The Rise of Bangtan

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Many remember PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” or even know about Big Bang, a widely popular K-Pop band. Slowly over the years, K-Pop has been emerging in the Western world, and it seems that this time, it is here to stay.

Bangtan Sonyeondan, formally known as BTS, first came on the scene on June 13, 2013, with their first lead single, “No More Dreams” from their “2 Cool 4 Skool” album. The septet comprises of RM, the group’s leader, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. Like most K-pop bands, each member had trained for years and moved away from their families before their debut. All seven members moved into a single bedroom living space until they could afford a bigger apartment. Little did the group know, they would become a global phenomenon in just under five years, a level that sadly many K-pop artists have not been able to reach.

One year after the group debuted, they came to the US to train to become better K-Pop artists by learning different things about Rap and Hip-Hop that they simply could not learn in South Korea. Rappers such as Warren G and Coolio (both West Coast Hip-Hop pioneers) helped make this transition smoother through different challenges which broadened their knowledge as artists and sharpened their skills. This development was aired live through a Korean station in a series called “American Hustle Life.”

BTS started from nothing according to Jaqueline Moncada, a Sophomore Social Work major who said, “They came from the bottom, with a company [Big Hit Entertainment] that was going bankrupt”

Moncada, an ARMY (BTS’ fan name which stands for Adorable Representative M. C’s for Youth), first became interested in BTS while watching a K-Pop compilation video, and they stood out to her because they each have their unique personalities, which makes them a well-rounded group.

“They are such down-to-earth and genuine guys that are so talented and spread awareness to social issues that we in the younger generations are facing,” Moncada stated.

The social awareness Moncada speaks about is their lyrics which raises awareness of the pressure and sufferings affecting today’s youth. South Korea is a highly conservative country which raises their children to be in the best professions and to make their families proud. As a result, the youth feel pressured as they feel like they must meet the society’s demands. This along with personal problems often results in suicide in which South Korea is known to have one of highest percentage of in the world.

BTS became their own Adorable Representative M. C’s for youth when they collaborated with UNICEF in their “Love Myself” Anti-Violence campaign. Big Hit CEO, Bang Shihyuk, revealed during the “Love Myself” press conference that both the company and BTS want to show gratitude towards the fans for their support throughout the years beyond the music by releasing this campaign. Bang assured that this is not a one-time contribution to the society, but a revolutionary change that they hope to accomplish over a period.

They started this campaign first with a “Love Yourself” series that highlighted not only to “Love Yourself,” but the idea one can only achieve true love can only be achieved through self-love. BTS shows that when one finds that purpose, they would in turn truly love others regardless of background, race, sexual orientation, and so on.

BTS also collaborated with UNICEF’s “End Violence” campaigned, which is focused on stopping violence against children and teenagers. These projects are not only based in South Korea but also in other countries. BTS will donate 3% of their album sales to the campaign.

After BTS’s release of their second album “Wings” in 2016, they have been getting recognized by new and old ARMYs. What made this album unique is that it was inspired by Hermann Hesse’s work of gothic literature “Demian.”

Their faithful ARMYs have engaged social media with their love for Bangtan which lead them to be number one on Billboard’s Social 50. This ultimately led them to the first K-pop group to win the “Top Social Media Artist of the Year” at the Billboard awards earlier this year. Since then their ARMYs ensure they have a tight hold on the Billboard list as with their new mini-album, “Love Yourself: Her.” In the first week of release, their album opened at number 7 on Billboard’s Top 200 list and their song“DNA” made it in Billboard top 100. BTS is currently the highest ranked K-Pop band in Billboard history.

According to Billboard, they also sold over 1 million albums in the pre-sale stage, and they are the first K-Pop group to accomplish this. “DNA” also made history as the first song by a K-Pop group to accomplish 20 Million views in 24 hours and fastest 150 million views for any K-Pop group.

The septets achieved, so much this year and kept true to their heritage by mainly releasing songs in their native language. Their success does not end there as in this month alone, BTS performed on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as well as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” whose tickets had sold out minutes after BTS was confirmed to make a special appearance.

BTS performed at this year’s American Music Awards (AMA) on Nov. 19. The crowd’s reaction was intense. Another achievement that proud ARMYs can carry under their belts is that they secured BTS the 2018 Guinness World Record for the “most twitter engagements” on the night of the AMAs. BTS is also the only K-Pop group to ever perform at the awards, but the 2nd Korean act with PSY being the first..

With the interactions of the group in America, the group has made connections with popular artists in this country.They secured a future collaboration with Zedd, who agreed to collaborate with them via Twitter. BTS also collaborated with The Chainsmokers on their “Love Yourself: Her” album, and they worked with Desiigner and Steve Aoki for their song “MIC Drop” that released Nov. 24. In less than 24 hours of its release, “MIC drop” rapidly made its way to the  number 1 position on the iTunes charts also becoming the first K-pop group to achieve this goal.

So BTS is popular internationally, but are they recognized in Korea? According to Kim Sooyoung, a student in South Korea, K-Pop is more popular in South Korea amongst the elementary school children, but it is a common genre among older generations as well.

“Yes, Koreans are always crazy about K-Pop and it is of public interest. I think K-Pop brings many positive effects such as the enhancement of foreign culture and business, but I think that public interest in a foreign country would not last,” Kim explained.

However, after accidentally watching the AMAs awards, she became a fan of BTS because she could not get enough of their song “DNA” and their dance moves.

The 1960’s are known for the British Invasion on the American scene, and with the increasing success of K-Pop, this genre might have an “invasion” of its own to be looked back on someday. If there is one thing that BTS has taught anyone, including ARMYs, it is to “Love Yourself.”

BTS is now working on their Japanese version of the “Love Yourself” album to be released in early December and they look forward to MAMA (Mnet Asian Music Awards) in Hong Kong. Hopefully, J-Hope will soon release his mixtape.


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