Korean pop group ‘BTS’ obtains international fanbase
Luke Hutchinson | Online Editor
Millions are turning up the international Korean sensation BTS (Beyond The Scene).
K-Pop (Korean Pop) is a genre of music consisting of electronic, hip-hop, pop, rock, and R&B music that originated in South Korea. Senior fan Diya Kargod said it took her some time to get used to, but BTS is actually similar to American pop.
“I heard about BTS when they won the Billboard Music Award back in May, but I was not hooked just yet,” Kargod said. “They started popping up everywhere on social media, and so I started watching their music videos and I fell in love with them. It’s a lot like American pop, just with Korean lyrics.”
The seven male members of BTS have reached 3.7 million subscribers on their group YouTube channel. Senior Lauren Hauschildt said their dedication to their music is what inspires her to keep listening.
“What’s inspirational to me personally is that all the members of BTS write their own music; they have written 73 of their own songs,” Hauschildt said. “Their new album, ‘Love Yourself’ is amazing because they incorporate many different genres into one album. Some songs have more of an R&B feel, some have more of a hip-hop feel, it can be pop, it really appeals to everyone.”
Critics of K-Pop in general do not understand how it can be enjoyed by those who do not exclusively speak or understand Korean, but Hauschildt said language is besides the point.
“K-Pop is popular all around the world because it is so universal,” Hauschildt said. “The leader of BTS, RM, always says ‘music transcends language’. That is a heartfelt message that means a lot to me because no matter what country you are from, what language you speak, the lyrics and the music connect. No matter what K-Pop group you like, we all come together.”
After listening to BTS songs, Korean pronunciation starts to come naturally to Hauschildt. She said she can memorize complete songs in Korean.
“At concerts, fans from all around the world that speak different languages will remember entire songs in Korean and sing along,” Hauschildt said. “I’m really bad at learning other languages, but I can remember full songs in Korean.”
Senior Sahaja Ampolu said after she was introduced to BTS, she found out that groups of international fans immediately translate songs after they are released.
“One of my closest friends is Korean and gave me some local Korean songs to listen to around three years ago, and a BTS song popped up that changed my life forever,” Ampolu said. “BTS fandoms are called ‘ARMYS, and the ones centralized in Korea translate songs to English as soon as they come out. This way, fans can understand the message behind the lyrics.”
Considering their international fanbase, Ampolu said RM is the delegated member that can speak fluent English during interviews on American television.
“The leader can speak English fluently, so when they recently came on Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel they had someone to speak,” Ampolu said. “The rest of the members mostly just speak Korean, but I get to know them more personally because of the translators.”
One difference that fans distinguish between K-pop and American pop is music video production. Where many American pop music videos aim to establish status and glamour, Ampolu said K-pop does it differently.
“The music videos are so good because they dance while singing, and the concepts are really abstract,” Ampolu said. “BTS specifically has a running theme for each music video. There is a story and a main character, and that character develops throughout the video.”
BTS started as a band back in 2013, and was primarily focused on heavy rap music. As a fan who just started listening in May, Kargod said she had an excessive amount of content to catch up on and then rewatch.
“I have learned a lot of Korean, and that is honestly because I have watched two hours of BTS videos every single day since May,” Kargod said. “In the beginning, it was like seven or eight hours, but now it has come down to two. I stream them live in class. Just recently they won ‘Artist of the Year’ at the Mnet Asian Music Awards in Hong Kong, and I openly cried during their performance in third bell.”
Despite the popularity of BTS, many students still point out that the male members do not look much like American male singers. Kargod said gender stereotypes are much less strict in South Korea.
“People have a ton of harsh stereotypes about K-Pop, like I get all of them time that ‘They look like girls,’” Kargod said. “They do wear makeup, but it is just a different culture with different expectations; just because they wear makeup does not mean they are gay. ”
Kargod encourages others to listen to BTS or other K-Pop groups like BLACKPINK or Exo, but she said it takes commitment.
“Either you are all in or you are not,” Kargod said. “I love BTS so much, that at this point, I do not care what people think. They are planning on doing a world tour in 2018, and they will definitely come to America, and my goal in life is to see them live.”