BTS Offer Their Most Intimate, Powerful Live Performance Yet On ‘Unplugged’
The South Korean septet give audiences an inside look into the making of their 2020 hit album, ‘BE’ and surprise fans with a cover of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ on MTV’s iconic series
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when BTS shattered the glass ceiling. Perhaps, it was moment their 2016 album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever won a Daesang– the highest form of achievement a group or a solo artist is awarded within South Korea– or perhaps, it was the time they became the first South Korean act to debut at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with their English single “Dynamite.” Maybe it was earlier this year when they became the first South Korean group to become nominated for a Grammy. Regardless of the timeline and scale of their success however, this septet has proved they understand what it means to use their art to innovate, evolve, break barriers and win hearts on the way.
With a NPR Tiny Desk performance already under their belt, BTS now make their debut on MTV’s Unplugged series–previously stage to artists like Paul Mcartney, Mariah Carey and of course most famously Nirvana– walking us through the emotions and art behind their latest record BE, as well as offering an unexpected cover of Coldplay’s iconic 2005 soft rock ballad “Fix You.” The episode was aired worldwide earlier this morning, with Vh1 India and Voot Select bringing it to local screens.
The episode opens with BTS’ first-ever performance of their 1980-inspired, disco-funk track, “Telepathy.” Written and composed by rapper SUGA, who revealed in the episode that the track came into existence after he took inspiration from older demos, “Telepathy” is an upbeat offering about finding an escape from monotony. The members keep it bright and playful as they perform the track in a colorful lounge, engaging various indoor activities like arcade games and keeping each other entertained, symbolic of time spent in quarantine. After a short break to discuss the writing process behind “Telepathy,” in true Unplugged tradition, the mood shifts to a slightly more sombre note with “Blue & Grey.”
The pop ballad’s minimalistic melody allows the members to show off their individual styles as vocalists and rappers, helping listeners feel the underlying emotion of sadness and uncertainty that acted as the source of inspiration for V while writing the song. V’s vocals are absolutely stand-out on “Blue & Grey,” the emotions conveyed powerfully on every delicate note he hits. The set design on this section is particularly breathtaking; wild flowers and tall, swaying grass fill an empty corridor with the lighting imitating a gloomy day, right before it rains. The members enter one by one for their parts, now dressed in suits that mimic school uniforms–perhaps symbolic of the year of youth we all lost in 2020.
It’s the perfect segue into the group’s ‘surprise’ cover of Coldplay’s timeless classic “Fix You”– easily the most outstanding segment of the episode, the surprise slightly spoiled by MTV’s premature announcement of the same. The vocalists take centre stage on the pop rock ballad with effortlessly soaring notes, the rap-line pairing up with them to create haunting, impeccable harmonies. Leader RM however steals the show, inciting goosebumps with his deep and breathy vocals that both complement the singers and show off his own distinct charm. The set design is simple, with the band in dark suits and seated on stools while lights overhead spotlight each member.
BTS ended their episode on Unplugged with their 2020 hits “Life Goes On” and “Dynamite.” Performed with a live band comprising a rich bass-guitar-organ mashup, the stripped-down approach to both tracks displays diversity within the group that makes it easier for them to experiment with multiple genres with ease. While ”Life Goes On” takes a sweet and simple route with a minimalistic beige set, “Dynamite” is a celebration in every word, performed against a brick wall dotted the band’s platinum and gold records–a not-so-subtle flex to show the world just who they are–with the members dressed in crisp white suits.
BTS’ Unplugged set design is perhaps one of the most intimate so far out of the band’s collection of pre-recorded performances. Put together by their long-term collaborators ZanyBros, each set manages to embody the emotional quotient of its corresponding track. While the band performed B-side tracks off their album BE for the first time, it is their cover of “Fix You” that made this performance absolutely unforgettable. While the cover shines a light on BTS’ ability to pay tribute to iconic records, it’s also a pretty fantastic display of their understanding of rearrangement in the way they shifted a track with one vocalist to suit a seven-member group. All in all MTV Unplugged Presents: BTS is a fantastic introduction to the band’s abilities if you’re just discovering them, and a celebration of their journey with you if you’ve been a long-time fan.