The beautiful boys of BTS are back with a new cinematic feat.

The group released the"Kinetic Minfesto Film" on February 21 and are now back with the second official music video for Map of the Soul: 7's lead single, "ON." The video for the new barn-burner features Jungkook, RM, J-Hope, Jin, Jimin, V, and Suga going on separate spiritual journeys. We watch as Jin saves a dove (possibly a biblical allusion to the dove that brought Noah an olive branch), which then ties in nicely to the next scene, where we see RM shipwrecked with an ark full of animals. We also see V lead a blindfolded girl to safety.

Overall, the music video seems to explore themes of freedom and liberation—that is until the beatific images give way to darker themes. As the beat drops, we see all the group members together, (of course) dancing. They're surrounded by torch light and what appears to be a ceremony of some kind. Soon, everything catches fire. The music video ends with the group summiting a massive cliff on the other side of a large gate they passed through earlier in the video.

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There are so many symbols woven throughout the video that it's difficult to definitively say what message BTS is trying to convey. But we see a lot of imagery of perseverance in the face of obstacles and constrictions. It's not a stretch to think that perhaps BTS is referencing the explosion of Korean culture into the wider world. For example, maybe the image of the wall opening is a comment on the world opening up to Korean art thanks to trailblazers like BTS and Bong Joon-Ho.

Or maybe it's more political than that. BTS has been known to engage with cultural conversations criticizing the K-Pop industry as well as myriad other issues within South Korean society, particularly through their lyrics. Perhaps this powerful new video is meant as a critique of the societal pressures many South Koreans struggle with every day. For example, the video opens with an image of a dove pierced with an arrow, a powerful symbol that could be taken as a comment on South Korean culture's tendency to smother individuality and promote the illusion of personal perfection—often at the expense of people's mental health. At another point, we see Jungkook running away from a walled city, his hands tied with thorns, obviously an image meant to show an outside force hampering someone's personal expression and autonomy.

Whatever message BTS hoped to send with their new video, it's certainly a powerful piece of art that fans will be moved by and picking apart for weeks and months to come.

MUSIC

Charli XCX's "Gone" Should Win the Grammy for Song of the Year

It wasn't nominated, but Charli's duet with Christine and the Queens is my personal SOTY.

Do you hear that sound? It's the subtle hum of the music hive buzzing, because the Recording Academy just announced their nominees for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.

A brief summary of this year's honorees: Rapper-flautist extraordinaire Lizzo earned the most nominations with eight total, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best New Artist. Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish weren't too far behind with six nods each, including nominations in the same categories. Indieheads might be pleased to know that Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, and Lana Del Rey are also up for Album of the Year. The best news of all is that Ed Sheeran received absolutely no nominations.

While it's pretty cool to see so many newcomers welcomed to the Grammy roster—including Lil Nas X, a young queer POC, three demographics historically overlooked by the Recording Academy—I couldn't help but notice a few glaring voids among the nominations. In particular, I'm devastated that "Gone" by Charli XCX featuring Christine and the Queens, my personal song of the year, has been forgotten altogether.

Released in July, "Gone" was the third single preceding Charli's latest album, Charli, her first full-length project since 2017's cult-favorite masterpiece, Pop 2. On first listen, the magic of the song is glaringly evident; the clanging, stuttering PC Music production melds perfectly with Charli and Chris' poppy melodies. As they deliver one of the year's best and most relatable lyrics—"I feel so unstable, f***ing hate these people"—"Gone" perfectly exemplifies the catharsis and healing that can come from a great bop.

But Charli exists in a strange overlap between underground fame and mainstream recognition, a juxtaposition she's aware of and even embraces. But the Grammys aren't friendly to artists in that sphere. Charli hasn't had one of her own songs crack the Hot 100 since 2015's "Break the Rules" (though she did have a hand in penning "Señorita," the No. 1 hit that earned Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello a Best Pop Duo/Group Performance nomination). Charli did see moderate success on the Billboard 200, peaking at #42, but that's evidently not enough momentum in the Academy's eyes.

Few pop songs this year can match the force that is "Gone," and nearly everything that came close—such as Normani's solo debut "Motivation"—were also snubbed for this year's awards. Some of the Best Pop Solo Performance nominees, like Beyonce's "Spirit" and Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down," were letdowns coming from their respective artists, while the Duo/Group category—save for maybe "Old Town Road"—is incredibly underwhelming. Maybe Charli will forever remain a sort of concealed revolutionary in pop. Maybe I'll just have to be OK with that.

MUSIC

Who Cares If You're a "Top or Bottom": Troye Sivan and the Tokenization of Gays

One rude interview question to Troye Sivan pointed out how gay identity is treated like an open invitation to peer into someone's personal life—as if queerness is an alien species that needs to be examined.

Troye Sivan is a 24-year-old, South African-Australian singer who's also gay—that is, he's not interested in being tokenized as a gay singer who's here to share about all the gay sex he's having with his gay boyfriend in their sparkly, gay life.

(They also have a dog together, which is also very gay, because obviously if two queer people care for another living being together: "gayby"). But in case you weren't sure, a New Zealand reporter for the LGBTQ magazine Express recently pried into Sivan's personal life with particular gall. In addition to Sivan calling out the inappropriateness of the interview, the Internet's also mad about it—but not pinpointing exactly why.

On Wednesday, the singer posted the "invasive, strange, and inappropriate" interview to Twitter, calling out: "I thought about asking the interviewer about his absolute fave sex position after that last question, but then i remembered how wildly invasive, strange and innapropriate that would be. Didn't stop him though!"

Namely, Matt Fistonich, who is himself gay and even represented New Zealand in the Mr. Gay World competition, opted to ask Sivan about his favorite "thirst trap" accounts to follow on Instagram, whether his boyfriend would give him a "hall pass" to sleep with Shawn Mendes, and how their shared dog is enjoying life as their "gayby." His closing question sealed the gossipy, middle school bathroom tone of the interview: "Top or bottom?" Sivan opted to pass on answering.

Commenters were outraged at Fistonich's disrespect and lack of professionalism, as the Billboard-charting singer was never asked about his music career or his rise from YouTube to his sophomore album Bloom charting as No. 4 on U.S. charts. One user wrote, "the questions were weird and strange. i wish they were focus more on asking about your music than this 😭" Another criticized, "u know what the worst thing is...... they wouldnt ask a str8 person these."


Clearly, the resounding sentiment is that Sivan's sexuality was unfairly focused on as a point of interest. One comment read, "idk why interviewers think it's ok to ask queer artists about sex 🤢🤢 feel like u never see that in interviews w straight artists." Indeed, as Pride pointed out, "The gays have historically always dealt with far more invasive questions than the heteros (and as we all know, trans folk have it even worse) — even from members of our own community."

Blair St. Clair, beloved drag queen and musician, chimed in to corroborate with her own unfortunate interview experiences: "I get asked so many inappropriate questions in interviews. The absolute worst! I always respond with 'I'll leave that to your imagination' or 'You tell me. What do you think (about me)?'"


But why is that? Somehow in 2019, gay culture is still exocticized and treated as an oddity, a phenomenon to be examined by the public eye. Woke culture just does so by brandishing (not to mention corporatizing) it as an "alternate lifestyle" that flies in the face of bigotry, prejudice, and heteronormative oppression. What gets muddled in this celebration of gay representation is the fact that it is just a natural form of sexuality, it isn't someone's entire identity, and it's even "normal" enough to be boring. As with all queer people, there are more interesting aspects to Troye Sivan's character than his queerness (like, say, his burgeoning career), but assuming that his gay identity is an open invitation to peer into his personal life is akin to treating queerness like an alien species.

As musician and journalist Toby Knapp wrote to Sivan, media journalists and culture at large still get a lot wrong when it comes to respecting the differences between representation and tokenization. "I am so sorry u had to endure this," he wrote. "I've interviewed you and you were honest open and vulnerable and people like this are an embarrassment to media. Thanks for your grace in the face of this insanity. I hope those who talk to artists will remember that we are humans."