ARMY FIELD NOTES VOL. 01: IT'S "BUTTER" ERA
Editor's Note: We're introducing a new series by BTS evangelists Liz Hew and Jana DeGuzman. Each volume is a curated-yet-comprehensive update on what BTS have been up to, whether it's an an ad release, studio session, V-live stream, magazine cover, online interview, award nomination, show appearance, mixtape teaser -- the list goes on, and our correspondents are on it.
Feature image credit: (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
I love butter. Not solely for its distinct and vibrantly happy hue of yellow — which I associate with pancakes on a summer’s day, and oddly enough, Rilakkuma — or even its familiar warm smell, which makes everything it’s cooked alongside taste heavenly. I love butter for its universality; the way I could grab a salty cup of melted butter and fried sweetcorn from street vendors, the way I could sizzle a slab of steak in the pan with lashings of butter, garlic cloves, and sprigs of rosemary, or the way I could measure out equal amounts of love and golden melted butter, baked into a loaf of banana bread just for my mother.
Butter is comfort and familiarity, butter is criminally slick, and in case you’ve missed it, ‘Butter’ is the newest track bestowed upon us from South Korean global superstars BTS.
In a year where society has started cautiously peering for life beyond a pandemic, ‘Butter’ has helped us envision serotonin-packed nights of carefree fun spent dancing with friends. Brought to us through the vocal chops and polished dance moves of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, the English-language track stylistically borrows from the pulsing bass riff of Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, laden with Daft Punk-esque snazzy synths that truly shine during their iconic colourful elevator dance break. It’s interesting to note that the Korean term for ‘butter’ (버터) is also used critically in the context of K-pop to describe artists that have adopted ‘too American’ of a sound, as opposed to the sonic profiles more recognised in Seoul’s music industry; an accusation that has followed BTS since their earliest days. So it is entirely fitting (and ironic) that their second English single — in true ‘butter’ fashion — has completely obliterated records previously held by ‘Dynamite’, their first international hit of this magnitude.
A quick search for the track’s achievements so far yields staggering results: according to YouTube’s live counter, ‘Butter’ garnered 112.9 million views and 8.69 million likes in its first day — becoming the biggest 24-hour music video debut of all time, surpassing “Dynamite,” which received an impressive 101.1 million views. Seven days into its release, the YouTube views for ‘Butter’ soared to a healthy 235 million plays and counting. Similarly, Spotify announced a total of 20.9 million global plays within the song’s first day, yielding the largest number of single-day streams in its history. As of June 1, Billboard has confirmed that ‘Butter’ has achieved the #1 spot in both Hot 100 and Global 200 charts — there’s a sense that the track isn’t going anywhere for a long time.
It’s easy to see why. The build-up to ‘Butter’’s release had been somewhat of a panic-inducing experience for global ARMYs; a rollout of daily glimpses into BTS’s Rolling Stone cover shoots premiered on YouTube, much to the delight of internet fans. We were shown Jungkook’s silvery long hair (a prelude to his ‘Butter’ hair length look), J-Hope’s ashy blonde bangs, and the teasings of Suga’s black baby-mullet. Dressed immaculately in the company of Fendi’s graphic trench coat and print silk shirts, a smart wool Dior suit, and Louis Vuitton’s embroidered pyjama shirt, their overall looks were soft, muted, smart, yet playful — a tasteful blend of their marked direction towards a more mature image, while also paying homage to their expressive individual identities. It was essentially a long-deserved celebration for the first-ever Korean (and all-Asian) act to appear on the cover of the illustrious magazine.
In the latter half of May, fans were treated to promotional images of BTS’s collaboration with McDonald’s, another huge leap towards solidifying the group’s status as hot stakeholders in the global market, following the news of their Louis Vuitton house ambassadorship in April. McDonald’s packaging transformed into the signature ARMY purple, the sweet chilli and cajun sauces were announced, and fans took to Twitter and Tiktok in all their meme-glory in anticipation of the event. McDonald’s also released seven very squeal-worthy closeups of the Bangtan boys enjoying elements of their special meals on the gram: with a wink and an eyebrow raise, Jungkook and RM suggestively take a bite into their chicken nuggets; V bites the straw of his drink; J-Hope and Suga both raise a crispy fry to their wide smiles, eyes closed in hungry bliss. Since May 26, the highly coveted BTS meal has been available in several countries, and if their limited edition WeVerse merch is anything to go by, expect to see a lot more BTS meal packaging on reseller sites.
The stunning ‘Butter’ teasers, dropped surreptitiously like breadcrumbs on social media platforms leading up to the single’s release, acted as the next round of ammunition deployed by the bulletproof boy scouts. ARMYs (myself included) reacted chaotically to Jimin’s chalked unicorn strands of pastel pink, purple, and baby blue, RM’s new pink do (spawning a legion of “All men do is lie” memes after his claim that he’d never do it again after 'Idol'), Jungkook’s low purple ponytail (earning simultaneous comparisons to Michael Jackson and Attack on Titan’s Eren Yaeger), and J-Hope’s vibrantly dyed and butter-inspired hair. Fans were quick to provide theories on BTS’s video teasers -- a possible crime scene, a game of Cluedo gone wrong, the aftermath of a wild party -- as more material was released to rising hysteria. A glimpse of a frilly neckline, mesh tops, and leather vests here; a peek of ruffles and embellished pearls there.
On the night of ‘Butter’’s release, I couldn’t sleep. It felt too warm, and my tight-knit ARMY group chat with my close friends was abuzz with the excitement of BTS’s latest comeback. When the music video dropped, it felt like a violent chain reaction had rippled throughout the realms of the Internet. Fans were led through sharp monochrome scenes from a mug shot lineup, solo dances in the dark, Jimin’s press conference, Suga’s standout gymnasium rap, an intimate elevator moment with V, a manifestation of retro-Hollywood Jin, and Jungkook’s faux eyebrow piercing. Ask any fan what their favourite moment is, and you might hear a resounding echo of the adorable "ARMY" formation, spearheaded by RM, or even J-Hope teaching us the art of tasting butter as elegantly as possible (the shoot was tough to film, according to their Vlive immediately after).
Their sensual ‘Butter’ debut at the BBMAs mere days after its release was the cherry on top of a ceremony that oversaw the group’s wins for Top Duo/Group, Top Social Artist, Top Selling Song (Dynamite), and Top Song Sales Artist. And the ‘Butter’ train has shown no sign of slowing down; bulldozing forwards with shiny performances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Good Morning America, brief appearances on the HBO Max Friends Reunion and the BBC’s One Show, and a pared-down special performance just for ARMYs. Between the numerous interviews, it can be hard to keep up with the rate of new content releases, and especially when members seem to casually dip in and out of different hair styles and colours — take the transition from V’s fluffy orange perm for the ‘Butter’ global press conference, to his dark auburn ponytail for GMA, or Suga’s half-head of silver highlights for TLS.
There are days where I feel especially clowned for being a part of the Bangtan fandom. Most recently, the surprise announcement of an imminent “Hotter” remix for ‘Butter’ sent ARMYs into a tailspin. We all pondered and speculated how much ‘hotter’ BTS could get — would it mean a more suggestive music video or racier dance moves? A moody and slowed-down RnB version? A continuance of the dark ‘Butter’ teaser videos to be received by potentially the most feral fandom in existence? It was none of these. The resulting “Hotter” remix dropped on May 28; an opportunity for BTS to troll the fandom with a playful, electronic dance rendition of the track. Members throw shapes and goof around in the background; we see Jimin fall off his chair in typical fashion, Jungkook hold some basic b-boy freezes and a return of Suga’s signature ‘smol’ run dance. The whole video is chaotic, classic Bangtan, and most importantly, a bucket of fun — the breakdown of all their shenanigans is expertly summarised in this fan edit. Maybe it wasn’t the remix that ARMYs had expected, but it’s certainly the remix that we needed; a clubbier, pool-side track to let off some steam with the Bangtan boys through a most hectic year, and a reminder for us all to take it easy. Get it, let it roll!