On a livestream in early April, BTS member Jungkook shared two of his favorite dreams. From 26:12, he spoke of being mesmerized by a night sky flooded with golden stars. But as the sky rolled like waves of the sea, with the stars continuously blooming and fading like flowers, a sense of anxiety crept in. There’s something wrong with these stars, he thought. They look like they’re about to explode.

A description of the other began at 33:25, three consecutive stages of the same type of dream. In the first, he tried his hardest to fly, but could only dive head-first into the ground. In the second, he couldn’t steer himself in the right direction due to the disconnect between his mind and body. But in the third, he could fly happily through a starry galaxy above the night sea. When he feared the dream would come to an end, a fairy-like girl greeted him at a portal with a spell which would allow him to fly as long as he wished in this similar-yet-different world. He’d never felt so free.

Jungkook’s dreams are striking, for they’re filled with symbols threaded throughout BTS’s nine-year-long history: flowers, for the rapturous bloom of youth curdled by the undercurrent of uncertainty; flying, for the notion of moving relentlessly towards a destination; the night sky as our life story, with scars and regrets stitched in as stars to create treasured constellations; the sea, as a distant mirage of hope in a desert of hardship; and a magic door, for new beginnings and the promise of much-needed rest.

Five weeks after Jungkook shared his dreams, BTS released their latest album and first anthology Proof, a whirlwind tour of 48 tracks over three CDs. It’s startling, perhaps even unsettling, to have all their past musical eras – School, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Wings, Love Yourself, Map of the Soul, Be, and their trio of English singles – condensed so succinctly into “Chapter 1: Youth.” But, well, that’s what happens when seven boys from South Korea become the biggest band in the world before the oldest hits 30. There are many more chapters to go.

Proof is an assurance of BTS’s longstanding vision. As they begin to write their next chapter — one with new stories and increased solo activities — it’s by tracing their symbols from past to present that we best see their promise for the future.

Bulletproof to Beautiful

The album contains two contrasting concepts: “Proof” and “Door.” They could be understood as echoes of BTS’s two official logos: the bulletproof vest used from 2013-17, and the mirror images of two trapezoids forming an open door for BTS and their ARMY fans from 2017 onwards.

Proof” has the seven members stand imposingly in front of a vault riddled with bullets. In their solo shots, lasers aim directly at their face. The older members Jin, Suga, RM, and J-Hope stare down green lasers; the younger members Jimin, V, and Jungkook, red. But they stand confident, fearless. The shields behind them may be wrecked, but they themselves are bulletproof. “Bulletproof” is a loaded word for the group, of course. BTS’s full Korean name “Bangtan Sonyeondan” literally translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts,” showcasing their resolve to deflect the bullets of society’s stereotypes and expectations of today’s youth.





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