The Korean Beatles take a break... or is it farewell? All about BTS, the K-Pop sensation
They scored hits all over the world and collaborated with western pop stars like Ed Sheeran, Coldplay and Megan Thee Stallion. Their management company, Big Hit Entertainment, went public in the late 2020 - a market capitalization of billions that forms a significant part of the Korean economy. When the group announced its (temporary?) break in 2022, Big Hit stocks fell 27%. What is it about BTS that drives music fans and businesses all over the world?
It was a global pandemic year and music downloads were at an all-time high. That's why it was especially impressive for BTS to become the Global Recording Artist of the Year, selling most records of all.
In 2020, the BTS single 'Dynamite' earned the K-pop band its first number 1 position on the American Billboard 100 chart. In fact, the English-language track was the first by any South Korean group to lead the Billboard Hot 100, as 'People' reported at the time. BTS would repeat the achievement with their next single, 'Live Goes On.'
In the following year, BTS continued its dominance in the American charts. The singles 'Butter,' 'Permission to Dance,' and 'My Universe' - with Coldplay - got to the first position in the Hot 100 as well. And nothing stands in the way of their latest single, 'Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment),' to get far as well.
The group appears the be at an absolute high point, so why break up now? As it turns out, according to the young men themselves in a live broadcast for their fans, they really needed to work on their individual projects and personalities after nine years in the group together.
Being a K-Pop icon is intense: the men lived and worked together full-time for nine years. They are always with the seven of them - in fact, it's much easier to find group photos of them in public than portraits of the artists individually.
It's not for the fans that BTS always had to remain a seven-part unit. One of its members, Jungkook, made the record of most viewed TikTok videos ever with a series of clips tagged 'Jungkook' on a fan's account. They reached over 15.6 billion views in the summer of 2020: an absolute record for TikTok and proof that the individual members of the group have their own fan bases.
Another member of the group, Suga, also made headlines of his own. During the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, he started an initiative for him and other BTS members to donate money and supplies for the battle against the virus in South Korea.
Before focusing on the other members of the group, let's have a look at their road to fame. How did BTS become the equivalent of The Beatles in Korea and the world?
The boy band BTS emerged from an audition called "Hit It." The competition was meant to create a male hip hop band, but BTS ended up making K-Pop.
The name BTS is an abbreviation of the Korean expression 'Bangtan Sonyeondan', which means 'bulletproof boy scouts'.
The band made their debut on June 13, 2013 with the song 'No more dream'. The next milestone was '2 Cool 4 Skool,' BTS' first album. It consisted of 7 songs.
In 2017, BTS began to reach international recognition. They became the face of Korean music and K-Pop around the world. The boys made the Billboard 200 list thanks to their compilation album 'The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever'.
In addition to having a devoted and faithful army of fans, the band also receives support from artists like Camila Cabello, Lady Gaga (photo), Dua Lipa, and Nicky Minaj with whom they collaborated on the song 'Idol'.
In 2018, the boys made it to the cover of the international edition of TIME magazine. They were named 'Leaders of the New Generation'. In the same year, Forbes Magazine ranked them as one of Korea's Power Celebrities.
(Note, on this image of the cover of Forbes, how the hair and suits of the BTS members resembles those of the early Beatles!)
All members of the boy band BTS stand out for their multiple talents: they know how to rap, sing, and dance. The young men have been trained to develop their talents - and a certain unique feature for each of them - by their management.
Kim Namjoon, known as RM (Rap Monster) was the first member of the group and is one of the main composers of the group's songs. He is also the main rapper of the band. In 2015, he released his first solo mixtape.
Jung Hoseok, known as J-Hope, is considered the most charismatic member of the group. He is one of the main choreographers and composers of the band.
Park Jim-In, known as Jimin, is one of the band's most recognized dancers. In 2019 he received a plaque of appreciation from the Society for Cultural Conservation for performing the traditional Korean dance, 'buchaechum', during the Melon Music Awards of 2018.
(Image: Instagram, Jimin)
Kim Seok-jin, known as Jin, is the oldest member of the group and is considered the group's mentor. In addition to being the band's singer, model, composer and dancer, Jin has opened a Japanese restaurant in Seoul.
Jungkook, whom we've seen before as a TikTok celebrity, is the youngest member of the band. They call him the Golden Maknae, meaning 'the smallest' of the band, but he certainly isn't one of the lesser known members of BTS!
Min Yoon-gi is known by the name of Suga. Before joining BTS, he belonged to an underground rap band called D-Town. In August 2016 he released his first solo mixtape under the name Agust-D.
(Image: Instagram, Suga)
Kim Taehyung is known by the name of V, which he chose as a reference to the word 'victory'. When the band started, it seemed that it would have only six members. The debut of V in the group was a big surprise.
The band BTS and its producer Big Hit Entertainment have created their own fictional narrative known as the 'BTS Universe'. It tells the story of the seven members of the boy band in an alternative reality. The narrative evolves in the group's music videos, teasers, and short videos.
The boy band's films include 'Burn the Stage: the Movie' (2018) and 'Love Yourself in Seoul' (2019). The group's video game is called 'BTS World'.
The American toy brand Mattel has not missed the success of the South Korean band. In 2019 it introduced action figures: one for each BTS member.
All BTS members are faithful defenders of human rights and equality. Each of them is involved in some project of social activism. Together with UNICEF, they ran the campaigns 'Love Myself' and #ENDviolence. The goal of these campaigns was to strengthen young people against possible (self-)harm.
BTS was the first band to give a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. In this speech the band tried to inspire young people around the world to preserve Nelson Mandela's legacy of peace. In 2022, BTS returned on the political podium with a visit to the White House (photo)
BTS followers call themselves ARMY. This acronym stands for 'Adorable Representative MC of Youth.' The BTS ARMY dominates social media; not only to promote their idols but also to influence politics. In the spring of 2020, for example, they reserved a majority of the tickets for a Donald Trump campaign rally, which caused the event to be poorly attended in the end.
There is no doubt that BTS has revolutionized the music scene in South Korea and Japan. In addition, they have brought the K-Pop genre to the world and showed how a mobilized army of fans can influence politics. It's not surprising they got the title 'leaders of the next generation.' But what will happen after they go their separate ways, that's still a mystery.