As artists like Drake and Post Malone dominate the Billboard 100, many people were quick to point out the rise of a Korean K-pop single “Fake Love,” coming in at 49 as I write this article. As the world becomes filled with talent apps and a thriving indie scene, it comes as a surprise that a non-English speaking band can cross into the American market and seemingly dominate it.
BTS, other wise known as “Bangtan Sonyeondan”, are a Korean boy band composed of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook. Their world tour sold out arenas in an instant and they are widely received in countries far beyond South Korea or the US.
Their album, Love Yourself:Tear became the first non-English language album to even crack the Billboard 100 in over a decade.
Drawing from a variety of influences, including rap, pop, latin, and soul music, BTS is not your typical pop band, although they could be considered the gold standard of K-pop. Their lyrics are primarily written in Korean language and apply mostly to their youthful fanbase in South Korea.
Yet, the one thing that separates BTS from any other band in the world is their open and honest lyricism, as well as their social advocacy. Lyrics like, “I am anxious, so are you, so let’s find the way and study the way together” can be universally understood by youth all across the world, especially in South Korea where speaking of such issues are stigmatized.
But therein lies the beauty of BTS’s rise; they don’t care for social conventions. Their songs discuss everything from depression to empty materialism and the generational wealth gap. The president of South Korea even tweeted, recognizing BTS’s impact, “The songs, dance, dream and enthusiasm of BTS … energized and gave strength to young people around the world.”
While most other K-pop artists attempted to cross into the American market with catchy English hooks, BTS rarely even mentions a single English phrase throughout its illustrious discography. With barely any radio play or downloads, BTS’s success has come on the backs of its endearing fans.
Their socially conscious message resonates with youth around the world and has inadvertently made them a new voice of the younger generation, in countries everywhere. While BTS may not be as big as Beatlemania, they might be even more impressive considering the cross-cultural boundaries that still exist in American and European markets.
Regardless, BTS has shown the world that honest lyricism and being true to yourself is the real recipe for artistic success.