The book THE GRAY RHINO inspired a lyric in the hit single “Blue & Grey” by the global K-pop phenomenon BTS released with its album BE in November 2020. BTS, which is known for smashing music records and bringing needed attention to under-appreciated issues, shone a full-on spotlight on mental health with “BE.” Vox called the release “essential pandemic pop.” The hit singles “Life Goes On” and “Blue & Grey” (which Rolling Stone called the album’s standout song) in particular refer to the pain of depression and loneliness during lockdown but offer a message of hope: we can get through this and life goes on.
A rap line in “Blue & Grey” uses the gray rhino as a metaphor for anxiety and depression: “This lump of metal does feel heavy/ A grey rhino that is coming toward me/ Absently, I stand with vacant eyes.”
Listen to the song along with real-time translations here:
Watch below as BTS’s V (Kim Tae-hyun), who wrote the main text of Blue & Grey and was producer for the song, interviews J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok), who wrote and performed the song’s rap overlay including the gray rhino lyric.
J-Hope begins discussing the concept around 9:10 in the video, explaining that “It’s also a term used in economics… It’s a term used to describe a danger that you’re aware is approaching, but you neglect and ignore it. Grey rhino is used to describe those dangers. And when I used that term it was like having a face-to-face with myself. The job I have has many dangerous factors, and there are other dangerous factors. But for these parts I have to carry with me the dangers I can’t be sure of. So instead of being afraid of it, I wanted to face it. And that’s what I wanted to convey.”
In response, V says, “When I saw the lyrics, ‘gray rhino,’ I told our producers, ‘Holy moly, baam. Wow, grandfather!’ I think I’ve used all the exclamations I can think of!”