The unbeatable BTS proceeded to break down the barriers, as they became the 1st Korean act to star in their very own standalone U.S. MTV Unplugged special on Tuesday night—going down in broadcasted pop history along with LL Cool J, Tony Bennett, Pearl Jam, Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, and, of course, Nirvana.
To be sure, the half-hour one-off special, recorded in South Korea, wasn’t all that unplugged, at least in the traditional ’90s sense of the series. It began with the boy band warbling “Telepathy” in the old-school basement room, preceded by “Blue & Grey” in a sunlit greenhouse, which were both preceded by gorgeously orchestrated tracks; Afterward, a few strings could obviously be spotted chasing their back band’s apparently electrical instruments. iThough MTV Unplugged Presents: BTS nevertheless portrayed BTS in a new light, stripping back their usual sparkly production and insanely choreographies and focusing on the smooth septuple melodies of the soulful Seoul group.
The special also highlighted the unknown songwriting talents of BTS, as the show took a page by the VH1 Storytellers, another well-known Viacom franchise with two group members exposing their unique contributions to the two above listed hits.
‘BTS expressed their sadness over not being able to see ARMY’
Suga — who has recovered recently from his November 2020 shoulder surgery and was pleased to perform again, even though he did not stand before the group’s regular live nightly thousands of audience, told us more about his inspiration for “Telepathy” : “We’re in a situation where we can’t meet our fans around the world in person because of COVID-19, so the song’s lyrics describe our present situation of being temporarily separate from each other. I had to work on our album BE,and while I was listening to some of the older demos, I came across it and felt, ‘This could be a good thing!’I finished writing the lyrics on the spot, I turned it in, and it made it into the album.’
Afterward, member of the group V, co-writer of “Blue & Grey,” also talked about the past tough and lonely year, describing, “I tried to express my inner sadness and uncertainty, so I translated the feeling of burning out as ‘blue’ and the sadness of not being able to see ARMY as ‘grey.'”
For sure, while MTV Unplugged Presents: BTS might just have transformed some skeptics into admirers and new fans into diehard fans, the millions of ARMY members (a.k.a. hardcore BTS devotees) who tuned from around the globe on Tuesday were very well sure that Suga, V, J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jungkook, and RM are experienced vocalists and composers. This is why the the whole MTV special was dedicated to ARMY.
As BTS repeatedly expressed their frustration and disappointment about not being able to tour their latest BE album because of the coronavirus pandemic, mixed with their gratefulness for the astonishing Unplugged opportunity and wishes for a return to normalcy in 2021.
(‘This situation where we can’t see each other is very challenging for us, and it makes us wonder what we’re doing,’ was a particularly somber confession.) This is why BTS scheduled an unplugged surprise for their ARMY, premiering their angel cover of ‘Fix You’ Coldplay’s power ballad, a song which had personally comforted them all through 2020.
That was mostly during final two Unplugged numbers of BTS, the pandemic-inspired “Life Goes On” and the unquestionable bop of last summer, “Dynamite,” that the show settled into much more traditional Unplugged-style genre of the 1990s.
As the band sat on the stools, they were joined by a marginal backing ensemble, which, if not completely acoustic, gave both songs delightfully jazzy, swinging arrangements. So, maybe it’s more like MTV Jazzed, but one day it made the concept of BTS release an album of the Great American Songbook standards look like a fantastic and not unachievable prospect.
Let’s all just keep hoping that if and when that really happens, acoustic or not, BTS will be able to perform those jazz songs live and in person for their dedicated ARMY. Till then, this special is going to be more than enough to tide fans over, as life goes on.
You can watch BTS ‘MTV Unplugged’ performances on YouTube.
“Blue & Grey”
“Fix you” (Coldplay cover)
“Life goes on”