Big Bang may be dominating charts and music shows right now, but even though we're singing "Loser" in the shower and watching the surrealist "Bae Bae" over and over again, BTS undoubtedly gave us a music video that rose above all others to grab hold of the coveted MV of the Month for May! Let's talk a bit about the rated 19 "Original Version" and why we think BTS, with this one video, have grown from boys to men right before our very eyes.
BTS had a stellar 2014. We've written extensively on how BTS makes us rethink hip hop in a Korean context or how Dark&Wild Volume 1 built on their strong foundation. Needless to say, we're big fans of BTS. Just look at "War of Hormone."
They can even slay with a goofy girl-chasing release that literally has lyrics about bursting pimples. One of our favorites, "We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2" had a music video that was essentially a manual on boyhood (notice: gun motions, basketball jerseys, football shoulder pads, skateboards). Few can match BTS' manic, boyish energy, and we love them for that. But with Kpop, even what we love from our favorite groups can become stale. With a release schedule that find most idols releasing 2-3 new songs a year, the threat of boredom is certainly accelerated. BTS smashes boredom for breakfast.
"I Need U" isn't so much a departure from boyish romanticism. If you just watched the cut version, you'll see flashes of danger, but mostly more of the same joyous mayhem. We wouldn't be talking about the "I Need U" video if this was the only version. We'd just be talking about the song, which is amazing and tows the line between thrilling and dark, sullen and desperate.
But the "Original Version" of "I Need U" takes BTS' boyishness and adds an element of growing up that is just as significant for young men and women the world over. Trauma.
Much ado has been made about the violence throughout this music video, and there is that. Some of the violence and images aren't for the faint of heart. But if you're just looking at the violence, you're missing out. Violence in itself isn't interesting. The context here is everything.
If we were just given scenes of heartbreak or misery, we really wouldn't get the full spectrum of the human experience. A video of misery would probably leave us numb (and bored). The fact that we get scenes of joy and friendship makes the brutality and heartbreak that much more, well, heartbreaking. Life isn't (for the lucky of us) simply misery or even absolute joy.
That's the tension of life: It's messy, complicated, and, sometimes, bloody. Sometimes, there's just. So. Much. Blood.
Okay, this video can be a bit melodramatic. And most people's lives, we hope, don't involve stabbing a guy to death with a broken beer bottle (not judging, V). There are some interpretations of this video that involve the deaths of just about all of BTS by the end of the video. While we don't subscribe to that theory, it wouldn't be out of left field to make that conclusion, especially in a Kpop video.
But you can't deny that this video is heart-wrenching, and you can't deny that the things within the video - depression, violence, suicide, stupid decisions, are things that happen on a daily basis. By the time we get to V stabbing that abuser to death, Jimin (perhaps) drowning himself in his tub, Suga setting his room on fire, cut with scenes of sparklers and laughter and racing, the tension between the video's unabashed joy and unrelenting trauma hits a breaking point. And we, the audience, are the ones that are broken.
BTS has always had the talent and the killer releases. With "I Need U" (again: Original Version), they have created a heartbreaking examination of boyhood and trauma. Putting those two elements together, you get the MV of the Month for May.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.