Boy Bands have been capturing hearts, record labels, and fashion trends for the longest time. From The Beatles to One Direction, every generation has its own boyband to leave their mark on the world. Recently, BTS, a Korean-pop band, has stolen the spotlight as “quite possibly the greatest boyband in the world right now.” (CNN) With seven idols- or members- and a devoted, growing fandom - better known as ARMY- BTS and Korean pop culture is taking over music charts in the Western world. Let’s discuss how this boy band has come to dominate the music industry and what lies in store for them.
Firstly, BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, translates to Bulletproof Boy Scouts. The members consist of seven rappers and vocalists: Suga, Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, V, RM, and J-Hope. At first, the members did not have plans to be music artists. Some of them were planning to be farmers whilst others were underground rappers. However, they were scouted by BigHit Entertainment, a South Korean entertainment company, and soon started creating tracks in a variety of genres. RM, the leader of the band, claimed that their success came from how they express their “own turmoil and mental breakdowns as honestly as possible in the music and [how] it grows with [them] as [they] get older.” (Times Magazine)
Since their rise, BTS owe a lot of their success to their loyal fans: ARMY (Adorable Representative MC for Youth). They accepted K-pop into Western culture even with all the differences in style, language, and culture. Their dedication for BTS pushed the band to be the first K-pop group to top the US album charts. Shows are sold out within minutes around the world, and destinations range from South Korea to Saudi Arabia. They have set the record for the most viewed online music video in 24 hours with their song, ‘Idol,’ thereby beating popular western artists like Taylor Swift. BTS even broke headlines for “becoming the first Korean pop music group to address at the United Nations.” (BBC)
But with these countless achievements, BTS also faces many struggles. Their expectations in the K-pop industry are dangerously high with intensive training for dance routines, strict rules with managers to maintain their public image, and the constant security threats that arise in various countries that they perform in. During the UN conference, RM “spoke about overcoming insecurities and urged young people to do the same.” (BBC) RM explained that “[he] has many faults and [he] has many more fear, but [he’s] going to embrace [himself] as hard as [he] can. And [he’s] starting to love [himself] gradually just little by little.” (BBC)
Such limitations compound the unexpected future for the band. In South Korea, males over the age of 18 have to enlist in mandatory military training for two years, “as part of a conscription system.” (The New York Times) BTS is not exempt from this rule and will, therefore, be on a temporary hiatus. What does this mean for their future? According to Billboard, BTS recently renewed their contract with BigHit entertainment, extending their current contracts for seven more years. The band stated that they “will continue to strive to give [the] best for fans all around the world.” (Billboard)
BTS has given an identity to its fans: a voice, an inspiration. They have beaten the odds and expectations by connecting a multitude of languages and cultures through music. Through their ethos, they continue to remind us that “no matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin colour, gender identity: speak yourself. Find your name, find your voice by speaking yourself.” (RM)