How BTS could prioritize their solo career in the next chapter

Seaten for a feast in the style of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, the seven members of BTS celebrated their nine year anniversary as a band. The visual reference was apt. During a video of the dinner in mid-June, the biggest musical act in the world dropped an industry-shaking bomb: They started a new chapter and prioritized their solo careers.

“We have to accept that we have changed,” said rapper and group leader RM. “The problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is that they do not give you time to mature.” Suga made it clear in the hour-long “dinner party” video posted on their YouTube channel, BANGTANTV, that the group is not “disbanding”, and Jung Kook clarified in a follow-up video that this is not a “break”.

Still, the news got its own life.

BTS is, after all, the greatest musical act in the world. Over the course of nearly 10 years together, the band has broken almost every hit list and YouTube record, been the fundamental act of its parent company HYBE and driven K-pop into the global consciousness. Recently, they picked up six Billboard No. 1 hits in just over a year and performed to sold-out stadium audiences around the world. On June 10, they released an anthology album, Proof, who effectively tie an arc on their musical output so far. But what happens next is more of a question mark. “The bottom line is that BTS is a monster on the charts, and they are clearly not only the dominant K-pop act, but really the dominant music act over the last few years,” says Alexei Barrionuevo, international editor at Billboard. “Their absence will be huge, not only for K-pop, but also for HYBE, [because] they have built their business around BTS. ”

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What does this new chapter mean?

The first is first: it is not, as Jung Kook clarified in a later video, a break. RM, Suga, J-Hope, Jung Kook, Jimin, V and Jin will be working on solo projects and as they explained in their first video, they are looking forward to some more independence. But they have no plans to stop working as a group. “BTS is now starting a new chapter with new solo projects as well as group projects,” HYBE shared in an official statement explaining the transition. “The members will use this time to achieve personal growth through various new activities, and we expect that it will further strengthen the foundation for the group’s long-term team as a team. BIGHIT MUSIC will actively support the artists. ”

Will BTS reunite?

Since they do not dissolve, they are still together. However, their future musical production as a group is uncertain, and it is unclear when they can return to live performance as a group.

For Barrionuevo, the signs of this change of direction have been clear for some time. In addition to a slowdown in production over the past few years and their clear interest in moving past the “fishbowl” group life situation they have been in, he points to Korea’s required military service as the ultimate warning sign of impending change. “The only thing that threatened that everyone understood – and it was analyzed and discussed – was the military service requirement … Everyone thought they might be the exception to finally break the rules in Korea,” he says. (A change in the 2020 laws allowed them to defer to the age of 30, but other proposed changes have not materialized.) “They looked at a situation where they would have to lose a BTS member every year for three consecutive years. for military service. ” That remains true – beginning with the oldest member Jin, 29 – and especially with this new direction, most likely inevitable.

What does this mean for the band’s earnings?

BTS is going nowhere and they will still make money on their existing work. However, the company behind them – HYBE – got a hit with the announcement. Stock prices fell nearly 30% on the day the news was announced, bringing them down about $ 1.7 billion in market value, according to Bloomberg, and about 60% down for the year.

HYBE manages a portfolio of artists – including the upcoming group TOMORROW X TOGETHER – and operates the technology platform Weverse, also with minority stakes in other agencies as well as projects in Korean language programs and games. In a major music deal in 2021, they also bought Ithaca Holdings, a US-based music company that manages global stars, including Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato.

What about their TV show, Run BTS?

In Jung Kook’s VLive, he noted that BTS will continue to be active as a team, including shooting Run BTS. So at least that part of their group’s content is going nowhere.

Their other projects also seem to continue with undiminished vigor. On June 21, an animated music video was released for their new song “Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment).” The video represents their characters from the mobile game “BTS Island: In the SEOM.”

What will their solo career look like?

The members of BTS have always pursued side projects, even in their busiest times as a group. Suga has released several mixtapes under the name Agust D, and was on Halsey’s last album with his own interlude as well as in a popular collaboration with singer-songwriter MAX; he also has over 100 producing credits. RM has performed as a rapper on independent tracks and released his own solo mixtape, mono., in 2018. J-Hope also released a mixtape in 2018. V’s solo music, which leans balladically, has earned hundreds of millions of streams. Jimin, Jung Kook and Jin have also tried solo releases (though in the dinner party video, Jimin was eager to notice that he does not see himself as a solo artist, but as a BTS member).

The artists are also known to have other passions, including photography, acting, dancing, fashion and film, so it looks like we will start to see more of their individual interests and hobbies play a bigger role in their lives, whether they are personal or professional; Jin joked in the video that he had spent much of the last few weeks playing video games, while Suga has kept a schedule of English, Pilates and dance lessons.

Only with new solo work will be J-Hope, whose solo album is underway and which is scheduled to perform at the Chicago Lollapalooza music festival in late July.

What do fans of BTS expect?

For fans, the new chapter can be a bittersweet change; the comments to the youtube video are full of emotion, not to mention the outpouring of surprise and support on other social media platforms. But it will also serve as an opportunity for them to get to know the artists as individuals. “For us fans, it means we have several artistic endeavors to both support and discover from each of them as well as their projects as a group,” says a fan with a BTS-dedicated ARMY account on Twitter who, like many others, fans, prefer not to be mentioned in the media. (Many ARMYs are reluctant – if not downright cautious – to publicly weigh in on the future of BTS and prefer to let members speak for themselves.) “They want to explore their individuality; how could they do that if we imposed on them our desires and expectations? ” they say. “Since their inception, they have been writing songs like ‘NO’ to encourage us to follow our own path and dreams instead of living the expectations of others. Imposing this on them now would be [hypocritical] of us, do not you think? ”

Others look forward to seeing them enter new territory. “I would love to see them surprise us with more music in different genres that more define their individuality. I secretly hope to see them in K-dramas,” says Marie Oliveria, a 43-year-old fan from Lisbon, Portugal. “I also support that they just have normal life experiences. When they start focusing on being a group again, there is no doubt in my mind that they will take all the unique individual experiences and do what they are best at: making their diversity work at the highest level. “

But why is BTS following this new direction?

During the dinner party video, RM reflected on recent years. “To me it was as if the group BTS was within my reach until ‘ON’ and ‘Dynamite’, but after ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission to Dance’ I did not know what kind of group we were anymore.” (The latter two were the group’s latest English-language megahits.) He said it had become difficult to know what kind of story to tell in his music. “When I get up in the morning and have makeup done, there is no time for growth. And it’s not just about music and work. I have changed as a human being over the last 10 years, so I needed time to think and have some alone time. ” He continued, “Somehow it has become my job to be a rapper … but I kept feeling like I was trapped in myself.”

“I think now, finally, that we have come to think about what kind of artists we each want to be remembered as for our fans,” Jimin said. BTS has spent nine years developing an intense relationship with their ARMY; their recent releases have all been grateful for the support they have received and created music that strengthened that bond. Now is the time to turn that gaze inward for once.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.

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