Why BTS is Breaking American Music Standards
For many who are not familiar or quick to squirm at the idea of Korean pop music are usually the ones that are only familiar with Wonder Girls’ “Nobody” in 2009 or Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012. The misconceptions of it for being only labelled as bubble gum music is purely a lack of exposure to the scene. Those who have been following K-Pop music knows that it is beyond the representations of what the two songs mentioned above. It is so unfortunate that this stigma to still be around until today, but the transition from the almost-comical Psy to the recognition of groups like BTS has shown a little maturity to what K-Pop is known for. So how did they do it?
BTS breaking into the mainstream American music scene is a big deal, especially having to win Top Social Artist two years in a row as honoured by the Billboard Music Awards beating Justin Bieber who has champion in that category for the past six years. The septet is also the first K-Pop act to perform at the Billboard Music Awards, in which the whole arena in Las Vegas was out of control with the support and screams by their fans named the ARMY, which is an acronym for “Adorable Representative M.C for Youth.” Chart-wise, their single “MIC Drop” featuring rapper Desiigner and remixed by DJ/producer Steve Aoki debuted at the 28th position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which is the highest-charting entry for a K-Pop group.
Those are just some of the highlights for BTS’ breakout in America. There are just so many achievements that have been unlocked by members V, Suga, J-Hope, Jungkook, Jin, Jimin and RM in the American music scene since 2017 that would take an entire post to list down. Just when you think BTS have finished promoting their 2017 EP Love Yourself: Her, they are now in the midst of touring for their third studio album titled Love Yourself: Tear. Seriously, how did they do it?
There has a to be a reason how they won the Top Social Awards at BBMAs beating artists like Justine Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato for two years in a row. Compared to other monster K-Pop labels like SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, BTS’ label Big Hit Entertainment was not considered a money player in the industry just yet. They make it up by firing up the group’s presence on social media to reach out to their fans from all over the world with 15.1 million Twitter followers at the moment.
What Big Hit Entertainment initially lacked in financial firepower or influence within the K-Pop ecosystem, it made up with a savvy approach on social media. The members of BTS would share exclusive photos of their daily lives and personal thoughts to make their fans feel more connected to a K-Pop idol closer than ever. Even if they tweet in Korean, their loyal fandom of ARMY would translate it for other fans to read and participate in the conversations. BTS definitely utilised the power of the technology for their success.
The idea that K-Pop groups are manufactured together like Lego pieces is rather disheartening to hear, but that is what it has been about for many years. That is where BTS made sure they work hard to stand out from the others because they know they are also competing against other K-Pop boy groups who have equally just as amazing stage presence and choreography. BTS makes sure they do it ten times more unique and complicated.
Their ability write and produce their music, as well as touching on social and political issues that are not necessarily a concept that people would think of when they think of K-Pop music made them stand out the most. Unlike the viral success of Psy, who was marketed as a character, BTS were artists with a very strong fan base. Add that with the hardcore support of the ARMY, this group that debuted in 2012 has literally taken over the world.
If the fans are not responding, that is the end for any music acts. As mentioned numerous times in this post, they play a massive part in BTS’ success. Thankfully, the ARMY are super enthusiastic and loyal just as any Beyoncé fan would too. Even daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres compared their presence in Los Angeles to The Beatles in the 1960’s with screaming fans wherever they went.
K-Pop fan behaviours are very enthusiastic compared to American fans, but recently the shift has landed with the fans outside of Korea. They have become more vocal, fiery, protective, but also organized during fan chants and other social media initiatives. Barriers for fandoms have been broken between the east and west when it comes to K-Pop appreciation. BTS fans just do it a whole lot louder.
We have seen many tried, but have not reached the level that BTS has achieved. With CL’s American debut coming soon, Jay Park being signed to Roc Nation and BLACKPINK’s music video cameo in DC Superhero blockbuster movie Justice League, it is just a matter of time before the stereotype of what the perceptions of commercial K-Pop will be lifted. Eventually, more music from South Korea and other parts of the world would make their marks in the American music scene.