Our Proof: My Reflections on BTS’s 9th Year Celebration

This year two different celebrations for BTS and ARMY have coincided in one long weekend. Since this year, in particular, seems to be a time for reflection, I thought I would write a bit about what this comeback has personally meant to me.

First, some definitions.

Comeback is when BTS releases a new album. There are usually content releases and events leading up to the release and then promotions, music videos, and other content after the release.

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FESTA is the two week long celebration leading up to BTS’s debut date on June 13th.

FESTA: Beginning in early June each year, FESTA is a countdown to the celebration of BTS’s debut on June 13th. Each FESTA has a theme and delivers new content — which has included dance practice videos, a radio-style show called KKUL FM, annual family photos, original and cover songs, interviews, and more — each day, and concludes with a live performance that is livestreamed or a video of BTS celebrating their debut. While most content is free, the final performance usually must be purchased.
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I, like many others, found BTS when I really needed their message and music. Not only were we in the depths of lockdown during COVID, but I was struggling with the possibilities of switching careers (from something I was deeply passionate about to something I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain long term). The messages of perseverance, fighting back against a cruel broken system, hope, and finding the light from inside myself were all incredibly timely and powerful.

Music (and dance) has always been an important part of my life. I played many instruments and took a variety of dance classes growing up, but always insisted on it being the “fun” part of my life. I am also very diverse in my music taste ranging from opera to J-rock to heavy metal to pop (much to some of my family members’ chagrin). When I started dating my partner in college he introduced me to hip hop and Chinese musicians. This is all a way of saying, once I finally did discover BTS, my falling deep down the rabbit hole probably surprised no one.

I love comebacks because they are a time to remember all the songs I fell in love with before and they are the promise of all the music that is in my future. Leading up to the release of the new songs, there’s a palpable excitement. Think of the night before waking up to holiday or birthday presents. I never really got to experience this in the same way with other musicians I listened to in the past. There was never this long period of build-up, reliving past albums in anticipation, and celebration when the new music is finally revealed. Or, if there was anything like that, I was doing it on my own. Having a community to celebrate with was also a happy discovery after falling down the BTS rabbit hole.

An illustration of “falling down the rabbit hole” into BTS & ARMY’s Magic Shop.

BTS’s music (and subsequently much more) helped me find a light inside myself. Call it hope or self-love or acceptance if you like. Perhaps it was as if the fire inside me had dwindled to embers and their music helped rekindle my drive, love, purpose into a fiery blaze again. It’s important for me to remember that fire within me and to honor those who have helped keep me glowing.

I wrote a tweet a few days ago and said, “Many of us found BTS when we really needed them. Their music spoke to us personally. They helped us find a new light — a new light inside ourselves. That connection to the music is special for you and however you need/want to experience it. Make sure you are protecting that.” Balancing protecting my own light, to keep myself going, and sharing that light, to help others, has always been a struggle for me. Allowing myself to pause and appreciate why I am here in the first place is a wonderful way to refresh and right the ship.

Combining Festa and comeback this year has been a wonderful way to really celebrate how far we have all come. We celebrate the hard work, dedication, and love that BTS and ARMY have for each other. We celebrate that life is full — full to the brim — of music. Music that rekindles us, gives us hope, voices our sadness, channels our anger, and shares our love.

With the beautiful title track of the Proof anthology that was released on June 10th, Yet to Come, the message has been clear that now is a time for reflection. I’m glad I have been spending my time really listening to the music in a way that is meaningful to me. I’ve been protecting much of my time to really allow myself to process everything. But I’ve also been celebrating with my ARMY friends. We’ve been remembering past comebacks, concerts, music, and moments spent with BTS. In a few hours, we will get together to spend an hour with BTS live streaming as a culmination of this celebration.

A video compilation of some of ARMY’s favorite memories of BTS & ARMY.

Life is full of ups and downs. Perhaps there are prolonged periods of struggle. However, I take each step in my day looking for the joy, the kindness of others, the hope for the future. I sincerely hope that, wherever you are, that there is something bringing you joy. I hope you can hold onto that and let it continue to spark the light inside of you. Let that light help you take each step forward, even when your feet feel heavy. All you can do is, “Run, beautiful, run.”

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