"We worked really hard on this song, hoping that day we can dance freely together again will come as soon as possible."

By Ruth Kinane
July 13, 2021 at 07:40 PM EDT
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BTS may have never met Ed Sheeran in person, but that doesn't mean they can't make magic together.

When the English crooner unveiled a demo of "Permission to Dance," a track he'd co-written with Snow Patrol singer Johnny McDaid and frequent collaborator Steve Mac, to the K-pop band, they knew immediately they wanted to record it.

"Ed sent us this amazingly good song, and as soon as we listened to it we just couldn't resist it," J-Hope tells EW over Zoom. "We thought it went really well with our image too, so we just went with it."

The septet looks forward to meeting Sheeran soon. What would they do if they finally got to hang out? "I'd tell him I'm a really big fan," says V. "I'd sing him our song!" adds J-Hope.

Jungkook is optimistic the project is just the beginning of their hit-making relationship. "I'm really thankful to Ed Sheeran," he says. "I hope we have more chances to work with him."

BTS- Permission to Dance
The video for BTS' new single 'Permission to Dance'
| Credit: BTS/YouTube

Though Sheeran sang the original version he sent to the group, BTS admit they hadn't thought about the possibility of him accompanying them on the single.

"I would listen to it every day if that happened!" says V.

Whether they'll continue to put out songs in English is yet to be seen, but the pop stars haven't ruled it out. "We're open to anything," says RM. "Maybe when it's time, I think we'll be able to release another song in English or Korean or Spanish — or any language."

The BRIT Awards 2018 - Show
Ed Sheeran at the 2018 BRIT Awards
| Credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

With its upbeat tempo, undeniably celebratory vibe, and gently confrontational lyrics ("Ain't nothing that can stop how we move, yeah," "Cuz we don't need permission to dance!") — not to mention a shout-out to none other than Sir Elton John — the new single is an obvious contender for song of the summer, especially given the past year and a half so many of us have endured.

The fact that the track arrives as many listeners are emerging from lockdown isn't lost on the band. "We're going through some confusing times right now, but it is getting better, so we worked really hard on this song, hoping that day we can dance freely together will come as soon as possible," Jimin says.

As for the choreography in "Permission to Dance," the group insists it will be "really easy" to learn (we beg to differ, but sure). It also incorporates international sign language for the words fun, dance, and peace. Originally, the band used Korean sign language, but they switched to something that could be understood globally for added impact — "so that the whole world can dance to it together," says Suga. "I think that makes it all the more meaningful."

In the latter portion of the single's music video, BTS invite their crew and other members of their team — fans think they may have spotted their choreographer and bodyguards — to join them in the groove, driving home its core message: You can dance wherever, whenever, with whomever you choose.

"It was our first time having all the staff members who helped us make the music video dance in it together," says Jin. "We wanted to show that everyone can do it along [with us]."

If the moves, as they say, are easy, climbing the Billboard Hot 100 is another feat entirely. A year ago, the South Korean group hadn't reached the top of the U.S. chart. Now they're on their way to scoring a total of five singles that have peaked at No. 1, including their first English-language song, "Dynamite," which spent three weeks there last fall. "Savage Love" and "Life Goes On" followed, while "Butter" has held the top spot for seven weeks.

Considering seven is the band's lucky number, BTS was thrilled to learn of this achievement. "We were really excited and happy when we first heard the news," says V, enthusiastically holding up seven fingers. "It was really late at night, and we really want to say thank you to our fans."

As for what's next now that they have that enviable Billboard benchmark in the bag? "We just want to see the ARMY" — or, Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth, the name for their devoted followers —"as soon as possible!" says Jimin. "Please!"

Listen to "Permission to Dance" — and try to learn that choreo — above.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said that Big Hit Entertainment chairman Bang Si-Hyuk and CEO Park Ji-Won were featured in the music video. That was incorrect and has since been updated

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