The Evolution Of BTS' Music Videos Shows How Much Their Music & Visuals Have Matured
Summing up the extraordinary and complex evolution of BTS' music videos is almost an impossible task. How does one boil down six years of visual perfection into one simple listicle? Frankly, this sounds like a job for ARMYPEDIA.net, but I'll try. ARMYs have loved watching J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jungkook, RM, V, and Suga grow before their eyes with the love of a thousand-million finger hearts. Fans have seen them explore so many different concepts and storylines as they evolved into the music video icons they are today.
From the beginning, BTS has strived to give their fans nothing short of perfection. This has resonated in each and every music video from their debut link "No More Dream" in 2013 to their most recent masterpiece. Through it all, fans have been treated to iconic choreography, compelling storylines, kick-ass costumes, an onslaught of hair colors and styles, group shots, stunning closeups, and breathtaking special effects.
There are few things I love more than a good coming of age tale. The fact that this particular one happens to be about BTS is just icing on an already delicious cake.
Sadly, I'll only get to delve into the original release of music videos for official BTS group albums (because if I included every version of every music video, all the boys' solo ventures, and every FESTA gift in existence, you'd be reading all night — well, if your device doesn't crash first). So, without further ado, I'll dive in!
'2 Cool 4 Skool' Era
"NO MORE DREAM" (JUNE 2013)
Ah, yes. A debut music video. No pressure, just all the pressure in the world. Can you guys believe the angst these little babies are putting out there for this video? Here, the boys' style is a total 180 from what we've become used to seeing the boys rock in 2019. Their concept is super dark, edgy, with a tinge of rage attached to it. (Hang tight, this changes pretty freaking soon.)
"WE ARE BULLETPROOF PT. 2" (JULY 2013)
R.I.P. ab days. Scrub to the :37 timestamp for the super intentional shirt-lift move of the good old days! How we will miss you.
"N.O" (SEPTEMBER 2013)
By fall of BTS' first year together, the boys had transformed into futuristic heroes. The storytelling component of BTS' videos seemed to be kicked up a notch here. I'm talking subplots, people. Oh, and rapper Jungkook. Who can forget rapper JK!
'Skool Luv Affair' Era
"BOY IN LUV" (FEBRUARY 2014)
2014 took a more playful tone. Sure, the boys are still rocking their then-signature dark eyeliner, but the schoolyard storylines featured in this video were, perhaps, much more relatable to their growing fanbase.
"JUST ONE DAY" (APRIL 2014)
By spring 2014, we see the full transition from black leather to straight-up white cotton cardigans to go along with a more laid-back, old-school hip hop sound. Versatility is the name of the game, ARMY! Similarly, this simple set is a juxtaposition to some of the more vibrant set designs fans had seen up until this point.
'Dark & Wild' Era
"DANGER" (AUGUST 2014)
Levels. Moods. Vibes. Emotion. "Danger" is one of the first music videos that really pushed the full emotional range of BTS cinematography. Name a feeling, any feeling, and I guarantee one of the boys displays it at some point in this hit.
"WAR OF HORMONE" (OCTOBER 2014)
Give me that outdoor location shoot, please! Nothing is more fun than seeing the boys hit "the streets" in their "pedestrian" clothes. More than any other video, "War of Hormone" saw the boys exploring their confusing feelings about girls, something fans had yet to see from the boys.
'The Most Beautiful Moment In Life' Era
"I NEED U" (MAY 2015)
Wow. This music video truly was the beginning of a new era. And by era, I mean universe. The "I Need U" music video introduced the Bangtan Universe to ARMYs, a fictional storyline that weaved through a series of BTS' music videos in which each member of the band has their own character. The storyline — which is pretty dark at times, which you can tell from this video — is still ongoing.
"FOR YOU" (JUNE 2015)
After "I Need U," the playful and colorful footage in "For You" was a welcome respite. It also afforded ARMYs the opportunity to peek into the boys' group dynamic a little more.
"DOPE" (JUNE 2015)
Yes, yes. Give it to me, give it to me. This is what I like: synchronized choreography, exciting lighting schemes, and the boys in various literal uniforms. The "Dope" music video certainly foreshadowed what would prove to be a career full of theatrical sets and impressive one-takes.
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2
"RUN" (NOVEMBER 2015)
Another addition to BTS' catalog of music videos that take place within the Bangtan Universe. This video extended the already-rich universe and, as the title suggests, follows seven boys on the run.
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever
"EPILOGUE: YOUNG FOREVER" (APRIL 2016)
This addition to the Bangtan Universe used an old-school grainy effect layered over the camera to give off a totally different, raw, and natural vibe. The song itself became somewhat of an anthem among fans, too. At BTS' historic concert at Wembley Stadium in June 2019, fans sang the classic song to the boys to show their love.
"FIRE" (MAY 2016)
Things got a little serious there, huh? BTS' "Fire" music video was a departure from the Bangtan Universe, and fans got treated to the boys' fun sense of humor once more and ~fire~ choreography (see what I did there?). It's also the perfect song to play while you get ready for a big night out!
"SAVE ME" (MAY 2016)
This simply executed video focuses solely on the boys' emotions and dance moves. Plus, perhaps my favorite use of hair dye — V's red locks make a statement in this moody outdoor shoot.
"BEGIN" (September 2016)
Ah, yes. WINGS — the glorious era when BTS began exploring solo songs, and boy was it a good idea. Each member of BTS got their own song on the album. The boys' solo music videos are technically short films that tie in with the Bangtan Universe, but I had to include the boys' solo vids on the list!
"LIE" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
Let's be real, who isn't here for a Jimin dance solo? Iconic.
"STIGMA" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
V-biased fans keep this angsty little number open on their desktop at all times for easy viewing *points at self*.
"FIRST LOVE" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
Did you know that Suga is a legit pianist? He shows off just a little taste of his skills on the keys in this dark, raw short film.
"REFLECTION" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
You may have noticed by now that RM introduces each WINGS short film with narration. RM's excerpt is exceptionally dark. He says in the intro, " The other realm, however, overlapping half our house was completely different; a loud mixture of horrendous, intriguing frightful, mysterious things, including slaughterhouses and prisons, drunkards and screeching fish wives, calving cows, horses sinking to their death, tales of robberies, murders and suicides."
"MAMA" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
I'm just going to say it: I like my J-hope smiley. Still, his solo adventure in his WINGS short film left a lasting impression, which means he can pull of serious and dark just as well as smiley and hopeful.
"AWAKE" (SEPTEMBER 2016)
It's just dawning on me I don't spend nearly enough time looking at Jin's face.
And if you're interested in reading RM's entire narration across all the WINGS short films, here it is in its entirety:
The realms of day and night, two different worlds coming from two opposite poles, mingled during this time. My parents' house made up one realm. This realm was familiar to me in almost every way. Mother and father, love and strictness, model behavior and school. It was the first fissure in the columns that had upheld my childhood, which every individual must destroy before he can become himself. Such fissures and rents grow together again, heal and are forgotten, but in the most secret recesses, they continue to live and bleed. There are numerous ways in which God can make us lonely and lead us back to ourselves. This was the way He dealt with me at that time. The other realm, however, overlapping half our house was completely different; a loud mixture of horrendous, intriguing frightful, mysterious things, including slaughterhouses and prisons, drunkards and screeching fish wives, calving cows, horses sinking to their death, tales of robberies, murders and suicides. With a face that resembled her son's, timeless, ageless and full of inner strength, the beautiful woman smiled with dignity. Her gaze was fulfillment, her greeting a homecoming. Silently, I stretched my hands out to her. The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Who would be born must first destroy a world. The bird flies to God. That God's name is Abraxas.
"BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS" (OCTOBER 2016)
This isn't the first or the last time the boys used a green screen, but it may be one of my favorite! Objectively, the "Blood Sweat & Tears" music video is a stunning spectacle. Jimin's opening dance moves shall go down in history.
'You Never Walk Alone' Era
"SPRING DAY" (FEBRUARY 2017)
Fun Fact: "Spring Day" is one of the most popular songs in South Korea when you consider its longevity. It's the longest-charting single by an Idol group on the South Korean Melon Chart ever, with 127 consecutive weeks on the chart. It's still charting to this day.
"NOT TODAY" (FEBRUARY 2017)
Welcome a whole bunch of extras! After the minimalism of the WINGS video collection, the big group ensemble featured in the "Not Today" music video was a super fun change of energy and pace.
'Love Yourself: Her' Era
"SERENDIPITY" (SEPTEMBER 2017)
Jimin's Love Yourself solo "Serendipity" served as the intro trailer for their Her era and really showed a soft, introspective side of him that he doesn't often get to display in music videos. But who else wishes there was a dance version of this video so he could show of his iconic choreography? It can't just be me, right?
"DNA" SEPTEMBER (2017)
According to Billboard, the music video for "DNA" broke records at the time of its release, becoming the fastest K-pop group to reach 10 million views (taking just eight hours). Small potatoes for the bTS of 2019, I admit, but still impressive.
"MIC DROP" (NOVEMBER 2017)
Is it just me, or am I picking up on some "No More Dreams" OG bad-boy vibes? (You guys see it, right?)
"EUPHORIA" (APRIL 2018)
We return to the Bangtan Universe for Jungkook's Love Yourself solo, and yes, watching this video never fails to make me emotional. Period.
'Love Yourself: Tear' Era
"SINGULARITY" (MAY 2018)
V's Love Yourself solo "Singularity" served as the intro to BTS' Tear era and OMG... could this video be any sexier?
"FAKE LOVE" (MAY 2018)
Proof that the simple decision to dye your hair all the same matching brown color is as effective as having access to a massive sound stage with staff and crew.
'Love Yourself: Answer' Era
"EPIPHANY" (AUGUST 2018)
Another solo track, "Epiphany" is a major slow-down stunner when compared to some of the shorter and more energized videos we've seen so far. It's definitely one of their more cinematic ventures and it served as the intro for the Love Yourself: Answer era.
"IDOL" (AUGUST 2018)
As I've curated this list I've found that it's often easiest to sum up a music video in a few words. "IDOL" earned the words "iconic," "timeless," and "yaaaaaas!" The boys' Matel fashion dolls would go on to rock the ~iconic~ looks I mentioned.
"AIRPLANE PT. 2" (NOVEMBER 2018)
OK, so this video is technically still part of the Tear era based on the album it was on, but it came out in November 2018 during the Answer era, so just go with the flow here. Anyway, I'm going to say something controversial: This is my favorite music video. I love the dancing. I love the set. I love the costumes. I love V's rings. I love the fake rain. I love it.
'Map of the Soul: Persona' Era
"PERSONA" (MARCH 2019)
Holy sh*t, we made it to 2019! RM's Map of the Soul solo served as the intro to the Persona era. The song's sonic vibe calls back to BTS' old-school hip hop vibes from debut days, but worked in a 2019-BTS concept through the video, which explores the mask you put on to face the world.
"BOY WITH LUV" FEAT. HALSEY (APRIL 2019)
At the time of publication, "Boy With Luv" featuring Halsey is chilling on YouTube with right around 470,000,000 views. Count those zeroes one more time... I'll wait.
"HEARTBEAT" (JUNE 2019)
"Heartbeat" and its music video is a bit of an anomaly thanks to where it came from. This song is one of the sub-tracks on the now famous BTS World game app and the video footage is all part of the storyline!
"Lights" (July 2019)
I can't think of a more symbolic finale to this listicle. In the boys' 2019 Japanese release, they're literally watching themselves, their life stories, and friendships back on the big screen.
A little "Inception"-like, eh?
I'd say something meaningful like "what a major life accomplishment" but I know there is so much more where this came from. ARMYs are waiting for the next music video, whatever it may be, and to see what color hair everyone decides to kick off the next chapter.
Keep it comin', guys.