Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

BTS – Dynamite

They told us once, now we’ll tell you twice twelve times…

Will Adams: In which BTS step into American market wearing all their favorite blands blands blands blands.

Tobi Tella: It could easily be a 2012-era Olly Murs or Mike Posner song, but it would be a pretty good one! It’s fitting that the sound and aesthetic of their first US #1 is such a concession to whiteness in every way, but for once the fun from the boys themselves feels at least somewhat natural compared to aggressively focus grouped.

Alfred Soto: Oh dear. Last week after a student used the phrase “sellout,” I explained why the the intersection of commerce and art, the streaming era, making a living, etc. made that phrase meaningless. Several years after begging for an American crossover, BTS come up with a couple of decent harmonies over a chord progression and rhythm track that Taio Cruz would’ve yawned over. Faculty need to listen to students.

Katie Gill: How many “let’s try and make it big in America” singles do BTS need? I get that at its core, this song is a transparent attempt to cash in on the hot trends right now in American Top 40 pop music (funk influences, a little bit of disco, something that sounds aggressively Bruno Mars yet never really figuring out what made everybody go bonkers for “Uptown Funk”) while also calling back to some well-established hits (you listened to some Taio Cruz, huh, Big Hit). I also get that BTS isn’t the only group trying to cash in on that hot Western radio airplay… but is a song that sounds like the end credits dance number of a children’s movie really the way we want to go? And didn’t we do this already? And wasn’t that first attempt kind of better?

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: We already have one Jason Derulo; we don’t need seven more!

Jessica Doyle: Arguably this is not even the best song named “Dynamite” sung by a Korean male group in the last five years. (Also arguably, if you have a disco song named “Dynamite” to give to a Korean male group, and Taemin’s not involved, you have done something wrong.) This feels more to me like BTS’s pendulum is broken — they used to be able to position themselves pretty precisely between simply providing enjoyable entertainment and encouraging the audience to think (see the woozy, Demian-riddled “Blood, Sweat & Tears”), but since beginning to position themselves as a global group they’ve been leaning too far on one side or the other: “Dynamite” and “Boy with Luv” as too airy and saccharine, “On,” “Black Swan,” and Suga’s mixtape as too ponderous and self-regarding. (I still think sampling Jim Jones was not an inadvertent admission that Black lives didn’t matter, and wouldn’t have been taken as such but for the timing, but was still writing a check the songs couldn’t cash.) It would be easier to take BTS less seriously if we’d never thought they were capable of more interesting work in the first place. But hey, at least Jungkook finally gets to show his hand tattoos.

Nortey Dowuona: Holy shiznack. RAP MONSTER IS IN BTS!

Michael Hong: “Dynamite” is the sound of compromise. It’s the sound of bending over backwards to appeal to Western audiences. It’s the sound of dulling yourself down for mass appeal, and it sounds like it was generated for a new Why Don’t We or PRETTYMUCH contemporary, not by a group praised for their individuality and ability to self-produce. It loses each member’s distinct vocal colour, reducing them to a cacophony of autotuned yelps and overprocessed takes. “Dynamite” is too sanitized to convey excitement or joy but hey, at least someone had fun playing with the vocal effects.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Big audio confetti — so bright and shiny in its initial appeal that it almost covers up its own fraudulent nature. Yet all of the vocal charisma on display here — especially from Jungkook on hook duty and RM’s rap verses — cannot run “Dynamite” fast enough away from its limp faux-disco and boringly jovial lyrics. The forced key change and last minute horn injection aren’t helping either. It’s a crossover single in the most disappointing way, a perfectly pleasant charm offensive for the CVS music directors of the world.

Katherine St Asaph: Makes one yearn for the originality and natural charm of Jessie J’s “Domino.” One point for the key change which, while just a dogshit awful choice on the part of the songwriters, is at least memorably awful. Garishly so. I’m talking myself out of this point.

Hannah Jocelyn: The beat begs for unnaturally smooth voiceovers reading off random trivia. The overloaded Americana references (“keep your eyes on the ball”, “Like A Rolling Stone,” honestly the “Uptown Funk” melodic swipes probably count) don’t improve matters. Even Serban Ghenea can’t save it — the other “Dynamite” he mixed a decade ago feels more lively now.  As we head towards early 2010s nostalgia, now would be the best time to knock a pastiche out of the park, but I’m as bored as V looks in the video. It hit #1, which is all that matters, but it’s one of the weakest this year, and BTS have much more deserving songs. Here is some early 2010s nostalgia for you: it tries to be Troperiffic, but because it’s so lifeless, it ends up as a Cliché Storm.

Alex Clifton: There is nothing wrong with “Dynamite.” It’s a fun summer disco song engineered to get people moving even when they’re sitting down. Everyone sounds great and like they’re having a whale of a time. During normal times, a song like “Dynamite” would have me dancing around every room in my house while I had it on repeat for half an hour. Yet something’s holding me back from fully giving into “Dynamite,” and I can’t figure out what on earth it is. Is it that this is BTS’s first fully-English song, so there are no lyrics to learn in Korean? Part of the reason why I like listening to music not in English is that it makes me pay more attention to learn what the lyric are and what they mean — I become a more active listener. “Dynamite” is meant to play in the background of a (socially-distanced) pool party where you don’t have to care about the words. Most dance songs fit that bill, but it’s such a shame when one of the things I’ve long loved about BTS are that their lyrics are unlike what I hear in a lot of modern English-language pop. Is it that the rap line doesn’t get much of a chance to shine? RM gets the closest to having a couple rapped lines, but Hobi and Suga don’t flex their usual rap skills and are forced into singing instead, so it falls a little flat. It’s especially annoying because BTS have done other disco-ish songs in the past with great raps, so I know it’s not the genre nor lack of ability. Is it the fact that the band didn’t have as great a hand in the song as they normally do? It’s cowritten by David Stewart and Jessica Agombar, whose credits are the Jonas Brothers and Hailee Steinfeld. Again, nothing inherently wrong with that, but these are two folks who have not worked with BTS in the past, so the song doesn’t play to what this group can really do. Instead they’ve given one of the most successful boy bands in the world a fairly average summer song. If this were sung by another group, I’d be all over it, praising it as a bop for 2020’s “Cruel Summer“. Knowing what BTS is capable of has left me a little lukewarm when it could’ve been blazing.

Reader average: [3.2] (15 votes)

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3 Responses to “BTS – Dynamite”

  1. just here to promote Katherine’s Aluna review

  2. this has flipped around to being a [6] for me– still cloying, but more fun than I was initially willing to concede. The live versions are good!

  3. I’m still mad that in a vocal-line heavy song Jin only gets three lines and also that his first line comes in 2+ minutes into the song — I should expect it by now b/c I feel BigHit has regularly screwed over Jin with singing line distribution but that doesn’t make me any less annoyed