The sunshine-drenched collaboration with Halsey was the band’s first official comeback after their most successful year yet. Thanks to a promo schedule that included the first live performance of the song on Saturday Night Live, “Boy With Luv” saw BTS push even further into the global spotlight, amassing new fans and amazing old ones. And while the band’s latest album Map of the Soul: 7 has seen them break even more records (it’s kind of their thing), “Boy With Luv” remains one of the band’s most special comeback moments to date.
Following the CGI sensory overload of 2018’s “IDOL”, and the angst-laced “Fake Love” before it, “Boy With Luv” marked a new era for BTS. In the music video, the group moves between bright set pieces, laughing through pastel costume changes to the song’s addictive melody. A relatively stripped-back showcase of BTS’s choreography and enigmatic charm, it’s impossible to watch “Boy With Luv” and not feel joy radiating off the members as they interact softly with each other. For people tentatively dipping their toe into the very wide and deep pool of BTS, the video created an accessible escapism into something warm, soothing, and fun. To put it bluntly, “Boy With Luv” is incredibly easy to enjoy.
But if you think accessible means simple then think again, because simple truly isn’t a word that applies to BTS — ever. The band’s discography is incredibly layered; like an iceberg, what we see or hear first with BTS is just a fraction of what lies beneath.
“Boy With Luv” holds many of the tokens fans have come to associate with BTS, like being self-referential with their body of work. The English title harkens back to their 2014 track “Boy in Luv,” and while both songs explore many different kinds of love, established fans (dubbed ARMY) quickly noticed the small but important distinction of BTS now having love as opposed to wanting it, like they discuss in the 2014 song. It was a meaningful choice for the band, as “Boy With Luv” was the first single following their trilogy of Love Yourself albums. Their mission of empowering people to love themselves was the through-line of that tour and the key message in leader RM’s impassioned speech at the United Nations in 2018.
In Korean, the title for “Boy With Luv” is “작은 것들을 위한 시.” In English, the literal translation is “A Poem for Small Things,” and that title especially resonates with ARMY. Lyrically, that title and the song’s lyrics can be interpreted as BTS learning to appreciate the little things that make them happy away from their larger-than-life existence as some of the world’s most influential artists. And this full-circle theme wasn’t just a pleasing easter egg for fans, but a sigh of relief after an unsettling time for BTS.
Months before the release of “Boy With Luv”, BTS shocked fans at the 2018 MAMA awards by revealing that they’d recently considered discontinuing the group. Jin, the eldest member, tearfully told the audience: “We suffered a lot this year. We even thought about disbanding but we all gathered our hearts together again, and receiving this award, Iʼm glad that it led to a good result.” For a group that seldom focuses publicly on the downsides of their record-breaking success, the moment was a rare insight into the pressures they faced away from the spotlight. For ARMY, trying to ensure that BTS are as happy as they make them isn’t just an empty wish, but a steering ethos of the community they’ve built.
That context only makes “Boy With Luv” — and the Map of the Soul era it helped ring in — all the more special. In a livestream for fans following the album’s release, RM candidly shared: “Things were getting too big. Too big for us to handle. We decided to focus back on the smaller things.” This makes the “A Poem for Small Things” subtitle even more poignant as a lead single, as he went on to elaborate that the band had decided to step away from grander themes for this new era by instead taking the chance to find and know themselves as individuals. It’s a message that will resonate with anyone who has ever been a part of any fandom; one of the best parts of being a fan is what you learn about yourself through the lens of loving something else.
BTS comebacks are a rush of emotions. They resemble the starting line of a race as you wait on tenterhooks for the siren to blast and tell you it’s time to go. It’s often hard to focus on the details as you try to absorb hidden messages and keep up with the online discourse. But one of the final shots of “Boy With Luv” was easy to sit back and appreciate, whether you were a veteran ARMY or someone wading in for the first time. Across seven seconds, the seven members of BTS smile and shout into the camera, their arms draped around each other. For newcomers, it felt like a shot of serotonin right into the optic nerve; for experienced fans, it was that too — but it also felt like BTS was back, together and stronger than ever with a message of love for each other and for ARMY.
Now, a year later, the scene feels just as sweet — especially at a time when cancelled concerts have led to ARMYs and BTS missing each other more than usual. It was an early sign of what we as fans now know to be true with the release of 7: we are together bulletproof.
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue