10 Things To Know About The First K-Pop Group To Ever Win A Billboard Award

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who is BTS
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This hit K-Pop group became an overnight sensation in the US.

Everyone knows me as that one person who’s obsessed with Korean music, a.k.a. K-pop. Now, K-pop has a not-so-very-nice reputation (with the grueling training that can take years, rumored slave contracts, and just the sole fact that it’s not in English) and non-Korean fans, such as myself, get our fair share of ridicule from non-fans and haters.

As for me, I’ve been a fan of the genre for almost 7 years now so I’m no longer phased by that (I get it, it's not your cup of tea). Which is why when I heard that the K-pop group BTS won a nomination and invitation to this year’s Billboard Music Awards, I didn’t have to think twice about watching and recording the moment when they won Top Social Artist with more than 30 million votes, beating out fan favorites like Justin Bieber (the sole winner of the award in the past couple of years), Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez.

While the K-pop world rejoiced, the rest of the world had one thought going through their mind: Who is BTS? (Apparently, when you type "Who is..." on Google, "Who is BTS?" comes up). As a serious K-pop enthusiast, I felt that it was my duty to answer such a question. 

Here's everything you need to know about BTS.

1. They are the first South Korean band to be nominated and win a Billboard.

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PSY holds the title for the first Korean Artist to be nominated and win with "Gangnam Style" back in 2014. The catchy tune won Top Streaming Song. PSY, himself, congratulated BTS on their nomination, stating how proud he was of them and wishing them luck. You can probably imagine his pride when the guys won.

2. BTS is an acronym.

A trend in K-pop is the abbreviation of band names for easy pronunciation and because they tend to get really long. For example, SNSD for Sonyeo Sindae (they also go by Girls' Generation), BTOB for Born To Beat, and NCT for Neo Culture Technology (really... I’m not joking).

BTS stands for "Bangtan Sonyeondon." In English, "Bulletproof Boy Scouts." The idea behind their name is that they are bulletproof against criticism, that they will protect their music and art as well as their own value and worth as a band and as individuals. They even have a song about it ("We Are Bulletproof Pt.2").

3. They are made of up 7 members.

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BTS is made up by Rap Monster (Kim Namjoon), Jin (Kim Seokjin), V (Kim Taehyung), Suga (Min Yoongi), J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), Jimin (Park Jimin), and Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook).

Rap Monster is at the head of the helm as the group’s Leader (fun fact: he's also a certified genius with an IQ of 148 so...) and main rapper, along with Suga and J-Hope. The rest serve as the group’s vocalists. In addition, J-Hope is also the group’s main dancer along with Jimin.

Oldest member Jin is considered the "visual" of the group (basically, the face of the group as he’s considered the most handsome, and the world seems to agree when he grabbed attention as "the third guy from the left." Meanwhile, youngest member Jungkook is also considered a visual as well as a sub-rapper and dancer.

All members of BTS participate in composing, writing, and producing their own songs. Their "Wings" album, which made it to the Billboard’s Top 200 albums, featured solo tracks from all the members.

Rap Monster and Suga both have solo mixtapes (Suga’s was released under the name "Agust D"). We’re hoping J-Hope’s mixtape is next!

4. They tackle issues considered taboo in South Korean society.

Depression, mental health issues, and suicide — all of these are taboo issues that South Korea tends to skim over or avoid talking about. For a K-pop idol group to tackle such issues head on from their debut is rare, as K-pop debuts are often filled with bright and catchy tunes about the typical love, breakups, and partying in order to catch an audience.

BTS's songs don't gloss over the issues. Their debut song, "No More Dream," calls out to youths, asking them if they have dreams and what they're doing to achieve them, as well as calling out the adults for forcing these youths to have a dream or crushing them when it doesn't fit their views: "Boring same day, every day repeats. Adults and parents tell us the same dream."

Their iconic song, "Fire" (that almost every K-pop fan knows and can dance to), normalizes being young and rebellious, burning the past and just living the present: "Just live how you want, your life is yours. Don’t try so hard, it’s alright to lose."

They even talk about their own struggles as K-pop artists in "Dope," the pressure they are faced with, the hate they get from anti-fans, and how they are rising above that to succeed: "We live sickly in our studios, our youths may rot away. But thanks to that, we're running to success."

Rap Monster revealed that the inspiration for their song and MV "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" came from a passage he read in Hermann Hesse’s "Demian." 

5. They come from a very small, almost no-name company.

The "Big 3" of South Korea’s Entertainment industry are S.M. Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment. BigHit Entertainment, founded in 2005 by music producer and former composer Bang Si Hyuk (fondly referred to as PD Bang by the fans), was practically unheard of until BTS’ debut in 2013 and the band winning "New Artist of the Year" in 2013 in Korea's Melon Music Awards.

Their talent became widely recognized in South Korea and the K-pop fandom when BTS won "Album of the Year" in 2015 for "The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever."

6. BTS almost debuted with different members.

Yes, it’s true! The 3 original members were Rap Monster, Suga, and J-Hope, the rapper line. The rest of the original line-up either decided they no longer wanted to be idols or were not too keen on BTS’ style and music. Jin, V, Jungkook, and Jimin later joined the group and debuted as the BTS we know now.

7. They have a huge social media following.

They just reached a milestone of 6 million followers on Twitter and it continues to grow as more Western celebrities and artists as well as curious folk are starting to follow them.

And some of these big names? Charlie Puth (after Jungkook posted a cover of "We Don’t Talk Anymore"), The Chainsmokers and Halsey (whom they both met at the Billboards), and Wale (who did a collab song with Rap Monster called "Change").

8. This is not their first time traveling in the U.S.

 

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They did a reality show in 2014 called American Hustle Life, where they stayed in L.A. for a few weeks, learning from the masters of hip-hop such as Coolio and Warren G (photographic evidence above). They were also educated on the history of the genre, learned new dance techniques, filmed a music video, and held a small concert.

This show is a fairly good introduction if you want to know more about the BTS members, their personal stories, as well as their individual personalities.

9. They also have songs in Japanese.

A common trend in K-pop, BTS released their first Japanese album in 2014. It included Japanese versions of some of their famous tracks such as "No More Dream" and "Boy In Luv" as well as Japanese originals. They recently just released a Japanese version of "Blood, Sweat, and Tears."

10. They are in the middle of their SOLD OUT World Tour.

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I would know this personally because I tried to get tickets for their Newark show back in March. Let’s just say it was pretty chaotic. So chaotic that tickets were all sold out in under 4 minutes, prompting their management to add a second date to all U.S. stops... which also sold out fairly quickly. In addition to Asia and the U.S., they also made stops in South America and Australia.

Of course, BTS' win gave them a fair share of skepticism and racist comments from the American Twittersphere, but that was to be expected. The K-pop group Big Bang got the same treatment during the MTV Music Awards in 2011 when they won "Best Worldwide Act" against big names like Britney Spears and Sia (Japanese boy group Exile and Chinese singer Jane Zhang were also nominated). 

There is so much more to know, but nothing that Google can’t tell you, but I think one of the best ways to really know why BTS is so well-loved is by watching their music videos on Youtube (there are English subtitles to some, if you're worried about not understanding them).

They may not be the K-pop group that I dedicate my fangirl life and soul to (that title will forever belong to the 5-member contemporary R&B group SHINee), but there's no denying that their success is a stepping stone and opens new doors to Asian acts to be recognized.

Maybe one day, when people think of K-pop they don't just think PSY or BTS, they also think of the female-empowering messages of the now-disbanded girl group 2NE1. Or of the good vibe sounds of the 13 self-producing youngsters of Seventeen. Or of the artistic VIXX and their use of dark themes and concepts. Or even the sweet, soulful tone of American-born singer Ailee

In an industry that too often lacks Asian representation, a win for BTS is a win not only for K-pop to be recognized as more than just catchy tunes and flashy dance moves. It’s a win for all Asian performers, whether they are Korean or otherwise, to be recognized for their musical talents and to finally be taken seriously as artists and performers.

 

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