Boy Band Breakdown: BTS
April 17, 2019 · 3 Minute Read
Boy Band Breakdown is a series of articles that look into how iconic boy bands as we know them today came to be. From The Jackson 5 to BTS, musical styles, production, and theatricality around boy bands have changed drastically but a core formula that dictates what they are, still exists. They’ve been around for decades and are products of the market forces of music, creativity, demand and supply. This is the second article in the series and will try to understand the appeal of the K-Pop boy band BTS.
BTS is that one band that one of your friends loves to bits, follows on social media, and would walk to the ends of the earth for, but you have absolutely no idea why! You can watch their videos, marvel at how well produced it is and how amazing it all looks, and still have absolutely no idea why that one friend of yours loves them as much as they do. To you, they’re like any other boy band.
They might even seem Bollywood to you (side note: “Idol”by BTS and “Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai” by Badshah have a strangely similar melodic hook). It is, after all, a group of snazzily dressed people dancing to a very meticulously choreographed song.
But, if you feel this way about the band, then you’re missing out on a whole universe (literally a whole alternate universe of music, dance and spectacle within which BTS’ music videos happen called the BU).
For those that don’t know, BTS is a Korean boy band formed in 2013 by Big Hit Entertainment. Their name stands for Beyond the Scene but has also taken many different full forms over time, like Bangtan Boys. It is made up of seven members: V, Jin, Suga, RM, J-Hope, Jungkook, and Jimin. To date, they have released seven full-length albums in two languages, the most recent, MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA and features international acts like Ed Sheeran and Halsey.
Each member has a specific persona that they cultivate within the band that goes beyond the conventional boy band roles like ‘bad boy’ or ‘baby’ or ‘clean cut’. More relatable facets of each members’ personality are highlighted along with their musical role within the band. For example, RM (formerly Rap Monster) is a rapper who is perhaps best known for breaking things.
This kind of organic relatability has made them hugely popular on social media. The fans are called the BTS ARMY, which stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth (ARMYs have been known to have militant positions against critics of the band). But among the multitudes of K-Pop artists, what sets BTS apart?
Why BTS is different
It can be confusing as to why BTS, a band that doesn’t write lyrics in the native languages of some of the markets they are the most popular in, became as well known and loved as they are today. But there are some key factors that set BTS apart from other K-Pop acts that have worked for them.
For one thing, they write the lyrics and produce most of their own music. This is a huge difference between BTS and the multitude of Korean Pop acts out there. It’s just such an uncommon practice in K-Pop. A world dominated by large entertainment companies that manufacture every aspect of the band from the sound to the look does not see this kind of freedom. BTS’ own creativity lends them credibility with audiences that may not have existed if someone else wrote their music.
Another important factor is that their lyrics are conscious. They provide social commentary and address issues that young people universally, as well as specifically in Korea, deal with today. They do not shy away from addressing themes like loss, societal pressures faced by young people, and politics in their music.
These two things, combined with the fact that they manage their own social media, make BTS incredibly popular across the globe. The band have even won awards for their social media presence and were dubbed the best social artist of 2018.
All in all, the band’s relatable nature, the fact that they seem to provide hope for people in an industry dominated by restrictive contracts that treat artists poorly, the music, and the high-production value music videos make for a package that is truly formidable. It has, so far, been enough to win them global success like no other K-Pop act.
To learn more about the genre and its aesthetic, go here