Global sensations BTS recently dropped their newest music video for “Idol,” a song that celebrates the K-pop group’s accomplishments, their fan ARMY’s unconditional love, and most importantly, their self-identity. So many fans have savored the vibrant video’s every frame that it broke YouTube’s record for the biggest 24-hour debut.
This is in large part because ARMY sleuths know that the Bangtan boys’ striking visuals aren’t simply for show, but contain deeper meaning for their fans to decipher. With that in mind, here are things that you may have missed in “Idol.”
They’ve recreated scenes from previous music videos
The video is filled with references to their past work, an homage to the group’s journey thus far. “Idol” opens on the seven members sitting around a table, which recalls the dinner scene from 2016’s “Blood Sweat & Tears“:
The second moment looks suspiciously like the formation from “Mic Drop“:
Then there’s “Dope”:
And finally, this scene from 2014’s “Just One Day“:
— michelle #IDOL (@jeonglows) August 24, 2018
The cultural significance of the world “Idol”
RM opens with a strong statement: “You can call me artist / You can call me idol / No matter what you call me / I don’t care.” In South Korea, “idol” is used to describe members of K-pop groups, but it often comes with a derogatory slant, as some say that idols aren’t “true artists.” Here, BTS not only embrace the term but are “proud of it.” In fact, you can even catch Suga and Jungkook sitting on a pedestal in a few scenes.BigHit Entertainment
The celebration is felt in the lyrics
Throughout the song, there are expressions found in pansori, a form of traditional Korean storytelling between a singer and a drummer. The interjections eulsoo and jihwaja were historically used in Korea to hype up a crowd, and “deong-gi-deok kung-deo-reo-reo” in the chorus mimics the beat of the pansori drumming pattern. RM said in a recent press conference, “There was no right interjection to make ‘Idol’ a celebratory festival, but perhaps it’s having learned pansori as a child, [those chants] came to me naturally.”
RM and V defy the naysayers
RM uses three Snapchat-type filters as he raps, “I know what I am / I know what I want / I never gon’ change.” Fans believe this to be a reference to criticism the rapper received for using filters while live streaming on V Live. Similarly, vocalist V wears glasses that some previously said looked “ugly” on him during a different V Live.
The members’ own drawings adorn the background
In the background, you can see drawings that were personally done by Jimin (a dragon), Jungkook (another dragon), Suga (Shooky, his BT21 character) and Jin (a whale, or kore in Korean). The frames that surround the drawings are made of hands and surveillance cameras, which recall the album’s concept photos. Note that Suga’s drawing of Shooky includes the numbers 13 and 18, which could represent their growth from 2013 (their debut year) to today. It also could be a nod to the numbers mentioned in the rap line’s song “Ddaeng,” which is one of the most powerful hands in the Korean card game Seotda.BigHit Entertainment
Love is all around
In two distinct moments, the backgrounds display the characters for the word “love” in Korean (사랑) and Chinese (爱).
The symbolism behind Jungkook’s cough
Youngest member Jungkook cheekily looks at the camera and coughs, which seems to be a reference to the Yangban, who were historically the elite class in Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Yangban would cough indiscreetly to announce their presence, silencing those around them. BTS, in this case, are here to silence the haters — with a smile.
V moving through the familiar-looking crowd
As V acknowledges that “I’m facing a new me again today / It’s all me anyway” he shuffles his way through a crowd in a way that looks very similar to the mob of fans BTS routinely amass at airports. And these people that surround him all have red paint across their faces, just like the guards who kept watch over them in their 2013 video for “N.O.”
Sharks and tigers and rabbits, oh my!
The tiger, which features prominently in the video, is a sacred animal in Korean culture, symbolizing the country and its people. It’s also thought of as a brave guardian against foes.
A shark also makes an appearance in the visual, aggressively trying to attack the members as they dance in a glass box. Fans made the connection to an old post on the group’s fan page, when eldest member Jin asked the question, “Tigers are even stronger in water. So who would win if tigers come in and fight with sharks?”
Meanwhile, the image of the rabbit in the moon is a reference to a famous Korean folktale, in which a god honored a selfless rabbit by placing it in the moon. The rabbit also symbolizes immortality. And according to YouTuber David Kim, there is a Korean saying that translates to “the more you are cursed at, the longer you will live.” In this case, BTS could see themselves as the rabbits, indirectly referring to the criticism they’ve faced since their debut.
J-Hope confirmed that “this performance mixes African dance with Korean dance.” The key choreography in the chorus is gwara gwara, a South African move that both Rihanna and Childish Gambino have included in their video choreography. Considering that the members (especially V) are fans of Gambino and his song “This Is America,” it’s no wonder they were inspired by its award-winning choreo.BigHit Entertainment
The setting reflects the series’ conclusion
The running theme throughout Love Yourself: Her was about looking outwardly to find love and acceptance. In the similarly bright and colorful visual for “DNA,” BTS dance in an unfinished house, open to their kaleidoscopic surroundings. In the “Fake Love” visual, from Love Yourself: Tear, the same setting is now closed in and rusted, symbolizing how the love they found was corrosive. But in “Idol,” the group has finally found the answer to building a healthy foundation: self-love.
The most prominent setting of the music video is a striking, yellow gyeonghoeru, a Korean-style pavilion once used to entertain special guests. The Chinese symbol at the top of the building (囍) means “double happiness,” and is thought to bring good fortune.“DNA” – BTS“Fake Love” – BTS
Cheering on with ARMY
In the big Bollywood-style dance break at the end of the video, notice that the members are looking down at the crowd and dancing along in the rafters. They join ARMY in cheering and supporting themselves.