BTS (also known as the Bangtan Sonyeondan or the Bangtan Boys) are a South Korean boy band made up of seven members. They sing, dance, wear stylish outfits, rock fun hair colors, and have a huge fanbase known as the BTS Army.
They also just released a new song that was added to every Top 40 radio station in America in its first week after its debut.
And yes, that’s a really big deal.
‘Butter’ has catchy lyrics alongside a fast paced tempo, choreography, and composition filled with synthesizers and a steady beat. These elements helped make it an instant summertime hit and potentially THE summer song for 2021.
It’s also completely in English, something the band NEVER did until last year when they released their hit, “Dynamite.” I think this is telling of the global audience they’re attracting. Suddenly, for many American listeners, they aren’t just a Kpop group. They’re a chart-topping band of heartthrobs that just HAPPEN to be from a different country. Throw in a music video with multiple bright-colored sets, outfit changes, and cute antics like dancing in an elevator, or band member J-hope eating a whole pad of butter (honestly, I don’t think that one’s so cute… but… to each their own), and you get a mega-hit that’s more successful than anything before it.
In fact, many compare BTS’s popularity to ‘Beatlemania’ in the 60’s, when teens and young adults (primarily females) went absolutely crazy for the English classic rock group, The Beatles. But now, instead of young women gathering in crowds crying and wearing buttons saying “I love Paul”, a new generation of younger women are showing support for BTS. They’re posting on social media about how much they love Jungkook or RM, anxiously buying tickets to see the band live, and learning the choreography to the Kpop’s group’s latest singles.
You know a group is special when they can captivate an audience from the opposite side of the world. And then when a band is the FIRST to do so from a particular country, they make history. But there’s something else that sets BTS apart.
But What Makes BTS Different?
Amazing new music, linguistic skills, and music videos that visually illustrate mental health struggles, that draw on classic literature, and that celebrate themes of growing up, finding friendship, and evolving as a human being, aren’t all that set this group apart.
The biggest defining factor is that they’re Korean.
Every. Single. Member. Of. The. Group.
And not only that, but they celebrate their nationality on a regular basis. It took YEARS for them to release a single completely in English because they wanted to stay true to their native language.
And a large part of that identity is that they’re NOT just a band, but they’re a KOREAN band. On a larger scale, they’re an EAST ASIAN band.
In a western society where East Asian men are, historically, considered unattractive, effeminate, nerdy, and even dangerous, (going back a little further into history of Asian immigration, the Yellow Peril, and Hollywood tropes that came from that), a fully Korean group who embraces their race and ethnicity becoming mega-stars in western countries, particularly in the United States, is absolutely incredible and not something to be taken lightly.
Whether you’re part of the BTS Army or if you’re just a casual listener, their success is a big deal. It’s a huge victory for the Asian American Pacific Islander community. While there’s still much work to be done in regard to representation and correcting stereotypes put forth by the media, BTS’s success is a major step forward in music and in society as a whole.
Now go listen to ‘Butter’! You’ll be glad you did!
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