Written by Tamar Herman
Design by Evi-O Studios
Production by Viz Media
Whether you listen to K-pop or not, you’ve likely heard of BTS. The K-pop group continues to have a massive following that few international artists have been able to achieve. Outsiders to their music might find BTS perplexing, curious as to why they’re so appealing. BTS: Blood, Sweat & Tears answers this question and more, exploring the group’s history, the nuances of their music, and their dedicated fans.
While this book’s subtitle Blood, Sweat & Tears is a reference to BTS’s song of the same name, it also embodies the group as a whole. As such, the book is divided into each of these components: “Blood”, “Sweat”, and “Tears”. It’s a novel approach that allows each facet of BTS to get its deserved attention, leaving no stone unturned.
“Blood” centers on the history of BTS and their rise to prominence. The section covers the initial conception of the band and their origins as a hip-hop group. The book explains BTS’s initial reception in the K-pop industry and what they did to carve their own identity during each of the group’s eras. If you’re not familiar with BTS’s inception, this ends up being a very informative read and gives you a positive impression of the group as a whole.
“Sweat” is the most in-depth portion of this book, covering BTS’s entire discography so far and explaining the background and subtext in each of their songs. The song explanations are divided up by album, which conveys the shifting emotions that BTS wants their fans (ARMY) to feel through each of their releases. This section also touches upon the BTS transmedia story known as the BU, a lot of which is showcased in their music videos. The book explains the different interpretations of these stories, and the overarching themes that they share. BTS’s messages extend beyond just this story too, as they cover many heavy issues including loss, mental illness, and identity. The members of BTS have explained that their music is an extension of their own struggles, and they want it to shine through to their ARMY. BTS is very transparent about their emotions, and that has made their music resonate even beyond language barriers.
The final section “Tears” shifts the attention to BTS’s ARMY and their larger impact in the music industry. ARMY is a massive community, and even within its ranks, there are a plethora of subgroups dedicated to different aspects of BTS. Social media has also played a vital role in unifying ARMY and introducing BTS to new audiences. Translations of events and songs quickly find their way online for the masses to enjoy, and fans are able to easily stay in the loop with news because of the ease of communication. Despite BTS rarely getting traditional opportunities for attention like radio plays, the group’s social media presence has allowed them to reach unimaginable heights internationally. BTS is in a league of its own, and their success continues to rise.
BTS: Blood, Sweat & Tears is an insightful exploration of the K-pop group that has taken the world by storm. The book is a solid introduction to BTS’s impact and their music, and will leave readers with a greater admiration for their work. You might even find yourself listening to BTS for hours on end afterwards like this reviewer!