Author: Carol Correa Torres
Nowadays, we live in such a fast-changing and busy world that we are caught up in a meaningless routinary life; therefore, as people, we may go through circumstances where we feel lonely, even perhaps without being fully understood. Besides, at the same time, as we begin the journey into adulthood, we see how changeable people, or even ourselves, can be. This is part of what we call “life”. Knowing that we are in a universe where we face different emotions and changes leads us to think that we are a part of this complex world, that we exist, and that it is impossible to halt the course of what we are living. We are a collection of experiences that can vary based on each one’s perspectives. Understanding these complex moments in the life of any human being, BTS has composed numerous songs describing these themes and, although it is impossible to discuss all of them in a single blog, this time we will focus on three of them: Whalien 52 (“The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Part. 2”), People (“D-2” by Agust D), and Zero O’clock (“Map of the Soul: 7”). Following the translations provided by @doolsetbangtan and monlyrics, the message conveyed by these songs about the meaning of life and the complexity of the human being will be explained.
Released in 2015 as part of the album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2”, this song reflects the reality of many people: loneliness, a feeling that we may have experienced at some point in our lives. Even when we speak, shout, or express ourselves in any way, it is difficult to find someone who can truly understand what we are saying with the same frequency. That is why BTS uses the story of the 52 Hz (hertz) whale, which has been considered the loneliest creature in the world, as a metaphor. A whale that sings at 52 Hz is incredibly unique and amazing, because common whales sing in a frequency range of 15 to 25 Hz, or even blue whales, which have a broader range, only reach up to 40 Hz. Whales usually emit these sounds to find a mate or to communicate with their pod, leading scientists to suggest that this very low frequency might be due to “unrequited love”. Thus, the whale is deeply lonely, emitting such sounds without getting any response.
This sad story has been a source of inspiration for numerous documentaries and books, among others, just as BTS did with this song (see Whalien 52). Knowing that three of the seven members (SUGA, RM, and J-Hope) participated in the composition of this musical piece gives us an insight into the close connection they felt with the 52 Hz whale’s story.
The first verse, sung by SUGA, begins with a subjective comparison of “the immense sea” to the vastness of the world, in which we are surrounded by countless people, but despite that, we are not heard or understood, no matter how hard we shout. For this reason, the “lonely whale” prefers to stop singing, which means SUGA prefers to remain silent since speaking would be in vain if no one listens. Also, in one of the following verses, it is implied that feeling this way is because he became a celebrity, so SUGA affirms that it is okay even if no one stays by his side and that every malicious word becomes his wall against the world, because he no longer cares about what others say, even if many believe his lonely life is only a pretend act. Then, J-Hope tells us that the world cannot know how internally sad a person can be, but even so, that “lonely child,” our hidden self, possesses an incomparable value just waiting to be shown to the world. Therefore, the indicated purpose is that, even though this immense sea has no end, he will continue trying to demonstrate everything he possesses because it is known that at some point in his life, the praise he has longed for will come. Therefore, he will continue swimming in this sea (world). In the end, it is all about keeping on trying, even if it seems that we are not being heard or understood at this moment. We must think about the future and where we are heading as individuals, and even if we have different frequencies (thoughts, desires, dreams, etc.), they will be heard and understood by others in the future. It is also worth adding that, from the verses composed by RM, there is a phrase well-known to ARMY: all kinds of whales speak different languages. This phrase suggests that he feels so different from other people that it is not easy for him to be understood, a thought that many of us may share; however, we also know that it is not easy to change this reality because every person is different, making it practically impossible for us to completely understand each other. Additionally, RM expresses the deep loneliness in his heart, that even if he cries, no one will know that he does it because he is a “whalien” (whale + alien), a lonely and different person.
After expressing these deeply intimate feelings about how BTS faced the loneliness they felt in those years, the chorus suggests that, despite being a “lonely whale” or a “deserted island,” we can still shine outwardly, so we must not give up and keep trying to raise our voices because someone will eventually listen to us, and the answer we have been longing for will arrive. In summary, this song exemplifies the loneliness that BTS went through when they were not yet famous, but they continued until their voices were heard, and being understood with the same frequency by the people who are part of their lives, ARMY. It is worth noting that, as BTS are no longer singing alone, but together with ARMY, it is possible that the 52 Hz whale is not all alone, as “the whale can probably be understood or recognized by other blue whales”, suggests Christopher Clark, director of the Bioacoustics Research Program.
Released in 2020 as part of the album titled “D-2”, composed by Agust D or SUGA from BTS, this song tells us about the different life experiences of each person and our nature as human beings. When looking at the title, it leads us to think about the wordplay used by RM in the song “Trivia: Love” among the words 사람 (Saram) meaning ‘person’, 사랑 (Sarang) meaning ‘love’, and 살아 (Sarah) meaning ‘to live’, which are equally used throughout this song. Therefore, Agust D, through his verses, tells us the questions we ask ourselves about life: What is life? How are we perceived by others? Are we good or bad? Why is life like a rollercoaster with ups and downs? etc.; such questions are explored as a way of self-reflection about what we are as living beings (see Suga (슈가) – People (사람)).
His verses begin with the statement that there are people who are only in our lives for a moment, while others remain engraved in our hearts, in other words, those we love. Every person we meet has a purpose in our lives. Some remain for a short time, perhaps providing us with valuable lessons, while others stay with us for a lifetime. Then, SUGA asks himself, “What kind of person am I? Am I a good person? Or a bad person?”. These are questions that each of us have surely asked ourselves; however, as he mentions in the following verses, the fact of classifying someone as good or bad can vary depending on the judgments of each person or society. Additionally, the following verses talk about our reality as human beings who live, love, and die, and even with the passing years, we can be forgotten; an undeniable truth that no one can escape from. It is part of what we are: a “being”.
In other words, that is how life is, and nothing lasts forever; all people change. That is why SUGA exclaims, Why so serious? If nothing lasts forever, why do we have to burden ourselves so much? Besides, it is okay if we sometimes get hurt or cry, what about it? It is part of life. These verses are expressed as a form of comfort to encourage us to accept that life is ever-changing, and that we may experience different emotions throughout it. The important thing is that we live the way we want and keep on this path.
In the next stanza, he compares the course of life to flowing water, which goes through many states, just like us, people, who may have a special or simple life, or sometimes a life that does not go as planned but is filled with ups and downs, like an infinite circle that can make us question how tiring it all can be, but that is the reality.
Next, SUGA sings one of the most intriguing lines for many: “Who said humans are the animals of wisdom? To my eyes, it’s obvious that they are the animals of regret”. These lines are entirely true about how human beings are perceived; that is, we are intelligent beings compared to others, but what stands out about us is not that, but the fact that we live feeling regret for something we do not have, desiring what others have, but when we have it, we no longer want it. That is how people are, so, adding to this line of the verse, we may have heard the phrase “It’s best to live without regrets, there is only one life, and we should appreciate what we have”. Because, as SUGA says, nothing lasts forever.
Furthermore, in one of his last stanzas, he mentions that what is common for us might be something special for him, and vice versa, as he mentioned in the documentary “Break the Silence” (2020): “You lose as much as you gain”. In other words, as an idol, he lost what is common for us, a normal life in which he can go out and enjoy like any young person of his age; that is what he considers special. He finishes his song with the question: If you live like that, what about it? Indeed yes, what does it matter if we live in this or that way? The essential thing is to live it on our terms and accept that life is filled with moments of joy and sadness, but everything passes and changes, just like we do.
00:00 (Zero O’clock)
The song was released in 2020 as part of the album titled “Map of the Soul: 7”, in which the leader of BTS (RM), participated in the composition of this beautiful piece of music. Zero O’clock refers to the time or moment when we can start everything again, which means that when the clock’s hands point to 00:00 hours, it is a new day, a new future with better opportunities because there will always be a tomorrow (see 00:00 – Zero O’Clock).
The initial verses tell us how drained one can feel due to the routinary life we live. There are days when we feel sad for no reason, we see the world moving on, and the people around us continue with their lives, but some of us may feel “stuck”, unable to move forward, experiencing feelings of annoyance towards the entire world, in addition to the obstacles we sometimes encounter everywhere. All these events make us wonder, Why do bad things happen to us when we’re doing our best?, or you might have even asked yourself, Why me? These are questions to which we have no answers, and even though many emotions weigh in our hearts, and our minds do not stop thinking about everything, the only thing we can do at the end of the day is to try to give ourselves a break, because at midnight, it will be a new day. A new opportunity to start over, even if, as Jin sings in the following verses, maybe nothing changes the next day, but at least this day, which probably was not the best for you, is coming to an end.
After that, one of the most significant verses written by RM, which I find incredibly remarkable, just like Jimin does, says: “When the minute and the second hands overlap (00:00), the world holds its breath for a little while” (Amazon Music, 2021). Everything stops for those brief seconds, during which we can leave everything behind and feel happy that, yes, it was indeed not easy to endure an exhausting day with lots of stress, among other things, or it might have even crossed our minds to give up, but we did not. We managed to make it through the day, and we have the opportunity to change things in this new day, to start from zero.
On the other hand, these overwhelming feelings are also experienced by our boys, as Jimin expresses in one of the verses, in which he shares that he had a tough day because he forgot the lyrics that are so familiar to him or lost the rhythm while singing. As it happens to all of us, when something starts to go wrong, everything gradually starts to become gray because nothing goes as we want it to. Nevertheless, they try to stay optimistic and convince themselves that everything passes, and life goes on, but they know that having that kind of positive mindset is not easy even for them, nor for any of us, as we tend to question if we did something wrong or if this or that was our fault. That is why the boys come to understand that, indeed, there is nothing to fix what has already been done, but there is always a tomorrow to make it right because this day is already over.
Also, before concluding the song, the boys pray for a happier tomorrow and a better day than the past one, in which they can feel a bit happier, just as most of us also want: “a tomorrow or a future in which we will be happier”. In brief, this beautiful song is a comfort for our souls, which can often be very exhausted by having such a strenuous daily routine. But at the end of the day, deep within our hearts, “we all wish for a more pleasant and peaceful tomorrow”, in the words of RM (2020).
These three songs show how the boys explore such complex concepts, as are life and human beings, pointing out the reality that each person lives and the feelings that each one develops during each experience. As human beings, we go through challenging moments that lead us to loneliness and/or grief, but we also experience moments of joy. Therefore, we must accept that life is like that, with its positive and negative situations, and it only matters that we live it at our own pace. It is a long journey filled with experiences, so let’s not be afraid and continue for a better tomorrow. Don’t give up! I also invite you to listen to more songs from this beautiful group that touch on a variety of current life topics. Are you up for learning more about their songs?
Reading pair: Anna Franco Ucar
Revised by: Marisol Montiel
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