Korean boy band and global phenomenon BTS have hit No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart with the debut of their album Love Yourself: Tear. It’s a record-making first for the K-pop genre, as well as the first foreign-language album to top the chart in over 12 years.
K-pop has officially stolen our hearts and BTS is now the biggest boy band in the world.
The popularity of South Korea’s iconic K-pop genre has been on the rise globally for some time, but BTS seems to have tapped into our eternal thirst for fresh boy band talent at just the right time and they’re experiencing unprecedented success.
Last year, the seven-member band won the Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist in a landslide vote, against big names like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
The mainstream media was left confused but the fandom had spoken – the people are crazy for K-pop.
While we are used to seeing boy band fandoms at such a large scale, from Beatlemania to 1D’s ‘Directioners’, the BTS fan base, AKA ‘ARMY’, ups the game with their passion, action and organisational skills.
For example, BTS has a dedicated league of fan translators who make the band’s lyrics accessible to fans of different languages. They’re a huge part of how BTS has reached such global fame.
But the language barrier isn’t much of a barrier at all – the lyrics are just one small aspect of the BTS product.
South Korea’s pop machine is constantly pumping out young, attractive and talented performers who spend years in rigorous training to perfect their synchronised singing and dancing.
Between the raw talent, slick choreography, and highly produced music with catchy melodies – not to mention the sheer amount of money that goes into their videos, and the staggering volume of official and fan-made online content – the K-pop recipe for viral success has been narrowed down to a fine art.
Unlike most K-pop superstars, BTS writes and produces a lot of their own material, giving their work an authenticity that the international audience finds attractive.
And unlike the boyish, conservative masculinity that has historically characterised our chart-topping boy bands, BTS is distinctly more androgynous – their aesthetic includes obvious makeup and dangly earrings. Between the wild popularity of BTS and other artists like Harry Styles and Troye Sivan, it’s clear that the traditional expressions of ‘masculinity’ we expect and respond to in our male pop stars are shifting.
Seeing Western audiences fall head over heels for the uber-polished music and young Korean heartthrobs of BTS is a significant (yet seemingly inevitable) landmark in our perennial obsession with boy bands.
They might just be the perfection of the formula – everything you loved about the manufactured boybands of choice just about any era, honed for 2018. They’re trailblazers, and they’re irresistible.