Almost as if it were a gift from BTS themselves on my birthday, Love Yourself: Tear was released on 18 May 2018. While I was not a big fan of the previous Love Yourself albums, Love Yourself: Tear has managed to steal the spot as my favourite BTS album yet. While I certainly have some issues with a few tracks, such as the highly generic EDM track ‘So What’, I find the overall album to be very enjoyable. Few albums, even those by BTS, can hold my interest long enough for me to not skip over tracks.
While it makes more sense to start from the Intro: Singularity, which is a brilliant track with V (Taehyung) as the solo vocals, I am choosing to look at the tracks out of order. I also considered starting with my favourite track, the 4th one, called 134340, which is, fun fact, the asteroid number for Pluto. However, that is going to take me a longer time to get through.
Instead, I decided to start in the middle of the road with track 5, Paradise. I will go through the following:
- Lyrics (with video): romanised and in English
- Significance and Theme
- Genre, Chords and Interesting Theoretical Points
2. Significance and Theme
This section is going to show how much of a BTS ARMY I am because I knew, from the moment I read the lyrics, where the inspiration for Paradise came from – Suga’s (Min Yoongi) new year message to fans. The full message is as follows:
“Yes, 2018. ARMYs, it’s the year of the dog. To everyone born in the year of the of the dog, I hope you’ll become even more successful. Also, even though there were many exciting things in 2017, there will be even more fun things happening in 2018. I think it’ll be a year where greater things will happen. Not for us, but for all of you. I hope that you’ll get to do all you set out to. That you’ll achieve all your dreams…it’s alright if you don’t have a dream. It’s possible to not have one. Just be happy. Start the new year happily, be happy throughout the year, and until the end of year – I hope it’ll be a 2018 like that. Bye.”
Now, let’s turn to look at some of the lyrics – particularly, that of the chorus and Suga’s rap:
It’s alright to stop
Amu iyudo moreuneun chae dallil pillyo eopseo
There’s no need to run without even knowing the reason
Kkumi eopseodo gwaenchana
It’s alright to not have a dream
Jamsi haengbogeul neukkil ne sungandeuri itdamyeon
If you have moments where you feel happiness for a while
It’s alright to stop
Ijen mokjeokdo moreuneun chai dalliji ana
Now we don’t run without even knowing the destination
Kkumi eopseodo gwaechana
It’s alright not to have a dream
Nega naebaenneun modeun hoheubeun imi nagwone
All the breaths you take is already in paradise
I don’t have a dream
Kkumeul kkuneun ge ttaeron museomne
To have a dream is sometimes scary
Geunyang ireoke saraganeun ge
To just live like this
Saranamneun ge ige nargen jageun kkuminde
To survive like this is a small dream to me
Kkumeul kkuneun ge kkumeul jwineun ge
To have a dream, to grasp a dream
Sumeul swineun ge ttaeron beogeomne
To breathe, is sometimes too much to handle
Nugun ireoke nugun jeoreoke sandamyeonseo
Saying this person’s living like this, that person’s living like that
Sesangeun naege yogeul peobunne
The world’s swearing at me
It might seem, at face value, like a weird thing to be preaching. Shouldn’t artists be encouraging their fans to have dreams and pursue them? However, if you consider how the society today is, how social pressure is ever more amplified by social media, it is not at all a bad message. In fact, BTS is touching on an issue that really isn’t being noticed by enough people. The message here isn’t to not have a dream, but to not be pressured into coming up with a grandeur dream just for the sake of having one. Also, that sometimes, even when you’re pursuing your dream, it’s okay to take a break and just enjoy life as it is.
This is a message I appreciate deeply. For a long time, I was deep in depression and it was partially caused by the pressure on me to perform and to achieve. I couldn’t go a second relaxing without thinking I was wasting my life. And as a result, for years, I struggled with the concept of ‘just being happy’. BTS’s message, and Suga’s New Year message, is particularly powerful in Asian society, where academic pressure is built even before school begins at the age of 7. We are told we need to decide what we want to do in the future. We are told to think about University before Secondary School even begins. We are forced to have a ‘dream’ and often forget what it’s like to just enjoy life for the gift that it is.
As BTS puts it, ‘Stop running for nothing, my friend/Da kkuneun kkum ttawin eopseodo dwae (You don’t need a dream like the one everyone else dreams)‘.
Genre, Chords, and Interesting Theoretical Points
It’s both a shame and a blessing that Paradise, like a lot of other BTS songs, are, on the surface, a generic pop-R&B. A shame, because music snobs often turn their noses up at such genres. While there’s no issue with being a music snob, it prevents the listener from trying to read into the deeper meaning of the lyrics and the message being sent. A unique and important message is being neglected and brushed under the carpet as ‘generic pop trash’. A blessing, because BTS is gaining ever more popularity, which increases the chances of more fans realising that they aren’t just your typical boy band. Love Yourself: Tear, is very much a love letter to ARMYs (BTS fans). Many tracks hide in their Korean and English lyrics inspirational and motivational messages to ARMYs worldwide. One reason BTS ARMYs are so loyal is precisely that – we feel like our BTS idols do genuinely care about us.
Moving on to the more technical aspects: chord progressions. There are 7 basic chords that I can hear in this song: Am, F, E7, Dm7, G, F Am7. Generic pop song or not, when it comes to the chords, there is this really interesting pattern where the non-chorus/pre-chorus sections often end with minor keys. This works extremely well, given the nature of choruses in pop songs – catchy and easy to remember. On the other hand, especially when it comes to the first verse (started by my bias, Jungkook), individual verses oscillate between minor and major keys often, ending off often with the minor key. It allows the vocalist to show-off their vocal talent. I especially love how BTS has introduced more harmonies within their songs. Jimin follows Jungkook’s 1st verse, allowing for an almost octave-like transition between the two. Jimin’s verse also ends with Jungkook harmonising, creating this amazing octave-harmony.
Another interesting technical point to note is the synth and bass that play in the back. It is extremely uneven, and I would describe it as being quite syncopated. For those unfamiliar with musical terms:
Syncopation is a variety of rhythms arranged in an unexpected manner that makes the entire piece seem off-beat. Generally, it refers to the the interruption of a regular flow of rhythm. It is often found in dance music. For example, at a particular point, there is a hit-hit-off kind of pattern when it comes to hitting regular beats, creating a triad progression.
Unfortunately (to me at least), the rap and vocal interaction in Paradise is rather simplistic, though effective. Since it is vocal- and melody-driven, Paradise features the rap line (RM, Suga and J-Hope) as the staccato beats that uplifts the rest of the piece and takes a break from the major-minor legato flows. Of course, the vocal line does attempt staccatos as well (Jimin in the 2nd verse), but not to an extent where it takes away from the entire melodic flow as a whole.
I wouldn’t say Paradise is anywhere near being the best track, or even top 3 for me, but it certainly is interesting, especially when it comes to the inspiration for the track itself.