Proof – BTS’ anthology album: a 9-year story

    BTS, or Bangtan Boys, celebrated their 9th anniversary this past month. The band made its debut on June 13 of 2013 with the song ‘No More Dream’. On June 10, 2022, BTS released their first anthology album, Proof. Two days later they announced their indefinite hiatus.

    BTS, made of JIN, Suga, RM, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, came from a small company, known then by the name Big Hit. The company has, since then, changed its name to HYBE Labels and took over the K-Pop companies in South Korea, while its artists took over the music world.

    Proof is a three-volume anthology album, with the first disc containing most of their hit songs, their second hosting their famous B-sides and solo works and the third one full of demo versions and unpolished songs. Over the three-part story, BTS tells their struggle, their aspiration for success, their understanding of fame and their plans for the next chapter. This album explains how and for who it’s BTS all about.

    It’s no lie the K-Pop band took over the world in the last five years or so. But Proof is (excuse the pun) living proof it wasn’t always like this – sold-out stadiums, a billion-dollar agency and millions of copies sold. 

    So, that being said, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

    The beginning

    The first volume of the three-volume anthology album describes BTS’ rise to power from the very first single No More Dream, in which the leader of the band, RM, keeps asking the same question ‘What is your dream?’. Suga raps his famous verse ‘I wanna big house, big cars, and big rings’, a verse that appears in similar form in two more of their songs, HOME and Interlude: Shadow and one of his solo songs under the name of Agust D, What do you think. While this seems to be the main reason that pushes the band to great heights, J-Hope raps in their brand new single Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment): That step of being the best/ We ain’t about it/ Crowns and flowers, countless trophies/ We ain’t about it. Their gasoline has never been money or fame.

    The opener, Born Singer (which samples J. Cole’s “Born Sinner”), tells the story of the rappers’ RM, Suga and J-Hope trainee days, the hunger to prove themselves and make it big. The first volume ends with Yet to Come, a classic pop BTS song infused with old-school hip-hop, in which the members promise a new, better chapter that is yet to come.

    The first disc houses the greatest hits of the band, such as DNA (the song that broke the barrier between them and the Western music market), Fake Love (their first top 10 on Hot 100 Billboard) and Dynamite/Butter (their English singles which topped the Hot 100 chart and stayed there for weeks). 

    The End

    Disc two opens with, in fandom’s opinion, their best B-side yet. Run BTS is their new hip-hop track, in which the rappers spit their bars behind a wailing rock guitar and in which the vocal line hit high notes effortlessly. They sing of days full of training, fearing they will be sent home and not make the cut. J-Hope pays tribute to his six mates, thanking each and one of them: Just run, with your two legs/ That’s how we do it all (Ayy, ayy)/ That’s how we’ve proved it/ The seven runners/ With a million dollars legs (Ayyy, ayy)/ Jiminie, V, hard work/ Namjoonie, Hope, hard work/ Yoongi Hyung, Jin, hard work/ Jungkookie, everyone so thanks. Stating that the reason behind their success is that they ran no matter what, Jimin sings in the chorus that “two bare feet are our gasoline”.

    The second part hosts the members’ solo works and scattered B-sides. Jimin’s duality and essence in Filter, RM’s own questioning self in Intro: Persona, Suga singing of a love long gone in Trivia: Seesaw – all of it makes this disc probably their best one. Jin sings of his love for ARMYs in Moon, V sings of a love that makes you lose yourself in Singularity, Jungkook talks of young, euphoric love in Euphoria while J-Hope raps about loving himself in Outro: Ego. Their B-sides speak about injustice, their fan’s obsession with the band, their love for one another and hope for the future. 

    The album closes with the brand-new song For Youth which features a live clip of fans and BTS singing 2016’s “Epilogue: Young Forever” at Wembley Stadium. The song underlines the bond shared between the artists and their fans – Jungkook proclaiming his love for the fandom: You’re my best friend/ For the rest of my life. 

    Everything and anything, in the meantime

    Disc 3 is definitely for the ARMYs. Not found on streaming platforms, the demo versions and unfinished/unpublished gems can only be listened to on the physical CD. The third part of Proof is like an original draft, a diary full of scribbles, doodles, and stains – and it’s the most beautiful part. The tracks carry tunes and paths that could have been, versions of a different BTS, different albums and a different sounding story. 

    It’s living proof that BTS are great artists if even their unreleased and first-draft songs can fill a disc and still be no. 1 on Billboard and sell over 2.15 million copies on its first day of release.