If you have not heard of BTS, yes you have. The K-pop boy band has reached an unprecedented level of popularity around the world, backed by a legion of fans known as ARMY.
But if you have not had much exposure to the band, or to K-pop in general, the BTS phenomenon might be a bit of a mystery. ARMY, for all of the sway
it holds over the Twitterverse, has often been dismissed as a horde of rabid, underaged fangirls.
But more often than not, these criticisms come from a lack of education. I am not here to make you an ARMY, but I am here to give the uninformed an insight into why people love BTS so much, and why they deserve it.
They make really good music. One of the biggest reasons that people refuse to give BTS a try is that the majority of their discography is sung in Korean or Japanese.
But BTS has successfully transcended the language barrier through the range of genres they cover, the charisma of their performances, and the fact that they are just excellent musicians.
Right now, BTS is closely associated with their recent English singles “Dynamite,” “Butter” and “Permission to Dance,” but those songs, while certainly bops, don’t really give a proper representation of the depth of BTS’ discography.
Their music flows across genres, from pop to hip-hop to RnB, and they have a song for every mood — whether it is a melancholy ballad, an energized headbanger or a soaring anthem.
To really understand BTS, however, you need to deep-dive into their lyrics, even in translation. BTS makes music about a lot of things — “Pied Piper” tells you to step away from their music videos and get to work; “Life Goes On” talks about the day the world stopped — but overall they are focused on spreading hopeful, comforting messages.
They talk about their own doubts and sorrows and promise that if you are feeling that way too then you are not alone. BTS are some of the biggest celebrities in the world right now, and although, for American listeners, they are an ocean away, listening to their music makes you feel like they know and understand you.
They are also ridiculously talented. Every time a new BTS music video comes out, reaction videos pop up — “Vocal coach reacts,” “Producer reacts,” “Dancer reacts,” etc. The one thing all these videos have in common is that the creator is mind blown because BTS and their creative team are really good at what they do on every level.
No Western artist rivals their ability to sing, rap, and dance their hearts out all at the same time without a hint of strain. From RM’s melodic raps to Jungkook’s crystalline tenor to J-Hope’s supple free-styling, BTS’ seven members are some of the most talented performers of their generation.
Their productions are insane. BTS are artists first, and that has not changed even with worldwide acclaim. They have more creative freedom than many other K-pop groups, and the result is hundreds of performances and videos that you cannot look away from. Their stages incorporate grandiose sets and animations, elaborate costuming, and all kinds of pyrotechnics; Jungkook flew from the ceiling once. Every one of their music videos, which range across all kinds of moods and aesthetics, is a miniature film, immaculate from start to finish. BTS even has a complex storyline unfolding through many of their videos, starting with 2015’s “I Need U” and ongoing as recently as 2020’s “Film Out.”
It is fun to root for them. Perhaps the biggest reason that ARMY is so attached to BTS is that they have created the illusion that their fans know them personally, built around a variety of livestreams and videos that fans look forward to every week.
Despite their level of fame, BTS seems remarkably grounded and genuine. While this kind of parasocial relationship can go too far, it is hard not to fall for these boys who appear so funny, kind, and eminently relatable.
BTS has perfected the art of making you feel like they are your super hot, super sweet best friend, and that sense of an individual relationship creates the feeling that you are on the inside and everyone else is on the outside.
Couple this with the pushback that BTS continues to face in the Western music industry and the general protectiveness that ARMY has for BTS, and you feel like it is you and the boys against the world.
Also, it is really fun to watch the internet break whenever a new video drops or Jimin changes his hair color.
You might as well start now because you are going to start eventually anyway. Despite the number of records BTS has already smashed, they are not showing any signs of slowing down.
Following the massive success of “Butter,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking nine weeks this summer, with sponsorships with Samsung, Fila and Louis Vuitton under their belts and a rumored collaboration with Coldplay in the works, BTS is not going anywhere. Might as well jump on the bandwagon now, because these boys are sticking around.