The members of BTS may be starting their military service, but they’ve left their fans with something new to remember. On Wednesday, Disney+ will release the first two episodes of BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star, an eight-part docuseries that gives a look behind the scenes of the group’s rise to global superstardom.
Monuments feels like a BTS crash course for those unfamiliar with the group, but also allows more experienced fans, or ARMY, a sweet space to reminisce on the group’s rise. The first episode opens with a montage of the members witnessing an art exhibit as RM declares: “We still believe in the power of art and that it can change the world.” The intro sets the tone for the rest of the episode, which captures the stars as they begin their careers with that message at the core of their music.
The episodes show the humanity behind the group’s seven members — J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jung Kook, Suga, RM, and V — as they’re seen jumping into backyard pools, tearing up during birthday parties, and celebrating their victories with one another. Here’s what we learned.
A band is born
One of the most insightful parts of the first episode is hearing from Si-Hyuk Bang, the chairman of HYBE, about forming the group and choosing its members. It all started with RM; Bang heard a demo that convinced him that “someone like him needed to debut no matter what.” RM was first going to be “the center member” of a hip-hop-focused group, but things slowly started to change. “They realized it wasn’t the way to go in the middle of the process,” Suga says with a laugh. “After countless member changes, we became the current BTS.”
With Suga, Bang liked his “dark side.” J-Hope, the dancer, was “the personification of diligence.” Jin was so handsome that he “could at least create some kind of fandom.” Jung Kook “wasn’t very confident,” but Bang “had a strong conviction that he had a lot of potential.” The same was the case with V. With Jimin, though? “I was actually quite skeptical because he seemed incomplete,” Bang admits. But his team convinced him to bring Jimin into the group. “Thinking back, it was a close call,” Bang says. (And a good call.)
The docuseries highlights how HYBE was still a “small company” when the group was formed, so the boys were in a “tough situation” early on as they competed with heavyweights such as JYP, SM, and YG. But they’d soon triumph.
Training could be grueling
The training process for becoming an idol group was extremely tough. Some members even had second thoughts about continuing.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it again if someone asked me to,” says Jung Kook with a laugh. “Back then, staying up all night, going on a diet, and everything was very hard to do.”
Suga agrees, adding they “spent every moment in the practice room” whenever they weren’t eating or sleeping. “Some people may think I’m exaggerating, but we really lived like that for six months.”
The boys ride for ARMY
BTS’ fans are ride-or-dies. But early in the group’s career, BTS had to build their fandom, and in BTS Monuments, the members reflect on the days when they would directly DM fans and meet groups of them in public. “We had fans who liked us even when we weren’t popular,” says Jin. “It wasn’t about how happy I was about my work. Some people liked us for doing it, so that alone was really nice.”
One heartwarming moment sees the group in 2013 during a special birthday party celebrating some of the members as each of them shared sweet speeches to one another and to their fans amid tears. Jin starts to tear up as he reads a note. “To be honest, I didn’t think this was fun in the past,” he says as he collects himself. “The days I spent anxious and lost have passed.”
BTS build a brotherhood
Some of the most endearing moments in the first two episodes come as the members build their bond with one another and “really become family,” as several members describe the group.
In one part, shot in 2013, the members joke about being proud of Jung Kook as he enters high school in a school uniform. “He looks so cute just standing there,” says RM.
“Jung Kook, you’re so adorable!” J-Hope says in a silly voice.
In another sweet scene, J-Hope is captured sobbing as his bandmates surprise him with a cake as Jimin affirms, “Cry as much as you want. You can cry in my arms.”
“Those moments truly are the most precious and meaningful part of all of this,” Jimin adds about the group’s genesis. “I think I reminisce about those moments more these days. We’ve become more tightknit because of all of that. I’m so thankful for it all.”
‘The most difficult time’ in life
The start of BTS’ journey was far from easy, and the docuseries captures the group in one of its lowest moments, as it made 2014’s “Danger” while visiting L.A. for the first time. “We were about to die,” one member says.
“That was when we questioned our mindset of just continuously pushing forward,” J-Hope says.
Jung Kook agrees: “I felt so small as I listened and made those comparisons.”
First “Danger” didn’t reach Number One on the Gaon Weibo chart, which ranked idol drops. Then the song plummeted on the chart. Mix that with financial issues surrounding HYBE and “it felt like it was the end for us,” says Jin.
BTS felt “impatient” seeing their music not succeed right away, and started to experience burnout. That led to arguments as the members started to question if this was the style of music they wanted to make.
But things changed with 2015’s The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, which showcased some of the sadness and melancholy the group was facing during the time. Soon, the members were accepting the trophy for Number One on the Gaon Weibo chart. ”After winning first place, I gained a lot of confidence. I was able to get strong after that,” RM reflects.
Anxiety, rumors, and fear of critiques
Even as things continued to blow up for the group in 2015 and 2016, the members struggled to accept how they were sometimes received by other people. “That time marked a very difficult time for me psychologically,” RM said in a 2017 interview. “It’s like feeling the most hopeless when you’re supposed to be the happiest. I can’t go on the internet on the day a song drops.”
“I just freeze in fear of criticism,” he added.
In BTS Monuments, the group reflects on it being a “different time” for idol groups and how it “was really agonizing for us back then.”
“Our fans will know what I’m talking about, but having to deny bad rumors was always so upsetting,” says Jimin. It’s unclear what he’s exactly referring to, but rumors arose at the time about HYBE doing sajaegi, a kind of sales manipulation similar to payola.
“We were getting desperate and spiteful, and our fans were the same,” adds Suga. “We wanted to say, ‘On three, let’s forget it all.’”
One concert clip sees the boys in tears as they talk about opening up to their fans with “Still Wishing for More Good Days,” one of BTS’ saddest tracks. Their openness — with that song and beyond — ended up being a key to their connection with ARMY.
BTS take on the U.S. — for real
After earning Artist of the Year at a Korean music-awards show, the group focused on the next step in its trajectory: taking on the United States and building its status in the Western market.
BTS reflects on becoming a “hot topic” at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, since it was the first time that American media and audiences witnessed the group’s power at an official event. There, BTS won the Top Social Artist Award (though they weren’t even sure what that award meant at the time).
“It felt like we were starting something new again,” RM says in the docuseries. “I wonder what it would’ve been like if we were a team that was a bit more culturally proficient.… I think being a little clumsy was quite charming.”
The episode captures BTS meeting with several American artists, including Steve Aoki and Khalid. “In game terms, it was like we were leveling up,” one member declares. “We acquired new skills, and it was an enjoyable feeling.”
And yet, the members almost quit at one point
Toward the end of the second episode, we see Bang sit down with the boys to talk about focusing on their happiness so that they don’t burn out and become dissatisfied while at the top of their game.
“It’s natural to make bigger wishes since everything is going well, but I think our goal next year should be to find ways to be happy,” he tells the group in one intervention-like scene. “It’s something no other superstar has done.… I’m really worried that you’ll become unhappy if you continue to live like this.”
It was around that time that some of the members started to consider quitting the group altogether as their contract renewal with HYBE approached. Jin admits that the members had “differing opinions” about whether to continue. Several members “had thought a lot about quitting.”
“We felt a lot of pressure from it all and we were scared,” says Suga. “We shed a lot of tears at that time.”
Over the years, the group sometimes suffered from exhaustion after nonstop touring and “walking without a destination.” Suga says it felt like fitting “20 years of experience” in only six. He even describes how it felt like a moment before a breakup, when someone has to decide to leave, but that “no one wants to be the bad guy.”
“We seriously considered quitting,” he adds. “We didn’t think this fame was a scale we could handle.”