t even worry about it
Moss surely grows on a stone that doesn’t roll
If you can’t return, go straight through your mistakes and forget them all
I think of “Nevermind” and the short, long years I have before me, and remember that the most important part isn’t about how fast you move, it’s about not remaining stagnant, not going backward. You don’t even have to have a dream; so long as you’re trying your best at whatever you’re doing. Even if you fail, as Suga would say, “never mind me,” because that’s not the end. We all need those kinds of reminders.
I’ve written so many poems influenced by this, for this, or while listening to this song. As I wrote in one of them:
….my soul’s been chirping to the world to remind it that i’m still here/sometimes my frequencies fade off crackle like a faulty radio or seem to disappear but/“i go towards my future/that blue beach and/believe in my hertz”
(The lines in quotations are lyrics from “Whalien 52”)
When I hear the ad-libs from the vocals in the background, I can understand. I feel the members when they talk about wanting to be heard and share their songs with everyone. How can someone listen to this song and not feel something in their hearts call out in response?
Aren’t we all looking for someone to respect us, understand us, relate to us, care about us? Don’t we all, deep down, crave some kind of unity, a place or people that can make us feel like we’re needed and appreciated? Even more than that though, don’t we all want to exist, to be happy, to be a light not just for others, but for ourselves? Aren’t we all in some way trying to find that reason?
After trials and tribulations, they have finally been heard. In my almost two years with them, they’ve taught me so much about self-love and determination. I’m thankful because now, I can be heard too.