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*NSYNC. The Jonas Brothers. One Direction. And now, BTS. Those three little letters have the power to send hordes of dedicated fans into a tizzy, as it’s the name under which Korean pop group Bangtan Sonyeondan (or Beyond The Scene, depending on who you ask) perform and release music.
BTS made history when they performed crossover hit “DNA” at the American Music Awards this past Sunday and effectively became the first-ever K-pop group to perform at a “major American awards show.” And if you watch their performance, it’s easy to see why the group appeals to Korean, American, and Canadian fans alike. Their undeniable singing chops, effortless chemistry, and ability to pull off intricate choreography without breaking a sweat make the group impossible to ignore. The fact that all seven group members (Jungkook, Jimin, V, Suga, Jin, J-Hope, and RM) are blessed with stunning good looks and an impeccable fashion sense doesn’t hurt, either.
Since One Direction’s split, no boy band has managed to inspire the level of fandom that compels young fans to wait in concert lines for hours and get members’ names (and/or faces) tattooed on their bodies. 5 Seconds of Summer managed to foster a dedicated fan base and even toured with One Direction at one point, but failed to reach the level of popularity that 1D, the Backstreet Boys, or even New Kids On the Block had in their heyday. Same goes for The Wanted.
But BTS clearly has something that 5SOS and The Wanted don’t. Despite the fact that all of their songs (so far) are written and performed in either Korean or Japanese, fans are willing to put in the effort to translate the group’s lyrics. As a result, BTS’ North American fans often praise the group for writing songs about meaningful and sensitive topics including overcoming low self-esteem (“Not Today”) and pursuing one’s dreams (“No More Dream”). And, like 1D, BTS fans have given themselves their very own name: the A.R.M.Y. (Adorable Representative M.C for Youth).
The group is also clearly aware that communicating and bonding with fans is almost as important as putting out good music, especially in the age of Twitter and Instagram. The group has a combined 17.4 million followers on Twitter, (they have two separate accounts) over 6 million followers on Instagram, and celebrated their AMA performance by releasing merch emblazoned with the hashtag “BTSxAMAs.” This year, BTS even managed to beat out North American superstars Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Shawn Mendes for the title of “Top Social Artist” (breaking Bieber’s impressive six-year streak).
BTS will continue to bridge the gap between the North American music scene and Korean music scene when they release a remix of “MIC Drop” with Desiigner and Steve Aoki later this month. And while BTS unfortunately didn’t make any Canadian stops during their worldwide tour earlier this year, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Canadian fans get the chance to see the group in person in the very near future.