ARMY, rejoice with us: after a long and painful absence, BTS’ 2019 performances on Saturday Night Live were rightfully restored earlier this week. Last June, after racking up a collective 39 million views, the performances of “Boy with Luv” and “Mic Drop” vanished from SNL’s YouTube account. This is, unfortunately, a pretty common occurrence, and often happens when labels run into copyright renewal with outlets like NBC.
The resurfaced performances have arrived on the heels of similar copyright friction between Spotify and Kakao M, a South Korean music distributor, which resulted in hundreds of Korean artists and songs being removed from the platform earlier this week. In April of 2019, the world of Korean music in Western markets looked quite different. This was long before BTS had secured No. 1 songs on the Billboard charts or a Grammy nomination, and many facets of entertainment were still playing catch-up on what exactly was going on with this seven-member group of singing and dancing young men.
In retrospect, BTS appearing on SNL was one of many critical turning points in their ascent to the top. In our October exploration of BTS’ explosive 2020, we highlighted the fact that one of the most remarkable things about the group’s appearance on the show was how uncompromising it was: the boys sang in Korean, as they always have, and in doing so brought a new truth to the idea that music is a universal language. In that same piece, I lamented the fact that the performances were lost to us. (Hey, Big Hit! Me again! Happy to be reconvening over such great news.)
Let’s revisit these performances … because now we can!
“Boy with Luv”
In their very first performance of the bright, joyful “Boy with Luv”, the boys in question arrived onstage in sharp suits and ties, backed by the fantastic Ghost Band. In later behind-the-scenes vlogs, it’s clear that the members were quite nervous before taking the stage: they’d flown to New York from Korea just a few days earlier, assessed the tiny stage in soundcheck, and then prepped for one of their most significant American performances to date. If there was anxiety surrounding the performance, though, it’s invisible as soon as the song begins. The energy is electric. They all truly look like they’re having the time of their lives, gliding across the stage as if they’re floating on water, shoulders rolling while playfully smiling at one another. It’s four and a half minutes of joy.
This is it, folks: this is the performance that turned me, personally, into a fan. The second song dropped from the bubblegum, buttoned-up “Boy with Luv” into the hip-hop, fire and fury of “Mic Drop”, a track that had been a regular part of the BTS performance catalogue for years already. Suddenly, there were harnesses. There was a heavy beat shaking Studio 8H. When the dance break hits about three-quarters of the way through, you can hear the people in the live studio audience losing their minds. And rightly so! The choreography is bombastic and swaggering, and the contrast between the two song choices encapsulated BTS’ enormous range.
I watch SNL every weekend and had turned the program on, excited for another episode hosted by Emma Stone, vaguely intrigued by these musical guests that I recalled from the BBMAs who Twitter couldn’t stop buzzing about. Then “Mic Drop” happened, and I remember wondering if I’d had more glasses of wine than accounted for, or if it was actually the best thing I’d ever seen. (It was the latter.) I woke up the next morning, played the performances another three times, and then started texting everyone I’d ever met: Did you know about this? Why did no one tell me about this?!
There was life PMC (pre-“Mic Drop”) and there is life after. Treat yourself by revisiting the restored performances today — I like living post-“Mic Drop” a lot better.