BTS: Changing the Game

I’ve been meaning to write about BTS for the looongest time and finally, this comeback provided the perfect opportunity!

So my roommate and I got up stupidly early the morning of September 18 so we could watch BTS’s most recent comeback together before we each headed off to class. I was going to make this a Song of the Week, but I have so much to say about BTS that I figured I would make this a full blown discussion, so strap in!

Okay, I guess I should take a step back first. Who the heck are BTS? If you’re not into the Kpop scene, you may not have heard about the global sensation that is “Beyond The Scene” (formerly Bangtan Boys, but really just BTS). BTS are a Kpop band. They debuted in 2013, but gained major traction in the past couple of years and they are— dare I say— the most popular male Kpop group on the scene right now.

Now, I consider myself the Kpop equivalent of an ‘old fogie’ who thinks that jimmy Paige is a god and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of The Moon is the epitome of musical perfection (not that those things aren’t true). I mostly listen to Kpop from the late 90’s to the early 2010’s, the golden age. And for the most part, I find that kpop from the past five or six years lacks the heart and spirit that older Kpop had in abundance. So when I saw BTS gaining so much popularity, I couldn’t help but scoff condescendingly. Meeting so many newbie Kpop fans who love BTS but had never heard Super Junior or Shinee or TVXQ (the GOOD stuff) just served to increase my upset.

“So what?” I thought. Their songs are catchy, their choreography and their dancing is good, and yeah, the boys are cute, but where’s the heart? Where’s the spirit? Where’s that classic Kpop sound?

I firmly maintained my stance on BTS until one game-changing moment: BTS were nominated for ‘Top Social Media Artist’ for the 2017 Billboard music awards. They were the first Kpop artist to be nominated for any Billboard award. They were the first Kpop artist to win a Billboard award. And they won it by a landslide (not surprising given the monumental force that are Kpop fans).

Now that was something I could get behind. As a Kpop fan, I couldn’t help but get excited, even for a band I didn’t really like. All that day I was keeping up with the band on every social media platform. It was the only time I sat through one of those abhorrent music award shows, and I was cheering along with what seemed like the whole crowd when BTS won, and Rap Monster (the only member of the group that’s fluent in English)  delivered that adorable acceptance speech. I even teared up.

Okay, so a band won an award. What’s the big deal? Well, BTS’s win at an American music award show is important for quite a few reasons (apart from changing my mind about the band). First of all, Kpop fans or the derogatory “Koreaboos” are often categorized socially along with anime fans (Weaboos) and magic themed board-game players as lame, weird and, generally, to be avoided. So on the one hand, it’s really cool that Kpop fans got to show their love and support for a cool group in the way all other music fans do; it’s the normalizing of a typically marginalized fandom.

However, the most important part of BTS’s win and increasing international popularity is that it challenges many of the long-existing Asian stereotypes. Asian men, in particular, are typically thought of as short, dumb, and unattractive. In media, they are depicted as a sidekick, comedic relief and are usually proficient at some martial art. BTS (and Kpop in general) presents Asian men (and women) as attractive, talented and successful, multifaceted human beings. Such exposure gives people a glimpse into another culture and humanizes a group of people who are dehumanized by stereotypes—  particularly here in America, where we tend to be quite ignorant of other cultures.

Sure, one Kpop group isn’t going to change a whole system, but it can open up some minds and some hearts. And that, my friends, is definitely worth a listen.


Share your thoughts about BTS down below!

As a bonus-jonus I leave you with a few of my favorite BTS MV’s for your viewing pleasure:

Forces self to not post every BTS video ever made.

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