BTS’s “Black Swan” And The Complicated Emotions of Burn Out

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Black Swan

BTS is the biggest boy band, or idol group, in the world. Every day they seem to break more and more records. Most recently, their track “Black Swan” off their seventh album, Map of the Soul, broke the worldwide iTunes record by hitting #1 In 104 Countries. This broke the record previously held by Adele’s “Hello,” which ranked number one on iTunes in 102-countries. Needless to say, the track is popular. It features a sexy and melodious beat that is coupled with smooth, autotuned vocals. The song feels like water, ebbing, and flowing through each verse. Despite comprising of seven distinct members, BTS’ “Black Swan” sticks out because of how similar the vocal and rap feel. This is mostly because of the choice to autotune the vocals to feel so similar. While this creates a soothing melody that beautifully flows, it’s also representative of the overall message of the song because the calming R&B inspired beat is deceiving.

“Black Swan” is about being a performer and becoming exhausted or burnt out by your passion. Suga’s opening rap describes how his heart no longer races when music is played. It goes on to compare this feeling to that of death.

The heart no longer races
When hearing the music play
Tryna’ pull up
Seems like time has stopped
Oh that would be my first death
I been always afraid of

The comparison of losing your passion to death is incredibly impactful because my entire online brand and a majority of my personality revolve around my writing. Not being able to love writing anymore feels like death, both figurately and literally. Considering my struggle with suicidal ideation, writing has kept my heart beating. The theme of the heart beating continues throughout the lyrics of “Black Swan” and is referenced multiple times by the rappers and vocalists. V and Jimin’s pre-chorus echo this with the English lyrics reading, “no song affects me anymore.” Music is BTS’s passion and now the act of making it and performing is no longer thrilling. Instead, it feels like being on autopilot — going through the motions without really feeling them.

Anyone whose passion is their job understands this. Burnout isn’t just exhausting, it is heartbreaking. Recently, I struggled with writing. Writing isn’t just a hobby, it is my job. For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to write in one capacity or another. Writing is how I express my feelings and understand my own identity. Like a lot of millennials, I made my passion and hobby a living. But what do you do when you are burnt out on the one thing that makes you feel sane? If you are anything like me, you push through and write an emotional piece (or two) to cope with the sense of exhaustion and loss you can’t quite vocalize.

The beauty of being a BTS fan, or a fan of K-Pop in general, who does not speak Korean is that I get to experience songs twice. The first time I hear a song I can only go off of the feeling it gives me. After looking up the lyrics, that feeling sometimes changes, but usually, it is amplified. In the case of “Black Swan,” I was duped. This is mostly because I initially misheard the lyrics “Film it now” as “Feeling me now.” This small misunderstanding completely changed the entire mood of the song.

What I first thought was sexy B-side bop turned out to be the most emotional single off of the album, at least for me personally. Suddenly something I bop to in the middle of traffic became a song I listen to at 11:30 pm when I have an existential crisis about what I am doing with my life. Knowing the lyrics made the catchy beat feel ironic. One of the best songs on the album is about the inability to enjoy making music. In a similar vein, most of my best pieces are written when I feel like I cannot write anymore.

While I am barely an influencer, and I am certainly not part of the biggest band in the world, I do understand the concept of putting on a persona for the camera. I put on makeup and do my hair to take an Instagram picture even when I feel awful because I have a brand to maintain. The concept of putting yourself on auto-pilot in both an attempt to remember what that passion feels like and to stay alive is familiar. After understanding the lyrics of “Black Swan” I was hit with a wave of emotion. There is catharsis in feeling like you are not alone and it is nice to know that even the biggest boy band in the world gets burnt out. And it’s also nice to know they can power through that burnout and create something magical.