-BTS, the world’s biggest boy band, is more than a fad.
The initials “BTS” do not just stand for “behind the scenes” for many in 2019. Instead, these days, BTS connotes a giant pop idol, BangTan Sonyundan (loosely translated, Mr. Bang’s Boys). Successfully finishing its “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” world tour in early October with more than 815,000 tickets sold in 12 different cities, BTS unarguably has become the biggest boy band. While many people are getting fascinated by their music, some people question how long it is going to last.
Since debuting in 2013 under the management of Bang Si-hyuk, a successful Korean music producer, BTS has been attracting its fans with its hip-hop based dance music all over the world. And, it started to gain worldwide attention, even from listeners new to K-pop, with its hit track “Blood Sweat & Tears” that attracted 100 million YouTube views in just 134 days after its release, the second-fastest ever among K-pop songs. Since then, BTS has been featured on numerous mainstream American TV shows like The Ellen Show, The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and won Billboard Music awards several times.
It is estimated that the group has grossed US $57 million in pretax income so far in 2019. The bulk of that has come from its world tour, but also includes music sales and merchandise. That led BTS to rank 43rd on the 2019 Forbes Celebrity 100 list. According to Statisca, Big Hit Entertainment, a music label BTS is signed with, raked in around US $67 million in 2018, only $12 million less than the combined profit of the other three major Korean entertainment companies (SM, JYP, YG). Considering that Big Hit was only founded in 2005, while the other three were formed in the mid-90s, the impact of BTS is massive.
Despite its seemingly unstoppable success, the boys are facing setbacks: S. Korea’s mandatory military service imposed on its male citizens. In S. Korea, men ranging from ages 18 to 28 are required to serve in the military from 21 to 24 months. Considering the average age of its members is in the mid-20s, fans might have to brace themselves for the band’s upcoming hibernation. Taking breaks often bodes ill consequences to celebrities. In this fast, competitive industry, people question whether the fans would stay “loyal.”
In addition, some BTS fans, known as “ARMY”, are raising concerns that the originality of the boy band is fading away after its many collaborations with popular Western musicians like The Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, Halsey, and so on. “K-pop has the ‘K-pop’ vibe that is different from that of pop,” one fan told The Asians. “And I got into K-pop and BTS because of that. Honestly, the latest tracks of BTS are not my favorite. I still support the boys though.”
“The lyrics of BTS songs that encourage loving and believing in yourself, no matter what others say, has given me courage to overcome my depression,” said one of the ARMY. Some people scoff at BTS for being a “boy band” or “skinny pretty boys.” But for many, the group is more than just pretty boys. Their message is simple but meaningful: “Love yourself and others. It can brighten the world.” BTS is spreading it all over the world.