BTS’s eldest vocalist, Kim Seok-jin waved goodbye to the sea of purple at Bueno Aires Argentina on Friday. The concert with Coldplay was filled with bittersweet fleeting moments that fans would be reminiscing for the next couple of days, months, and even years – Chris Martin’s introduction, Jin running to him for a hug, the tearless smile between the two of them, fans sobbing in the crowds, Jin listening to the chants for one last time, and the hues of blue and purple.
But Jin has made it clear that he did not want any tearful farewells, perhaps that’s why they made their military service announcement after the Busan concert, the last scheduled performance. The development has been in the works for a while – the members knew that they would go, regardless of whether the South Korean government allows them the exemption or not. The last two days have shed more light on what has been actually happening, and what the band didn’t let on for months.
In his latest VLive after releasing the single Astronaut, Jin mentioned that they had decided to enlist after their album BE in 2020, but they weren’t prepared for the heights they were going to scale next. The songs Butter, Permission to Dance, the Grammys 2022, cemented their position in the international music industry even further. There were tiny hints of a goodbye along the way – every performance they gave in the last few months, shot for a music video, they thought it would be their last. In the 2020 video, Life Goes On, a track signalling hope in the middle of the pandemic, Jin is at the centre – a hint that ARMY just picked up now. It would’ve been a goodbye to Jin, but it wasn’t.
During Permission to Dance LA in 2021, Jungkook hollered at the audience, “This will never be the last time. There’s never going to be a last time.” The emotional FESTA 2022 makes more sense now – the septet were indirectly saying that they were going to enlist soon. Jin had been singled out as he seemed ‘particularly quiet and aloof’ while the others were crying, when in fact, he had wanted to enlist in May-June itself. The band members requested him to stay on for the Busan concert, because it would please ARMY. There were disagreements and clashes, but Jin finally stayed on, even though he did not want to leave for his service in the winters. Nevertheless, they just requested a break, as they wanted to focus on their solo activities. There were letters were written from governmental agencies, urging them to reconsider their stance. The candle was burning from both ends.
The decision had been made; no one apart from those involved knew it yet. Yet, so much had been going on in unseen footage and not a word of it had been relayed to the public. All these discussions and debates among each other took place behind-the-scenes, while the government argued, held surveys, the band seemingly got jostled around further, and fans were fearful every time Big Hit issued a notice. The members answered in cryptic one-liners when asked about the service at the press conference, even though they already knew what they were going to do. There was talk of economic depression, HYBE stocks kept falling, and the weight of the country’s soft power was almost on seven shoulders. They had also become instruments in South Korean diplomacy. The West would ask, haven’t they already done their service for the country? It was a charged atmosphere with everyone debating on their future, almost snatching the agency from the septet themselves.
The military service topic became a double-edged sword. That was a probing discussion that raged for years, leading to the band to get more hate than ever. Moreover, there was derogatory conversation around ‘the next BTS’ – an insulting term as the band had spent years in making their mark, and it was far from an overnight success. There were those who questioned them for not enlisting, and kept badgering them to head to military. Months of pressure, backlash and hatred, but they kept coming back for concerts, photo-shoots and even two Run BTS episodes, showing their old mad-cap camaraderie – keeping up their smiles and goofiness. Their album Proof, an anthology album, recreating their story from the beginning, was another way of saying goodbye, temporarily.
But it is finally time for Jin to leave, and quickly, the others will follow, even if they still have time before joining the military service. It’s all or nothing, as they’ve always proved. BTS will not function without Jin; they could barely manage without Suga, when he was away for three months recovering from a shoulder surgery.
The Astronaut, the perfect parting gift
Jin’s emotional range is no well-guarded secret, as the songs Epiphany and Moon have showed. But Astronaut, his single with Coldplay, hits hard. The vocalist had called Chris Martin, six months ago, requesting him to help with the goodbye gift for ARMY. It’s a letter full of unshed tears, dedicated to the fans who have believed in the band for 10 years. It’s always unusual that most of BTS’ love songs are tributes to their fans, rather than any possible or fictional romantic interest, a love that they’ve always held close.
Jin’s Astronaut is deeply symbolic and ARMY has already produced countless theories and interpretations of what the song means, or could mean. It’s just about an alien, refusing to return to the mothership and finding home among people, finally feeling a sense of belongingness. Jin smiles as he sits on a pickup truck and heads home, and the video finishes with him solving the crossword – family, ARMY, and cozy. The words that Jin says have always given him comfort.
He explained it simply, he was lost and drifting till he found ARMY, and that’s the love that made him who he is today. In the video, filled with trademark clues from old BTS music videos, including that truck which the septet used so many times. It’s a fitting goodbye, as an astronaut eventually returns to Earth.
It’s the first of the temporary farewells, there are six more to go. But ARMY promises that they’ll be waiting.