By Grace Baldino
BTS is the most popular of global phenomenon out of Korea right now. They are basically the new Girls Generation. They are pushing the boundaries of traditional KPOP ideas by writing songs about social issues and using their platform to raise money for anti-suicide organizations like UNICEF.
“In Korea, with its extremely high suicide rate and the high level of hopelessness among youth due to high unemployment and the competitiveness of Korean society, BTS are trying to make a difference to their key demographic – young people,” says CedarBough Saeji, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Korea Foundation.”
Even talented singers struggle with the social molds of modern society.
“I tried to jam myself into the other molds that other people made,” lead singer RM said, “Soon, I began to shut out my own voice and listen to the voice of others. No one called out my name and neither did I. My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut. Like this, I—we—all lost our names. We became like ghosts. But I had one sanctuary, and that was music.”
They even speak to world leaders about this topic.
At a meeting where the global community discusses issues such as climate change, multilateralism, and peacekeeping, the question on everyone’s minds was what place K-pop had in international affairs.
When the most popular KPOP group speaks at the UN, you know that they are slowly actually taking control of every country, one perfect by band move at a time.
The launch of Generation Unlimited, a campaign “to ensure every young person is in education, training or employment by 2030.” The event featured speakers like YouTube personality and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lilly Singh.
Speaking to major leaders of the globe about important topics is a good indicator of the future but how did BTS break into mainstream American pop culture, when even Psy, who’s ear worm of a song, Gangnam Style’s success couldn’t be recreated?
Huge groups like Girls Generation couldn’t even do it, despite collabing with the old Hollywood grandpas from Better Late Than Never.
BTS built their American fanbase up from nothing by doing small shows in America and have been very hardworking in being able to expand that fanbase. Writing songs about things that teens care about is only half of it.
They don’t try too hard to be popular. Girls Generation recorded some of their hits in English, which did not do well. The original version of their song The Boys got 203m views and the English version got 136k views. The original version of their song Gee got 215m views and the English version got 349k views.
As part of their identity, BTS has stuck to singing in Korean while incorporating elements of western pop, including working with major American singers.
BTS’ first Top 10 album, last year’s Love Yourself: Her, featured songs co-written with the Chainsmokers. The group has since released collaborations with Steve Aoki, Zedd, Ali Tamposi, who co-wrote Camila Cabello’s “Havana” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”, and Nicki Minaj.
“The music of ‘Fake Love’ was so good that you can listen to it and like it and not even care about the lyrics,” says Leslie Whittle, radio program director at Houston’s KRBE.
Click for a Spotify playlist of the top gateway songs of KPOP: