Back when One Direction were still a thing and Justin Bieber was still a teen idol, it seemed like they had the world in their grasp as they made their way to the top of the pop music scene. Millions of fans adored them (sometimes a bit too much), every event, producer, and artist wanted to work with them, and their songs were on rotation literally everywhere. You simply couldn’t escape them.
But Bieber and One D’s rise all seem comparatively tame – if not downright small – compared to what is going on right now with BTS, aka the biggest K-pop group and arguably the biggest boy band in the world right now.
Just to illustrate just how big they are, the lads released the music video to their new single “Boy With Luv ft. Halsey” at around the same time the first trailer for Star Wars Episode IX dropped. Star Wars got around 20 or so million across Twitter and YouTube at the time of writing, which is enormous.
But BTS? Their video got over 55 million on YouTube alone at the time of writing. It’s just insane on so many levels.
It’s quite hard to believe that BTS were performing in small venues like UNSW’s Roundhouse as recently as 2015 and now they’re selling out stadiums like Wembley Stadium. That kind of meteoric rise is almost unheard of and the only thing that’s comparable to it was when the Beatles caused untold millions of people to faint at their mere presence and countless pairs of underwear thrown in their direction.
So what is it about this plucky little seven-member group who survived the rigors of a grueling and often scandalous K-pop industry (which is a story for another day) and managed to rise to the top in more bombastic fashion than what Bieber and One Direction did? How did a group like BTS go from playing unibars to selling millions of copies of their albums and topping the Billboard charts like it was nothing?
Well there are a bunch of reasons but let’s start with the most obvious one: there are seven members and they’re all good-looking. Like, Zoolander “Blue Steel” levels of good-looking.
But perhaps the biggest thing contributing to BTS’ rise is an eclectic cocktail of a massive and loyal fanbase, being damned good at social media, and you know, just pumping out good music.
The lads have been pretty prolific on social media since their early days and this has resulted in some serious impact that any artist would kill to have just a small fraction of. BTS hold a bunch of social media related Guinness World records and nearly everything they post online gets shared, liked, and memed many times over.
When you start trending on Twitter any time you accidentally did something goofy or cute, that’s when you know you’ve mastered social media.
And of course, there’s BTS’ enormous fanbase, known as ARMY.
There probably hasn’t been a more passionate and loyal fanbase since, well, the Beatles really and somehow everything is even crazier than when Beatlemania was at its peak some six decades ago.
Millions of fans around the world all interact with and support each other as much as they support BTS. We’re talking about things like coordinating time zones so people can enjoy a BTS performance at the same time, translating news, videos, and interviews so everyone can enjoy it, and making enough homemade merch to make giant companies seethe in jealousy.
But as it is with any huge fandom, there are always some bad eggs and hoo boy does it go crazy when it comes to BTS. This isn’t new in music of course as the double-edge sword with having such a big online presence is that the bad stuff also gets as easily noticed as the good stuff.
Just expect there to be some backlash if you ever say anything that’s not pro-BTS, like how I thought “Fire” was overrated and far from their best work.
This fan loyalty also ties in with BTS’s music, which is introspective and focuses around themes like self-love, vulnerability, and youth. There’s no concrete reason why it is but the group’s music just resonates with fans on another level altogether.
That being said, there’s probably more to connect with on a personal level from BTS’s “Idol”, which is about individuality and confidence, than Bieber’s “Baby” or One Direction’s “Best Song Ever.”
With BTS making waves across the globe, we’re certainly witnessing something right now that hasn’t happened since the 1960s.
As with anything that’s good in the history of humanity, the spotlight will inevitably move on from BTS at some point, much like it did from Bieber and One Direction, though it seems like the group are poised to stick around and break every music-related record for a while yet.
But for now, let’s just be amazed that something akin to Beatlemania 2.0 is happening because who knows when something like this is going to strike again.