How BTS’ “Black Swan” Speaks to Creatives Everywhere
BTS is unstoppable with every release. The seven-member act gave us the Grammy-nominated Dynamite, the Billboard-charting Butter, and the most recent release, Permission to Dance. But through all the groovy Pop songs, Black Swan is the critically-acclaimed hit song that should have been on loop for weeks on end in the radio waves.
Released a year ago in their album, Map Of The Soul: 7, Black Swan initially debuted in two versions: the original studio version on digital streaming platforms and an orchestral rearrangement showcased through an art film which is another masterpiece in itself.
Black Swan is inspired by the quote, “A dancer dies twice – once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful” by American dancer Martha Graham. It’s a confessional ode to artists and creatives everywhere who both long and dread the work they create.
It’s often compared to their 2018 single, Fake Love, in its introspection, but Black Swan takes it a step further as it depicts the inner mechanisms of artists with their craft. The questioning, the yearning, the aching are all part of the artist’s psyche. With the dread, the anxiety, the fear not too far behind.
As artists perfect their craft, the passion can morph into something suffocating, as seen in the 2010 psychological thriller Black Swan, which also serves as an influence. They say artists are born and exist to create, but when you lose your art, it gets you to question: Who am I? What is my purpose? And what am I outside of my art?
Black Swan tells the story of an artist, starting with the fear of disconnection to something you’ve once held close. The moment when they can no longer perform, and the music no longer touches their heart. And in losing that connection is grief, similar to death. Following the fear is the picture of self-doubt and insecurity that plagues every creative. The pressure is overwhelming as criticism and perfectionism tend to wallow at a creative’s mind. And at times, it can get you to doubt your path and give up.
But the Black Swan shifts the fear into hope. Once a metaphor for despair, the repeating lines “Do your thang” transforms into freedom stripped of expectations. It’s reinvigorated in its conviction for art, fighting the anxieties that come with it. It shows an artist crawling through the mud but seeing the light at the end of it all—a human side to the artist.
Black Swan is BTS at their most raw and unrelenting through their vulnerable lyricism and emotional vocal delivery enveloped by dark hip hop production that contributes to the atmospheric mood. The members are almost indistinguishable as their voices push and pull throughout the track, creating various voices that blend together to speak one message. It uses trap and R&B melodies surrounded by heavily distorted Auto-tune vocals that only add to the haunting and eerie landscape.
By showing a window into their thoughts, we see BTS behind the flashy, idol image on screen and more in an honest, unfiltered view of their artistry. It doesn’t matter how much success they gain in the long run, as the melancholic feelings that come with art are universal to every artist, every creative, and every person who’s ever had a passion bigger than them.
Black Swan is an intimate conversation between self-expression and self-preservation in creation. But through moments of doubt are moments of clarity.
They say you can't lose what you never had, but art never left as it has always existed within the creative.