Smells Like BTS Spirit – The Tale of One Small Tweet and One Giant ARMY

It’s been a strange week for me on Twitter. I only signed up last month after years of avoiding it. I didn’t really fancy another social media commitment, knew I’d quickly become addicted to checking it and, having read Jon Ronson’s excellent book So You Been Publicly Shamed, didn’t fancy any potential hassles that might spring from an ill-judged or misinterpreted tweet. However, after setting up this philosophy blog (Being and Niceness), I thought a Twitter account might help to share my work, and I was keen to get the thoughts of like-minded people. And I have to admit, it’s proved a worthwhile decision – I’ve had some wonderful, positive comments on my work from various people, not just with a love for philosophy, but impressive qualifications and bodies of work, too. I like to tweet little portions of the things I read that make me think or smile, as well as my blog posts, and that works well enough for me. And, occasionally, I find myself trawling through the vast stream of content out there (some of it relevant, most of it cat pictures) and I’ll drop a silly comment or joke here or there.

More layers than meets the eye

I dropped one of those comments this week when looking through tweets about #NationalRelaxationDay. Here is it…

Despite the fact I use Twitter at work occasionally, I still consider myself a bit of a newbie and am not always entirely sure what I’m doing (or seeing). And on this occasion I thought I was looking at some kind of appreciation group for the brilliant satirical US media group The Onion. I saw the post above mention Nirvana and assumed that the music video attached to the tweet might be something by the (again brilliant) Washington grunge group – the joke being that Smells Like Teen Spirit is about as far away from relaxing as it gets. What unfolded was unexpected say the least.

It turned out that @TheOnionBTS (the clue clearly in the handle!) is a parody account for fans of the Korean pop group BTS; a boy band formed in 2013 which has a Twitter account with a head-spinning 15.8 million followers. It wasn’t long before my comment was swarmed upon by the ARMY (this is what the incredibly committed and passionate BTS fans call themselves). As I mentioned before, my account is very new, so it’s fair to say I’d never experienced what was to come next – which was basically an endless stream of notifications as ARMY members had a little laugh at my silliness and offered me explanations as to what I’d unwittingly wandered into.

At the request of the BTS fans, I watched the video from the original tweet (BTS (방탄소년단) LOVE YOURSELF 結 Answer ‘Epiphany’ Comeback Trailer) and really enjoyed it. I then (foolishly) commented that I’d like to know what the message behind the lyrics was, as I didn’t speak Japanese. (By the way, I’m actually a football journalist, so I’m well aware of the difference between Ki Sung-Yueng and Shinji Kagawa, for example, so if I’d actually properly examined the text, I’m sure I would’ve realised it was Korean and not Japanese!). But rather than chastise me for my ignorance, the ARMY were entirely forgiving, and kind, and sought to furnish me with information and answers about their beloved group.

More than just a pop group

I must say, I was bewildered by what I found out next – it turns out that BTS are a far more sophisticated pop group than the likes of, say, Take That or One Direction. BTS, and the art they produce, has more depth than an outsider like me could ever have imagined – each new project has a concept that follows a progression in time, telling the stories of each member and how they deal with issues that affect all young people; like self-worth, anxiety, love and general growing pains (I’ll add here at the request of many ARMY members, that these issues of course affect people of all ages). They create stories which link to their videos, featuring fantasy and sci-fi elements using various forms of symbolism and artistic devices such as dream sequences. The ARMY then try to figure out the hidden messages and meanings contained within these narratives, offering up different theories as to what each song and video is trying to convey. Each member (character) explores their own coming-of-age issues in the songs, with some songs offering multiple meanings, while others are open to the interpretation of the listeners; who are actively engaged in the production and composition of the tracks. (I’d like to just add here, that having read many kind and insightful responses to this piece from ARMY members, I am now aware of just what a diverse age and cultural range they have among their followers – from teenagers up to people in their 70/80s, which is quite remarkable).

I have to say, I was blown away a bit by the immense scale of what BTS are trying to do – I’d never come across a pop group with such a wide-ranging and diverse artistic project. The issues they deal with are clearly very important to their listeners and I think it’s admirable that their fans are (mostly I believe) out there trying to help each other deal with the difficulties of adolescence by sharing their thoughts and experiences in a positive way. While these guys are of course still regular pop stars who model clothes, star in reality TV shows and engage in other such pursuits you’d expect from seven young lads living the K-pop dream, they also reference philosophy and Korean culture and history in their lyrics. Plus, their latest Love Yourself Series project appears to be partly inspired by their work with UNICEF on an anti-violence campaign dealing with issues such bullying, domestic violence and sexual misconduct.

Thank you

So I have to say thank you to the ARMY for their kindness – and for not getting upset or annoyed with me for not knowing anything about them or BTS. It was a real eye-opener and I can really appreciate now why they’re all so fervently passionate about the group. I hope you all enjoy the new album Love Yourself: Answer when it is released on 24 August – I will of course be giving it a listen.

I’ve since put together some of my own BTS covers and taken part in some fun ARMY projects. Take a look right here

Read more on my experiences with the BTS Army here

Read my review of Love Yourself Answer right here

Also, thanks to @EtoileLoba, @LoneCat3, @simmiryeon and @Carapheonix for providing me with the BTS information presented in this post.

101 thoughts on “Smells Like BTS Spirit – The Tale of One Small Tweet and One Giant ARMY

  1. Wow this was an amazing piece. I really enjoyed reading it. I’m also happy you were able to go into this with an open mind. Glad to have you on board, can’t wait for the new album (you can buy it on Amazon or in store at target if you’re in the US) again thank you so much for taking the time to write out this wonderful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I can’t. I’m crying. Really. I’m so proud of my family ARMY and BTS.
    How you say darling, ARMY no have age, and race and nacionality. I’m barmy, in others words, I’m Brazilian ARMY. I have 24 years, in this year I graduated in civil engineering in a amazing college in Brazil, by the way. And I’m ARMY. Lover and supporter of these 7 boys who has save my life years ago when them sing “what your dream?” “say no for this horrible system” “count with me, 1 2 3, everything it’s gonna be OK” “lets jump and fly away, I believe you” and so many others verses. They make me strong. And God is witness, these boys saved me of death some times.
    You are most welcome! Let’s enjoy the 结 Answer together. Thank you for your kind words 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for this. This was such a good read. You can tell that you really took your time and did research. We are very thankful of you being mindful of BTS and ARMY. Have a good day Sir!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for taking time to understand what BTS means to ARMYs and vice versa. In this day and age you’d be surprised at how close minded people are. Thank you for giving the boys and ARMYs a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Muchas gracias, por este artículo, que revela que es muy importante investigar. La diversidad cultural, edades, idiomas, género, etc. Son lo más importante para cada uno de sus fans, quien le escribe es una profesional que gracias a la música de BTS pude lograr nuevamente a reencontrarme, una de las cosas más loables de este grupo es su amor a la lectura, de ahí muchas de sus canciones, y lo que me fascina de ellos es que muchos jóvenes emplean la investigación como recurso, comprendiendo que aceptándose a sí mismos podrán aceptar a los demás. Espero considere conocerlos más, no se arrepentirá

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just To correct a little mistake, you mentioned that the lyrics were in Japanese but they are mainly korean 😄 Anyway, I loved you’re article 😁 !

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so great to see people learn about bts with such an open mind and acceptance, to look beyond what the eye sees and learn about what bts is as 7 guys who want to connect with people through sharing their struggles, achievements, sadness along with happiness and just their lifes in hopes of helping us go through ours with hope for better days or encourage us to help those who are going through hard times. Thank you so much for this article, for your understanding and for your support. Good luck with your blog ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. thank you so much for being a kind and patient ear too! music has no language of its own but all of us from around the world can feel the same pain and love everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great article! I love bts and their music means a lot to me, it’s helped me through some bad times and I’m happy that you enjoy it too😁

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Ah I’m so happy to see your post! Anyone is always welcomed in the fandom if you really want to understand who BTS are or if just like the music, it’s fine too. Those seven sweet boys really changed my life for the better I think, it made me question things I never thought I would question and opened my mind to so many things. I hope more people understand that it really isn’t just a group of cute guys or catchy music but also and outlet to express ourselves, for BTS and ARMY, a community where no one is left out. Love myself, love yourself. Peace.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Joseph – you are so refreshing and such a welcome addition to this crazy, remarkable fandom for BTS. I gravitated to you instantly as I’m a published author, international public speaker, over 60 yrs old…etc. etc., but what REALLY drew me to you (in our mutual regard for BTS) is your basis in philosophy and the depth of lessons we can mine from it. I. too, fell into studying philosophy in college – many decades ago – and have never stopped. I have loved BTS since mid-2015 but was stunned to see Nietzsche’s quote on the wall in Blood Sweat and Tears: “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star”. Oh My!! BTS is led by the brilliant Kim Namjoon(RM) and their CEO, PD Bang Shi Hyuk – who attended Seoul National University (Korea’s Harvard) and majored in Philosophy and Aesthetics and himself is a top song writer and composer. Can you imagine what these two genius-level men recognized in each other? They are the seed that started, and continues, the legacy of BTS. They come from love, kindness, expansion, humility, genuine sincerity and belief in the goodness of mankind and they have voiced their deliberate intention to influence the world. I cannot underemphasize what this movement will mean to all of us. The butterfly effects of this goodness are already being felt and, dare I say, the power and influence is expanding exponentially. I have converted about ten friends into loving BTS but you, good sir, are already on the path of influencing thousands. I profoundly thank you for your willing participation. We need your calm, stable and educated voice (plus your sense of humor!) to help guide ARMY through the craziness of BTS’s developing world superstardom. You have brought more happiness to my already happy life. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow. What a wonderful comment. I must say this whole thing has been such a bizarre turn of events, but I’m delighted it’s happened. Such a beautiful coincidence that I came across the band – and much of what they are putting out there aligns itself with my own philosophy.

      As much as anything, I’m just pleased there are so many people out there spreading positive vibes and messages. And I’m glad to be a part of it

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello !!! (I’m a French Army, so i’m sorry for my bad English :P) Your adventure on Twitter and this post here, are so popular now in French Army’s group, and i come here to thanking you. This is so beautiful, you talk so much about BTS, about their work, messages they want to convey. I’m so happy, thank you so, so much !
    And welcome at the Army Family 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This is such a wonderful and honest post about BTS and ARMY. Thank you! 👍
    I’ll really like reading a positive post about BTS and ARMY.
    We purple you! 💜 and also thank you for appreciating BTS songs.

    When Army said “We purple you!”, it’s means that “We love you!” or “We trust you!”.
    BTS taehyung said that Purple is the last color of the rainbow and he defines Purple to be the color of trust, long lasting love, and loyalty. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I loved it. I am one among those million people BTS helped gain confidence. I am one of those thousands whose thoughts were reshaped and the way of writing was improved for the better by digging more in their philosophies. Welcome to our fam. Love yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have followed you on Twitter right after reading ARMYs comments about your blog because I wanted to know more about you. Then I searched for your article that everyone is raving about. You really wrote something that is worth reading and I sincerely appreciate your work and efforts. Although I have heard about BTS a couple of years ago, I have just joined the ARMYs last year after watching their UN Speech. I have realized how much BTS has become an ambassador of goodwill to the whole world through their music and compassion.

    Like Christina (@ChriseoNoona), I am also in my 60s and feeling proud to be a part of BTS fandom. I love BTS so much, they’ve made me appreciate life more and I will be rooting for them until the end!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is lovely to see. The scope of the band and the project to bring in such a vast and diverse group of people is heartwarming. I think the inclusive nature of the Army really resonates with people


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