Whether you know them as BTS, Beyond the Scene, Bangtan Sonyeondan, or “those Korean guys”, you must admit these seven South Koreans may be on the verge of taking over the world right now.
With the American leg of their tour selling out in seconds, the second instalment of their Love Yourself series being released on May 18th, and a slew of American television appearances (including a highly anticipated BBMA performance) that pack their remarkably busy schedule, 2018 has already been dubbed, “the year of Bangtan”.
This may come as a surprise to the average music listener, but to BTS’ fanbase, otherwise known as A.R.M.Y, they’ve seen this coming since the band’s debut.
Even if you have no interest in learning about the colourfully crazy world that is the Korean music industry, you’ll ultimately end up falling under the irresistible pull of BTS’ charms.
How did they succeed in capturing the hearts and minds of the American public?
How did they go from a band handing out flyers for their free concerts in the sweltering heat of L.A to selling out The Staples Center in mere minutes?
How do they manage to turn the non-K-pop listener into a dedicated supporter?
To find out, we must explore several very important areas of BTS’ image: their fans, their music, and the boys themselves.
A.R.M.Y are perhaps BTS’ most powerful weapon when it comes to growing their global footprint.
One can argue that without A.R.M.Y, there is no BTS, and without BTS there is no A.R.M.Y. It’s a co-dependent relationship, one that the boys even acknowledge in songs like, “Pied Piper”, “2!3!” and “Best of Me”.
That’s not to say that the members of BTS didn’t work hard to achieve their status, they most certainly did, but it’s A.R.M.Y that has been a constant presence whenever the band finds themselves in precarious situations.
Whether it be winning online polls, creating birthday projects for the boys, or spending hundreds of dollars buying albums, A.R.M.Y will do whatever it takes to the spread the “good news” of BTS.
In November 2017, the Guinness World Records revealed that BTS had earned a spot in their 2018 edition for “having the world’s most Twitter engagements for a music group”. That December, they were revealed to be the most tweeted about celebrity in 2017, being “liked or retweeted over half a billion times (502 million)” worldwide, more than U.S. President Donald Trump and Justin Bieber combined.
The K-pop industry can be rather manufactured.
With companies hiring western producers to write their hooks and lyrics for them, most K-Pop bands or as they call them, “idol groups”, sound like knockoffs of their western counterparts. That’s not to say that every band does this, but it happens often.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and BTS is maybe the industry’s best example of this.
Like most artists, BTS pride themselves on being singer-songwriters, with all seven members of the group pitching in with writing credits on most of their songs.
What makes the band so relatable is their willingness to speak about issues that are worrying their generation. Songs like, ‘Am I Wrong?’ ‘Silver Spoon’, and ‘Tomorrow’ touch on themes of youth, social anxiety, perseverance, and struggles of transitioning to adulthood.
Filled to the brim with anecdotes from their own lives, the songs that the band put out have an extra added layer of emotion and sentimentality.
Knowing that you, as a listener, can relate to what they’re going through or have gone through in the past, give their lyrics a sense of intimacy. With no one else to speak for them, BTS took the initiative to talk about these problems in their own hands.
Five years into their career, the band is only getting stronger and bolder in delivering these socially aware messages. With Love Yourself: Tear being dropped in a week and a half, BTS will, once again, demonstrate their remarkable ability to tap into the hearts and minds of their contemporaries.
Last, but not least we have to discuss the boys themselves.
The septet, consisting of dancers, singers, rappers, producers, and songwriters is the real reason people stay with the band; it isn’t for their looks (all though it helps) but mostly for their goofy and endearing personalities
With their music as a catalyst, drawing people in and getting them interested, the boys are the what keep people coming back for more. Unlike other K-pop acts that were treated as a novelty (see: PSY) BTS is on the cusp of breaking that stereotype. The band’s emphasis on music and less on the “meme-able” aspects of K-Pop has given them credibility in a market that would’ve seen them as just another one hit wonder.
Ranging from ages 20 to 25, Jungkook, Taehyung, Jimin, Namjoon, Hoseok, Yoongi, and Seokjin are the seven young men that make up the band. Debuting in 2013 under the moniker “Bulletproof Boy scouts”, BTS has never let fame sway them in the 5 years they’ve been together. This has been evident since the beginning, with their “Bangtan Bombs” (quick videos showcasing the boys behind the scenes at various events) highlighting this characteristic.
Their self-less attitude and respectable nature have become a talking point among industry professionals, earning them the nickname, “the humble idols.” What gets fans personally invested in these guys is their constant use of social media, with Twitter being the band’s preferred weapon of choice.
Whether it be behind the scenes photos of a music video shoot, post-dance practice selfies or aimlessly staring into the camera for 10 seconds (I’m not entirely sure why they do this, but it’s cute,) Twitter is A.R.M.Y’s gateway to BTS’ “personal lives.”
Of course, there are other social media platforms; take VLIVE for example, where they can broadcast live and chat with fans, or their official fan cafe where they can, essentially, have conversations with fans who have leveled up the most on the site.
Not only are these boys gifted, relatable, and socially conscious, they do it all while making some excellent music. As a casual listener, you’ll find yourself quickly admiring these guys, first as artists then as exceptional human beings. This combination of talent and charm make BTS increasingly difficult to ignore.
The next couple of months will see the band’s star rise at an astronomical rate. Thankfully, with the solid foundation of their fanbase, their music and themselves, they have the opportunity to become the first K-Pop group to become a mainstay in the American pop music consciousness.