2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Seo Taiji’s debut and as part of the celebration, BTS have released a cover of one his group’s most iconic songs, “Come Back Home.” Seo Taiji is a pioneer of the modern Korean Music industry and his music is often subversive and critical of Korean society in a way that current K Pop often avoids. The original “Come Back Home” is no exception, with lyrics that explore the hardships faced by students in South Korea’s notoriously oppressive educational system.
It thus comes as no surprise that the group most suited to honor Seo Taiji’s legacy would be BTS (AKA Bangtan Boys or Beyond the Scene I’m still getting used to it…). The South Korean group is one of the most internationally successful acts in recent memory and like Seo Taiji, their music combines elements of American hip-hop culture and meaningful (at times bitingly critical) lyrics on topics like school, generational tension, conformity, and depression. And similar to Seo Taiji of 20 years prior, they have had explosive success as a result, reshaping a pop industry that continues to avoid anything more complex than lovesickness or partying.
As an homage, the cover is great. Definitely not the best track in their large discography but a thoughtful and playful iteration of a classic, blending the distinctive styles of Seo Taiji and BTS into a feisty four minutes of sound. BTS pen their own lyrics for the track, changing it thematically to the monotony of life and losing sight of what is important–common in their own songs. J-Hope’s bars pay homage to Seo Taiji’s original whining style while Rap Monster and Suga stick more closely to what we’ve heard from them before. Production-wise, BTS used the original West-coast base of Seo Taiji’s track but updated it with their own signature sounds–claps, poppy cymbals, and of course the drop into trappy half time following the hook (this, and the introduction of the beat at the beginning, are my favorite parts). I also like how the vocals were arranged in this version as their inclusion is seamless despite the original “Come Back Home” having none. As always, BTS do what they do best and with their own unique flair: a satisfying mix of biting playfulness and endearing hostility.
Sidenote: I can’t believe I never noticed the similarities between “Come Back Home” and BTS’ debut song, “No More Dream.”
Sidenote (again): Hobi is gonna drop that mixtape any day now I can feel it in my bones and I AM STRESSED.