BTS: Rock ’n’ Roll Addiction is Born in the Womb of Screams

Inside the androgyny of the preteen dream with South Korea’s hottest export


They were actually singing live, as opposed to so many of the ass clowns SNL has thrown at us in the last few years. My god, when did lipsync on SNL become a “thing,” as opposed to something that SNL’s live music stood in virulent opposition to? Is this a sign of aging – remembering when SNL not only prohibited lipsync, but actively mocked it?

And they were actually doing their thing in front of SNL’s simple, branded faux Grand Central set, instead of the absurdly scaled down arena productions SNL lets the neo-Cash Me Outsides and their ludicrous, autotuned ilk drag into 30 Rock.

So on that alone, they had me on their side. Like, majorly. But the main thing is…

BTS, the world-phenom South Korean boy band, danced and skipped and tossed neon-colored bangs and they sang and the Little Girls Understood. And the Little Girls are everything, and by Little Girls I mean Little Boys, too, I mean anyone discovering the power of music/sex/sexmusik the hippy hippy shake shake for the first time, and falling in love with that power for life.


VIDEO: BTS – Boy with Luv (Live) – SNL

Y’see, the Little Girl is all of us, discovering that Hallelujah sunset and fire red hellrise for the first time! You remember that feeling, don’t you? From this moment forward those Little Girls are all stormchasers, and that storm is every bar of music they will discover from this moment forward.

See, so much has changed, but the little girls understand.

It is beautiful, so beautiful. Seeing these boygirls do their thing, cynicism died, fried in its own middle-aged fat, garroted by the endless rebirth of the teenage sexscream. BTS – and I do not give a hopping damn about their music, I am talking about what they are, their eternal soul, which transcends music! — are a burst of hope under a fringe of manic panic pink. They are a sign that the rock’n’roll is born again anytime a child bursting into the sex panik falls in love with music. From that moment forward, rock’n’roll owns them for life (even if it’s not “rock’n’roll” – man, it’s all rock’n’roll, because rock’n’roll is sexpanik). At that moment, in the planetarium of screams and new blood and melody, the Little Girls (and little boys) see and feel a shimmer and shiver where there was none before, and they discover what music can do. They are going to seek out that feeling again and again and again, for the rest of their life.

The men they don’t know me, but the little girls understand.

They understand that the thumbprint on your heart that is a lifelong addiction to the beat begins at that moment when the little girls and little boys start becoming big girls and big boys. It begins at that exact instant when playtime becomes passing your genes into the next generation, and you are clobbered by the beat and the forever Johnny Ray wail and the forever-Vince Taylor-tight pants. Imprinting, babies, imprinting! See, there is a moment when temporary tattoos become permanent, and teddy bears become teddy boys; and these screamers, these children who are instantly women, find their first true love, the love that will never leave them, and they will look again and again and again for that love.


VIDEO: BTS – Mic Drop (Live) – SNL

And you, yes, even you. You think you are exempt because you were listening to David Roger Nick and Rick and not Les Woody Eric Duncan Alan?

Teddy Boys/Teddy Bears/Rough Trade/Rough Trade, I want you, yes you, in your fucking Donald Fucking Fagen King Goddamn Crimson slumber, I want you to remember how it felt when you saw your first Greaser, that weird mixture of sex and threat, the legendary pretty bully…was it really far from rough trade to Rough Trade? Think, if you can shake your Record Fucking Store Fucking Day senile dribble, about that day when you, still in the shadow of Bar Mitzvahs and baseball cards, stood in front of the mirror and dreamed if only if only I could wear that leather, wrap my very heart and soul in a tight white tee, smoke Marlboros instead of slurping Fribbles…yes, you follow me? And only two or three years later here you were scouring college town record stores for Chris & Cosey Delta 5 Pop Group Young Marble Giants, all because of that first greaser, or maybe it was NKOTB, or the Cowsills, or the Rollers, or even Bowie.

BTS reminded me that the Little Girls Understand: The gateway to the lifelong addiction to music is built out of screams and wet theatre seats. The erotic terror, the erotic glee, the introduction of the beat at that exact moment when little girls burst with blood and Barbies (and boys wonder if they want little girls or are little girls). It is the gateway drug! In every sound I seek, strange, subtle, brittle, or crass, I hope to find an echo of that ecstatic, unnamable unstable shimmer and shiver and roar and rumble and fear and expectation I felt when I first laid eyes on sexmusic.

I know how I felt when I first saw Frank N. Furter, or Lance Loud, or Ray Davies, or both Liza and Michael York in Cabaret, or Julie Covington on Rock Follies. These sages were feminine masculine hard soft pristine and bruised, high cheek-boned and slim hipped, neither boy nor girl but exactly what made sense when we were first assaulted with the death ray of acne and the atom bomb of hormones.

BTS anime

And it is eternal, it is the gateway drug, it is always reborn.

And in this sense, BTS are perfect. They know the little girls understand and that there is a perfect moment when our desire is everything, it is all, it is the only thing in our life (Big Mouth captures the entirety of this obsession perfectly); and when music pierces that, when music imprints on that, oh, we are done, addicted for life.

And there is a perfect moment within that perfect moment, when that desire is both male and female. If you can capture that moment in a bottle, if you can record it and film it and photograph and sell it, you have it all: You have Beatle Paul ’64, eternal; you have Tim Curry, eternal; you have Frampton alive, Botticellian Bolan, doomed David Cassidy and even Joey McIntyre, eternal. “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man” (Genesis 27:11), but at this perfect moment within the perfect moment you are hairy and smooth, you are boygirl. I beg you to recall that moment when some sassy, sloe-eyed pop star made you feel boygirl, then heshe picked up a guitar, and you were addicted for life.

These BTS boygirls, who look like a beautiful cross between KD Lang and Bowie during the Low era (which is to say they look not unlike some boygirl slinking outside the Mudd Club in 1981 waiting to see the Contortions), they invent new addicts everyday. I don’t even give a shit what they sing, because it is the moment that matters, the moment of the birth of an addict, a rock’n’roll addict.

(But BTS don’t play rock’n’roll, you whine. Oh, but they don’t need to; the feeling, eternal, is rock’n’roll. Ask Elvis, Ask Louis Prima, ask Wynonie, ask Lux.)  

And this is why I believe in rock’n’roll: Because there will always be young people caught between being boys and girls, caught between being girls and women, caught between being boys and women, caught between being boys and men. To be touched by music in the flash and fire of this transition, to have fairy tale dreams pierced by fairies and dreamers in tight pants singing sexmad songs, to be newly horny and served this amazing mess, that is the stargate to rock’n’roll, the toll for the route 666 we will follow for the rest of our lives. We will forever try to re-capture that feeling. We will chase it (we will even find it sometimes), but it is born at that beautiful moment, because the Little Girls Understand. They understand that everyone who loves, uses, and needs music was born in this moment, in the womb of screams.



I dedicate this to my friend Stuart Wood. He is one of the very few people on earth who knows what it feels like to be at the business end of that birthing moment, to be on stage and bathed in the hot roar and estrorage of the womb of screams. Stuart was – and is – a member of the Bay City Rollers. This coming week, Stuart’s wonderful and tough all-Scots version of the Bay City Rollers will be playing a handful of dates in the Northeast (find the dates here.)

So go see them.


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Tim Sommer

Tim Sommer is a musician, record producer, former Atlantic Records A&R representative, WNYU DJ, MTV News correspondent, VH1 VJ, and founding member of the band Hugo Largo. He is the author of Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish and has written for publications such as Trouser Press, the Observer and The Village Voice. Learn more at Tim Sommer Writing.

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