“Are those girls?”
“Do you even understand what they are saying?”
“They all look the same!”
“Oh my gosh, like North Korea?”
As a K-pop fan of 10+ years, these questions used to absolutely infuriate and discourage me. My family and friends used to ask me similar questions, calling my interest a phase. But, after many years, I still love the music. I have come to understand, however, why they asked these questions and why you may ask similar questions of your teens who are fans of K-pop, in particular, BTS.
What is K-Pop and BTS?
K-pop, or Korean pop music, is a genre of music reigning from none other than South Korea. Its music style is infused with multiple genres: pop, rap, techno, etc.; its flashy, colorful and, often, internationally sensational — the biggest name to date being BTS.
BTS is a seven-member group, made up of members from all over South Korea. Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook (some of those being stage names) comprise the group ranging in age from 22 to 27. These seven young men trained for years and have created a deep relationship with their “ARMY,” the fan club name given to their supporters. In the spectrum of K-pop groups, BTS is one of the hundreds of groups from agencies all over Seoul who’ve launched themselves into the Asian music industry.
To the Top
It is hard to imagine BTS as a group with little to no recognition, but in June 2013, when the group debuted on the South Korean music scene, the group was essentially unknown. Their initial debut was up against popular groups with massive fandoms and equally massive management companies.
Amazingly, the group went from a basement home rehearsal space to living in one of Seoul’s most affluent neighborhoods. A huge part of their fans love and admiration comes from the fact that BTS is a group of seven extremely hardworking young men. The members have not only trained for years prior to their initial debut but also spend 12+ hours a day taking additional classes in dancing, singing, acting, modeling, and language. Some members write and produce music, create choreography, and even act.
BTS has gone from performance spaces of only a few thousand people to playing stadiums like the Rose Bowl and Wembley. They have proven time and time again that hard work, dedication, and love for their fans will launch them higher and higher into international stardom. The work ethic of these young men is a source of inspiration for the droves of fans who flock their concerts and sell out their merchandise. Young people look to BTS and see a similar human struggle. They inspire in the way they defy social norms and deal with personal challenges while living out their dreams. Their humility and honest love for the fans that got them there is what makes them one of a kind.
A Message of Love
The group’s open and transparent approach allows fans to feel a sense of friendship and relatability with each of the members. Yoongi, who goes by his stage names “Suga” and “Agust D,” has been very candid and open about his own personal struggles with mental illness infusing his experience with OCD and depression into song lyrics. In the song “The Last,” off his solo mixtape, he is very open with the fact that, despite his fame, he still struggles — “On the other side of the famous idol rapper stands my weak self, it’s a bit dangerous, depression, OCD, they keep coming back again from time to time.”
The group members are also very open about their struggles regarding their physical looks and their own journeys of self-discovery. In their recently released movie, “Bring the Soul: Movie” viewers are given behind the scenes footage of their recent 2018 Love Yourself arena tour. One moment that stood out to me and really spoke to the mutual love and understanding between the members and their ARMY was during a scene of closing remarks given by group leader RM. He told the crowd at CITI Field stadium in New York, “It’s never intended but it feels like I’m using you guys to love myself. So I want to say something, please. Please use me, please use BTS to love yourself. Cause you guys help me learn to love myself, every day.“
The group strives to show the ARMY that they understand just how impactful their music is to those who listen. BTS and ARMY have created a bond and promise to each other to be there and support a community of love and kindness. BTS has also recently, in collaboration with UNICEF, launched the “Love Myself Campaign.” This campaign was started to bring awareness to children and teens experiencing violence and encourages people to use the hashtags #ENDviolence #Bekind and #lovemyself to spread loving and positive messages throughout social media.
The use of their social media platforms — like Twitter where they have over 21 million followers — and the way in which they connect with followers and share about their lives via live streaming media outlets has led to much of BTS’s international stardom.
Their popularity led to their first international award, beating out powerhouse artists like Ariana Grande and Justin Beiber, and as the first Korean group to win Billboard Music Awards Top Social Artist. This award catapulted them even higher to international stardom, encouraging big names like Nicki Minaj, Halsey, and Steve Aoki to seek collaboration.
The power of a loyal fan base and the mutual love between BTS and their ARMY has led them to huge achievements like being the first Korean group to perform at the AMA’s, on SNL, at the Grammy awards, and at the Billboard Music Awards. They were also on the Time Magazine list of the most influential people in the world for 2019 as well as the first group since The Beatles to have three number-one albums on the Billboard charts in less than a year.
The trajectory of this international supergroup is rising and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. If your teen is a fan of K-pop music there is no doubt that they know about BTS — even if they are not into K-pop, they most likely still know about this group. Take time to ask your teen what they do or do not like about this group’s music and listen to or watch some of their music videos with your teen.
And if you’re still not sure what they are singing about, do a quick Google search! It will show you that BTS’s lyrics are positive messages about love and friendship, backed by a group that is all about hard work and the effort necessary to accomplish your dreams.