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So You Thought BTS Was Going on Break? LOL.

BTS performing at the 2022 Grammy Awards. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

It all happened so fast. Off the back of their anthology album’s release in June, BTS shared a prerecorded dinner with the fans. Amidst a delicious-looking display of shrimp and meat and side dishes, the boys announced that they were taking a break from making music as a group to pursue solo projects. Looking back, the announcement wasn’t surprising — BTS spent the last decade living and making music together, so a break to find their own personal sounds and stories was perhaps overdue. But in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, the news of BTS’s break elicited a kind of hysteria: Hybe’s stocks tanked (this would be BTS’s management company), many observers speculated that the “hiatus” would look like One Direction’s (namely, BTS would never return as a group), and fans began to plan for their lives without constant updates from the Tannies (some resolved to work on themselves).

The dinner was a harbinger of an announcement that led many to self-identify as a military wife: BTS is now on a three-year hiatus to complete mandatory service. Off the heels of their October concert to promote Busan’s bid for the 2030 World Expo, the band announced their intention to serve in the military sequentially until a planned reunion in 2025. (Korean men are required to begin their 18-month service by the time they turn 28, though BTS was granted a two-year extension for their cultural achievements.) Jin, who turns the big 3-0 in December, is the first member to enlist.

So far, a BTS break to pursue solo projects hasn’t meant a curtailing of activities. Instead, it’s multiplied all of their activities by seven, making it nearly impossible to keep track of it all. But let’s try to anyway — below, a handy little list of their group and solo activities:

RM

After months of teasing new music with unsubtle pics of album files and Logic Pro screenshots, RM released his ten-track debut solo album, Indigo, on December 2. “Indigo recounts the stories and experiences RM has gone through, like a diary,” a press release states. He kicked off his colorful new era with a music video for “Wild Flower,” which features youjeen (also known as Cherry filter vocalist Jo Yujin). NPR also booked him for a Tiny Desk concert, which premiered the same day the album dropped.

RM performed groovy renditions of new tracks and old favorites for an intimate Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, which was likely filmed at a Tiny Desk look-alike set in Seoul. He fittingly opened the three-track set with “Seoul,” a poetic cut from his 2018 mixtape mono that describes the ambivalent feelings he has about the metropolis where he found fame. After a short introduction to the new record Indigo, he dived straight into the album’s opening song, “Yun,” a neo-soul tribute to his favorite artist Yun Hyong-keun, an abstract painter belonging to Korea’s Dansaekhwa art movement, who inspired the lyric “I wanna be a human / ’fore I do some art.” RM doubles down on the allusions to art and exhibitions in “Yun” during his preamble to the last track on the set list, “Still Life.” “My life is like a canvas,” he began. “I’m exhibiting my life to the world … but a still life is still, you know, stuck in the canvas, but it is alive and eternal and still moving forward.”

“I’ve worked hard on it for four years,” RM said of the album on November 10, per a fan translation. “It’s very different from my previous works, and fun people are included in it.” The full tracklist features Erykah Badu, Anderson .Paak, Tablo, Paul Blanco, Mahalia, Kim Sawol, youjeen, Colde, and Park Jiyoon. Despite fan predictions, Pharrell was not one of the fun people in question. Pharrell previously said he wanted to make a song for RM’s upcoming album in the duo’s Rolling Stone “Musicians on Musicians” interview (the producer already cut a different track with the group for his own upcoming album, Phriends). Others had speculated that Jungkook and J-Hope would also make an appearance, alongside Korean R&B singer BIBI, but none of them showed. Hey, there’s always the conspiracy theory that RM has a secret second album on the way.

RM’s last solo release arrived in September, when he featured on alternative K-pop group Balming Tiger’s hip-hop track “Sexy Nukim.” (“Nukim” means “feeling” in Korean … We suggest you watch the many angles of RM’s first live performance of the song, where he embodies the track’s ethos to a terrifying degree.) He previously released two solo mixtapes — mono in 2018 and RM in 2015. Meanwhile, he’s slated to host the Korean variety show The Dictionary of Useless Human Knowledge, where the show’s expert panelists discuss literature, physics, forensics, and astronomy. It airs weekly beginning December 2.

Oh, and aside from all that, he’s still doing art things.

The art philanthropist–slash–influencer was named one of 35 innovators in the art scene by Artnet on November 30. “RM, the leader of global K-pop sensation BTS, has made no secret of his love for art,” reads his introduction. “He’s an avid collector, buying works by Korean artists […] He’s also a savvy art patron with an enormous reach on social media, inspiring droves of BTS fans to seek out exhibitions ranging from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s Philip Guston show to presentations of traditional Korean white porcelain moon jars in Hong Kong and Korea.”

Jung Kook

The youngest was the first to release a track in the post-BTS-break world, and now, he’s the first member and first Korean to perform at the World Cup’s opening ceremony on November 20, debuting a new single, “Dreamers.” “Proud to announce that Jung Kook is part of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Soundtrack & will perform at the World Cup opening ceremony. Stay tuned!” BTS said on Twitter. While fans expressed their pride for the 25-year-old pop star, some online found the decision to participate in the event controversial due to Qatar’s human-rights record, which includes criminalizing homosexuality. Days after Jung Kook was added to the slate, Dua Lipa said she refused to perform at the event and looks “forward to visiting Qatar when it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges.”

Earlier this summer, Jung Kook featured on Charlie Puth’s summer earworm “Left and Right,” singing about how he can’t get a vague lover out of his head because they “did things to me that I just can’t forget.” The song is cute and very fun to drive to. The music video is the second one to depict Jungkook both getting hit by a car and perhaps having a gay lover. Otherwise, he is currently working on his debut album.

Jin

Fresh off the release of his first solo single, “The Astronaut,” on October 28 — the song earned Jin his first solo Hot 100 hit, debuting at No. 51, along with a top spot on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart — the eldest has been working the variety-show circuit. As of writing, he made appearances on Running Man, Halmyungsoo, and rapper Young-ji’s talk show Nothing Much Prepared (the latter gets chaotic and real about the cost of fame … plus, the host passes out drunk in the bathroom, so Jin has to close the show alone). He also became the spokesperson for the ramen brand Jin Ramen in November. You’d think he would have already earned that gig, but, yeah, his dream collab only just came true.

Jin also hosts a new variety show with famous Korean chef Baek Jong-won. The series is centered on two things: making alcohol and eating food, with special guests and random activities sprinkled in to keep it spicy. Jin’s Traditional Alcohol Journey premiered November 12 on BTS’s YouTube channel.

Before leaving for the military on December 13 to complete his mandatory service, Jin got the ball rolling on plans to distribute the alcohol he learned how to make in the variety show with the famous chef. “Jin is preparing a brewery under his name,” Baek said in an interview with OSEN. “He’s been filling oak casts with alcohol, which should be ready to drink by the time he’s discharged from the military. I want to add oak scents and flavors to soju, similar to whisky. There’s no official name of this drink we’re creating just yet.”

Jimin

This one has had studio sessions with damn near every producer under the sun. In the past few months, Jimin met with frequent Ye collaborator Hudson Mohawke, TBHits and Mr. Franks (the engineers behind Ariana Grande’s biggest hits), and Taylor Hill, to name a few. He was also pictured recording with a full choir overseen by musician Duane Benjamin days before “WAP” mastermind Ayo the Producer followed Jimin on Instagram (are we getting “Church Girl (Jimin’s Version”?). The streets The label is saying the album will drop sometime next year.

In an interview with Weverse Magazine, Jimin says the solo album will be “raw” and “explicit.” “I just think I can show something a little more raw about me. That might include a more mature side, too, but what I’m really interested in is showing something closer to my real, personal rawness directly in a format like music or music videos,” he says. “I want to be better and cooler.”

J-Hope

Two months after the release of his debut studio album, Jack in the Box, J-Hope featured on Crush’s “Rush Hour.” The groovy hip-hop track dropped on September 24. Along with the song came a ’90s-inspired music video with exuberant choreography (obviously, the dance aficionado expertly hit every step). Over the summer, the virtuoso made his solo stage debut at Lollapalooza Hobipalooza on July 31, an hour-long showcase of his skills as a seasoned entertainer, performing tracks from Jack in the Box, his mixtape Hope World, and various BTS albums.

V

V landed on the cover of Vogue Korea in September, teasing music that would show a new side of the artist. “I want to present a kind of music that I’ve never tried before, something that sets apart from the style BTS’s V has shown,” he told the magazine. “Being able to pursue one’s own music style lights the passion and enthusiasm in us. That’s what keeps us in love with what we do.” Though nothing has been confirmed, outlets report his debut solo album will arrive sometime next year (Tae’s been teasing his solo stuff for a while, but has admittedly deleted everything that doesn’t make the cut).

Over the summer, he featured in Disney +’s In the Soop: Friendcation, a variety show that follows a four-day friendcation to a seaside town with Choi Woo-shik (Parasite), Park Seo-joon (Itaewon Class), Park Hyung-sik (Strong Woman Do Bong Soon), and musician Peakboy. If you’re at all familiar with Korean vacation-variety shows, then you’ll know that these quiet, drama-free series about hot friends getting together to make each other breakfast is a balm for your chapped brain. The show premiered on July 22.

The rumor mill also teases a return to acting — he had a part in the K-drama Hwarang: The Warrior Poet in 2016 — though there’s really been no confirmations in that department. People really want to see him in Squid Game 2.

BTS

BTS is back! Through archival footage and interviews, anyway. As part of a deal between Hybe and Disney, BTS released a 4K concert film, BTS: Permission to Dance on Stage — LA, tied to their November 2021 show in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the group is also getting an original docuseries. According to Disney, BTS Monument: Beyond the Star will include “a vast library of music and footage over the past nine years,” as well as “the daily lives, thoughts, and plans of BTS members, as they prepare for their second chapter.” The docuseries is scheduled to start streaming sometime in 2023.

In August, the band’s vocal line (Jungkook, V, Jimin, and Jin) released a track with Snoop Dogg and Benny Blanco, “Bad Decisions.”

Suga

“Long hair, don’t care” era.

This is a developing story.

So You Thought BTS Was Going on Break? LOL.