Storytelling has become a huge expressionism movement for the K-pop scene as of late, each new music video released has some connection to a deeper more meaningful story. At the forefront of this movement is BTS and their continuous attempts to mind boggle their fans – But did you know that a lot of their music videos and lyrics are based on real novels, folklore, poems and books that the members have read and wanted to share with their fans?
What’s interesting about this concept of including literature within their own works is that fans are now more likely to start reading the piece of literature that is linked with the release of a new music video, song or photoshoot and has created a whole new community of fans who have come together to form book clubs or reading/discussion streams – Where the digital world is taking over, it’s great to see a mix of generations taking interest in literature once again.
To start you off in the right direction, why not check out some of these books and compare them to the music videos and lyrics of BTS.
BOOK: “Kafka On The Shore” by Haruki Murakami
Lyrics within the song Butterfly from the group’s album The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Part 2 reflects heavily on one of the plotlines within Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka On The Shore” which portrays a young boy who runs away from his band ending and tried to escape the fate that is before him. During the song, RM references the book directly which helps fans to connect the two together with the lyrics “I don’t know if this is reality or a dream, my Kafka on the shore, don’t go to those woods over there.”
SONG: “Blood, Sweat & Tears”
BOOK: “Demian” by Hermann Hesse
Released through individual trailers for their second full studio album Wings, Hermann Hesse’s “Demian” was heavily hinted at and even quoted throughout each trailer. Each members solo video connected with select quotes from the book which came together as one big storytelling music video when Blood, Sweat & Tears was released. Telling the story of growth from innocent youth to knowing adulthood, BTS created an artistic rendition whilst telling their own story in the process.
SONG: Spring Day
BOOK: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Even though there was a huge hint that Ursula K.Le Guin’s book was linked directly to the music video thanks to the huge neon sign stating “Omelas”, the video does exceptionally well at pointing out key political and storytelling moments throughout the book and bringing them to life. One other thing to note is that they mixed the philosophical fictional book with a deeper connection with that of the Korean Sewol ferry tragedy – A subtle nod to those who lost their lives, those who suffer even now and the injustice about what happened.
SONG: “Pied Piper”
BOOK: “The Pied Piper Of Hamlin” from German Folklore
The story of Pied Piper has gone around the world in many different forms, from TV shows, movies, music and literature the theme behind the story is simple – Followers who would do anything for the person they idolize. Although the song was created for the ARMY (BTS fans) there are moments in the lyrics of the song where the members are literally calling their fans the rats of the story – followers without any true means, and that the members are the pied pipers – where no matter what they do or say, they will always be the centre of your attention. It expresses obsession and domination.
BOOK: “IQ84” by Haruki Murakami
Murakami has a very strong impact on BTS and their storytelling, RM has mentioned many times that Murakami is a special author for him and one that he tends to relate to more. The song mentions a part of the book directly in their lyrics by including the statement “Wherever there’s hope, there’s trial”. There is a repetitiveness to the song which is also consistent with the books storytelling, along with the idea that the song is coming from a present viewpoint as well as hinting at the idea they are talking about a dystopian universe just out of reach.
SONG: “Magic Shop”
BOOK: “Into The Magic Shop” by James R. Doty
The connection from music video to book is slightly different in this case, whereas previous connections are through fictional stories, this time it’s to an autobiography with the subtitle “A Neurosurgeon’s Quest To Discover The Mysteries Of The Brain And The Secrets Of The Hearts”. Starting with our brains and heart the author explains that we need to find or create our own magic shop where we can make fundamental changes to our lives. This is heavily implied within BTS’s lyrics “On days you hate being yourself, on days you want to disappear forever, let’s make a door in your mind, when we go through that door, then this place will wait for you, it’s ok to trust me, this is a magic shop that will console you.” – Proving once again the deep connection between BTS and their ARMY fans.
SONG: “I Need You” and “Save Me”
BOOK: “The Owl Service” by Alan Garner
A story of entrapment in a mystical realm where the characters are trapped playing the main roles in a repeated story that goes on for generations – The connection with BTS is more through their music video storytelling for I Need You. Just like the book the BTS members are in a never-ending cycle visually, lyrically they hint at their tragedy with the concept of love, but also hint about the book itself “it goes round and round, why do I keep coming back”. The theme also passes onto their release of Save Me and the webtoon of the same name.
BOOK: “Anpanman” by Takashi Yansae
Technically not a book but more so a Manga and childhood cartoon TV series. Relating directly to the character in the show the lyrics portray the members wanting to become an unsung hero but keeping their childlike playful youth. Using bright colours and comical dance moves, you really get the feeling the members are playing the part of a cartoon character. The connection of youth plays a key part in the progression of BTS’s themes throughout their albums, but also keeps true to that of the TV show.
SONG: “Persona – Ego – Shadow”
BOOK: “Jung’s Map Of The Soul: An Introduction” by Dr.Murray Stein
For the groups latest comeback theme Map Of The Soul has been a key concept for the lyrics and titles of their songs. Featured in the book is a specific map that shows the structure of a persons psyche, it is listed as Persona and Animus – Anima as the outer rings, Ego and Shadow are the inner rings and Self being the centre, there is an obvious connection with the growth of the groups songs to the map itself – Not to mention the title of the songs or the explanation of Persona, Ego and Shadow within the lyrics.
BOOK: “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
When the main character of the book falls in love with a rose but is unsure of how to show his love for her, it seems Jimin’s heart related to what the story was expressing and thus the creation of Serendipity was created. The music video encompasses some key scenes from the story (the stargazing, the use of colours and the whimsical feeling to the whole video) but it also has a slightly more mature outlook to the story, but who can deny that Jimin certainly hit the mark both visually and lyrically.