The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] BTS and ARMYs virtually yet strongly connected in ‘Map of the Soul: ON:E’

By Choi Ji-won

Published : Oct. 12, 2020 - 12:43

    • Link copied

Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which "Map of the Soul: ON:E" was streamed(Big Hit Entertainment)

Perhaps “Bang Bang Con: The Live,” the first virtual concert from global sensation BTS livestreamed in June, was only a prelude to the band’s second online gig “Map of the Soul: ON:E.”

Eight times the scale of the June event, with an additional two massive stages, complete with up-to-date technologies like augmented reality and extended reality, the two-day run of “Map of the Soul: ON:E” kicked off on Saturday in Seoul. With the two online concerts, BTS garnered a smashing number of 993,000 viewers from 191 countries and regions--a record-breaker of the previous high also set by the band's "Bang Bang Con," which had been viewed by 756,000 audiences in 107 countries and regions.

While the concert had been planned to take place physically and livestreamed online, the band’s agency Big Hit Entertainment decided to switch to an all-virtual concert in regard to the ongoing COVID-19 situation around the world.

“We’ve been working on this concert for almost one year, since we finished our ‘Speak Yourself’ tour. We feel bad that the concert could not go as planned in this unexpected situation, so we prepared this un-tact event,” said the band’s leader RM.

Physically apart they may be in the era of pandemic, but the bandmates and their fans ARMY were not disconnected. While the previous virtual gig only enabled the members to communicate with the fans through the live-chat service, the Saturday stages were surrounded by massive screens showing hundreds of fans watching the concert from their home, screaming and waving the “ARMY bombs” and placards, as if in real-life concerts. The fans could choose from the six multi-view screens showing the stages from different perspectives.

Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which "Map of the Soul: ON:E" was streamed (Big Hit Entertainment)

Awed at the screens surrounding them, one of the members Jin kept looking around, shouting “make some noise” to the fans. “This is the most beautiful sound in the world,” Jimin piped in, while V jumped into say, “I feel better now, finally seeing ARMYs.”

Kicking off with “On,” the 2 1/2 hour concert was centered around tracks from the band’s latest album “Map of the Soul: 7,” including “N.O” and “Black Swan.” For the hip-hop track “UGH!,” rappers Suga, RM and J-Hope formed a unit, whereas the soft-pop ballad “Zero O’ Clock” was performed by Jin, Junkook, V and Jimin. 

While each member had a solo slot during the show, the highlight was with Jimin’s premiere of his dance performance for “Filter.” The chatroom on Weverse, Big Hit’s online fan community through which the concert was streamed, exploded with comments as Jimin glided on the stage to the Latin pop-esque song. For the solo stages, RM performed to “Persona,” Suga to “Shadow,” Jungkook to “My Time,” Jin to “Moon,” V to “Inner Child” and J-Hope to “Ego.”

The AR and XR visual effects went beyond merely filling up the atmosphere. As RM was smashing his “Persona” stage, a huge figure looking exactly like him suddenly appeared in front of the stage, whereas celestial shapes of planets and asteroids hovered above Jin as he sang to “Moon.” Dark screens resembling underwater scenery filled up the sides of the stage as the septet sang “Black Swan,” whereas with “Dope,” the huge screen behind the stage made it seem like the members were dancing on an elevator as it shot upward.

Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which "Map of the Soul: ON:E" was streamed (Big Hit Entertainment)

Comprising 23 numbers in total, the night’s set list also included the band’s biggest hits “Dionysus,” “DNA, “Boy With Luv” and “No More Dream.”

Unlike the previous hour-and-a-half of the show, the encore was conducted with the fan-cams and microphones turned on, forming a concert ambience.

“Did you guys receive our gift well?” Jungkook shouted out to fans screaming out “BTS” in unity.

“The encore songs were picked just for ARMYs,” Suga explained. “We wanted to respond back to your voices, which have turned a nothing special into something very special. The encore set was made by you guys and us,” Suga said. J-hope added, through much contemplation by the members, the three-song playlist for Saturday's encore stage -- “Butterfly,” “Run,” and “Dynamite” -- had been finalized just that morning. The second day featured “Spring Day” and “IDOL,” along with the band's most recent single.

On the band’s recent historical feat of becoming the first South Korean group to have a single top the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September, Jimin thanked the fans. 

“We were numbed and thrilled to see ‘Dynamite’ receiving so much love from fans around the world. We intended to offer a perky gift that could cheer you guys up a little bit, but it seems like we were returned with an even bigger present.”

(Big Hit Entertainment) (Big Hit Entertainment)

It was not the high-end technologies and eye-opening visual contents that completed the half-connected gig. Before staging the finale, the septet each made eye contact with the fans beyond the camera to share their thoughts and feelings.

“It’s amazing, and kind of strange, to feel that this (the concert) is being delivered to you real-time,” J-Hope said. V agreed, adding, “The ARMYs are not here, but at the same time you are here. We feel like you guys are really with us, as we can see your faces, hear your voices and feel the excitement over the screen.”

Confessing the members had endured difficult times with the continuous postponements in concert dates, Suga said, “We felt caught in the air, as we could not hold the planned concerts or meet you guys. I think I’d been oblivious to who I really am and what we (BTS) had been doing, until today.”

Jimin even shed tears. “I couldn’t focus properly since ‘Run,’ seeing the members racing around happily,” he said.

“I felt that many things were unfair as we prepared for this gig. I only wanted to perform with the members and play happily with you guys,” Jimin said, wiping the tears now and then as he spoke.

Despite the lingering emotions, Jungkook thanked ARMYs, saying, “There’s a lot of things I can do just by seeing you guys and listening to your shouts. I’m reminded of memories we share thanks to your cheers today.”

Jin chimed in, “BTS will always be with ARMYs until we retrieve back our stage 100 percent.”

Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which Screenshot of online platform Weverse through which "Map of the Soul: ON:E" was streamed (Big Hit Entertainment)

Encouraging both his fellow members and the fans, RM said, “The ARMYs I know and the BTS you all know we’re all strong. We’ll find a way. We always have. If there’s no way, let’s draw the map, the whole map again. So no worries. We’re strong and still connected.”

The BTS leader added, “Our language is music, and our maps, dreams. In different languages we will sing different songs, marching together forever. BTS is not the seven of us, but the story of you, me and all of us.”

While the festival is now over, the wait will not be long until BTS and their fans reunite as the band is set to return with another new album “BE” on Nov. 20. 

By Choi Ji-won (