On April 26, a corner of the internet exploded.
A countdown had appeared on BTS’s YouTube channel, and the group’s fans — ARMY — immediately entered panic mode. Over the next hour, ARMY watched in their hundreds of thousands as an animated yellow cube melted into the shape of a heart. At the end of the hour, the title of BTS’s next single was finally revealed, and in the weeks that followed, RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook unveiled numerous concept clips, stylized photos, and tantalizing teasers for fans to devour.
It all culminated at midnight ET on Friday with the release of “Butter,” the new summer single from the biggest band in the world.
As is now tradition for BTS, the song’s music video promptly broke a YouTube record, premiering with almost 3.9 million concurrent viewers. By the end of its first hour, it had racked up more than 20 million views. The release was a pop culture moment, and something BTS leader RM was excitedly anticipating when he spoke with BuzzFeed News over email the day before the song dropped.
“Of course, the moment when we reveal our song and music video — nothing can match that momentary satisfaction,” RM explained. “It doesn't last long, but that flashing moment really hits us. Surprise!”
The song and music video are both a much-needed breath of fresh summer air after a long, long winter stuck inside. At a global press conference marking the song’s release on Friday, vocalist Jimin described it as “cute and maybe a little charismatic, but also kind.” The group’s youngest, Jungkook, promised that “Butter” will “stick with you for a long time.”
Vibrantly uplifting and icy cool in equal measure, “Butter” is the group’s second single — after last year’s Grammy-nominated smash “Dynamite” — sung and rapped entirely in English. “We wanted to have a fun BTS summer song that everyone can enjoy,” Jin told BuzzFeed News of that decision. “And as always, we want our music to reach out to as many people as possible.”
“Recording ‘Butter’ was really fun,” V agreed. “And we wanted to share those good vibes with our listeners and enjoy this summer.”
“I want to make songs that remain in people’s minds for a long time.”
While things may be looking more hopeful now than they were when the group released “Dynamite” in 2020, it’s undeniable that the events of the last year have affected the way BTS approaches making music.
At Friday’s press conference, rapper Suga acknowledged how living through the pandemic has impacted how he feels about his work, with him spending time listening to BTS’s back catalog to understand the consoling influence their music can have on its listeners.
“Most of the music that I grew up listening to talked about dreams, hope, and introspection in the midst of despair,” Suga told BuzzFeed News of the importance of positivity in his music. “I got influenced by that kind of music and became who I am today. So in turn I also want to give that kind of influence.”
That desire to provide comfort and hope was exemplified with the release of the group’s latest album, BE, last November. Suddenly stuck at home with more free time than they’d had in years, BTS made it their mission to provide their fans with a distraction from the despair and threw themselves headfirst into making music. Every member participated more directly than ever before in the creation of the album — an experience Jimin, who took on the role of project manager, told BuzzFeed News he “enjoyed a lot.”
“I could see very closely our members’ efforts and hard work and the experience motivated me to do even better going forward,” Jimin said of what the process taught him. “It also made me realize how many helping hands we need to finish an album.”
As for RM, the last year has left him thinking more about the lasting legacy of the music BTS makes.
“I started thinking more about the inner essence of myself and people,” he said. “I want to make songs that remain in people’s minds for a long time.”
But imparting positivity, comfort, hope, and joy isn’t all the group is aiming for with “Butter.”
“This song leans more towards getting to know us and our charms more,” V explained.
That is certainly true. “Butter” is undeniably a self-love anthem (“When I look in the mirror / I’ll melt your heart into two / I got that superstar glow,” Jin and Jimin sing in the pre-chorus) — something those familiar with BTS’s discography will know they have preached passionately for years. But the song’s lyrics are also reminiscent of one of the group’s older B-side tracks — a cheeky, self-aware tribute to their fans that likens their appeal as idols to the classic folktale The Pied Piper of Hamelin.
“Come here, I’m your paradise / Can’t close your eyes,” the members sing in 2017’s “Pied Piper.” “Even if you try to resist, you won’t be able to help it.”
That wink-nudge acknowledgment of their own irresistibility is reflected in “Butter”: “Pull you in like no other / Don’t need no Usher / To remind me you got it bad,” V sings in the second verse.
Any fan will tell you he’s not wrong; the BTS ARMY is sure to gain a whole slew of new recruits with “Butter.”
It’s impossible to talk about BTS — or, in fact, with them — without also acknowledging the fans they hold so close to their hearts. The strength of their connection with ARMY is evidently something always at the forefront of their minds: Just a couple of hours after their press conference wrapped, the members were on V App, streaming live to celebrate the release of “Butter” directly with fans. When BuzzFeed News asked if they still get nervous about releasing new music, V said he is actually more excited — “about ARMY’s reaction, and to see them happy.”
“I think we can maintain such an incredible relationship because we know what ARMY means to us,” rapper J-Hope mused. “And vice versa.”
“Butter” exists as a neatly packaged, three-minute-long reminder of that relationship. The music video is sprinkled with subtle shoutouts to the group’s fans: There’s the BTS and ARMY logos side by side on elevator buttons and the date of BTS’s first concert hidden in Jimin’s made-up mugshot. But there are more overt references too — the members giddy and grinning, literally spelling out the word “ARMY” with their bodies, as RM raps: “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so.”
It speaks to the power of BTS that a moment witnessed simultaneously by almost 4 million viewers feels like a playful community in-joke, and it’s impossible not to imagine the moment tens of thousands of ARMY experience that line rapped in a stadium for the first time. It’s been more than a year since BTS have seen their fans in person, and even longer since they’ve performed in front of an audience, and the moment they are finally able to do so again is never far from their minds.
“It’s going to be beautiful, passionate, and emotional for sure,” Jungkook told BuzzFeed News of the day that reunion finally arrives. “What else should I say?”
As for the more immediate future, the members of BTS like to maintain a little mystery. They’ll be performing “Butter” for the first time at this Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards — where they’re nominated in four categories — and Suga expressed hopes at Friday’s press conference that the song might become their next Billboard No. 1. In less than a month, they’ll be kicking off Festa, the annual celebration of the June 13 anniversary of their debut, and they are always, of course, working on music. But as for the possibility of another album in the near future — that’s for them to know, and us to find out.
“I’m afraid I cannot elaborate,” J-Hope teased when BuzzFeed News asked about BTS’s upcoming plans. “But we do have some other surprises. So keep on the lookout!”