When the announcement was made that YouTube Red would be joining together with Korean pop sensation BTS and hosting their original series BTS: Burn The Stage, it was clear that it was going to be a hit amongst K-music listeners. It may also bring a whole new generation of music lovers into the K-pop scene. But we didn’t expect it to be such an emotional rollercoaster.
In the first trailer, we were given glimpses of key moments throughout 2017 that had an impact on the boy group. These moments are already well known within the group’s fandom (called A.R.M.Y.) and have been celebrated non-stop, boosting the group’s worldwide success. But with the second trailer, things take a more serious tone and we see clips of the real BTS, their smiles and their hardships. It seems that the series has a few hidden cards up its sleeve.
Usually, when a true-to-life show is announced for a K-pop group, or any K-idol, there is a certain level of internal editing that the artist, their company, the production and TV company live up to. They are not allowed to show a hard life nor a bad side to the idols. Everything has got to be perfect. In many cases, should something be deemed not perfect, either by the artist themselves or the fans, the show becomes a flop and is cancelled early. The idea that all K-idols are perfect in every way links back to their vigorous training and strict selection schemes. But Burn The Stage looked different, even throughout the trailers. This was something raw, untouched and very new. Fans were not sure if they were ready for this.
Note that this review contains spoilers…
BTS: Burn The Stage, Season 1 Episode 1: “I’d do it all.”
The documentary is filmed around the group’s 2017 “Wings” Tour: Part 1 schedule. The opening scene features reports from around the world about the sold out status of the group’s ticket sales for their first world tour. Clips of the concerts from the many countries they visited throughout the tour flash up on the screen, featuring the members themselves and their fans. The title D-42 flashes on the screen and then we see BTS sitting on a waiting room floor discussing what they want from the documentary – their goals personally and for the fans.
During this segment, RM and Suga are seen discussing with the crew that they want to show a real and raw side to themselves, something that has never been seen or done before within the documented K-pop world, and something that fans would appreciate. There is an air of excitement as the other members agree. The mood is already serious, but it still remains calm and light-hearted. With the members sitting there with no makeup on, the first rule of a K-idol has already been broken. At this moment they seem less like K-idols and more like human beings.
Each member is asked to introduce themselves, starting with RM and then moving on to Suga, Jin, J-hope, Jimin, V and ending on Jungkook. This is the moment you begin to see the conflict between being in an idol or being true to themselves. Each of them have their own personalities, and this is seen through their intros. A favourite moment here is the clip of Jungkook pranking Jin by putting a chocolate ball in his ramyeon and Jin thinking it was a mushroom.
The main body of the documentary revolves around the D-14: Pre-Production Rehearsal. This was held at the KBS television centre so that members and staff could prepare everything for the upcoming concert. Each member is seen super relaxed, sitting around a table in the dressing room with food scattered around a table, laughing and joking. A conversation begins with Jimin and RM explaining how tired they are that they both went to study their Japanese cue cards, only for the both of them to end up falling asleep. Of course, this is when all the members erupt in laughter and mess around. Jungkook realises that a camera was on at that moment, and for the second time you see the inner turmoil of the K-idol training as well as the want and need to be real for the documentary. I believe that it was at this moment that the members truly believed in the show, and began to trust the production crew.
Another clip shows the members having fun, practising what is needed and adding the final touches to certain aspects of their performances is shown. It is obvious that although they are relaxing a lot more, there is some playing up to the cameras and some awkwardness. Throughout the rehearsal filming, there are also clips of the members doing personal private interviews. Jimin is one of the first and when asked what he expects from the concert, he speaks about the fans, saying “We have fans that support us from afar, so it is nice that we can go and meet them. I believe they expect something from us, something they can’t usually see, like the performances they see on TV from afar. I want to show them as is.” There is a feeling of appreciation, but also a feeling of burden.
As previously mentioned, the members are at the rehearsal with no makeup on and in practise clothing. There are a few close up moments where we see some of the boys with acne, dark circles under their eyes or showing signs of physical tiredness. Not only does this show the stress and strain they go through as performers, it also solidifies that they have imperfections. The closeness of the members is felt throughout the video, but a touching moment through another personal interview segment is when Jimin is asked what his motivations are as a BTS member. His reply is, “The members are my motivation.” This can be seen and felt throughout the whole episode.
The members are asked to leave a message for themselves one year in advance, when they can watch back and see how much they have grown – this coincides with the release of the first episode. Some are funny, some are serious, and some are thankful, but most of the messages are about believing in themselves and in their fans, along with growth. The documentary returns to the stage where the boys are preparing to practice for their song Wings. The atmosphere is relaxed and they are seen dancing together and making jokes, but obviously working just as hard as ever to make sure things go right.
To show that there are hardships and that the boys aren’t always smiling and messing around, clips of the members fainting, panting, or looking very ill are flashed across the screen. This is a heartbreaking moment and it is the first steps into seeing the real life of an idol. The first episode concludes in the SkyDome in Korea, filled with fans holding their light sticks chanting “B.T.S. B.T.S. B.T.S.” This is why the K-idols work so hard; it’s not for their personal gain, but for the love and energy that the fans give them.
This first episode is a strong start to a season that looks like it could get stronger as each member’s awkwardness disappears and they become more relaxed. It is definitely a new stance for the fly-on-the-wall style documentary, especially for the K-idol scene, but hopefully, it will domino into Korea and create a better understanding and communication between fans and their idols.
Episodes one and two are now available on YouTube Red. Episode one is free, while episode two costs £1.89 to view.