Update: Here’s a statement by the MV’s director about its meaning and connection to other videos.
I know, it came out last Friday and I’m a bit late to the party on this one – damn you midterms! *shakes fist towards the heavens* – but it is SO. FUCKING. GOOD.
You might have noticed already that I’ve become a pretty obsessive fangirl when it comes to BTS and luckily I have a friend who is nothing short of that title too. So, naturally, we watched the official music video for ‘MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix)’ as soon as it was on YouTube. Twice. And then a few more times throughout the day. And then the best parts repeatedly via tumblr gifs and video stills. It’s been a thing, y’all.
So let’s just do this scene by scene cause otherwise I won’t get all of my millions of thoughts in. Here’s the MV plus my own thoughts and interpretations:
The video starts out with Steve Aoki walking to his equipment in a mysterious, otherwise empty room. BTS are shown first in the reflection of a security camera and then appear behind a two-way mirror in what seems like a cross between an investigation room and an interview panel with several microphones. To me, this suggests how interviews can often be interpreted by the interviewers as well as the interviewees: an investigation, a round of questions the answers to which determine how the artists are judged by the public, always with the looming possibility of another subtraction from their already limited freedom. One wrong answer, one slip of the mind and the artists may become (even more) subject to stalking, harassment and abuse. And yet, BTS’s facial expressions and postures in this shot suggest defiance and challenge – which fits perfectly with the song’s lyrics.
Aoki puts on his headphones and gets ready to slam the ‘play’ button but not before we’re shown a mob of people in black hoods facing away form the camera (I’m betting everything that they are representing A.R.M.Y.), encased in the glaring hue of floodlights. Up until this point, the video was more or less silent. At the tap of ‘play’, however, we begin to hear the first few muffled notes of ‘MIC Drop’. In an aggressive motion, J-Hope jumps over the interview table and we see the whole group standing in front of it, wearing black shirts with skulls and arrows, camo jackets, bandanas and heavy boots. This complete contrast to their last, highly stylized and vibrantly colored music video for ‘DNA’ seems reminiscent of the band’s earlier days of edgier songs and a rougher image.
The image of them in the interview room is soon replaced by the ominous black-hoods in the same room, bobbing their heads to the beat of the music, who quickly fade away to reveal microphones suspended in mid-air in anticipation of the inevitable ‘mic drop’. Oooooooh, foreshadowing.
Another shot of the black-hoods is presented as they are standing in what might be a parking lot at night, throwing smoke bombs. A quick shot of Aoki that fades to red and then cuts to the mob makes it appear as though he is telepathically telling them what to do or even controlling them. Then, suddenly the A.R.M.Y.s are back in the interview room and dodge to the side giving center stage over to J-Hope and three others (Jungkook, Jimin and V) energetically dancing to him rapping in Korean. I quite enjoy the beginning of this remix with its minimalist approach to the beat. There is no heavy thump and the melody is stripped down so much that J-Hopes voice stands out exceptionally.
For a brief moment the scene changes to the four men standing in the middle of a prison, which might sound even more distressing if it weren’t for the lighting having adopted a warmer, more comforting hue and the guys having traded in their camo and über-edge for a slightly more aesthetic and laid back approach at ‘badass’. But they quickly return (and then switch back and forth) to the bleak, white room adding more members (RM and Jin) through gun shot motions which look hella cool, not gonna lie. Actually, the majority of dance moves so far were very staccato-like and precise to the point of making the video seem rather aggressive and fit perfectly with the music and general atmosphere.
And since the best things should be saved for last, finally my absolute favorite BTS member Suga enters the scene with the iconic turn he does with J-Hope as they trade places. Are you actually kidding me with that smooth, raspy voice, mister A+ rapper, sir?! During his part, we are taken to another room, something of an office with archive drawers, boxes and photographs (some kind of dark room maybe?) where Suga burns a one of the photos. Right then, my favorite shot of the whole video takes place: The only thing left from the room are two tables and everything is held in black and red. Except for Suga, who is struttin’ his stuff in the middle, everyone around him is blasted away in slow motion while loose photographs are flying around them.
Then for the first time in the vid we hear the pre-chorus and see V dancing at the head of their formation with Aoki towering over them in the background almost like a divine entity presented through a series of light flashes. Ya boys are of course doing the most and then a little extra with the choreography and the seemingly boundless energy they put into every single step. The move they make during the line “bet it got my haters hella sick” is sooooo in-your-face powerful, I love it!
Oh, but then Jimin starts wiggling his hips and the beat goes off to the point where it’s producing visible spherical blasts that catch the light and blur the image. Cinematographic genius; I am blown away even more now watching frame-by-frame than I was the first dozen times I saw this MV. The move when they say “mic drop, mic drop” is smoother than a velvet covered baby seal’s belly. And you simply must appreciate how the music is not only expertly crafted but also subtle enough as to never for a moment overpower the singers’ and rappers’ voices.
At 2:28, we are taken to another location: the parking lot where we had first seen the black-hoods. It was shown before (when the they threw the smoke bombs) that there were emergency lights on big vans as though they were police and ambulance cars. So now it is RM stepping straight out the back of one of those. Shout out to the stylists in this part! NOT because of RM’s hair (which is the only weak point of the MV cause it’s distractingly unsightly) but the outfit coordination is absolutely perfect. Everything held in red black and white – same shoes, if you hadn’t noticed – and very hip hop. I had to lol at the line “same damn clothes” when the six other members got on their knees and bowed down to RM. Even more interesting is the shift from a slanted camera angle to a straight one in the same take as the dance moves mirror this movement with straight lines of arms and hands, emphasizing the sentiment of “we know how to fly”.
Following that sequence, they are back in a crammed room, almost like an empty office used for storage, where over ten cameras on tripods are directly facing the guys in the center of the room. The cameras are propped up at different heights and with various angles. To me, this symbolizes the constant surveillance BTS is under from the public and the media, their every move watched and dissected from multiple perspectives as to coax out every possible detail of their lives, performances, mistakes, flaws, behavior, etc. But at the same time, there is no one behind the cameras, nobody operating them. Maybe this is supporting my idea that the equipment is supposed to show not how people care about the band, not how the general public takes an actual interest in what the band does day-to-day, but rather, as I said, surveillance. When there is a big event or announcement, there is probably positive publicity. But in between these events, when they are living their daily lives or traveling or what have you, they are still being watched for the possibility of exploiting a mistake of theirs for public entertainment. If I were correct in this hypothesis, it makes the band’s reaction all the more admirable. Smack in the middle, well aware of the constant spotlight and yet, they look like they couldn’t care less (which ofc isn’t true in reality but we’re talking about image here, people). Coolness personified, they keep doing their thing, creating incredible works of art (and they know it, too). Their idgaf attitude, unmistakably conveyed through faces and bodies, they seem to tell the audience that yeah, they know you’re watching. But that doesn’t hinder them in their pursuit of that gorgeous number one spot. So many trophies that they can’t even count them, as it were.
At “mic drop, BAM” the black-hoods falter and we see Jungkook dancing in front of the two-way mirror. He mentioned in a video that this scene was actually shot separately, once his face and body from the front and then in, a different take, his back in the mirror which was then cut and edited so that both parts were completely in sync in the video. Little fun fact for ya there. I also never thought I’d find Jimin even remotely intimidating but the power he throws at the screen when he sings “boy, your time’s up” is pure energy.
Aoki looks so completely and utterly into it and I can 110% relate. Yes, dude. Get it!
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: they dance, V sings about yet another trophy and what’s that in the background? A mothereffing EXPLOSION! At this point all the black-hoods have likely pledged their souls to the sound of this song and every single car in the parking lot has caught on fire. Imagery that tells you that everything standing in BTS’s way will suffer destruction, no obstacle will survive. Jungkook is even taunting with the words “somebody stop me”.
Although a few lines after, I am, again, finding myself reading quite a deep meaning into the lyrics. JK says “too busy, you know my body ain’t enough”. And that is possibly quite heartbreaking. It sounds as though they are completely aware of how much the continuous pressure, stress and extremely hard work is negatively affecting their health. Of course it would, I mean, look at their insane schedule. Possibly, they’re suggesting that one singular human body ought not to be able to function under such conditions, it should be too much for one person to bear. And yet, they are fully willing to sacrifice their sleep, their health, their lives, everything for a shot at their dream. And they know they can’t sit back and relax now, simply because they are already hugely popular and on the rise to global (and well deserved) fame – that, in truth, means even more work. But also more reward. Which is why their drive is just as much too grand for one single person but that’s the only way to strike a balance. They’re basically calling themselves super-human. And I really can’t argue with that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A few more beats and we are taken on a journey to an alternate reality, a black and white plane of inner consciousness, if you will. The members walking and dancing amidst the remains of empty cars, formerly ablaze, against a pure, white backdrop. (Yes, Jin! Get those lines! I’m here for that boy taking center stage with his voice and moves for a change.) It makes a lot of sense that this portion of the song and video is more calm, taking a step back before the inevitable blast of all they’ve got at the end. It shows that this attitude of “haters gon’ hate, players gon’ play” is not just facade, not merely a mask put on to create a certain, completely fabricated image. Instead, this attitude is presented as something the band knows and truly believes within their hearts.
Right before Suga’s iconic mic drop we are once again briefly reminded of the microphones, cameras and the two-way mirror that appear to record and analyze the band’s every move (are we as fans the ones doing the analyzing? Some food for thought, right there).
And then, with ultimate badassery, the mic is dropped. I repeat: the MIC is DROPPED. As are the floating mics we saw in the beginning. What a look. What a finale. Even Aoki is like “damn”.
I absolutely adore this remix – you know, in case you couldn’t tell by my 2000 word analysis right there lol. As always, I will bow down before the choreographer because the dancing went from powerful and aggressive to smooth af and then back to divinely (or devilishly?) energetic. Visually, it was a feast in terms of camera work/editing as well set design and especially storytelling. Moreover, I found it very interesting of them to incorporate significantly more English lyrics to make it more accessible on a global scale. Smart move at this point in their careers, what with overtaking the AMAs and several US talk shows – though I am not in agreement with those who want BTS to bring out an entire album in English.
‘MIC Drop’ is a potentially legendary music video, although it is difficult, if not impossible, to directly compare it to the vastly different video for their song ‘DNA’ which aired earlier this fall. Though I have to say, my favorite is still the Snow White and the six dwarfs ‘Go Go’ dance practice we were graced with only a few short weeks ago. Here’s that video (you’re welcome):
Also, after you’ve watched MIC Drop for a good two dozen times, I strongly urge you to watch it at half speed because just ups the entertainment by another 40%.
I’m sure I missed or forgot a whole bunch of Easter eggs and moves and details, so if you find any, go ahead and leave a comment!!
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