Global phenomenon BTS, who hails from South Korea, released their newest single, titled “Butter” — along with its official music video — on May 21. As the K-pop group’s second fully English track, the song was highly anticipated ever since its first teaser dropped on May 2. Preceded by BTS’ first English single, “Dynamite,” which was released on Aug. 21 last year, the hit single features a charismatic sentiment of love from the BTS boys, both for themselves and their fans, the BTS ARMY. A closer look at the lyrics of “Butter” and its music video reveal such charming themes, as well as pop culture and dance references that cleverly culminate into the ultimate summer anthem.
A Confession That’s ‘Smooth Like Butter’
In line with their Love Myself Campaign with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), BTS’ lyrics in “Butter” feature multiple lines reflecting their self-love, demonstrating how they sincerely practice what they preach. This is especially evident in the pre-chorus of the song, where vocalists Jin and Jimin sing, “When I look in the mirror, I’ll melt your heart into two” and “I got that superstar glow.” The intense display of confidence is exactly what BTS’ fans have been waiting for, as the ARMY has often encouraged the band members to recognize their worth and immense success.
The song is also decorated with flirtatious confessions to the fans: “Gon’ pop like trouble / Breakin’ into your heart like that” and “Hot like summer / Yeah, I’m makin’ you sweat like that.” Such teasing lyrics are sure to make any fan blush and are perfect for listening to at the beach or poolside, which is what BTS was aiming for when they created the track. In the leader RM’s words, the track is indeed “a summer anthem [with] positive energy and upbeat vibes.”
Perhaps the boys’ most bold proclamation of love for their fanbase is during RM’s rap verse in the official music video for “Butter.” As the rapper boasts, “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so,” the camera pans outward to reveal the word ARMY spelled out with the members’ bodies, while RM stands in the center. By including the gesture in the music video, not only is BTS expressing their love for their fans, but they also pay homage to the dedication of the ARMY. The worldwide fanbase has proven on several occasions their devotion to the boys: Whether that means organizing streaming parties, making large donations to causes the boys are passionate about or surprising the boys at concerts, the BTS ARMY is genuinely there for them when they say so.
Dance and Pop Culture: ‘Break It Down’
Since their debut in 2013, BTS has always been applauded for their intricate dance moves and clever lyricism. In keeping with their intention to write a “dance pop track,” the boys included many dance references throughout the lyrics of “Butter,” which are complemented by the complex choreography showcased in the music video. As vocalist Jungkook, the youngest of the group, sings “Side step, right, left to my beat,” the members follow suit, moving from side to side with the beat.
Rappers SUGA and RM also urge the audience to “Do the boogie” and “Break it down.” Additionally, the boys showcase their distinctive personalities and styles by freestyling during the instrumental break, which takes place in the iconic elevator that many fans recognized from their 2015 “Dope” music video. The BTS members are clearly passionate about dance and project the same sentiment into their work, as can be seen in their dance practices.
BTS also has a history of including clever references to pop culture: In the first verse of “Butter,” vocalist V sings, “Cool shade stunner,” while rapper and lead dancer J-Hope refers back to the same line later in the song. Stunner, or “stunna” shades, are large aviator sunglasses commonly associated with the hyphy movement, which originated in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1990s. The hip-hop symbol is also included in the BTS boys’ wardrobe, and many members can be seen wearing the captivating shades in both the music video and promotional photoshoots.
Later in the song, SUGA boasts, “Ice on my wrist, I’m that n-ice guy,” adding both a play on words as well as a common slang term to the lyrics. Often used in rap and hip-hop music, “ice” refers to expensive accessories, such as jewelry or watches. The group’s use of the symbol of wealth and prosperity further demonstrates BTS’ success and confidence.
BTS goes on to include numerous nods to the pop veterans who came before them. When V sings, “Don’t need no Usher / To remind me you got it bad,” the band is referring to R&B, hip-hop and pop artist Usher, and his songs “U Got It Bad” and “U Remind Me.” They also pay homage to Michael Jackson and his 1988 single “Smooth Criminal” in the very first line of the song when Jungkook begins with “Smooth like butter / Like a criminal undercover.” It isn’t the first time the band honored Jackson with their work; last year, the boys included the moonwalk, a dance move popularized by Jackson, in the choreography for the “Dynamite” music video and performances, and they even incorporated elements of Jackson’s wardrobe in their own. The references are direct indications of the boys’ humility and respect for the icons that preceded them, a quality that many BTS fans point to when asked why they love the group so much.
BTS’ “Butter” is indeed a display of excellent craftsmanship, humility and positivity. The song is perfect for gracing any summer playlist with its presence, and it showcases the band’s talent and versatility, as well as their ability to excel in a Western-dominated industry. “Butter” demonstrates the members’ exceptional capability to step out of their comfort zone and improve themselves, despite confessing in a recent interview that many of the members struggled with pronouncing the English lyrics. Speaking in a foreign language is no easy feat, much less singing and performing in it, yet BTS is able to do so flawlessly. Now on their second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart (as of June 7), one can’t help but wonder what BTS will accomplish next.