Last Sunday, on May 21, 2017, the first K-pop group – BTS – received a Billboard music award for Top Social Artist. However, many people are asking the big questions: who are they, and why do they deserve this award?
For those immersed in the K-pop-sphere, you already know the answer to these questions and more; but, for those – especially Westerners – who are not, this article will help explain who these seven boys are, and why they received a BBMA.
Let’s start with the basics. First and foremost, the K-pop industry is a brutal, superficial, and very manufactured business. Those who want to become a K-pop idol go through an extreme training process which can last between two to five, plus, years – depending on how resilient you are, and if you can afford it. Many current stars in this industry have been training since they were in their early teens, if not their pre-teens or adolescent years.
Before you earn the title of a trainee, you go through a strict audition process where you can showcase your voice, dance moves, or sometimes they require you to show both. Not to mention, they also look at your physique and facial features – sometimes, even recommending plastic surgery. Your audition can be less than two minutes, or up to 30 plus minutes. Recently, the desire to become a trainee has exponentially increased, thus creating a market for tutoring centers, outside of entertainment companies, specifically for aspiring idols. Here they focus on increasing the likelihood of passing an audition.
Once you get through an audition, and sign as a trainee under a company, you begin the training process. This period of training is very stressful and focuses on every aspect of an idol: primarily singing and dancing. But, it’s not as simple as it seems. These kids undergo a lot of criticism and borderline verbal abuse, day in and day out. The number of hours that go into their training is equivalent to a full-time job – on top of being students and minors. If you are a foreigner, then they also squeeze in language classes.
Throughout the many months and years of training, these kids also go through multiple evaluations, or skill tests. If you don’t make the cut, then you are out and back to square one. If you pass the evaluation then you will resume previous activities, and may be assigned to work with others to form a girl or boy group, a duo, or a solo act. From there, the company will then decide when and who will make their debut. Regardless, often debuting artists will disband within one to three years because of low sales and small fan bases.
For a while, the K-pop industry was dominated by three companies: SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and YG Entertainment – also known as the Big Three. These companies own majority of the household names in K-pop, such as: SNSD, or Girls’ Generation (SM), Big Bang (YG), Shinhwa (SM), Wonder Girls (JYP), Super Junior (SM), 2NE1 (YG), Miss A (JYP), and more.
However, BTS defies the logic and strategic marketing styles that make the K-pop industry what it is today. For starters, they are the only major group for Big Hit Entertainment. Big Hit is a small company which currently has two artists, including BTS.
BTS, or the Bangtan Boys, debuted in 2013. This group of seven boys is composed of:
- Rap Monster – leader and main rapper
- Jin – the oldest, vocalist, and visual
- Suga – lead rapper
- J-Hope – lead rapper and main dancer
- Jimin – lead vocalist and main dancer
- V – vocalist and visual
- Jungkook – youngest, or maknae, main vocalist, lead dancer, sub rapper
** A/N: There is a sea of information on these boys everywhere on the internet**
BTS’ music and MV’s mainly distinguishes themselves from their competition and predecessors. Compared to majority of K-pop idols and groups, BTS does it all. Not only do they work hard, look good, sing, rap, and dance in perfect sync, but they also have the liberty to write, compose, produce, and remix some of their own music. This is a rare talent in the K-pop industry because majority of idols and groups have their music written and produced for them – they are not involved with that process, and only perform. Again, this is a very manufactured business.
BTS also talks about substantial things, and expresses their hardships in life, in their music, which many people can relate to. You may think this isn’t a big deal because many western artists also talk about very deep, and real, topics and issues in society within their music; but, this is not promoted in the K-pop industry because it is still very conservative in terms of behavior and topics of public discussion. Regardless, BTS promotes the idea of following your dreams, being yourself, and defying the status quo and rebelling against pressures of society.
They have earned the right to be called artists because they are actively creating and participating in their own music. Moreover, beyond the music is a story that follows the life of a teenager and young adult: but, that is for a later topic, or your own personal research.
Not only are the boys brilliant and talented, but their staff is too. From their stylists, choreographers, and to their music and video producers – there is talent outside of the seven faces of BTS.
What’s most endearing about these boys is their constant engagement with their fans. They are actively providing content on social media platforms such as: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, V Live, and their online fan café. The boys are always thinking about their fans by showing their life off the stage, and expressing their woes to their fans and audience. In comparison, many artists don’t go that extra mile to engage with their fans. Some fans don’t really know who their idols are beyond the stage and everything superficial – this includes artists and actors in America as well.
Overall, these boys are unique and are not afraid to go beyond the cookie-cutter-template of being K-pop idols. There is a reason why they have broken so many records, are the first K-pop group to be nominated, and the first K-pop group to win a BBMA, and I highly recommend that you check out their content, and to just give it a chance.
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