May 13, 2019
On the morning of Good Friday I awoke to the BBC News App with the headline ‘Jung lovers: BTS delve into psychology on their album, Map of the Soul’. I was stunned! Jung in the mainstream news? The article referred to Murray Stein’s book as having had ‘an unexpected impact on pop history’. In his very engaging article, BBC Music reporter Mark Savage explains how the Korean boy band BTS have used Stein’s work as the inspiration behind their latest album. Tipped as being a ‘global musical sensation’ this is proving to be correct as their newly released album tops the charts in both the US and UK.
BTS are no overnight sensation. The band was launched in 2013 and all 7 members are from South Korea. Their style is referred to as K-pop (for Korean pop) a new genre emerging in the 90’s – the decade in which all the band members were born and Stein’s work was first published – as a fusion of Asian and Western music. Savage refers to their musical roots emerging from R&B, pop, hip-hop and rap. Their performance style pulsates with synchronised dancing and is infused with fashion and colour. Their message comes across regardless of the lyrics being in Korean. Their choice of subject matter also sets them apart from other bands. They don’t stick to the more conventional songs of love but have also tackled bullying, elitism and mental health – in Jungian terms – shadow material. Another difference is that they also connect with their fans directly via social media. Their massive global following is known as ‘The Army’. In October 2018 they were the number one on iTunes in over 65 countries with almost 12 million followers on YouTube.
Savage reports that the opening track on the album Map of the Soul uses the rap ‘’Who am I?’ is the question I’ve had all my life /And I’ll probably never find the answer’’. Here Kim Nam-Joon considers how being praised for his on-stage persona gets in the way of him addressing his own flaws and getting to know his true self. This is but one example of how Jungian concepts as ego, persona and psyche infuse the lyrics. Importantly these ideas seem to be meeting a need in young people who are grappling with issues of identity, often finding their ‘persona’, as displayed across social media, to be superficial. There seems to be a hunger for meaning and this energetic band do seem to offer a conduit for thinking at depth by engaging in Jungian thinking. It is striking that a Korean translation of Murray Stein’s ‘Map of the Soul’ is for sale on the BTS official website.
To use another Jungian concept, it seems to me that this coming together has the feel of synchronicity about it, in that there is meaning beyond co-incidence. So where does it all go from here? Well we can’t all rush to the next BTS concert. They are next in the UK in June, but Wembley Stadium was sold out in just 90 minutes! It is likely there may be a trilogy of albums and BTS seem to be going from strength to strength. There we have it. In the tradition of creative endeavours, nearly 60 years after his death, the work of Jung, presented by Murray Stein, becomes an ‘overnight’ sensation. But this is the beginning of a new and exciting journey.
Written by Valerie Roach, with much gratitude to Mark Savage of BBC Music. The full article is available through the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-47965524