It isn’t unusual to use the imagery of a black swan (Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake did it back in 1875) but the combination of synth hip-hop beats and string arrangements is definitely something in the baby stages of musical exploration. BTS’s contribution to this use of seemingly contrasting instrumentation is undeniably the most mainstream K-pop contribution to this sense of general disjointed feeling which has started to appear in particularly Western popular music, with the track gaining the number one spot on the iTunes chart in a record-breaking 88 countries, 28 of which being in Europe.
The heavy use of layering and processing on their voices arguably makes it almost impossible for one to distinguish one voice from another. It’s an interesting spin to unify and merge the members together in an entertainment industry that focuses so much on creating a distinct character for each group member. We are encouraged to see BTS as a unified body rather than a group in which each person plays a specific role. In this, the question lies in whether or not they will be able to level the playing field in different skill sets in the following record. Will RM be acknowledged as an equally good dancer as the frequently trophied Jungkook or J-Hope? Will Jimin be able to compete with RM in rapping? My belief is that this streamlining of members will be relatively limited, but in some ways, it is this ability to quickly alter and manipulate their image which has contributed to BTS’s success. The questioning of “what’s my thing” in the lyrics in itself appears to be addressing this idea.
For the time being, gone is the bubblegum pop of “Boy with Luv”. The clouds have darkened and the haunting string melodies have joined the crowd. From this track alone, the upcoming album appears to be more grown-up and a little more daring. But, with their shape-shifting skills, this might just be the small shower on an otherwise bright day.
Check out the art film for “Black Swan” below!