8:56 am - 10/11/2018

How BTS Is Taking Over the World

The boy band hails from Korea and achieves continued chart attention in the West

It’s early on a Monday night in September at a lavish top-floor suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, and Jimin, one-seventh of BTS, the most popular boy band in the world, is napping upright in front of an illuminated dressing room mirror.

You can’t blame him for being exhausted. Exactly 24 hours earlier, Jimin, 22; Jin, 25; Suga, 25; J-Hope, 24; RM, 24; V, 22; and Jung Kook, 21, were warming up backstage at L.A.’s Staples Center, prepping to perform their fourth and final show of a sold-out stretch at the 20,000-seat arena. Each night is a marathon of sharp dance choreography, music-video interludes and indoor pyrotechnics—all backgrounded, of course, by the roars of screaming fans. “It’s a real honor,” says J-Hope, via a translator. “We’re proud that everything we do is giving off light.”

Like The Beatles and One Direction before them, BTS serves up a mania-inducing mix of heartthrob good looks and ear-worm choruses, alongside dance moves in the vein of New Kids on the Block and *NSYNC. But the band—whose name stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan in Korean and Beyond the Scene in English—is also breaking new ground. Not only is BTS the first Korean act to sell out a U.S. stadium (to say nothing of the records they’ve set across Asia), but they’ve done so without catering to Western audiences. Only one of their members, RM, speaks fluent English, and most of their songs are in Korean—even more proof that music “doesn’t have to be English to be a global phenomenon,” says Steve Aoki, a U.S. DJ who has collaborated with BTS. The group is also preternaturally adept at leveraging social media, both to promote their music and connect with their fans.

But for now, at least, they may need sleep. “I’m still trying to get over my jet lag,” deadpans Suga, one of the group’s three rappers.

***

Since its genesis in the ‘90s, Korean pop—or K-pop—has become synonymous with what studios call “idols”: a cadre of young, polished, perfect-seeming pop stars whose images are often rigorously controlled. (They’re often discouraged from discussing their dating lives, so as to seem available to fans.) But even as K-pop matured to a nearly $5 billion industry with fans around the world, its biggest stars—including Rain, Girls’ Generation and Big Bang—largely failed to gain traction in Western markets. The outlier was Psy, a South Korean rapper whose “Gangnam Style” became a viral hit in 2012, though his comic, outlandish persona was an unlikely (and some critics argue, problematic) herald for the genre.

When BTS arrived in 2013, it was clear they would play by new rules. They were formed by Bang Si-hyuk, a K-pop renegade who left a major label to start his own enterprise. He chose young stars that appeared to have an edge, beginning with RM, who was initially a part of Korea’s underground rap scene. And although BTS has idol elements—the slick aesthetics, the sharp choreography, the fun-loving singles—they also embrace their flaws. Their first release, “No More Dream,” took on the ways Korean kids feel stymied by societal expectations; RM recorded a song with Wale that alludes to the importance of activism; Suga released a mixtape addressing his depression. “We started to tell the stories that people wanted to hear and were ready to hear, stories that other people could not or would not tell,” Suga says. “We said what other people were feeling—like pain, anxieties and worries.” They convey these messages in their music videos, loaded with metaphors and cultural references; in their social media updates; and in the lyrics of their music, which fans translate and analyze on message boards, group chats and podcasts. “That was our goal, to create this empathy that people can relate to,” Suga continues.

It helps, too, that their sound is broadly appealing, fusing hip-hop with EDM and pop production. Recent collaborators include Desiigner and Nicki Minaj, who added a verse to their latest single “Idol,” whose lyrics wink at their place in the K-pop firmament. “You can call me artist, you can call me idol,” they sing. “No matter what you call me, I don’t care… you can’t stop me lovin’ myself.” RM says that mantra—love yourself—is core to BTS’ identity; it’s even incorporated into their most recent album titles. “Life has many unpredictable issues, problems, dilemmas,” says RM. “But I think the most important thing to live well is to be yourself. We’re still trying to be us.”

This combination of traits has resonated with fans, especially on social media, where BTS has amassed millions of devoted followers. They call themselves ARMY, which is both an acronym for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth and a nod to their organized power. In 2017, BTS fans made headlines for lifting the group to the top of Billboard’s Social Artist chart—which incorporates streams, social-media mentions and more—and besting the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Since then, the ARMY has catapulted both of BTS’s latest albums, Love Yourself: Answer and Love Yourself: Tear, to the top of album charts in the U.S., South Korea and Japan. “Even if there is a language barrier, once the music starts, people react pretty much the same wherever we go,” says Suga. “It feels like the music really brings us together.” Adds Jimin: “We give energy to our audience members and listeners, but we also draw energy from them.”

***

Back at the Ritz, a makeup artist wakes Jimin from his nap. Nearby, V sings a bar of music as his bleach-blond hair gets blown out. Jung Kook stretches his neck as a makeup artist applies concealer. RM chats with a manager. Suga slips into loafers. Jin, who goes by the fan-given moniker of “Worldwide Handsome,” lets a wardrobe assistant tie his necktie. J-Hope’s laughter filters through the door.

It’s a rare moment of downtime for the boys. Over the coming weeks, they will perform another 11 sold-out shows, appear on Good Morning America and even help launch a youth empowerment initiative at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, at which RM spoke about self-acceptance: “No matter who you are or where you’re from, your skin color, your gender identity, speak yourself.”

A schedule like this might seem daunting. But for BTS—and their ARMY—it’s an encouraging sign of what’s to come. “I’m just throwing it out there,” Suga says, “but maybe we could perform at the Super Bowl someday.”


source: Time


there's a video at the source that i cannot embed for the life of me :c
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lydzi 11th-Oct-2018 08:58 am (UTC)
I love the cover, this is truly one of the best cover I've ever seen with a musical artist. The article is well written and brings a great light to the phenomenon.

It's quite crazy to see what they accomplished, knowing that I'm singing and dancing to the same songs that people from very different areas etc. I really like the universal feeling here. Also, Suga kills me with that Super Bowl reference. You better wish for Eurovision mate, that's where the people are :p
jade_808 11th-Oct-2018 09:03 am (UTC)
This make some so emotional, man 😂. I'm just so proud and happy for their success. Like looking back, it's crazy how far they've come in just 5 years. It still feels surreal in many ways as a fan, but obviously much, much more for the boys themselves and their team for sure :) . Like I think about when I first watched We are Bulletproof, American Hustle Life (😂😂😂 4 years later and I still haven't finished it do to the secondhand embarrassment I get haha), their whole school trilogy and just wow. I remember my friends and I used to talk all the time about which K-Pop artist(s) we felt could possibly get through in the States, even on a small scale, and Bangtan was always in that conversation, so all this has been great to witness. 💜🙏🏿 I just hope they can get some much needed rest and family/friends time once the tour and everything is done. They've really done amazingly well 😊💕 and of course, definitely the fans also! Just awesome, all this.
lil_poisonfrog 11th-Oct-2018 09:04 am (UTC)
I love the cover, they all look hot af (tho I wish we could've got forehead!Jin). Now where's that Rolling Stone cover at....
jyusou 11th-Oct-2018 09:23 am (UTC)
That Super Bowl quote hnnnng boi don’t. That brain-damaging sport does not need to be more endorsed than it already is. Also, Suga, did you read some PR books lately?

Besides that, the cover photo is really cool, I like it a lot. The article’s tone goes about the same way as their Rolling Stones article some time last year, which makes for a good read even though it doesn’t go anything new per se.
b1gay4 time logo faded, pushed back and BTS's name in the middle, bold?11th-Oct-2018 09:35 am (UTC)
I support everything about this. They are on the cover of the fucking TIME magazine, people. TIME. Ugh. And it's the fucking COVER.

title or description
jaelissi 11th-Oct-2018 09:55 am (UTC)
I'm about to have this cover framed. It's magnificent.

Edit: Yoongi said it, so theyre going to the superbowl.

Edited at 2018-10-11 10:24 am (UTC)
paoktsou 11th-Oct-2018 09:59 am (UTC)
oh yeaaashhhhhhh
and the cover pic is AMAZINGGG!!!!!!!!
shawarmafordays 11th-Oct-2018 10:09 am (UTC)
What a cover! I read this and watched the video and the part where Yoongi talks about how proud their parents and people that age are of them. My heart T.T

I hope we see a Rolling Stone cover soon, I'm thinking of getting this cover when it comes out in Dubai. There are no words to express how proud I am of them :')

gdithero 11th-Oct-2018 10:18 am (UTC)
They call themselves ARMY, which is both an acronym for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth [...]

this is too well researched they've gone too deep pls delete

not even my bias but jhope looks fantastic in that cover
mewgical 11th-Oct-2018 10:39 am (UTC)
but they’ve done so without catering to Western audiences



and why are they crediting NKOTB and other white boybands when we know BTS (and those boybands) moves are taken from black people?


Edited at 2018-10-11 11:06 am (UTC)
modestgoddess79 11th-Oct-2018 11:23 am (UTC)
You know why ...
meggicchi 11th-Oct-2018 10:55 am (UTC)
i think it really is /something/ that bts barely has ever had photoshoots let alone covers on big korean's magazine in 5 years, but landed a cover of time (and the bb magazine as well) the same year they blew up in the west.

anyway i'm really proud, hope they make good use of their platform in the future
fadeintoyou 11th-Oct-2018 11:49 am (UTC)

That cover looks great. I’m gonna need to get a copy because this is such a milestone. Never would I have dreamt they’d land on the cover of the times.

lol yoongi said it..the super bowl

scionofawhisper 11th-Oct-2018 11:57 am (UTC)
I do wonder how much of their music having to do with actual issues helped their rise. If their music was just the sort of candy a lot of other kpop is, how far would they have gone? Would talking about real issues instead of singing about swag or simple love songs help other kpop groups rise and resonate with more people? Or did it only work with BTS because they filled the void that wasn't being filled by anyone else...

Anyway, lol.

Man, I totally forgot a year or two ago they decided that BTS now stood for 'beyond the scene' in English. I feel like no one ever mentions that.





Edited at 2018-10-11 11:57 am (UTC)
jyusou 11th-Oct-2018 12:18 pm (UTC)
Man, I totally forgot a year or two ago they decided that BTS now stood for 'beyond the scene' in English. I feel like no one ever mentions that.

And for good reason....🙄....
babyjenkski 11th-Oct-2018 01:35 pm (UTC)
Good article. This one is for keeps. Hope to get a hard copy.
violoncelliste 11th-Oct-2018 01:35 pm (UTC)
this cover is so good and the article is actually well researched (even if it's just a simple intruduction)
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