“Coming out of quarantine, and such a dark time for a lot of people, I thought how cool to have a summer song that can just make people happy.”
In summer 2020, BTS released “Dynamite,” their first single recorded entirely in English. The song shot up the charts, became one of the most successful YouTube videos in history, and won over pop radio, which had stubbornly refused to play their songs in Korean. Now, in summer 2021, BTS have topped themselves again with “Butter,” yet another English-language bop that melts like … well, you get it. BTS member Jimin told Variety that they wanted to make an “easy-listening,” fun song, and it arrived as a much-needed distraction from the interminable global pandemic.
With everyone constrained by travel restrictions, the song was written over WhatsApp, a collaboration achieved via text and voice notes sent between South Korea and the U.S. Jenna Andrews, one of the songwriters, says the track went through at least 50 rewrites to reach perfection. The final single is a tightly produced, less than three-minute song in which every moment is a hook. It shifts nostalgically from ’80s Prince to ’90s Michael Jackson through 2000s EDM, each second highlighting BTS’s musical savvy and distinctive vocal performance.
In our kick-off episode of Switched on Pop’s Summer Hits series, Andrews spoke about how she worked with BTS to craft this song remotely and map out every throwback reference. In the second half of the episode, we speak with Bora, a prominent BTS translator who presents the case for why we should hear “Butter” as the first step down the BTS rabbit hole, especially into their Korean-language discovery.