On BTS, Writing, and What Makes an Artist

My flight to Los Angeles for the Permission to Dance concerts in November 2021 was a red eye, yet I was wide awake, surrounded by an excited ARMY crowd of all ages, races, languages, sizes, and genders — we were going to see BTS! We entered the doors in our hearts and emerged into paradise; we were strangers yet best of friends, complimenting each other’s purple hair, comparing our BT21 tags, exchanging LA restaurant recommendations. We shared a love for BTS, and had spent so many years watching seven men support each other deeply, like Jungkook’s Golden Closet Films highlighting his fellow band members or the way they show up for each other’s solo songs. The same thing is surely happening for thousands this week, as BTS takes over Las Vegas, renamed as Borahaegas, for a four-date concert residency. ARMY bond comes automatically, inspired by the exquisite brotherhood running through Bangtan, reminding us we will never walk alone, a reminder given to me again and again by the people and art I love.

At the press conference in Los Angeles, Jimin said that “…we want to bring healing and consolation to everyone else who is also going through these hard times and living through these challenges together… [These concerts] made me feel like we are back where we belong, and I hope everyone can end up where they belong.” 

We, ARMY, did end up where we belong. We belonged at the concerts, singing and dancing and crying with each other and our favorite artists, and I can’t wait for us to keep nestling ourselves in belonging — at BTS concerts, yes, but also in bookstores, art galleries, movie theaters, our homes, our loved ones’ arms, our soft and tender selves — because we belong with whatever and whoever keeps us thriving and reveling and ruminating in this universe

In her book The End of the Novel of Love, one of my favorite writers, Vivian Gornick argues about her own favorite writer, Grace Paley, that people love life more because of her writing. That Paley’s writing makes us “feel again the crazy wild sexy excitement of life.” I, and many other ARMY, no doubt feel this way about BTS. Is this not the purest, truest, sense of art? This revel of life? 

How can you love them so much, asks a friend. How is your brain wired to fangirl so hard, asks another. The answers to these questions possibly lay in the fact that to me, there’s no difference between listening to a BTS song and standing in front of a Devon Shimoyama painting. No difference between watching a Leslie Cheung film and observing an Etel Adnan leporello and hanging up my friend’s illustration in my living room. It’s all art to me. Art that reminds me why this life is worth living. 

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