Earlier this year, BTS worked hard in promoting their full album Map of the Soul:7. It was through the famous Carpool Karaoke of the band with James Corden that I discovered them and eventually gave in to the ‘rabbit hole’ by binge-watching their music videos, live performances, interviews, RUN BTS and Bon Voyage episodes as well as Bangtan Bomb uploads.
I knew by then that they were preparing for the Map of the Soul: 7 World Tour that was supposed to kick off last April. Unfortunately, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 happened. In just a snap, all the rehearsals, new sets and surprises prepared by the group were put on hold. Like ordinary people whose lives were affected by the global lockdown, BTS also expressed their disappointment through their live streams. At the same time, they made sure to reach out the BTS Army by uploading new content, posting selcas or doing live broadcasts on VLive and YouTube.
Last April, Big Hit Entertainment launched BANG BANG CON. It was one weekend where old and new fans were given the opportunity to watch eight of their best concerts from 2014 to 2018. It was a way for fans to either reminisce the good times or discover what the band can offer. As a new Army back then, I was overwhelmed and in awe of the talents these seven members have. I fell in love with them even more as I discovered more songs and the stories behind them.
In June, the group ventured into their first live virtual concert with BANG BANG CON: The Live to celebrate the group’s 7th anniversary, and at the same time, to make their fans happy and embrace the "new normal" in the live concert scene.
The paid online concert registered more than 700,000+ unique users and with that, BTS promised to come back with a bigger online concert before the year ends.
And they did. Over the weekend, the two-day BTS Map of the Soul ON:E Online Concert finally happened. BTS Army all over the world were given the chance to witness the supposed line up for the Map of the Soul: 7 World Tour if it had pushed through. For hardcore fans, this is a concert that should not be missed because it might be the only chance for the group to perform the songs from the Map of the Soul: 7 album. Fans looked forward to the solo stages the most.
I have to admit that, although I had a great time watching BANG BANG CON: The Live last June, I was a bit nervous for the boys before the first day of the Map of the Soul ON:E concert started. How will they be able to pull this off knowing they’ll perform most of the songs for the first time? Since the tickets are more expensive this time around, will they have bigger sets? Fans are about to witness the "what could’ve been" which they’ll experience in the comforts of their own homes.
The show started with a VCR inspired by the group’s main music video for ON. A live marching band played and BTS started on a high note with an energetic performance of ON at the KSPO Dome in Seoul. It reminds me of the times when members express in interviews about how eager they are to show the full-blown performance set-up for ON.
Now we can confirm that it is a "massive" idea. The group cuts to NO, which is an important single of theirs from 2014 which shocked some fans in a nostalgic way. The momentum continued as they do a complicated dance break routine before performing their second single from 2013, We are Bulletproof Pt.2. Whew! Where do these boys get their energy?
The solo stage kicks off with Intro: Persona featuring the group’s leader RM. As fans on Twitter said, we have to listen to the President’s State of the Nation address! The powerful performance of RM is challenged by a giant CGI version of himself that if you haven’t seen the music video, this part might shock you. "Persona, who the hell am I? I just want to go and I just want to fly," he raps as he faces his "persona".
He is later on joined by the rest of BTS to perform another old banger, Boy in Luv, where they wore school-inspired outfits. This gave newer fans an opportunity to hear some of their earlier singles that may not have been big international hits, but are still considered as great hip-hop dance tracks.
They finally get the chance to talk to Armies virtually by stating their introductions before they sing a more powerful trap version of their 2019 hit Dionysus that is featured in both Map of the Soul: Persona and Map of the Soul: 7 albums.
The VCR clips shown in between live performances are related to the past eras of BTS Concerts. This time, they focused on finding the "map of the soul."
The show intensifies as SUGA starts with Interlude: Shadow. He starts rapping his iconic verses: "I wanna be a rapstar. I wanna be the top. I want to be rich. I wanna be a rockstar. I want it all mine. I wanna be rich. I wanna be a king," in a determined manner while in a white hallway. As he walks towards the camera, several "shadows" try to reach him until he finally reaches the main stage where he is still haunted by these shadows.
He then raps more aggressively, as if showing desperation now that he reached his dreams. This transitioned beautifully to Black Swan. The beautiful choreography of this song is one of my favorites and the song talks about the fear of losing your love and passion to your art. Jimin then performs a Black Swan solo expressing the frustrations of an artist in agony.
The orchestra version for his contemporary dance is just dramatic and beautiful. This is ART.
BTS Rap Line SUGA, RM and J-Hope appear in a virtual boxing match as they sing UGH!, one of the highly anticipated performances in the concert. You can feel the anger, rage and frustration by the way they spit their lines. If you didn't know these three talented rappers well, you might have had the impression that they were really fighting. That was intense!
To calm down our feelings, the Vocal Line composed of Jin, V, Jimin and Jungkook performs Zero O’Clock (00:00). Dressed in angelic outfits, the boys harmonize as they bring hope to insomniacs out there, that a new day awaits and that no matter what they’re going through right now, they’re going to be happy eventually.
Even if I felt different types of emotions when I reached the middle of the setlist, I wasn’t fully prepared with the solo stages of the Vocal Line.
Starting off with Jungkook’s R&B track My Time, the song talks about the Golden Maknae’s journey towards K-Pop stardom. Starting and becoming successful at a young age (he just turned 23 last September), I was surprised with his shocking performance.
Let’s just say that he proved that he’s a grown man now and boy, what a talented, sexy man! Vocals and dance moves on point!
Jimin’s Filter is something that fans were curious about. This Latin-inspired dance track is about a guy showing different sides of himself in order to please someone. "I can be your genie. What about Aladdin? Let me know your type."
What I love about this performance is you can really feel the "Jimin Effect." He is too captivating and mesmerizing to watch! Like a plot twist in a movie, Jimin’s quick costume change and coming out to seduce more viewers towards the end just drove me crazy. This proves that "Once you JimIN, you can’t JimOut" is true.
Now let’s proceed to a more wholesome set! The Hyung of BTS Jin sings the happy and optimistic song Moon on a set inspired by the book, The Little Prince. The song is like a love letter to the BTS Army, where he is the Moon and the fandom is the Earth.
With lyrics "I wonder all of a sudden, are you also looking at me now? Even my painful scars, wouldn’t everything be found out by you? I will orbit you. I will stay by your side. I will become your light. All for you," and the surprising cute choreography where he danced with foxes interpreting the song as is, reaching his high notes and ending his set by kissing the "Earth" on Day 1 and hugging it tightly on Day 2 is the most adorable thing ever.
The vocal line solo stage ends with V singing Inner Child. This touching track is V’s letter to his younger self. With a carousel and a little kid with him, this endearing set shows V’s sensitive side.
As one of the BTS members who is active in interacting with fans online, he originally envisioned his solo set to have "festival feels" where the audience can actively participate. Due to the current circumstances, his production was able to incorporate fans’ livestream faces singing the parts "we ‘gon change" and "oooooohhh" with him as he does his adlib high notes. This was a sincerely beautiful sight!
For the last solo stage, the official sunshine/portable charger of BTS J-Hope performs his uplifting track Outro: Ego. This is the part of the show where viewers get their dose of virtual serotonin boost after going through a rollercoaster ride of emotions on the earlier sets.
This song is about J-Hope finally accepting his fate and embracing whatever comes his way. In the album, this is the perfect outro track for us to continue to live life in a lighter manner.
I love J-Hope’s easy to copy choreography and I won’t be surprised if in days to come, this song and the dance steps will be a part of some people’s morning routine.
He is reunited with a happier BTS onstage to perform the Umbrella concept of the 2019 hit song Boy with Luv, which they performed at Bang Bang Con: The Live last June.
For throwback's sake, the group performed DNA, which highly featured some effects from the original 2017 video, DOPE, from 2015 where they showcased their synchronized dance steps, as an imaginary old elevator goes everywhere it wants to go, and a tougher version of No More Dream from 2013, their first ever single.
Guess what? The boys reached their dreams!
There are differences in Day 1 and Day 2 when it comes to the Encore Stage with virtual Army. On the first day, they performed the uplifting ballad Butterfly and the 2015 hit Run. Both songs are special for BTS and Army because it was when Run was released that BTS started getting recognition in their home country.
On the second day, they sung Spring Day from 2017. This song remains the "queen" of the BTS Discography and is considered as their most timeless hit in South Korea. They also sang IDOL from 2018 but in a fun, carefree version. IDOL stages are usually overwhelming and intense, but this is my favorite one now. As expected, they performed their latest single Dynamite on both days.
The ending speech of the first and second day have different vibes. Day one is more emotional with Jimin crying and the members expressing how not seeing Army in person and not performing live affected them. By Day 2, they are more relaxed and energized with the presence of the lucky virtual Armies who were cheering and singing with them. What I loved about this part is the number of Armies showing their slogans, pickets of members, and the BT21 dolls particularly RJ's.
The ending song of both days is We are Bulletproof: The Eternal. When they wrote this song, they envisioned audience participation with the Army bombs and singing Armies with them. This time, they’ve done it virtually.
I was singing with them at home, too, while holding my favorite RJ bag charm because I don’t own an Army bomb yet. When the song was released in June as part of the BTS FESTA, a lot of Armies were in tears and missed them more. The feeling is still the same, but it was a relief watching them finally perform it live with millions of fans – though they can’t see us all in person.
The BTS Map of the Soul ON:E Weekend came to an end, and post-concert depression started sinking in.
Was it worth the money? Yes. Was it worth the time spent? Yes. Will I watch it again once the DVD is released? YES I WILL. All I can do for now is play the full Map of the Soul: 7 album and remember the good moments of this overwhelming weekend concert as the Map of the Soul era officially ends.
(Photos and Screencaps Credit: Big Hit Entertainment)