Source: Grammy Awards
Great music, like any art form, transcends cultural boundaries. For avid listeners, what matters is how the music connects to the listeners’ hearts. This is how the South Korean K-Pop idol boy group BTS made its way to the top and broke into the American scene.
Debuting in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment, BTS or Bangtan Sonyeondan began their musical journey in a small entertainment company in Seoul, South Korea. The septet is composed of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. Unlike most Korean idol groups, they co-write and co-produce most of their albums and songs.
Their lyrics, too, are contrary to mainstream topics like romantic love. Instead, they focus on personal and social commentary, touching on themes related to mental health, the folly of youth, loss, and the journey toward individualism. They also feature references to literature and psychological concepts. This charm allures fans and makes them listen, understand, and connect to their music much deeper.
Despite starting with this kind of concept on their music since their debut, they, at first, didn’t catch the eye of the mainstream market in South Korea because of their hip-hop genre. The group changed their approach and rebranded to the high school boys image when they released their second mini-album, Skool Luv Affair, which topped at the Billboard World Charts at no. 3.
They then began their rise to fame and earned their first music show win at a Korean music broadcast, The Show, with the song “I Need U” from their The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1 EP after two years in their music career. They then released several albums and hit songs like “Run,” “Fire,” and “DOPE.” In 2016, they earned their first grand prize or “daesang” on a major Korean year-end show, the Melon Music Awards. Their second album, Wings, won Album of the Year.
BTS started to cross into the global music market by leading the Korean Wave into the United States and breaking numerous sales records. By May of 2017, they were nominated and won the Top Social Artist Award at the 24th Billboard Music Awards, the first Korean act to achieve that. They also became the first Korean group to receive a certification from the Recording Industry Association (RIAA) for their single “Mic Drop” from their Love Yourself: Her EP. They earned the title of being the fastest group since the Beatles to make four US number 1 albums in less than two years.
BTS has continued to inspire many people with the message they convey in their lyrics, which allowed them to collaborate with UNICEF in 2018 with the “Love Myself Campaign,” and they were also given a chance to speak in front of the United Nations. The members and their fans have donated to several charities in the world under the name of BTS. Earlier last year, BTS donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement, and their fans, popularly known as the ARMY, matched the donation and donated another million dollars.
Not even the global pandemic could stop BTS from conquering the American market in 2020 as they released their big-time hit single, “Dynamite.” The song earned the team their first Billboard Hot 100 #1 single. They were the first Korean act to do so. The smash-hit allowed them to grab their first Grammy nomination and solo performance.
These seven boys from different provinces in South Korea once wrote and sang the lyrics, “If I ruled the world, I’d do it all.” Now they have made their mark in music history not only in South Korea but across the world.