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  1. BTS's Suga Reflects on His New Solo Mixtape as Agust D on D-2 BY RAISA BRUNER - MAY 22, 2020 5:07 AM EDT In the past four years, a lot has changed for South Korean star Min Yoon-gi, known to millions of fans as the idol Suga of K-pop group BTS, and to followers of his rap career as the artist Agust D. In 2016, BTS were making progress towards superstardom, an upstart septet in the K-pop universe who were just beginning to release the record-breaking projects they’re now known for. That was also the year Min released his first solo mixtape, Agust D, a surprisingly raw and honest set of tracks that saw him facing down demons of mental health and embracing his rap bravado over raw hip-hop beats. Four years later, he’s at it again—this time surprise-releasing his second solo mixtape, D-2, on May 22 after a week of cryptic teasers shared over social media. It’s a strange time around the world, and the K-pop industry and performers worldwide are not excluded; right now, BTS should have been in the middle of a victory-lap world tour, reaping the rewards of the February release of Map of the Soul: 7. (This weekend would have marked their performances at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.) Instead, Suga and his six groupmates are all stuck in one place, like many of us—for perhaps the longest consistent stretch of their careers yet. TIME connected with Suga ahead of the release of D-2 to discuss the complex themes and inspirations of his new work, from the reflective lyrics of “Moonlight” to the critical eye of RM-assisted “Strange.” His answers, translated into English here, offer a glimpse of an artist who has always been keenly aware of his presence on the public stage and reticent to over-explain himself, instead letting the work talk for him. “What’s good is good,” the motto he expressed to TIME, is an ethos that has often driven his persona: a humble, easy-going star—with plenty to say if you take the time to listen closely. He’s not the only BTS member to release a solo project: RM and J-Hope have also shared their independent statements. But he is the only one who adopts an alter ego when he goes it alone. “I can show a more raw side to myself,” he explains of his Agust D persona. And of his goal: “It’s more that I made the music I wanted to make, rather than fixating on attempting something new.” Even before the D-2 release, fans made sure his project was trending on social media. That’s the story of BTS, and Agust D—low-key as he is—is inevitably swept up in it. TIME: You’ve now spent seven years as part of BTS, and your last solo mixtape came out back in 2016. Time, change, and growth are on your mind in this mixtape, particularly in the first track “Moonlight.” As you reflect over the past few years, what’s changed to you? MIN: My life is the same. My ways of work and day-to-day patterns haven’t changed much. Perhaps my position within the music industry? From a musician’s perspective, a change could be that I’ve had pretty decent outcome with BTS albums or with other external works. Personally, I have become more mature compared to 2016. Songs like “Daechwita” include Korean traditions both in lyrics and in musical form, using pansori storytelling and Kkwaenggwari percussion. Why is it important to you to continue to include Korean musical influences in your music? The theme “Daechwita” was already on my mind when I first started working on this track, so I sampled the sound of a real “Daechwita.” The first thought I had was that I wanted to sample the music that is played during the ceremonial walk of the King, so naturally, Korean elements ended up being an essential component to the track as well as the music video. You’ve collaborated with a wide range of artists this year, appearing on Halsey’s album, putting out a new single with IU, and now bringing in voices like MAX, NiiHWa, Kim Jong-wan and RM for your own project. What makes a collaboration work successfully for you? I’m grateful that everybody had good things to say about my music, especially Kim Jong-wan of NELL who told me he enjoyed listening to my first mixtape from 2016. My work philosophy is “what’s good is good,” so I think I’m pretty good at leveling with each individual’s standards. What’s the difference between Agust D the solo rapper and Suga the BTS member? What remains the same? The difference is that there is a lot more that I can openly express and that I can show a more raw side to myself [with Agust D]. What’s similar is that both sing of dreams and hope. On “Strange,” you express concerns about certain aspects of society, and the loneliness that can come from having a different opinion. Do you think it’s important for public figures like you to challenge norms and raise questions about how we live? I just throw the question mark; it’s up to each individual to decide. In my personal opinion, it’s often better for those who have such influence on others to be wary of loudly voicing their biased views. Trap, hip-hop, rock, pop and R&B all appear on this mixtape, often in the same songs. This mixing of styles is a signature of BTS, and was present on your first mixtape as well. It’s also become normal across the global pop landscape. As a producer, how have you tried to innovate or try something new on this mixtape? It’s more that I made the music I wanted to make, rather than fixating on attempting something new. I’m not too picky on genre or crossovers between them. What’s good is good, and it’s up to the listeners to judge. I just do what I want to do. Is there anything else you’d like listeners to know about this project, your experience creating it, and how you’re managing with the unexpected changes of this spring? It’s good to know that it’s fine when things go in an unintended direction, because you can always start over again. Keep calm, take the next-best option and move forward. source
  2. BTS Talk New Album 'Map Of The Soul: 7': "The Genre Is BTS" The international pop stars discuss the creative process behind their latest release and shine a light on the growing creative community in South Korea JOHN OCHOA - GRAMMYS - FEB 22, 2020 - 12:27 PM International pop stars BTS are used to shattering world records. They've done it time and time again. In 2018, the septet became the first Korean group to receive gold status from the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA), for the Steve Aoki remix of their 2017 track, "Mic Drop," featuring rapper Desiigner. The song, now certified platinum, became the act's first hit in the U.S., setting off an ongoing streak of Stateside hits and world records for the South Korean boyband. That same year, they became the first Korean act to top the Billboard 200 chart with Love Yourself: Tear. BTS are now back to dominate the charts once again with Map Of The Soul: 7. Released just yesterday (Feb. 21), the new album is already the best-selling album of the year worldwide. Another day, another world record in the life of BTS. Map Of The Soul: 7, BTS' fourth studio full-length to date, is the next installment in the band's ongoing Map Of The Soul series. It picks up from the 2019 chart-topping Map Of The Soul: Persona EP. In addition to featuring songs from the latter, Map Of The Soul: 7 expands on some of the themes and topics from the overall series, including the concepts of persona, shadow and ego. "[Map Of The Soul: 7 is a] continuation from the album before, called Persona," BTS member RM tells the Recording Academy. "And this time, we put the other two themes, shadow and ego, and we put it together into [this] album, called 7. The difference is [the] persona, which is like the social mask before the good things that we have, [like] the spotlight. This time [on 7] we talked about the real shades and shadows that we had inside, and also the big manifesto that we admitted: all the shadows as our destinies and we're gonna carry on." Sonically, Map Of The Soul: 7 touches on many genres and sounds. Album opener "Intro: Persona" sees RM rapping over a guitar-laced, bossy hip-hop beat, while "Interlude: Shadow," a solo track from BTS member Suga, is an atmospheric pop ballad that converts into an industrial rap monster. For the group, Map Of The Soul: 7 breaks free from genre confines once and for all. "I think it's less and less meaningful to divide music into genres now," Suga says. "The genre is BTS. That's the genre we want to make and the music that we want. New genre," the group's Jungkook, V and J-Hope add. On the day of the album's release, the Recording Academy caught up with BTS—all seven members!—at the Park Hyatt New York in Midtown Manhattan to discuss the creative process behind and deeper meanings within Map Of The Soul: 7, the group's all-star collaborator wishlist and the growing creative footprint of their South Korean homeland. This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. An interpreter translated all answers from BTS, except for RM. Can you talk about the creative process behind Map Of The Soul: 7? How does it differ from the rest of your albums? Suga: It took us a little longer, and this is our first full album in quite a while. But making an album isn't just making the music. We have the songs, there's the choreography and a lot of other elements that come with it, so it took some time. But once we got started, it really started rolling along and it was really fun. The album features individual tracks that highlight traits from each of the seven BTS members. How does the album reflect each individual member? And how does it reflect BTS as a whole? Jungkook: I think individually, it really contained what we wanted to put into the music and the ideas that we have, and this is what we put in. RM: As a group, it's like a big statement or like a manifesto that we finally admitted our shadows and egos at the same time as part of our destiny. So it's like, you're going to carry on and you can bring the pain and we'll carry on. Map Of The Soul: 7 reflects on the seven years since BTS debuted in 2013. What has been the biggest life and career lessons you've learned so far? Jin: Thanks to these guys, I think I learned more about music. I didn't really know a lot about music when I started out, but now I've learned how to write music or make melodies. That's what I really got out of the past seven years, thanks to these guys. Jungkook: I think I really learned how precious music is, how important it is to me. Recording the music for this album, working on the music—through this whole process, [it was] really fun and meaningful because, again, I kind of learned and figured out how precious music is and how important it is to me. The new album features collaborations with Halsey and Sia. Who are some other artists you want to collaborate with? All (shouting out loud): Ariana [Grande], Travis [Scott], Taylor [Swift], Beyoncé, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, "Big" Nas, Lil Nas X! RM: Call our label, please. Your music as BTS has touched on many genres, from rap to pop. Are there any other genres or sounds you're interested in exploring in the future? Suga: I think it's less and less meaningful to divide music into genres now. Jungkook, V, J-Hope: The genre is BTS. That's the genre we want to make and the music that we want. New genre. Map Of The Soul: 7 is a continuation of Map Of The Soul: Persona. How are the two projects related? And how are they different? RM: Like you said, [Map Of The Soul: 7 is a] continuation from the album before, called Persona. And this time, we put the other two themes, shadow and ego, and we put it together into [this] album, called 7. The difference is [the] persona, which is like the social mask before the good things that we have, [like] the spotlight. This time [on 7] we talked about the real shades and shadows that we had inside, and also the big manifesto that we admitted: all the shadows as our destinies and we're gonna carry on. We put all the three things [together] and made a series. The K-pop genre has exploded across the world over the past few years. Where does K-pop go from here? What would you like to see happen for your community? Suga: As you said, the stature of K-pop has really grown all over the world. But rather than be recognized as the rise of a genre or the rise of K-pop as a genre, I would like more talented Korean artists to be better known around the world, because I think there are a lot of talented Korean artists, and it's really amazing to have this small country and so many talented people coming out of it. That's what I'd like to see. Speaking of talented Korean artists, how did you feel when Parasite won so many awards at the Oscars this year? RM: We felt like we won the GRAMMYs. Parasite is a great movie; I also watched it in the cinema. And like Suga said, we just know that there are a lot of talented people in Korea, also including outside K-pop or K-movie or anywhere else. Parasite's honor is our honor, too. We're happy. source
  3. Break the Internet: BTS Photography by Hong Jang Hyun / Story by Erica Russell / Styling by Mia Solkin In June 2018, a massive billboard celebrating the fifth anniversary of one of the world's biggest music groups went live in Times Square. Splashed across multiple towering LED screens, videos and images promoting and commemorating the band were broadcast for days, visible to nearly half a million daily passersby in one of the densest and most visited pedestrian areas on the planet and the epicenter for tourism in New York City. But the billboard wasn't purchased by the band's record label, nor was it the corporate product of some multimillion-dollar branded advertising campaign. Rather, the billboard — which, compared to similar NYC ad space, likely cost somewhere between $10K and $30K to run — was funded by a handful of fans intent on showing the world, and the K-pop group featured on its screens, just how much BTS means to them. Whether you spotted international headlines about their impassioned 2018 speech at the United Nations (a first for a Korean music act), watched their charming presentation at the 2019 Grammy Awards (also a first for a Korean music act) or stumbled onto the YouTube video for their landmark Saturday Night Live guest performance in April 2019 (another first — getting the picture?), BTS is an omnipresent force. Even if you've never heard a single song from the superstar music group, it's impossible to ignore their ongoing impact on the music zeitgeist — and the overarching increased globalization of pop culture — in the 21st century. Over the past half decade, BTS has made veritable history, setting and smashing records across Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, Guinness World Records, the Billboard charts and the Gaon charts in Korea. Two highlights include May 2018, when BTS became the first Korean music act to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with their album Love Yourself: Tear, and April 2019, when the video for their RIAA Platinum-certified single "Boy With Luv" (featuring Halsey) broke the YouTube record for most viewed video, most viewed music video and most viewed K-pop music video in 24 hours, thanks to a reported 74.6 million views within a day of its release. And many of their award wins, like their landmark Best Group victory at the 2019 MTV VMAs, have been firsts for a Korean act. BTS made their debut in June 2013, just three years following their 2010 formation under Big Hit Entertainment, a Korean entertainment company launched in 2005 by record producer and businessman Bang Si-hyuk (a.k.a. "Hitman" Bang). At the time of the band's official introduction, Big Hit was still a relatively young company — at least compared to South Korea's established and longstanding "Big 3" agencies, SM, YG and JYP, the latter for which Bang cut his teeth as a composer. Despite Big Hit's corporate juvenescence, Bang had managed to bottle lightning with the members of BTS: RM, the underground hip-hop star referred to Bang by a friend, as well as the first to join; Suga, the hip-hop producer convinced to join BTS in 2010 after auditioning to become a trainee; J-Hope, the rising dance star who auditioned for another company before being scooped up by Big Hit; Jin, who was famously scouted after being spotted on the street while making his way to university in Seoul; Jungkook, who was recruited by numerous talent agencies but ultimately chose Big Hit after RM impressed him with his skills; V, who serendipitously auditioned on the spot after initially attending a friend's tryout; and Jimin, who was encouraged to audition by his dance instructor. Following a vigorous yearslong training period that included dance and vocal lessons (standard for a K-pop group, sometimes along with English language courses and media training), the group spent the early days of their career on the grind. They enthusiastically performed at smaller venues, including a free show at West Hollywood's Troubadour in 2014, as well as mid-lineup at the Korean pop culture festival KCON LA the same year. From the ground up, they cultivated a diverse fanbase through meet-and-greets, savvy social media practices (including charismatic V Live streams) and energetic, high-quality hip-hop-inspired releases (2013's single "2 Cool 4 Skool" and EP O!RUL8,2?) that captured complex issues faced by young people. According to the Hyundai Research Institute, Big Hit is currently believed to be valued between $1 and $2 billion (which means it could potentially rank higher than the original "Big 3" agencies in terms of corporate value). BTS themselves reportedly account for an estimated $4.65 billion of Korea's GDP, which includes tourism draws, exported goods and brand campaigns, among other factors. (Even in the West, the group has become highly in-demand for brands, from Mattel to FILA.) But it's no secret that long before they were leading the pack, BTS was the underdog of the ultra-competitive K-pop industry. The foundations of the modern multibillion-dollar K-pop industry were first laid in the early to mid-'90s, with pioneering Korean acts like Seo Taiji & Boys and H.O.T. incorporating international music elements (in their case, rap and hip-hop) to cultivate a new musical landscape marked by genre experimentation and diversification. By the early 2000s — thanks partly to its allure to the Korean diaspora, as well as the growing appeal and accessibility of its internationally successful acts — K-pop was firmly established in its power to not only shape music media and culture, but the very economy of Korea itself, lending to Korea's significant "soft power" around the world. (Even the South Korean government has noted that K-pop is one of the country's most lucrative exports, behind goods like vehicles, medical equipment and computer products.) Though BTS was initially formed within the framework of a more traditional K-pop idol group, they've arguably transcended their place inside the industry — surpassing talented K-pop peers even during the exciting rise of Hallyu 2.0, or the second Korean Wave that began in the late 2000s. Spurred by the success abroad of K-pop idol groups like Girls' Generation, and driven by technological developments in how media is disseminated across time, space and culture (i.e., social media, YouTube), Hallyu 2.0's Herculean grip on mainstream pop culture has so far proven even more salient than its predecessor, putting K-pop at the forefront of mainstream cultural conversations around the globe. But BTS' groundbreaking success has sparked much debate about whether it's even accurate anymore to define them as a by-the-books K-pop act, considering their steady, rarely-before-witnessed ascent to mega-fame as a globally dominant pop music act, period. But it doesn't matter what you label them: At least in the West, their very existence is challenging outdated perceptions about non-white, non-English-speaking music acts. (The label doesn't appear to matter much to BTS, either. As RM raps on their fiery 2018 single, "Idol:" "You can call me artist/ You can call me idol/ No matter what you call me/ I don't care!") Each member of BTS is a multifaceted artist in his own right. RM (Kim Nam-joon, 25), an agile rapper and hip-hop prodigy, serves as the group's sagacious de facto leader who, thanks to his English-speaking skills, often acts as a translator for his bandmates when abroad. Thoughtful and fierce, Suga (Min Yoon-gi, 26) is a skilled yet humble record producer and songwriter who has worked on tracks for other K-pop idols like Epik High and Heize, and angel-voiced Jin (Kim Seok-jin, 26), a.k.a. "Mr. Worldwide Handsome," is a sentimental songwriter. Jimin (Park Ji-min, 24) is an elegant dancer and lyricist whose delicate vocal style is chills-inducing; V (Kim Tae-hyung, 23) is a talented actor and deeply soulful vocalist; Jungkook (Jeon Jung-kook, 22), the group's shy yet strong "golden" maknae (youngest member), is well-regarded for his impressive songwriting talent and for making short, insightful documentaries chronicling the group's journey; and playful J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok, 25) boasts explosive rapping and dancing skills, which are on prominent display on 2019's "Chicken Noodle Soup," his multilingual rework of the 2006 hit with Mexican-American pop artist Becky G. BTS' appeal is far-reaching: They're objectively talented (see their kinetic choreography, extensive vocal abilities and glossy visuals) and their camaraderie (like when they play pranks on one another in vlogs or comfort each other during interviews and moments of backstage stress) is undeniable. They're also philanthropic, frequently donating their time and money to meaningful causes. (Currently, BTS is an ambassador for UNICEF, where the group advocates against childhood violence. Since its launch in 2017, their UNICEF LOVE MYSELF campaign, which aims to "lend a helping hand to children and teens exposed to violence," has raised more than $2 million in donated funds.) And though the group is powerful as a singular force, they also shine in their autonomous endeavors, which include individual mixtapes, songwriting projects and occasional collaborations with other artists, the latter of which have increased in recent years as BTS' popularity spreads and the Western music industry catches up. From Lil Nas X to Fall Out Boy, Nicki Minaj to Charli XCX, BTS members have, either as a group or solo, worked with a diverse assemblage of rap, rock, pop and EDM acts. Becky G says she was "honored" to work on "Chicken Noodle Soup" with J-Hope: "I've always said that music is universal, and to be able to merge three beautiful cultures in one song, especially one that both J-Hope and I remember dancing to during our childhood, was so cool. He was so welcoming and absolutely crushed it with every dance scene. Everyone on Twitter said we are kind of the same person, and I definitely felt that when we finally met." BTS' wide-scale discography, catchy as it is, is packed with complex lyrics about a multitude of layered topics often considered taboo in traditionally conservative Korean society, from the crushing societal pressures explored in "N.O," an aggressive hip-hop single about South Korea's restrictive education system, to the importance of discussing mental health as heard in "The Last," Suga's solo track about anxiety and depression, released under his Agust D stage name. Originally, the group's titular acronym represented the Korean phrase "Bangtan Sonyeondan" (or "Bulletproof Boy Scouts" in English), a metaphoric nod to their initial mission to protect the youth from society's criticisms. (In 2017, Big Hit announced that for its English translation, "BTS" would thereafter stand for "Beyond The Scene" to coincide with their pursuit to inspire youth to seize their own future.) That unapologetic self-love is a major cornerstone of BTS' widespread message, and just one of the many reasons the septet has inspired Beatlemania levels of devotion. And if BTS is the lightning, their fans are the thunder. The booming millions-strong international community of BTS fans is known as the BTS ARMY, an acronym that stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth. Dedicated to spreading BTS' message (as well as pushing for more representation and visibility for the band), ARMY is one of the most deeply engaged music fandoms — especially on Twitter, where they boast 22.2 million followers as of October 2019 and where they hold the record for most engagement at more than 250,000 retweets per tweet. They're responsible for the thousands of BTS-related hashtags on Twitter on any given day; the countless fansites and accounts chronicling BTS' every activity and accomplishment; the self-funded promotional billboards splashed across cities and subway stations; and the mobilized voting sprees that help propel the group towards social media award wins and other digital victories. But perhaps one of BTS' most resonant victories is their incidental yet inherent transformation of the face of global superstardom, and their impact on the increased visibility for artists who are often excluded from white-ethnocentric Western music industry narratives. (On March 1, 2019, BTS famously sold out London's 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in under 90 minutes for their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself World Tour, becoming the first-ever Asian act to do so.) Sung primarily in Korean, their songs have been embraced in countless non-Korean speaking countries, from the U.S. to Brazil, transcending lingual and cultural boundaries. BTS' future-facing stance, in which they affirm through their lyrics that achieving one's dreams is never out of reach, is deeply self-prophetic for an East Asian music act that has become "the world's most preeminent musical group," according to DJ and producer Steve Aoki. "[They've] dented the universe," continues Aoki, whose BTS credits include a remix for their 2017 single "MIC Drop," production on their 2018 track "The Truth Untold" and their 2018 future-bass collaboration "Waste It on Me," which features English language vocals from members RM, Jimin and Jungkook. "There hasn't been a more prolific phenomenon since the Beatles. For us Asians, this is our generation's Bruce Lee — putting Asian faces once again in a powerful image." According to BTS, the theory behind their universal appeal to listeners is quite simple: "We think it's the message [behind] our music that we want to share with our fans," the group shares. "Anybody can relate to the message we are trying to deliver, as we try to talk about the feelings shared by our generation. Our music may be breaking down barriers between regions, languages and people." PAPER: What's the greatest challenge you've faced as a group, and how did you overcome it? RM: Seven grown men always staying close together and experiencing work and life at the same time means that we come face to face with numerous contradictions and differences. But I think we overcame that by working on understanding and caring for each other over time. Suga: Seven men with different values living together was not easy. It was difficult for all of us to focus our thoughts on one single point, but looking back, they are all good memories. J-Hope: There was a time when we fought each other quite a bit because we all came from different backgrounds and our personalities were so different. But we were able to overcome that after frequently talking to each other and living together for a long time. We now know what each of us are thinking just by looking at each other. Jimin: Because each member was so different, I think it was hard for everyone to understand each other. But we didn't give up, and now we are a team where each member is irreplaceable. Jungkook: When something I said or did caused an issue or made people feel disappointed, I realized that I should think twice before I do anything, and not forget where I am, no matter what situation I may be in. If you could switch talents with one of your bandmates for 24 hours, who would you choose and why? RM: I would like to dance like J-Hope just for one day. What would that feel like? Jin: V's ability to memorize choreography. I want to say to RM, "Have you already forgotten [the moves]?" Suga: RM — I want to be good at English. J-Hope: Suga's amazing producing skills!!! Jimin: J-Hope's smiley face. Looking at J-Hope, I think his smiley face is really adorable. V: I want to borrow RM's brain and make a whole bunch of songs. Jungkook: RM. I want to write really nice lyrics and have deeper thoughts. Do you ever feel pressured, in the face of global fame, to present yourselves a certain way to the world? What do you do when you feel overwhelmed to be “perfect"? RM: It would be untruthful if I said there was no pressure. Still, on stage I want to do really well. Jin: I try to keep myself on the right lane. Suga: I would not be telling the truth if I said there's no pressure. But what can you do? Pressure is also one part of life. J-Hope: I can't say we don't. These days, I feel like I live with a sense of mission. Rather than thinking, “It has to be perfect!," I do what I have to do, making sure I remember the really important and fundamental things and trust that the results will follow. Jimin: All things aside, I always think that I have to show a performance that is at least close to perfection for everyone who comes to see our performance. V: I feel the pressure of showing a performance that is close to perfection, but I also think that being natural is important, too. Jungkook: The pressure is always there. But I want to show them that I am improving. Is there any advice you wish you could give your younger selves? RM: If you're debating whether to go or not, go. Jin: Jin, study English! Suga: Please study English. J-Hope: When things get tough, look at the people who love you! You will get energy from them. Jimin: Silence is golden. Don't waste time. V: You worked hard! [Pat on the back.] Jungkook: Don't lose the people beside you because of your mistakes and wrongs. And live [your life] to the fullest. You recently took an extended vacation in order to rest and get some relaxation after a long span of releases and promotions. How did you spend your vacation? RM: I slept, worked out and went to art museums quite a lot. I went to Jeju Island, Venice, Vienna and Copenhagen. Jin: I played games at home. I also went fishing with Suga. Suga: I focused on resting and worked on some songs. It was a time [for] looking back at myself. J-Hope: I went to film the music video for "Chicken Noodle Soup." I felt and learned a lot of things! I can't call it a rest time, but it was a meaningful time. After that, I came back home, I had good food and rested well. I also played with my puppy. Jimin: I just kept on the move and went to a bunch of places. It was an opportunity to think about [the group] in the past and in the future. V: I took a good rest. It was an eat-play-sleep routine. Jungkook: I worked on music. Are there any music styles you haven't tried yet as a group that you're excited to dip into in the future? RM: I want to show our various sides that reflect the progression of our age as well as our emotions and sensibilities. Jin: I want to try something in the genre of rock. I think it will come out great because our members are pretty charismatic. Suga: There are so many I don't know which one to say. There's plenty of things to show you, so please look forward to it. J-Hope: Now it feels like BTS is just BTS. Whichever [style of] music or performance, it comes out in BTS style. Jimin: There are so many things I want to try, but I don't want to be too specific about it. V: I want to try doing music in the style of Conan Gray or "All Tinted." Jungkook: It's different from time to time. I just hope I can widen my vocal spectrum regardless of what that might be. Your fans, ARMY, are one of the most passionate, mobilized music fanbases in the world, especially on social media. How would you define what makes your fanbase so special? BTS: It's an honor that people around the world love our music and messages. It seems like there's no language barrier. We think that ARMY helped us spread our music across the world. All of this would have not been possible without ARMY. Another theme in your music is dreams. With all the heaviness of the world today, do you think dreams help people find meaning and ambition to move forward amid uncertain times? RM: We just hope that we can be of help. We did say that you don't have to dream, but living a life without dreams or hope would be quite dim, wouldn't it? I think everyone needs motivation and milestones in order to move. Whatever that may be, we want to be of help, even a little, for them to move forward. So many of your dreams have come true since you'd made your debut: No. 1 albums around the world, sold-out stadium tours, Grammys and U.S. award shows, becoming the first Korean music group to perform on Saturday Night Live…What new dreams have sparked for each of you now that you have these accomplishments crossed off the list? RM: I want to head in a straight path without losing sight of what I feel now. [I want to] keep our passion burning bright and walk straight. Jin: I talk to Producer Bang quite often about how we should work together for a happy life. How to live happily...I think about that frequently. Suga: I would like to have a hobby since I never had one. I would love to have a lifelong hobby. J-Hope: To stay healthy! So that we can keep doing what we're doing now!!! Jimin: I know that many people are cheering for us for who we are now. I think about how those people would love seeing our new, better music and performances. What I'm trying to say is, my dream is to show them more performances and better music for a long, long time. V: They're not new dreams, but dreams that we never imagined could achieve. I'd like to keep them going. Jungkook: I wouldn't want anything more than to keep doing music and performances just like now. What do you hope to get better at or improve upon? RM: Dancing! And knowing "myself." Jin: I hope that the team always gets along and everyone is happy. Suga: Without a question, English. J-Hope: Our team's health! And happiness! They are the path to growth! Jimin: I want to be good at what I am currently doing. V: I want to widen my spectrum and become an artist who has a variety of talents. Jungkook: If I had a chance to improve every aspect of myself, then I would work hard to make it happen rather than just sitting idly by. Your fans, ARMY, are one of the most passionate, mobilized music fanbases in the world. How would you define what makes your fanbase so special? BTS: It's an honor that people around the world love our music and messages. It seems like there's no language barrier. We think that ARMY helped us spread our music across the world. All of this would have not been possible without ARMY. What music is exciting you right now? What's on your personal playlists? RM: I'm listening to Post Malone's latest album. Jin: Taylor Swift's “ME!" The song has a bright energy, so my mood is lifted when I listen to it. I want to try that kind of music, too. Suga: Post Malone's “Circles." J-Hope: I listen to older songs these days: The Fugees' “Killing Me Softly" and Cheryl Lynn's “Got to Be Real." Jimin: I prefer songs that fill me with emotions. Nowadays, I listen to our song “Jamais Vu." V: I'm listening to DaBaby's new album. Jungkook: I'm listening to Jang Beom June's songs these days. What did it mean for your album to be nominated at the 2019 Grammy Awards for Best Recording Package? BTS: It truly was an honor. We were happy to be invited as presenters to such a big show, with such great musicians. We also became members of the Recording Academy this year. We hope to be invited to the show next year as well. The importance and power of “loving yourself" is a cornerstone of the BTS message, in your lyrics, speeches, music videos and beyond. But when and how did the notion of self-love become something you were all so passionate about? BTS: Our LOVE YOURSELF series bears the message that “loving yourself is the beginning of true love." The “love" that we aim to convey can be both the individual experience and a message to our society today. We once saw somewhere that “being able to love is also an ability. If you don't love yourself, you can never love anyone else." Reflecting on the ways you love yourself, we thought that this question could give the answer for many different aspects. We wanted to focus on that searching process and find the answers. [We] think LOVE YOURSELF has a positive impact. [We] also ask ourselves, “Do I really love myself?" So, [we] looked back one more time and put that notion into the lyrics. What are the key differences in performing for audiences back home vs. elsewhere in the world? BTS: Fans all over the world are cheering for us. We get on stage with the mindset to give them the best performance. Every occasion to meet our fans is important and meaningful. How has social media and the Internet impacted the way you're able to reach listeners? BTS: We like communicating with our fans. We communicated [with them online] even before our debut. Fans enjoy it and so do we. Our Weverse app was launched recently, which is a platform for our fans. We can see their messages and leave comments there. We feel that the whole world is truly connected as one through social media. Language is not a big barrier anymore, and we think that with good music, sincere messages and the effort to communicate, fans from all around the world will show their love. What can you share about any upcoming new music? BTS: We are currently practicing and working on new songs so we can show you the best sides of ourselves. Please look forward to it. Editors' Note: For PAPER's 2019 Break the Internet moment, we combined three cultural powerhouses: BTS, our cover stars; Lisa Frank, who created custom artwork; and Virgil Abloh, whose Spring 2020 collection for Louis Vuitton Men appears on the group. BTS is the biggest music group on the planet and since the beginning, they have championed youth empowerment. PAPER is particularly inspired by their "Love Yourself" campaign and speech at the UN last year when RM urged young people, "No matter who you are, where you're from, your skin color, gender identity: Just speak yourself. Find your name and find your voice." For decades, iconic American artist Lisa Frank has similarly empowered young people to express themselves freely and think creatively. Her art is the ultimate symbol of "Love Yourself." Finally, there is simply no one better at communicating with younger generations and breaking barriers in fashion than Virgil Abloh, artistic director for Louis Vuitton's menswear as well as the founder and creative director of Off-White. Separately, their contributions to pop culture are enormous, together they Break the Internet. Photography: Hong Jang Hyun Illustration: Lisa Frank Inc. Styling: Mia Solkin Art Director: Jonathan Conrad Hair: Kim Ji Hye; Seo Jin Young (at Bit&Boot); Kim Ye Li Makeup: Kim Da Reum; Baek Hyun A; No Jin Kyeong Casting: Jill Demling Production: Lee Kyung Kim On Set Coordinator: Park Hee Young Fashion Assistant: Kim Na Yon Click here to order this issue source
  4. The Mastermind Behind BTS Opens Up About Making a K-Pop Juggernaut BY RAISA BRUNER - 12:37 PM EDT Bang Si-hyuk was an artist first. But these days, the founder and co-CEO of Big Hit Entertainment is better known as the mastermind behind BTS, the world’s biggest boy band and the K-pop group that has led the charge in breaking open the Western market for acts from South Korea. Bang started out in the K-pop industry as a composer (nickname: “Hitman”) working with JYP, one of the so-called “Big Three” entertainment groups that dominate the multi-billion dollar South Korean music market. But he broke away to found his own company in 2005. Now, Big Hit is one of the music industry’s most interesting case studies, having struck gold with a powerfully popular — and highly lucrative — act. Over the course of an hour and a half, Bang opened up to TIME about the genesis of BTS, the difference between Western artists and the K-pop model and the surprises he’s encountered in the K-pop industry. “It’s difficult for me to say things like A led to B,” he said. “But what I can say is that BTS’ success in the U.S. market was achieved by a formula different from the American mainstream formula. Loyalty built through direct contact with fans had a lot to do with that.” He cited Disney and Apple as examples of brands that have built similarly committed fanbases and complex universes, but stressed that to him the product — the music itself — is paramount. Humble about his influence and eager to make his role clear, Bang highlighted his luck and timing, and tried to pin down what makes BTS unique. He also cautioned against making predictions about the future. “If you were to ask, will they sing in English? How long will they be in the U.S.? Will they sign with a major label? I would say the artist needs to make the best decision at each moment, and I can’t say what they should do,” he said. Below is a translated and condensed version of Bang’s conversation with TIME. TIME: K-pop is distinctive for its trainee system, in which aspiring “idols” train for years after being scouted and before being introduced to audiences. How did you find and train the seven members of BTS? Bang Si-Hyuk: One of our producers, Kido, brought RM’s demo tape to me and said, “This is what the young kids are into.” RM [who is now the group leader and a rapper] was 15 at the time. I signed him immediately. I had considered putting together a hip-hop crew, not an idol group. But when I considered the business context, I thought a K-pop idol model made more sense. Because many trainees wanted to pursue hip-hop and didn’t want to be in an idol band, they left. At that time RM, Suga, and J-Hope stayed back, and they remain BTS’s musical pillars. From there, through auditions, we discovered and added members that had more of an idol-like quality to the group. When you started Big Hit, you could have gone down many paths in pop music. Why did you decide to form an idol group? At the time that I started my company, physical album sales were abruptly going down and digital sales were not coming up to compensate. But K-pop idol groups had an advantage, in that they had many opportunities to diversify revenue streams and their fans were extremely passionate, allowing concerts to compensate for the dropped album sales. This was also a time when many around the world were saying the only replacement for the demolished musical industry is live performances. If a performance-based model were to be created in South Korea, I thought, it would [still have to] be a K-pop idol group. What do you think has been the distinguishing factor that set BTS on its unique path? It was their sincerity, consistency and ability to embody the spirit of the times. When they [solidified as an] idol group, I promised them they would be able to pursue the music they wanted [including hip-hop]. Because it was hip-hop, they could express their thoughts and we wouldn’t touch that. If in turn the company felt they weren’t being genuine, then we would comment. I kept that promise, and believe that had an impact. I personally feel it’s not always necessary for an artist to speak their mind. But I believe at the time, BTS touched something that young people from all over the world were seeking. Ever since BTS’ debut, they’ve never suddenly switched gears or changed pace. They were consistent. I think that convinced the public. They don’t shy away from speaking about the pain felt by today’s generation. They respect diversity and justice, the rights of youths and marginalized people. I think all of these factors worked in their favor. So far this year, BTS has sold the most physical albums in the U.S. of any musical act. What does that say to you? The case of BTS is very ironic to me. I had predicted a steady decline in physical sales and thought performances and a loyalty-based model would be a solution. That being said, because I’m an old-school music producer, I place a lot of importance on the quality of the album. So I led an album-focused production. With good music and communication, the sales can follow. The K-pop industry as a whole has been seeing rising album sales, contrary to global market trends. I can’t personally explain why. I do not believe this will last forever. One of your big pushes this year is bolstering the “universes” you’re building for each group, connecting the fans to the artists beyond live shows and albums. Why? With BTS and K-pop idols, fans want to be a part of the lifestyle of their beloved idols outside of concerts, but there’s no product on the market that fulfills that desire. I hate expansion for the sake of expansion; it has to be rooted in music. So that’s why I did it that way. Many people believe because K-pop idols hold the title of “singer” that it’s the same thing, but fans of typical singers [are different]. They might go to a concert, buy an album or a track, or buy a t-shirt. But K-pop idol fans want to feel close with their idols. BTS is the only team that has sizable selling power all over the world, in almost every country. As a result, working with BTS’ fandom is one of the biggest services Big Hit provides. How did you figure out what they would express in their music, or how they would present themselves on social media? Frankly, K-pop artists, by average artists’ standards, have to show acrobatic-level skills in their performances; they must sing perfectly, and so they must be in top shape. It requires a high level of skill-based, focused training. Despite that, I always believed trainees should be well socialized. When BTS members were trainees, there was a lot of internal conflict with my staff regarding social media; [they said,] “Let’s take the safe road, social media leaves traces, some of which could be harmful to them in the future.” It’s also difficult for young people to follow rules. So there was a bit of trouble there, but because I believed it was right to make mistakes and learn from them, I built a relatively liberal trainee system. In our company, we invest a lot of time educating trainees about life as an artist, including social media. After we provide guidance, we choose to let artists be, and leave a window open for them to ask the company anything they need. I think that helped the sincerity get through to the fans. Since BTS’ success, I’ve been changing the trainee system to be more school-like, with mentorship and a coaching system, and opportunities for students to work together. Recently, some current and former K-pop idols have been implicated in illegal activities. When you see controversies like that in K-pop, do you feel you have given BTS and other trainees tools to avoid those kinds of issues? I’m not sure. The fact that I gave them a lot of freedom from trainee years and educated them on responsibility can logically explain that it has prevented scandals, but that’s consequentialism. Right now a trainee system is in some ways an educational institution. As a team, we talk a lot about how we can provide the best possible environment for these artists. But to say that we were able to avoid some sort of scandal in the K-pop industry is way too definite. There’s a common perception that in K-pop, the music is manufactured by committee, or that it’s a top-down system of adults giving material to young artists. Is that accurate? First, I believe in the West there is this deeply embedded fantasy of the rock star — a rock star acts true to their soul and everyone must accept it as part of their individuality, and only through that does good music come. But in reality, devoting a long time to honing and training music-related skills is a tactic used in many professional art worlds. Ballerinas spend a long time in isolation focused only on ballet, but you don’t hear people say ballet lacks soul or isn’t art. So I think it’s a matter of perspective. Another layer is that in the U.S., an artist will work in the underground scene for many years before signing with a major label. In Korea, that time is spent as a trainee. I think it’s debatable which system produces the better artist. In addition, I believe the statement that an artist must sing their own songs to have good results cannot possibly be true. A singer is foremost a performer, and a good performance can convince audiences. I do think when a trainee spends too much time just focusing on skills and not life experiences, it becomes a concern as to whether they can become a musician with a complex understanding of the world. How important is it that the artists you work with have a cause or a social issue that they care about? With BTS there has been the ongoing “Love Yourself” narrative, paired with their work with the U.N. and their openness on topics like mental health. Whether you want to speak out on a social issue or not is the individual’s choice. What I want is for them to be sincere. To make up something, I can’t accept that. But neither the company nor I can force an artist to speak or not speak about any social issue. Personally, I believe art is one of the strongest mediums for revolution, and I want the artist to speak out on social issues. They speak out when they want to and I don’t say what they should or shouldn’t do. I think that’s one of the misconceptions people have about the K-pop industry: that a producer could have that level of control over their artists. We can’t. When the artist wants to express something, I believe my role is to refine the message in a way that expresses their sincerity and has commercial value. Why has BTS managed such an impressive crossover feat in the U.S., while so many other K-pop acts have struggled to gain traction? I fundamentally believe BTS’ success in the U.S. had a lot to do with luck. It wasn’t my brilliant strategy or BTS being such a perfect fit for the U.S. market. It was rather that their message resonated with a certain demand, and through digital media it spread quickly. And BTS touched something that wasn’t being addressed in the U.S. at the time, so American youths reacted, and that was proven through numbers. You mentioned that “rock star” narrative. In the U.S., it can seem that artists are applauded for being rebellious. There’s a lot of value placed on independence and fighting the “system.” Do you think in the South Korean cultural context there’s more respect between artists and management? I think Asian culture and Western culture are certainly different. But if we’re to talk about how that influences expressing rebellion toward society — South Korea has had many revolutions, but in terms of personal relationships, you respect elders. It’s hard to equate that with speaking out, or to say Western artists are this way and Asian artists are this way. But in general, especially for K-pop artists, artists and companies seek to take less risks. But to talk about fighting the system: many American artists cooperate with their management, as long as they’re left to pursue the music they want. Recently, many artists don’t sign with major labels, because there are more revenue streams available. I don’t think that’s a statement against the system, though. In fact, fewer Western artists speak out on social issues compared to before. You’ve always given the members of BTS opportunities to release solo work as well. Does that make them unique in K-pop? I don’t really think their uniqueness comes from independence. Many K-pop idols think about solo careers once they achieve a level of success, discuss it with their management and pursue solo projects. It’s not that they do this because Big Hit gives more freedom. What’s unique here is that Big Hit doesn’t produce solo projects. We emphasize the team image. But of course the members are individuals, and have their own identities, so we encourage and support mixtapes and free release songs, which allow the artist to express themselves with less liability than an official solo project. Since we started taking this approach, many more companies started pursuing more unofficial mixtapes or free release tracks in addition to official solo projects. I believe in some way Big Hit helped enrich the music market. You recently acquired Source Music, and expressed an interest in forming a new girl group. How is that going? Regarding [Source Music group] GFriend, they’ve released great content so far. What we’re trying to do is refine and streamline a storyline, a concept, so that when they’re on their next project it would make sense how they arrived at a new style. We are also going to be promoting an audition for a girl group with us and Source Media. Just like with Disney — animations, family movies, Marvel and Star Wars — I am trying to approach market segmentation while retaining the virtues of K-pop. One thing we haven’t mentioned yet is ARMY (the fandom name of BTS’s avid supporters around the world). You’re planning a lot to involve the fans, from the development of Weverse (a fan app) and Weply (an e-commerce platform) to movies. What should BTS fans and Big Hit followers be looking out for? First, the next album. It’s going great. As you know, many people are saying that BTS is the Beatles of the Youtube era, or that they’re the Beatles of the 21st century. I know they haven’t reached that stature, though I’m honored. But I believe there is some connotation to this title, which is that BTS was able to create a global fandom, which was very rare. Through that gigantic fandom, they were able to reshape the order of commerce; they are creating new forms of communication. And they’ve embodied a certain spirit of the times and formed a new musical message. So in that way, it’s reminding many of the Beatles. I hope to protect that honorable title and remain heroic figures down the line like the Beatles. To get there, it would be good if BTS could continue to receive recognition in major global arenas. It would be nice to get some reaction from the Grammys; ARMY has long awaited a BTS performance at the Grammys. I was fortunate to become an Academy member, so I’d love to discuss this further with the Grammys [team] because I believe we have something symbolic to contribute. source
  5. Grammy Preview 2020: BTS on Their Historic Year, Dream Collaborator The K-pop trailblazers also discuss working with Halsey and Ed Sheeran, and share their hopes for next year’s Grammys Oct 4, 2019 - Andrea Marks First-round Grammy voting is currently underway, and running through October 10th. For our 2020 Grammy preview, we asked a series of likely contenders to reflect on their past experiences at the ceremony, look ahead to the future, and break down the albums and singles that could earn them a statue come February. BTS are running out of space for their fans. Last October, the seven-member K-pop group played their first U.S. stadium show. Starting this past summer, they’ve exclusively played stadiums, selling out multi-night runs at 90,000-seat venues all over the world as fast as they can add them to their extended Love Yourself world tour. This year, they became the first K-pop group to present an award at the Grammys, announcing H.E.R. as winner of Best R&B album. At the 2020 Grammys, they’re looking for a win, or at least a chance to perform. They have a shot. Their most recent EP, Map of the Soul: Persona, has topped charts in multiple countries, and the bouncy lead single — “Boy With Luv,” featuring Halsey — has earned more than 500 million streams. “Understand,” BTS member RM says of the Grammys. “We will be back on the stage.” The seven members of BTS spoke with RS in August. What was it like going to the Grammys for the first time? What’s your favorite memory? RM: It’s the biggest night in the music industry all over the world, so we were so honored, and kind of nervous, and so excited to be there with such great artists. We want to be back. All of the members are true fans of H.E.R. — and it was really surprising and amazing to be able to give the award to our idol. When I called, “Congratulations, H.E.R.!” it was the best moment I ever had. Jungkook, fans particularly loved your reaction to Dolly Parton. Did you really cry? Jungkook: Yeah, it was an incredible day. I’m thankful that fans loved my reaction. RM, how did your “Old Town Road” remix come about? RM: In several interviews, when they asked “What’s your favorite song?” I was always like, “Old Town Road,” and I think Lil Nas X saw the interviews and maybe proposed the collaboration. So I just got called from my company, and I was really happy to jump on it. And he’s definitely written all the records, so congratulations to him on, like, 18 weeks [at Number One], and perhaps my “Seoul Town Road” with him might have been a little help, so I’m really grateful and happy for him. It was an honor. You were the first K-pop group to present an award at the Grammys, and you got a nomination for Best Recording Package for Love Yourself: Tear. What firsts are you hoping for at the 2020 Grammys? RM: We really had so many firsts this year. First group since the Beatles to achieve three Number One albums in less than a year, first time performing on SNL, as the musical guests. Maybe first performance at the 2020 Grammys, because you know, we could dream. … Thinking about it makes me really thrilled. We’ll just continue to be ourselves and just work hard on our music and performance. What artists inspire you right now? RM: OK, we’ll go member by member and answer … Jin: Halsey. Jungkook: Billie Eilish. Jimin: Labrinth and Gavin James. Suga: Lil Uzi Vert. J-hope: I like Chance the Rapper. V: Conan Gray. RM: Nas and Lil Nas X. Nas and Lil Nas? RM: Yeah. Jin mentioned Halsey. What was it like working with her on “Boy With Luv”? RM: We really were big fans of Halsey since “Closer” with Chainsmokers, and we heard that it was the first time for her to have official choreography for [a] music video, but she practiced really hard and we’re grateful for that. In addition, she actually wrote the introduction for our Time’s “100 Most Influential People” [entry]. We were so moved and touched by our friend’s words. I love you, Halsey. What are your plans for touring if some members have to fulfill their South Korean military service obligation? Jin: Nothing is set in stone, obviously, regarding military duty, but the most important thing would be [that] it’s our duty to serve and when we’re called we’ll serve in whatever capacity we can, and until that time we just perform as hard as we can and as much as we can. Are you working on new music in the meantime? What can fans expect on your next album? RM: Yes, we are. We are really working on our next album, but we’re still touring and trying to meet all our fans as much as we can all over the world. Things are really happening. At the time of the 2019 Grammys, you named H.E.R., Travis Scott, and Lady Gaga as some dream collaborators. Any you’d like to add to the list? J-Hope: Drake. RM: So, yeah, we have millions of dream artists that we want to collaborate with. Lil Nas X was one of them and we did it. J-Hope just mentioned Drake. I think Drake is really, like, a final destination. We met him at the Grammys so, yeah, Drake, please call our label if you have time. Last year, you wore tuxedos to the Grammys. How will you top that look next time? Suga: Well, we have to make it to the Grammys first for us to dazzle you with a new look. J-Hope: If we can go, we’d like to wear something really fantastic. What do you remember about your very first U.S. stadium show last October? Suga: It was just one year ago when we performed at Citi Field, and actually a lot of that footage is in the new movie [Bring the Soul], and when we watched the movie we thought of it again — it was just a year ago but it feels like a long time ago. We remember the weather, the performance, what we did, and I think it reminded us that we want to continue performing in stadiums and keep doing what we’re doing. RM: Actually, we made a big snapshot from Citi Field of us performing together. We printed it and framed it and it’s in front of our company’s building. That’s our main picture. Tell me about your plans to perform in Saudi Arabia during the stadium extension of your tour. How did you make the decision to add a stop there? Jin: We are about to meet our fans in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, for the first time ever, and BTS is always ready to meet fans around the world. This Saudi Arabia show is a part of that. We’ll just go there and try to put on the best performance that we possibly can. What were some of your favorite collaborations recently? RM: On our album Persona, “Make It Right” is by Ed Sheeran. He is also one of our idols and he called our label and said he wanted to give a song to us as a present. It turns out that it’s a really great song. And on our soundtrack for our [mobile] game, BTS World, we collaborated with Juice WRLD, Zara Larsson, Mura Masa, and Charli XCX. It was really fun to work with artists from different countries. Tell me more about BTS World. What’s the object? Jungkook: In the game, you become our manager, and you work through trying to make us superstars. Jin: There’s also some never-before-seen footage of us acting. RM’s acting was especially noteworthy. Jimin: We are in the game, so I was a little hesitant to actually play it, myself. I’m a little too shy to play my game with me in it. What’s the secret, though? How do players make you stars? RM: You have play constantly. Work hard, play hard. Suga: If you really have affection for us, that will be what brings you success when you play the game. source
  6. until
    BTS will be in the studio for On Air/Ryan Seacrest at 6:40AM PST! Listen on iHeartRadio. (source: 1, 2)
  7. until
    BTS is coming to the 102.7 KIIS-FM (LA's #1 Hit Music Station) studio for a radio interview tonight at 9PM PT. Listen here. (Source)
  8. until
    Tune in and see BTS interview on KTLA at about 8:40AM PST! Watch the live stream or watch on TV if you're local.
  9. Tune into the On With Mario Lopez iHeartRadio show to hear him chat with BTS! Listen here and check for the video interview here. (Source: 1, 2)
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