BTS’ new single “Life Goes On” Marks a New Era in Music
The latest BTS single addresses life during the pandemic. (Illustration By Emmalia Godshall, Columbia University)
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BTS’ new single “Life Goes On” Marks a New Era in Music

The K-pop boy band illustrates life in the time of COVID-19 with their newest track.

BTS uses their musical talent to reach their audience with messages of strength, love and unity. While most of their music is heartfelt, it is often from their perspective as celebrities and the issues that come with stardom. However, their new album, “BE,” is more about the issues that come with living through a global pandemic. Their latest single, “Life Goes On,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts, marks the beginning of an era in which music intertwines with COVID-19. Through “Life Goes On,” BTS critiques the idea of a life lost as well as a hopeful message for a coronavirus-free future.

Let Me Tell You With This Song

Kim “RM” Nam-joon, Kim “Jin” Seok-jin, Min “Suga” Yoon-gi, Jung “J-Hope” Ho-seok, Park “Jimin” Ji-min, Kim “V” Tae-hyung, Jeon “Jungkook” Jung-kook are the members of world-famous band BTS. While most of the boy band’s songs have an air of mystery and fun, other tracks showcase serious, emotionally charged struggles. Their inspiration, love and advocacy for self-care has resonated with BTS’ fanbase, Army, and has made them popular on a world scale.  But “Life Goes On” takes these concepts a step further by reminding their fans and the viewing world that life goes on despite the travesties COVID-19 has caused.

The music video for “Life Goes On” opens with a dark atmosphere. The music pings to life, and the song takes on a somber tone. The video evokes dejection, lighting the set with hues of grays and silvers during the verses, contrasting with the more vivid colors during the chorus. BTS’ color scheme tends to be vibrant and bright, but the decision to use muted colors in “Life Goes On” speaks to the world that is now just a distant memory.

People Say the World Has Changed

The official music video for “Life Goes On” relies on collective memory. Events happening in real time are in gray and darkly lit hues, brighter memories of the past are colored in with more vivid tones, while scenes that are strictly black and white are memories that are indefinitely on hold until further notice.

The beginning verses open on the idea of a world at a standstill, with the lyrics, “One day the world stopped without warning / Spring didn’t know to wait, showed up not even a minute late.” This verse features video footage of Jungkook, Jimin and RM living within the grayness that has enveloped the world. RM wipes dust off a bike that he probably rode every day. Jungkook looks out a window on a cloudy day and Jimin brushes his teeth for a day that will probably only consist of his housemates. While these are regular, everyday activities that typically have little bearing in the grand scheme of things, they are now suddenly precious.

BTS questions this life, accompanied by gray hues and the lyrics, “Time goes by on its own, without a single apology / It hurts so bad, the cold this world gave me / There is no end in sight. Is there any way out?” The band drives in a car, with the camera panning to a stadium, one that cannot hold an audience due to COVID-19 restrictions. BTS’ music speaks to not only how the industry is at a standstill, but that their lives as performers are missing. The BTS fan army is missing.

Between You and Me, Nothing Has Changed

The video then shifts and becomes more colorful. Its color is associated with BTS’ usual flare, a callback to a time when their life didn’t have so many restrictions. The relationship with Army has been a beautiful thing, and this is reflected in the color of the video, especially with the lines “People say the world has changed / but thankfully between you and me / nothing has changed.” “Life Goes On” specifically addresses the Army fandom, celebrating that, despite the pandemic, their fans still support and love them and their music.

Understanding that the pandemic will be around longer than expected, BTS reminds fans that the past is worth remembering, but that the future is one filled with hope. It’s something the band has made explicitly clear through their music. During the chorus of the song, flashes of moments the band has shared with each other during COVID-19 plays out on the screen, showing they are making the most of the time they spend with each other. While the song details life’s continuity, the song ends with a chorus specifically dedicated to the world and Army during the pandemic.

To the Future, Let’s Run Away

The indefinite pause in performing and BTS’ emotional ties are on display in the final shots of the music video. As the band invites fans and people watching the video to “close your eyes for a moment / hold my hand / to the future let’s run away,” they are dressed and set to perform in a stadium. But the stadium is empty, with military bombs in the empty seats honoring the fans that never had the chance to attend their concerts in the past, while also illuminating where fans will be in the future when the pandemic finally ends.

This concept is captured perfectly in the song lyrics, so fans know that although performing live may be distant and impossible now, life and music will continue despite the setbacks. BTS cements this, singing “Like an echo in the forest / The day will come back around / as if nothing happened / Yeah, life goes on/ like an arrow in the blue sky /Another day flying by / on my pillow, on my table / Yeah, life goes on like this again.”

This is the final testimony for “Life Goes On,” where life’s continuity is both a distant memory as well as part of a hopeful future. BTS wishes people safe passage through the pandemic and encourages hopeful thoughts while showcasing the difficulties that artists like themselves face in the time of COVID-19.

Writer Profile

Summer Brotman

University of California, Los Angeles
English with Professional Writing Minor

Summer is a lover of books, comics, television and movies. She hopes to make her mark on the world with her own stories, whether they make it on the big screen or become your new favorite book.

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