BTS Find Acceptance With Explosive, Empowering New Single ‘ON’

When RM dropped “Intro: Persona” last March, he hinted at what was to come. “The me that I remember and people know,” he rapped. “The me that I created myself to vent out… this is the map of my soul.” This confession set the tone for BTS‘s Map of the Soul era, a creative period centered on honesty and self-reflection. It continues with the release of “ON,” the latest single from the Korean artists off their new studio album, Map of the Soul: 7.

The song is an explosive rallying cry, complete with an entire marching band and a background chorus. There’s a steady refrain of “can’t hold me down ‘cuz you know I’m a fighter,” a sentiment that speaks to internal forces as much as they do external ones; after all, self-inflicted criticism cuts the deepest. Still, their resilience is front and center: “Bring the pain,” they sing. “Even if I fall, I come right up, scream,” Suga raps, translated to English. “That’s how we’ve always been.”

“ON” is the enlightenment that comes at the end of a seven-year journey.

“Of course I‘m not unafraid / Of course it’s not all OK,” RM raps. “But I know / Awkwardly I flow.” This sense of acceptance — knowing that it’s OK to not feel OK, it’s normal to be flawed, to fail — permeates the empowering track. And with it comes complete control. (Vocalist V has the words “the shadow like me” written on his cheek in the music video.) By admitting and accepting these parts of themselves, they’ve become whole. “Gotta go insane to stay sane,” Jungkook sings on the pre-chorus.

In many ways, it’s the perfect introduction to BTS; seven years of history effortlessly condensed to four minutes. On the bridge, haunting and sonically hollow, vocalist Jungkook makes a direct reference to their Wings-era track “Blood Sweat & Tears,” singing, “My blood and tears / Got no fears … I’m taking over.”

The bright and dynamic visual features a diverse group of dancers from creative agency The Lab and the Blue Devils marching band, invoking past music videos like “Not Today.” A version of “ON” featuring Sia is also available to stream in the U.S.

With “ON,” BTS wipes the slate clean. It’s reflective, yet propulsive at the same time. BTS continue to push forward, “going on and on and on and on.” It feels more like a beginning than an ending. Because with true acceptance comes peace of mind — a chance to start fresh. To fall again, and to get back up even stronger.

Ally Brooke Dances ‘All Night’ On Afrojack’s Summer-Ready New Song

Ally Brooke is no stranger to high-profile collaborations — as a soloist, she’s linked up with the likes of A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Matoma, and Tyga. For her latest team-up, she joins forces with Afrojack for an early (ok, yes, very early) “song of the summer” contender.

On Friday (February 21), the “No Good” singer and the veteran DJ released “All Night,” a shimmering, festival-ready banger that fuses his classic sound and her penchant for poppy hooks. “I’ve been hearing love songs playing in my dreams / I got your name written all over me,” Ally sings on the first verse over a gentle piano melody.

As she continues pursuing someone stuck on her brain, the track builds and builds until it reaches a euphoric drop. “We’re in this together, an infinite high,” Ally proclaims on the hook, before arriving at her ultimate proposal: “And we can keep on dancing all night.”

In a statement, Afrojack said of the new track, “I wanted to work on something with an upbeat dance-pop feel to get people moving for the Spring and Summer. Ally is a phenomenal singer, her voice makes the track unique and really pop, it was cool to collaborate with her.”

Ally added, “Teaming up with Afrojack for ‘All Night’ has been an incredible honor. I can’t wait to perform the track for my fans on tour next month!”

“All Night” marks Afrojack’s first new single after returning to the Dutch label Spinnin’ Records. Expect the new track to light up the dance floor this festival season, especially when he headlines Ultra Music Festival in March. As for Ally, she’s gearing up for her first solo headlining trek, the aptly titled Time To Shine Tour, which kicks off in March. The former Fifth Harmony singer recently teased a blacked-out setlist on Twitter, and it sounds like some version of “All Night” will definitely make the cut. In the meantime, bop along to Ally and Afrojack’s collab above.

Selena Gomez Releases Fan-Favorite Track ‘Feel Me’: ‘You Asked And I Listened’

Rejoice, Selenators! It only took four years, but Selena Gomez‘s “Feel Me” is finally on all streaming platforms as of Friday (February 21).

The confident, tell-off anthem has a long and storied history in the SG world. It was recently included on the Target exclusive vinyl edition of Rare, but Gomez first performed it on her Revival World Tour way back in 2016. It quickly became a fan-favorite track and was presumed to be a future single, but a studio version never materialized… until now.

On Friday, Gomez wrote on Instagram, “On the Revival Tour, I introduced a song that you guys haven’t stopped talking about since. Soo you asked and I listened 😘 Today, Feel Me is out online and vinyl everywhere.”

Thankfully, “Feel Me” still holds up in 2020. “No one love you like I love ya / Never cheat, never lie / Never put no one above ya / I gave you space and time,” Sel begins, aiming directly at an ex whom she cooly haunts with her presence. “Every time your lips touch another / I want you to feel me / I want you to feel me,” she taunts on the chorus, and it only gets more biting from there. “Won’t be caught up in the middle / Of your highs and your lows / Baby, as long as you’re not with me / You’ll always be alone.” Zing!

The release of “Feel Me” comes just six weeks after Gomez delivered her long-awaited album Rare. The track’s arrival came as a shock to most fans, considering Gomez said as recently as January that “Feel Me” didn’t “fit” with her current mindset. She told a fan on Twitter, “That song was from when I was in a different place and doesn’t fit with where I am right now.”

Who knows what changed, but one thing’s for sure: Longtime “Feel Me” fans are feeling extra grateful today!

Niall Horan Reveals His Heartbreak Weather Tracklist In Adorably Quirky Style

Niall Horan has shared the full tracklist for his upcoming second solo album, Heartbreak Weather, and he didn’t just casually type it out and fire it off in a tweet. Instead, the Irishman went full Ron Burgundy by unleashing his weatherman alter-ego. World, meet Niall Storm.

In a video released Thursday (February 20), Horan cleverly reveals the 14 new song titles in a fake weather report. He looks every bit the vintage newscaster in a pink turtleneck, and gives his best Anchorman impression as he says things like, “Nice to meet ya, lightning,” in reference to the album’s previously released lead single. Nodding to a new song called “New Angel” (maybe a follow-up to One Direction’s “Hey Angel”?!), he quips, “Temperatures will be falling and so will the snow. So expect to see some ‘new angels’ being made all over the city.” Other intriguing new song titles include “San Francisco,” “Arms of a Stranger,” and “Bend the Rules.”

The two-minute promo clip also features Horan wearing a yellow rain jacket, blowing kisses, and winking a lot. It’s a must-see, especially considering his instantly iconic sign-off: “There’s a storm comin’… and her name is Niall.”

Heartbreak Weather is the follow-up to Horan’s 2017 chart-topping debut, Flicker. So far, we’ve heard the swaggering lead single “Nice To Meet Ya,” the vulnerable ballad “Put A Little Love On Me,” and the feel-good bop “No Judgement,” which arrived earlier this month alongside a cute music video. Following the album’s release on March 13, Horan will head out on his Nice To Meet Ya tour with special guests Lewis Capaldi and FLETCHER.

Check out the full Heartbreak Weather tracklist below, and look out for more from Horan soon — his new video also teases something called “Heartbreak Weather Watch” that begins on February 28.

1. Heartbreak Weather

2. Black and White

3. Dear Patience

4. Bend The Rules

5. Small Talk

6. Nice To Meet Ya

7. Put A Little Love On Me

8. Arms of a Stranger

9. Everywhere

10. Cross Your Mind

11. New Angel

12. No Judgement

13. San Francisco

14. Still

Lauv Wants His New Song ‘Modern Loneliness’ To Be A Catalyst For Love

Back in January, Lauv told MTV News that he had recently gotten the phrase “Modern Loneliness” tattooed on his arm, in commemoration of a meaningful song on his upcoming debut album. On Thursday (February 20), he finally shared that track, which marks one of his most introspective and relatable releases yet.

“Modern loneliness / We’re never alone but always depressed,” Lauv sings over a finger-snapping beat. “Love my friends to death but I never call them, I never text.” What begins as a simple piano ballad builds into an anthemic singalong, with a chorus of voices eventually joining Lauv to vent about feeling “alone together” — something that anyone who grew up with the internet can surely relate to. In the accompanying video, Lauv lays in a field of yellow flowers as he lets his innermost thoughts spill out. As the camera pans out, however, we see that he’s surrounded by other people laying down, seemingly stuck in their own worlds and falsely believing that they, too, are isolated.

Speaking to MTV News a few weeks back, Lauv said of “Modern Loneliness, “It’s this super, super meaningful song to me. … I feel like these days, I’m so used to never being alone but feeling so alone. It’s so easy to feel totally isolated even if there’s people around you. I just think it’s this condition that a lot of people in my generation feel.”

He further shared in a press release, “This is my favorite song on the album and the most important song I feel I’ve ever made. There is a lot of loneliness out there. We all feel it. But there is also a lot of love waiting for us and I hope this song can be a catalyst for that.”

“Modern Loneliness” is the final track on Lauv’s upcoming debut album, ~how i’m feeling~. We’ve now heard about half of the album’s 21 songs, including “I’m So Tired…,” “Fuck, I’m Lonely,” “Sims,” “Mean It,” “Drugs & the Internet,” and “Tattoos Together.” The album arrives in full on March 6.

Big Freedia And Kesha Are ‘Chasing Rainbows’ In The Happiest Video Of The Year

And now, the happiest video of 2020 so far! I present to you Big Freedia and Kesha‘s new jubilant collaboration “Chasing Rainbows” that comes with a visual about soaring through the skies on clouds while twerking on the colors of the visible spectrum. As wild as that may sound, it’s endearingness is something that you’ll remember the next time when it rains around you and you see a rainbow extending out of the sky. Who knows: behind the cloud that it forms from may be a never-ending line of booty-popping spirits whose sweat fuels the opalescent beauty.

Big Freedia, the Queen of Bounce music, is one of the happiest, and most energetic performers around. Her very appearance brightens the mood in any room and makes you want to dance until your legs give out. “Chasing Rainbows” is about spreading this feeling. The song itself is about being honest with the person inside of the mirror and realizing that, once you do, your potential success knows no bounds. Its video contains the feeling of this optimism with its abundance of rainbows and good spirits.

After cooking a magical multi-colored potion that’s heavy on a spice named “Love” and void of another called “Fear,” Big Freedia is whisked away to the sky where Kesha zooms around on her own mini cloud. Then the two, along with four amped backup dancers, perform the number while colors stream through the sky along with unicorns and aliens.

After Big Freedia gets her own cloud, she joins Kesha for a journey across the sky where they spread the joy of happiness through rainbow particles that drop off of their nimbuses. There’s also a twerk break for all of the performers that doubles as a contest to see who can shake their bottom halves the best. With the mood elevated to an even more exciting one, the video ends with two young girls who get selected by rainbows like Freedia was at the beginning, proving that the performer’s mission to spread cheer was a success.

“Chasing Rainbows” is the second single from Big Freedia’s forthcoming EP, Louder, that’s set to drop on March 13. Last year, she released the title track with an equally colorful video. The duo also collaborated on Kesha’s “Raising Hell.”

Check out the awesomely happy “Chasing Rainbows” video up above.

BTS Are K-pop Gods With Real Humanity

The story goes that Dionysus, ancient Greek god of wine and theater, was born twice: once in a storm of passion and lightning that ripped him from his mortal mother Semele, and again from a gap in his immortal father Zeus’s thigh. It’s been said that he forwent a life on Mount Olympus to live amongst humans, traveling the world and amassing a loyal cult of female followers known as maenads, or “raving ones,” with his intoxicating persona. Dionysus is a symbol of contrast; a deity culled from human flesh and bone, born as one archetype yet destined to live as another.

Perhaps that’s what makes him such a compelling figure for BTS, the Korean septet whose own extraordinary mythos seems as if it was forged in the cosmos. Addressing the United Nations in September 2018, leader RM said, “Today, I am who I am with all of my faults and my mistakes. Tomorrow, I might be a tiny bit wiser and that would be me too. These faults and mistakes are what I am, making up the brightest stars in the constellation of my life.” No matter how high they climb within the pop pantheon — becoming the first Korean artists to perform at the Grammys, scoring three consecutive album debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart — they remain true to their Bangtan roots.

“Dionysus” is the closing track on their 2019 album Map of the Soul: Persona, and it’s featured on its follow-up, Map of the Soul: 7. Produced by member J-Hope, its rousing and unrefined prog rock served as the opening number of BTS’s Love Yourself: Speak Yourself world tour last year, which spanned stadiums across Europe, Asia, and North and South America, earning a staggering $116.6 million. With overt lyrical references to the gluttonous god — “Thyrsus (grippin’) Grape (eatin’)” — the track meditates on the perils of intoxicating fame through the lens of a veritable party anthem. “Art at this level is over-drinking,” Suga raps, translated into English. “The new record is the fight against oneself.” It’s a recurring theme throughout BTS’s oeuvre: Being at the top means they’re only in competition with themselves, but every milestone may lead to new disappointments. It’s a limitless feeling that’s both invigorating and empty.

On “Home,” a smooth R&B cut from the same album, Suga also addresses this confusing feeling: “Even if we have what I wanted in my dreams / Big house, big cars, big rings,” he spits, nodding to “No More Dream,” their 2013 debut single. “The unfamiliar feeling of missing something / For someone who has accomplished everything.”

BTS closed their Love Yourself chapter with a series of concerts at Olympic Stadium in Seoul, but they continued to perform “Dionysus” at year-end awards shows. It served as the explosive finale to an impressive 40-minute set at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in December; days before, at the 2019 Melon Music Awards, the seven members transformed into Greek deities for their performance. They even brought Dionysia, a celebratory festival dedicated to Dionysus, to the stage at this year’s Golden Disk Awards, hinting at the feast’s imminent return with the cryptic message “City Dionysia Begins” (likely a reference to their forthcoming Map of the Soul world tour). For BTS, the godly comparison is less of a flex and more a symbol of their own story. They are, after all, the dramatis personae in a folktale of their own masterful making.

Big Hit Entertainment

The threads of this narrative, which members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook have been constructing visually since at least 2015, are sewn throughout their music videos and discography. But the “Bangtan Universe” extends beyond a singular story; these images — evoked through lyrics, apps, Bangtan Bombs, and concert films — define the group as they are seen through the eyes of their dedicated fans. Persona deals with this phenomenon head-on, expanding the BTS story as they’re confronted with many different versions of themselves. “Intro: Persona” finds leader and rapper RM grappling with this crisis of identity (“Who the hell am I?”) over a sample of 2014’s “Intro: Skool Luv Affair” in a throwback but also a push forward: “The me that I want myself to be / The me that people want me to be / The me that you love / And the me that I create / The me that’s smiling / The me that’s sometimes in tears,” RM raps.

But a persona isn’t just the “me” one presents to the world; it’s a mask, and this is a recurring motif in BTS’s iconography. Take their performance at the 2019 Golden Disc Awards, where they all removed physical veils while isolated in individual shadow boxes; and in the video for “Interlude: Shadow,” off the forthcoming Map of the Soul: 7, Suga is surrounded by disguised onlookers cloaked in black, illuminated by the lights of their smartphones. But it isn’t always so explicit. In the Persona song “Jamais Vu,” eldest member Jin alludes to the metaphorical camouflage we wear daily, singing, “I’m fine but I’m not fine / I told myself I was used to it.” It’s both a nod to Dionysus, known as the “masked god” who reigns over the theater, and a means to further interrogate the performative line between artist and idol.

BTS continues to grapple with that distinction, which is significant as veterans of the K-pop industry, in which musicians are put on pedestals to be worshipped and admired as idols, not unlike the Greek gods themselves. In their single “Idol,” RM proclaims that he “doesn’t care” what you call him — artist or otherwise — because he is his best when he is simply himself. “Dionysus” builds on this realization. “Born as a K-pop idol / Reborn as an artist / Reborn as an artist, reborn as an artist,” Suga raps. “What does it matter if I’m an idol or an artist, cheers.” This idea of rebirth and reinvention is inherent to the lore surrounding both BTS and Dionysus, a god known for “experimenting with identities,” according to Johanna Hanink, a writer and classicist at Brown University.

“It’s not just about artistry, it’s about trying to move beyond the constraints of being a K-pop idol,” Seoul-based writer Yung-In Chae tells MTV News. “Alcohol becomes a metaphor to become something that’s beyond yourself. In the song ‘Dionysus,’ they like to think of their art as having similar effects. It’s about going behind the boundaries of yourself.”

The more they create, the more intoxicating it becomes. “There’s a lot of ancient Greek poetry about how being out and partying is one of two ways that you can relieve yourself from the weight of the world, that you can forget your cares,” Hanink tells MTV News. “The other one is listening to good poetry, so listening to songs. These are the two things that humans can do to temporarily forget what a difficult place the world is, and both of those fall into Dionysus’s domain. It seems like a perfect synthesis in BTS’s lyrics.”

In many ways, that’s why people connect to the art BTS creates. Like any good fable, the messages woven into their music contextualize the world around them. Songs like “Go Go,” “Dope,” and “Silver Spoon (Baepsae)” address the frustrations of young people who feel like the system is rigged against them. “Paradise” and “No More Dream” preach that you don’t need to live life chasing a dream that isn’t yours. And their most recent single, “Black Swan,” expresses their deepest fears: that the work they create might one day cease to mean anything at all.

“Korea’s a very hard place to be young in a lot of ways,” Chae says. “We have an aging population, a high youth unemployment rate. In a lot of their music, like ‘Silver Spoon,’ they purposely address these generational struggles. It’s really hard to sell a song that is not a love song in [Korean] pop music… It’s hard to imagine that people want to hear a song about the struggles of the youth. It’s not as sexy, but they do that.”

Yet it’s never didactic. That’s an essential rule of myth-building: Meaning is up for interpretation and dissection. As BTS constructs their own story, their connection to Dionysus, driven by emotions and instinct, becomes clear. Map of the Soul: 7 has many meanings for the group, as RM has previously stated. The seven members of BTS have been together for seven years. Seven could be a divine number, a lucky number, or it may hint at a uniquely Dionysian philosophy where the self is surrendered to the whole, seven billion souls becoming a single universe.

BTS members Jungkook, V, Suga, Jin, RM, Jimin, and J-Hope at the 2020 Grammys / Getty Images

On February 2, J-Hope dropped the outro track from 7, “Ego.” Throughout the video, J-Hope reflects on the path that led him to BTS, the hardships and bouts of self-doubt that nearly derailed him, by incorporating old BTS music videos, callbacks to their debut single, and childhood photos. Through trusting himself and fate, J-Hope finds himself in a sprawling, colorful city where the words “Hope,” “Trust Myself,” and “My Way” twinkle in the darkness. One word, “ARMY,” stands out. A reference to the group’s legion of fans around the world, it visualizes a universe in which they walk next to BTS, like the maenads who traveled the globe alongside Dionysus — never behind him. He wasn’t merely a god to be worshipped; he liberated his companions and, in turn, they devoted themselves to him.

It’s easy to look at BTS and deem them gods among men, atop their heap of accomplishments and accolades. From an outsider’s perspective, their myth precedes them; seven underdogs from a small company who made something out of nothing. They’re nearly immortal. But what brought them to this apex was their humanity, their ability to empathize with everyday struggles and empower those around them to love themselves and speak their truths. BTS are gods, but they make everyone else feel like gods too. It’s not a party if you’re the only one allowed on the mountain.

Pop Smoke Made Me Relive My Childhood

I wrapped my first durag in front of my bathroom mirror when I was eight. Then, I sprinted to my dad’s closet and put on one of his Dallas Cowboys caps. A few minutes later, I was sitting on my bed, grinning, watching the video for 50 Cent’s “Wanksta.” In it, he cruised down the street in the backseat of a Hummer, sneering at the competition while delivering brutalizing raps that dripped with charisma.

Pop Smoke, who was shot and killed on February 19 during a home invasion, similarly had kids beaming at him. Instead of a durag and a hat, fans wanted to recreate his hairstyle and sport his thick, hater-blocking sunglasses. The 20-year-old was at the forefront of Brooklyn’s drill rap movement thanks to a rapid ascent and an alluring persona. He didn’t have huge dimples, a Caesar cut, or baggy clothes like 50 did. And yet, at 26, I felt like I was a kid again when I watched his videos.

A rapper out of Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood — often called the “Flossy,” thanks to a Fabolous lyric about it being a flashy place — Pop Smoke was buff, gruff, and about his stuff. He was the match for the gasoline-soaked scene (alongside fellow rising stars 22Gz and Sheff G) and became incendiary with “Welcome to the Party,” the hypnotizing 2019 smash hit that peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.

To be a fan of Pop Smoke, you have to open your ears and adjust your expectations of what rap sounds like in 2020. Pop Smoke’s voice was a one-of-a-kind, guttural, roaring whisper. Over brisk, alien beats often produced by 808Melo, a producer he found online and struck up an important and endearing relationship with, the rapper clouded the air like black smog, groaning bars that clunk and shake the ground. He was intense and carefree at the same time — goofy, charismatic, and more entertaining than melody chasers and carbon-copy lyricists.

Just like 50.

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson captivated a generation just by being himself, pushing for power in the cold Queens streets that he climbed out of. He survived being shot reportedly nine times and became a rap star, moving with the gusto of someone who had been here long before. As his 2003 debut album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ showed, his voice boomed as he told stories, squeaked in various notes as he performed primitive melodies.

Songs like “Wanksta,” “In Da Club,” and “Many Men,” put virtually anyone in his G-Unit shoes. Like me. I eagerly drank up the sound and aesthetic, in awe of his presence because of how far out he puffed his chest and yet could still walk straight. My room was a chapel dedicated to G-Unit. Two posters decorated the walls. A few form-fitting G-Unit tank tops (that I never filled out) littered the floors. I watched his videos where he stood centerstage with his eyes low, making sure that the rap world orbited around him.

Since Pop Smoke released his second album, Meet The Woo 2, just 13 days ago, I’ve thought about how he had a similar, infectious presence that made listeners want to analyze him. He released just two projects during his lifetime, but like 50, he won over fans with his charm first and music second. When the beat kicked off, his accent embellished the harsh and original delivery, making you ready to repeat a verse the second it went off. They both carried a veteran-like demeanor that seemed beyond their age brackets.

That’s why it hurts so much to know that Pop Smoke was just getting started. Co-signs from everyone from French Montana to Travis Scott (who he collaborated with for “Gatti”) proved that he was quickly approaching his Get Rich or Die Tryin’ breakout moment, where household-name status follows getting the formula just right. It felt like witnessing the opening lines to rap’s new chapter, one again characterized by New York’s genre supremacy. As if he was connecting the lineage between the two, Pop Smoke even repurposed a 50 Cent lyric on his latest, and one of his biggest, tracks, “Christopher Walking,” singing “I ain’t no window shopper” in 50’s cadence. Pop Smoke was picking up the torch from 50 and carrying it into a bold new future.

I feel not only for Pop Smoke’s family, friends, and associates, but also for the kids who had their durag-tying moments with him on their screens. Upon finding out about his death, 50 Cent posted a video of the two, all smiles, performing together at a function. Seeing the two icons together sparked something in my brain that connected the two at the seams. “R.I.P to my man Pop Smoke,” 50 tweeted. “No sympathy for winners. God bless him.” Their legacies together are forever tied not only to New York, but to hip-hop itself.

If I was still a kid and didn’t have this low Caesar cut with waves, I damn sure would have Pop Smoke’s braids.

Beach Bunny Hopped From Graduation To TikTok Fame — Now It’s A Honeymoon

Lili Trifilio felt nervous. A year ago, the DePaul University senior was bracing for graduation in a few months, gripped by the looming post-collegiate demands that materialize once the final semester kicks off — work, money, that wide-open void of the future. What gave the journalism major a slight edge, though, was her preferred extracurricular activity, fronting the bubbly indie rock outfit Beach Bunny.

They had no record deal or hit song (yet) — just a strong string of EPs and snug homemade recordings Trifilio created by herself. They’d just started working with managers, too. Despite the promising start, that postgrad anxiety nagged, exacerbated by questions from family and friends. Trifilio’s fears were specific.

“I was debating how I was going to make music a career or if I needed to get a nine-to-five, or what the heck was going on,” she told MTV News. But it’s been a good year for both her and Beach Bunny. “I’m a lot less stressed about my livelihood now.”

She should be. Beach Bunny, which she began alone in 2015 and expanded into a full band two years later, has since played Lollapalooza, had a hit blow up thanks to TikTok, and used that viral leverage to land on a label roster alongside Sleater-Kinney and Courtney Barnett. In April, they’ll hit Coachella and might even cross paths with Trifilio’s fave Charli XCX. (“I CANT BELIEVE WERE PLAYING THE SAME DAY AS @charli_xcx omfg igxgixgixgixgixgizgixgixgix,” she tweeted after the announcement.)

But Coachella is the future, and graduation is the past. Right now, Trifilio is living in the present — and for Beach Bunny, the present is a Honeymoon phase. The group’s debut album, a delightful collection of sunny indie-pop in the vein of Alvvays and Charly Bliss, dropped on Valentine’s Day, complete with romantically entangled song titles like “Cuffing Season” and “Dream Boy.” It’s the kind of heartbreak pop that can take you deep into a well of feelings, and “Ms. California” finds Trifilio singing her lovelorn blues: “Every time you cross my mind, the words come out in figure eights.” But ultimately, it ends triumphantly on “Cloud 9.”

“I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just repeating the same song over and over again, even though it’s similar themes but different angles,” she said. “Like, oh, I’m sad, but this time, I’m jealous, or this time, I’m rageful.”

Trifilio and her band recorded Honeymoon in May 2019, right around the time of her graduation. It was already a lot to juggle; then came the TikToks. Beach Bunny’s 2018 tune “Prom Queen” was concurrently blowing up among users, thanks to its lead-off lyrics about body image. Trifilio’s deadpan opening, “Shut up, count your calories / I never looked good in mom jeans,” gave an anthem to the short videos, which began as likewise fretting examinations of self (young folks eating salads and stepping on scales) and have since grown to include more innocuous activities, like painting a playroom and doodling at school.

“Prom Queen” has jangled its way through nearly 430,000 different TikToks. Add that to the currently 41 million streams it’s enjoyed on Spotify and you have quite the ammo for a band ready to level up. It’s leverage Trifilio used when it came time to sign with a label, and she went with Mom + Pop Music. “The opportunity to work with the label seemed more appealing because we had a very solid fanbase,” she said of the energized crowds who hit the Beach Bunny gigs ready to mosh respectfully and even go all in on a wall of death. “We could negotiate terms more and make them super artist-friendly, where in the past, the deals weren’t that great in our favor.”

Beach Bunny first assembled as a four-piece for a noteworthy gig: a local battle of the bands that found Trifilio competing against an ex-boyfriend. “I think at the time, I was like, wow, we sound so good! But then looking back, I’m like, oh my god, none of us are in time,” she said. “Our guitarist’s out of tune. It was very exciting though.” Matt Henkels, who plays guitar, recalls it the same way: “We didn’t have a bassist and we were so new, so it probably sounded awful, but I remember feeling like we were killing it.” Drummer Jon Alvarado actually played in both Beach Bunny and Trifilio’s ex’s group (“I was like, ‘You traitor!'” she joked); despite their then-rudimentary stage presence, he was ready to go big: “I felt incredibly happy and very fulfilled and couldn’t wait for the next show.”

When you see the full band — those three, plus Anthony Vaccaro on bass — onstage now, it’s hard to picture any undergraduate jitters. They’re tight, like when they rip through a “Party in the U.S.A.” cover and when Trifilio uses the power of suggestion to lower the crowd to the floor for a slower, strummy number without any drums. “When we’ve toured with more punk bands, everyone’s just down [to mosh]. But sometimes at a headlining show, I think people, their first time seeing us, are like, ‘I am not really sure what to do,'” she said. “I feel I judge how good the show is based on the movement.”

That can also include more covers, potentially even “Bennie and the Jets” (which should ceremonially be retitled “Bunny and the Jets” if there’s any justice). Maybe Trifilio will string together her three songs called “February,” “April,” and “July” for some kind of month-centric suite, or perhaps she’ll leave those (and the nine more to be written) for a future “collector’s edition” EP. In the meantime, there’s Honeymoon, spanning quiet ballads, massive choruses, and the right pop-punk bangers to bounce to.

A month ago, Trifilio was riding out another Chicago winter, trying to beat cabin fever as she counted down the days until the album’s release by writing more songs (and sometimes jogging and meditating). Even though it just arrived — and perhaps in keeping with the demands of an ever-accelerating industry — she’s already looking past the Honeymoon period. She’s shared snippets of new songs, including lyrics, on Instagram and Twitter. “I still love Honeymoon, but the songs are almost old to me now, even though they’re new to everyone else.” Vaccaro, who joined the group a year ago (well after that fabled first show), said he feels like he’s finally locking into what Beach Bunny means and will mean going forward. “When we are learning new stuff, I feel that we now get what sound we want. I feel I just finally get what works and what doesn’t.”

Trifolio recently returned to DePaul to speak about her songwriting. She’s not thinking about the people who asked her about the financial stability and long-term viability of her musical plans a year ago. “I guess I just have more street cred now,” she said, “and I feel confident expressing it.”

K-pop Rookies ITZY Learn To Practice What They Preach

Before their debut in February 2019, the five members of ITZY were known as “the unicorn team” within their South Korean entertainment company, JYP. Youngest member Yuna zealously adopted the majestic moniker, adding a unicorn emoji beside each member’s name in her phone’s contacts list. “Unicorns are very free, and we can relate to that feeling,” she tells MTV News, sitting beside her teammates in a cozy studio space in New York. They’ve just finished a busy press day following the conclusion of their first United States tour, and after a snack of pizza and gummies, they’re ready to talk. Yuna, feeling energized from the modest sugar intake, adds in Korean, the mythical creatures are “playful, but kind of cute — just like us.”

She’s not wrong. It’s a dichotomy of powerful and delicate, pretty and punk that makes the girl group’s presentation particularly potent. Today, they mix black leather boots and studded belts with red plaid skirts and dangling chain hardware; their smiles are blinding. There’s an effervescence to ITZY that’s a testament to their ages — Yeji and Lia, both 19, Ryujin and Chaeryeong, both 18, and Yuna, 16 — as well as their dynamic sound, which is big on energy and attitude. Yuna calls their music “medicine,” or an instant mood-enhancer. “We hope that it gives people energy,” Lia adds in English. “Like a vitamin.”

Members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna photographed by Rebecca Lader for MTV News

With their upbeat bops and confident, cool demeanors, the rookies dominated 2019 with two smash singles: “DALLA DALLA” and “Icy,” which swept televised music programs and topped the charts in South Korea, becoming mainstream hits with major crossover appeal. The vibrant visual for their premiere track “DALLA DALLA” (meaning “different” in Korean) became the fastest debut music video to reach 100 million views on YouTube; to date, it’s racked up nearly 177 million views. The global demand for ITZY grew so high after the release of their EP It’z Icy in August that the group embarked on their U.S. showcase tour in the new year, bringing them to five cities across the States, from Los Angeles to Brooklyn.

“I felt a lot of different emotions on this tour,” leader and eldest member Yeji says. “We’re already like a family, but I feel like we got even closer. It’s not just about improving our skills, because we’re performing a lot and can see the improvements, but we’re experiencing new things. And we get to do it together, which makes it more special.”

It’s taken years — spent in and out of practice rooms, staying up to “4 or 5 in the morning,” according to Lia, talking and eating their favorite snacks on the floor of their shared dorm — to build this kind of sisterhood, one founded on trust, communication, and “fruits,” soft-spoken Chaeryeong enthusiastically adds. For the past year, they’ve spent nearly every day together, and before that, they trained alongside one another. In that time, they’ve picked up on each other’s quirks, like the way Yeji routinely eats jellies and chips for dinner, or how Lia recoils at the mere thought of cucumbers.

“We’ve known each other for a long time, so we don’t really have any problem communicating,” Lia says. “But we do have different personalities.” Ryujin is quick to add, “We have a lot of differences.” After all, a certain kind of alchemy is required to make it work. Yuna is “the energetic one who makes us smile.” The mischievous maknae (youngest member) has a similar effect on fans. “I will keep smiling because someone said to me, ‘Your smile makes me smile,'” she told the crowd at the final stop of their showcase tour in New York. Meanwhile, meticulous dancer Chaeryeong “catches all of our mistakes,” Lia adds. “She takes care of us.” Yeji stands out with her striking visuals, trendy ponytails, and memorable, crowd-killing parts, but the members say their leader is the “most hard-working,” someone on whom they rely for honest feedback and encouragement. “When I’m struggling, I get a lot of confidence from practicing a lot and seeing those results on stage, especially when the fans react positively to it,” Yeji says. “I’ll read the comments, and that gives me a boost of confidence.”

Yeji and Lia photographed by Rebecca Lader for MTV News

If they get too stressed while rehearsing their next stage or learning a new choreography, it’s level-headed Ryujin — with her “cool vibe” and imperturbable nature — that “makes us move on,” Lia says, usually with a bad joke. As for Lia, she’s the listener of the group. “Lia is very deep-thinking, and she’s really good at empathizing,” Ryujin says. “She listens to us and our problems, and gives us advice.”

“Since we’re very similar in age, we all treat each other like friends,” Lia says. “Even if we’re very different, we all respect each other and understand each other.” But one thing they do all have in common? “We practice and train for the same dream together.”

Watching ITZY command the stage at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre while listening to thousands of fans, officially called MIDZY, shout the words “I love myself” as they sing along to “DALLA DALLA,” it’s clear that the rookies are boldly living that dream. “DALLA DALLA” introduced the world to five young women who were unafraid to be loud in a world that would rather they remain silent. “There’s no time to care about what others think,” Chaeryeong sings in Korean on the track. “I’m busy doing what I want to do.”

That theme continues in their second single “Icy,” a fierce anthem about not being affected by others’ opinions. “I’m the type of person who cares a bit less about what others say,” Lia notes. “Normally, I don’t really care, or I care a little less compared to others.” Others, like Chaeryeong, are still working on it. “I do care what other people say,” she adds. “I’m trying not to be affected by that as much. My goal this year is to try and not be too shaken by what other people say.” In moments of self-doubt, Chaeryeong turns to an artist she admires for her own self-assuredness: Korean singer-songwriter Baek Yerin. “I listen to ‘Square’ a lot. Her voice, and that song, make me feel calm and safe.”

Chaeryeong, Ryujin, and Yuna photographed by Rebecca Lader for MTV News

“Icy” is that song for ITZY fans. About the freedom of staying true to yourself and your intentions, it makes the listener feel safe and, more importantly, seen. “They keep talkin’, I keep walkin’,” Yuna sings in English on the hook. But the track’s real power is in the way that ITZY assert themselves; they’re not asking for permission or forgiveness. They’re carving their own paths with confidence in their steps, and it’s leading them to achieve their loftiest goals: Their next album, It’z Me, is already set for a March 9 release.

“‘DALLA DALLA’ and ‘Icy’ are both about self-confidence and loving yourself, so that’s part of the message we’re trying to send,” Lia says.

But it’s not always easy to practice what you preach. The members of ITZY, like many of their fans, are still learning to love themselves. “If someone would ask me, ‘If you could change something about yourself, what would you change?’ I would say, ‘Nothing,'” Lia admits. “But it’s hard to pick something that I love [about myself].” She pauses, then adds: “I love my family.”

As for Ryujin, she loves that she doesn’t sweat the small stuff. “I lose things easily, but I don’t get worried about it,” the steel-haired rapper said. “I don’t get stressed easily.” But, Lia adds, “Other people around her worry about it.”

Yuna admires her own optimism. “It’s a little awkward to say it, but I hear a lot that people gain a lot of positive energy from me,” Yuna says. “It’s really touching.” For Yeji, she loves her smile. “I feel confident when I smile,” the leader grins. Affable Chaeryeong believes her duality is especially charming. “I have many sides to me,” she says. “That’s the best thing about me.” As one of the main dancers of the group, Chaeryeong brings a fire and tenacity to the stage, but she’s also sensitive. During the last night of their showcase tour, she broke down in tears. “I will never forget [this night],” she tearfully said. “I hope to see you again.”

Watching the members interact onstage, it’s apparent that what makes them special isn’t the sparkle or the energetic anthems about self-love and confidence; it’s the ways in which they ruthlessly try to sabotage one another during a silly game, how they laugh at Lia’s aegyo (cute expressions), and when they comfort Chaeryeong at her lowest. In moments like this, they gain assurance from being together.

Of course, calls home don’t hurt either. “I talk to my mom often,” Yuna smiles. “I get a lot of strength from her. My mom gives me the best advice. She recently told me, ‘Trust yourself.’ I think she’s been listening to a lot of ITZY!”