The seven members of BTS — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook — are no strangers to pushing limits and smashing barriers, whether it’s breaking chart records, selling out stadiums, or simply playing with the increasingly indistinct boundaries of the musical genre.
Released on July 9, the group’s latest single “Permission to Dance” — cowritten by Ed Sheeran, alongside Jenna Andrews, Steve Mac, and Johnny McDaid — explores yet another new sound for the pop superstars. It’s a sound that, BTS leader RM told BuzzFeed News over email, “goes along with the message [they] wanted to convey at this moment, right now.”
“We wanted to tell everyone that you don’t need permission to dance, and this message itself is bright and energetic,” RM explained. “We’ve been delivering our honest emotions and thoughts through music for the past eight years, and ‘Permission to Dance’ is also one of those manifestations.”
The song’s lyrics are packed full of boundless optimism — encouragement to cast worries aside and keep going accompanied by an irresistible melody, bouncy piano bars, and rousing strings. It’s a continuation of the message of comfort and hope that BTS has striven tirelessly to impart since their debut in 2013 and throughout the past year especially, from last summer’s smash single “Dynamite” to their latest album, BE, and now the chart-toppers “Butter” and “Permission to Dance.” Hand in hand with the joy and hope and optimism of “Permission to Dance,” though, comes another, quieter kind of comfort: the companionable promise that, despite our physical distance, we are all going through this together.
“For the past year, everyone’s been through tough times, including us,” Jimin acknowledged when asked how the group stays motivated to spread positivity in hard times. “But we tried to keep ourselves immersed in what we could do best, which is music, because that was the best option we had at that time.”
“We also wanted to continuously share something with ARMY so we can stay connected,” he added. “So our motivation was ourselves and ARMY.”
That desire for sincere connection and their unwavering message of support and hope has undoubtedly paid off — with “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” combined, BTS has spent the last ten weeks in a row sitting comfortably in the No. 1 spot of the Billboard Hot 100. The songs were their fourth and fifth No. 1s, respectively; their first, “Dynamite,” was achieved less than a year ago, making BTS the quickest act to accumulate five chart-toppers since Michael Jackson in 1988. It’s an achievement, rapper Suga told BuzzFeed News, that the group “never expected” — but he described it as “another opportunity for [them] to realize the impact [their] music holds.”
“We feel proud, because we grew together with our fans, ARMY, and achieved this together step by step,” Suga said when asked what makes BTS proudest of their work. “So we’re proud of the journey together.”
“And these days we’re looking for ways to return the abundant love that we are receiving,” added RM. “We want to send a sincere message through our music of course, and also through other channels as well.”
Now BTS is inviting their fans to get even more directly involved in the “Permission to Dance” fun, partnering with YouTube Shorts for a dance challenge encouraging participants to put their own creative spin on some of the song’s core choreography. Vocalist V told BuzzFeed News that watching ARMY produce their own creations based on the group’s work — whether it’s visual art, song covers, or dance videos — always makes the members “feel great.”
“We do feel a sense of responsibility to deliver music that is not only great, but would have a positive impact on people,” V elaborated.
According to YouTube, the "Permission to Dance" Challenge is “an effort to bring people around the world together to dance along with BTS.” The three moves highlighted in the challenge are fairly simple to follow, ensuring that fans of any skill level can participate, but they’re also full of meaning — as the group’s youngest, Jungkook, told BuzzFeed News, the choreography integrates the International Sign gestures for “joy,” “dance,” and “peace.”
“We included this special choreo so we can spread the positive message to as many people as possible, and broaden our reach even further,” Jungkook explained.
Do the members have any advice for ARMY who want to perfect the choreography before filming their challenges? “Watching our videos multiple times would probably be helpful,” suggested J-Hope. “But above all, just have fun!
“I think it’s more important to enjoy yourself,” he said of the challenge. “Just move to the rhythm and melody free of any constraints!”
“Facial expressions are also a very important way of communicating your feelings,” V added, “so make sure to show that too.”
After the challenge ends on Aug. 14, the members will be choosing some of their favorite Shorts to be included in a “Permission to Dance” Challenge compilation video. Vocalist Jin told BuzzFeed News he’s “curious” to see how ARMY gets creative with their entries.
“I am curious about how they will add their own tastes and touch to the ‘Permission to Dance’ choreography,” Jin said. “But honestly, just watching them dance along to our song and having fun makes me really happy.”
“Permission to Dance” is out now.