BTS Cinematic Music Video ON – What Is It All About?
BTS’s ON is 2nd of the two entries in their fourth studio album— Map of the Soul: 7. The album is rich in references to history, art, and symbolism, both in its lyrics and the cinematic music video. For this article, we will take a deep dive into how BTS uses cinematography and vivid imagery to convey the messages of hope, unity, individuation, and perseverance in the journey of self-acceptance and the path fated for oneself. The song challenges the persona and provokes the listener to confront and ultimately accept the part of them that lurks in the shadows. In doing so, BTS pays homage to the progress they have made over the past seven years and how far they have come as artists and as a team.
What is happening in the ON music video BTS?
BTS Cinematic Music Video, ON, draws from various religious, mythological, and historical references to further its message of peace, hope, and unity. BTS continues to use the idea of time as a cycle. All three stages are a part of each of the seven members, implying that all is connected. The MV depicts the coming together of the past, the present, and the future in the climax. It ultimately births a new cycle once again. This rebirth of time alludes to both the inner journey of a man and the journey of humanity. The MV uses people and symbols to show the connection between the past, the now, and the future. Further, It shows how it stems from the same source.
In the same vein, the MV seeks to convey the concept of the collective sub-conscience. That is what everyone and everything is interlinked through. It depicts how humankind, over the years, has suffered and faced obstacles, only to overcome them and come out on top collectively. In the video, each member has a story arc of their own; however, their stories are connected.
Jin’s story starts on a battlefield where the past and present are simultaneously present. This references the many wars and conflicts humanity has engaged in over the ages. He is shown gently handling a dove, the universal symbol of peace, but impaled by an arrow, symbolizing hopelessness. He then goes on to protect the dove from suggesting that these dark periods are never permanent. Later in the video, he places the cage in a room of empty cages. This suggests that it is not the first time. A while later, the rebirth of the dove, and so tying in the theme of cycles and rebirth. Finally, he frees the dove, which suggests improvement when reborn into a new cycle.
The message of perseverance can be taken away from Jungkook’s story. He is shown running away from captivity with his hands bound together with thorns. The thorns reference the Crucifixion, and his clothes reference the garments worn by those enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade. This scene is set to depict Jungkook’s struggle to free himself from his own shackles. Later, we are met with Jungkook’s sudden death, with a raven. This is a universal symbol of shadow, pecking away at his body while J-Hope is in the forefront.
J-hope’s story conveys the reconciliation of opposites, like life and death and coming in contact with one’s inner shadow. In this part of the song, his verse conveys that as his old wounds healed, he became powerful enough to overcome any pain that came his way without any fear. It shows him coming to terms with the pain of his past and learning that he, and by extension, all the members, can face any obstacle that comes their way.
Suga’s story depicts the search for balance and serves as the follow-up for J-Hope’s scene. The MV uses Black, White, Yellow, and Red, and this refers to the cycle of death and rebirth to transform something in Alchemy. As a result of this spiritual death and rebirth, Jungkook returns to life.
Jimin’s story points to the loss of innocent lives during conflict and wars. It shows a child on the trunk of a truck with a drum in hand. This references the drummer boys caught in the crossfire of the American Civil war. The stack of drums to Jimin’s other side suggests that many children had died before this new child took their place. At the same time, the child represents one’s inner child. It can serve as an extension of Jimin in the scene, thereby conveying the loss of his innocence and youth in pursuit of his destined path. Later, Jimin is seen reaching out to the child. This suggests that one must reach out to their inner self to achieve harmony.
Taehyung, in his story, is accompanied by a young blonde girl who many fans believe is the placeholder for Army. The choice of a half-Caucasian half-Japanese actress suggests that our connections transcend ethnicities and cultures. He is first shown posing as the Christ during Crucifixion, suggesting sacrifice and the acceptance of fate. The prop made of broken feathers and arrows conveys the burden he carries, one hidden from the girl who is still blindfolded. The scene is set in front of a giant wall, only upon opening of which, Taehyung removes the girl’s blindfold to show the idea of the removal of the obstacle and the emergence of light and a new path.
Namjoon’s story draws from the fable of Noah’s Ark, which was used to save humanity and animals from a catastrophic flood. This is used in the MV because it fits with the idea of one individual acting as a puzzle piece that affects and completes humankind as a whole. Additionally, Noah’s Ark also symbolizes the ending of one cycle of time and the birth of another. Since the sail on the Ark is already worn and torn, it suggests that the change has happened, and with Namjoon comes a new beginning.
Finally, the seven come together at the foot of a rock, where they stand in the shape of a bird, alluding to peace, freedom, and unity. Together, the seven members cross over the rock to symbolize their ascend into a new and better cycle of life.
The MV concludes with the message that the boys, who were once lost, pained, and had struggled, have now been reborn as guides to those following similar paths.
Check the following reference articles to learn more about the BTS Cinematic Music Video
- BTS ON MV Meaning Explained: FULL Breakdown and Analysis. (2020, March 2). YouTube (URL)
- What is BTS White Paper Project?
- BTS Cinematic Music Video ON – What is it all about?
- The Meaning of BTS Jamais Vu
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