BTS exemplifies rise of Asian influence


Diana Xu, Managing Editor

Fangirls and fanboys fix their eyes on their television screens and jump up and down in excitement with K-pop boy band BTS just seconds away from making their U.S. television debut on the 2017 American Music Awards. The boy band’s sweeping success in the U.S. has marked a new milestone in the K-pop industry. BTS has proven anti-fans wrong as they have rapidly become one of the most popular K-pop groups in the world.

Through the recent success of BTS in America, East Asian music has become heavily embraced by American pop culture. The boy band’s stunning stage presence, charming personality, impressionable music, glamorous style, handsome appearance and undeniable talent draw in millions of fans from all over the world. With the support of their expanding fandom known as ARMY, the boy band, consisting of members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook dominates in America as they become the first K-pop group to win a Billboard Music Award. They surpassed famous singers such as Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber by winning the Top Social Artist Award in May 2017. The red carpet and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas were packed with fans who came to support their favorite idols, and the sight of their impressive fanbase turned heads.

Even months after the event, all eyes remained on the band as they announced their performance on the 2017 American Music Awards (AMAs) as well as guest appearances on several American television talk shows at the end of November. On Nov. 19, BTS performed at the AMAs with their new hit song, “DNA” and fascinated America with their amazing dancing and singing. Their appearances on The Late Late Show with James Corden, The Ellen Degeneres Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live furthered the boys’ success as they were able to showcase their irresistible charms. BTS became the first K-pop group to claim a top 40 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with their hit song “MIC Drop,” featuring Desiigner and remixed by famous music producer Steve Aoki. With over 150 million views on the music video, “MIC Drop” became a highly requested song that has since been played on countless U.S. radio stations.

Despite their unbelievable achievements and growing popularity, BTS struggled to make it to the top as they began at a disadvantage compared to other K-pop groups in Korea. BTS debuted in Korea in Jun. 2013 from a small company called BigHit Entertainment. Since this company was not a part of the big 3 Korean entertainment companies, BTS lacked the head start that many K-pop artists and groups had. When they first debuted, BTS faced harsh criticism about their inauthenticity.

“To me, BTS is an inspiration because they got to their level of fame through hard work,” said junior Chloe Tat. “When they first debuted, their company didn’t have a lot of money and they were looked down on a lot in the industry, so getting from where they started to where they are now is really inspiring.”

Members Suga and RM were part of Korea’s underground hip-hop scene prior to debuting as an idol. Many underground rappers look down upon idol rappers, especially rappers who used to be a part of the underground hip-hop scene. Shortly after their debut, Suga and RM were guests on a hip-hop broadcast with other rappers including rapper B-Free. The conversation escalated quickly as B-Free attacked Suga and RM as he believed they became idols to avoid the hardships of being underground rappers. Others bashed the group, saying their music was not truly hip-hop.           

Prior to their debut as a group, the BTS members lived in their entertainment company as trainees. The members are distinctly different and captivating, each showcasing their own talents and additions to the group. RM, Suga and J-hope are the rappers of the group while Jimin, V and Jungkook are the vocals of the group. Unlike American boybands, in the K-pop industry, members of K-pop groups are assigned individual roles. Although these roles are assigned to the members since their debut, they are very fluid. For example, many believe that BTS do not have a member who is the face of the group, as each of them are talented in their own way.                     

BTS means something special to each individual fan. The boyband proves that music transcends language. Their international fans justify the fact that language is not a barrier. BTS holds a special place in my heart as well. Their music and positive energy has gotten me through many hardships in my life as their diverse music style was able to comfort me in any situation. BTS inspires me to work hard and believe in myself. Music has never meant as much to me as it does now, to the point where I would say I am dependent on it. Like many of BTS’s fans, I can’t help but feel proud as I watch BTS slowly dominate the world.

“For many fans, BTS is a source of happiness,” said junior Jodi Wong. “They can smile when listening to their music or watching their variety shows. BTS is one of the first groups I liked when I started to listen to K-pop. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of musical interests. With every new comeback, I’m always excited to see their new stages and how their dances will look on stage.”

The group also inspires many others as they spread a positive message through their music lyrics and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) campaign. After releasing their record-breaking album Love Yourself: Her, BTS announced their anti-violence campaign with UNICEF known as LOVE MYSELF. Their campaign corresponds to many of BTS’s songs that convey a deep message and question societal ills. The boyband wants to give back to the people that have loved and supported as they spread love and try to make the world a better place.

“BTS influences people all around the world through the message they carry in their music,” said senior Evalina Xu. “For instance, in their song ‘Sea,’ they sing and rap about their humble beginnings and the struggle they had to go through in order to achieve their dreams. They reveal their emotions amongst uncertainty of their future.”

BTS will continue to fly into 2018 with newly produced music and surprises for their fans and the world to see. As they take on America by storm, the boy band brings K-pop to the west with a new level of popularity.