By AUBREE STAMPER, Photo Editor
K-pop as a genre has been slowly piercing into Western charts over the last several years. With acts such as BIGBANG, Girls Generation, 2NE1, EXO, and now BTS, K-pop is an growing force as it seeps into the American music industry.
Korean entertainment–music, movies, dramas–has long taken over many Eastern and Western Asian countries since the early 2000’s. Even Mexico and South America have been splashed by the “Hallyu Wave”–a term used to describe the spread and obsession of Korean entertainment and culture.
K-pop isn’t even very new to America; Wonder Girls and Girls Generation promoted in the US around 2009-2012, and we all remember PSY’s “Gangnam Style” takeover in 2012. K-pop groups have been selling out stadiums and arenas throughout the US for years–EXO performed to a crowd of 13,000 in L.A. last year. Groups like 2NE1 have repeatedly broken records on the Billboard 200 with their releases as well.
But Korean acts winning mainstream American awards and charting high in multiple U.S. charts alongside artists like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift is a newer concept.
These days it’s not uncommon in middle schools and high schools to find a Korean song or two in a student’s music library. Especially if that song is by the unstoppable K-pop group BTS.
The momentum for these underdogs began in 2015, two years after their debut, with the singles “I Need U” and “Dope” which got the group their first wins on Korean music shows and put them on the map for success.
But the group really took off with the release of their single “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” in late 2016 as a part of their second studio album Wings. The album got many people in the West talking about them–from their tight in-sync dance moves, to the social issues and emotional concepts of their songs, to the impressive rapping–the seven members are turning heads.
The album led them to win their first daesangs, or grand prize awards, in Korea with the Album of the Year award at the Melon Music Awards and Artist of the Year at the MAMA Awards.
There’s not enough time to list BTS’s achievements this year alone, but the group’s biggest award came when they won Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards (BBMA’s) in May. Justin Bieber had won the award for six years in a row until BTS snatched it with their over 9 million Twitter followers. They are the first Korean artist to win a BBMA.
In September BTS released their much anticipated mini-album Love Yourself: Her (which features a collaboration with The Chainsmokers) and their title song “D.N.A.” The single debuted at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As of October 2, the song was at number 67, the highest for a Korean artist.
Though it’s only been a little over a month, the album has already sold over 1 million copies and the music video has almost 120 million views, an unspeakable success for a group who doesn’t come from one of the “Big 3” music companies (SM, YG, JYP). BTS is now the best selling group in South Korea in 2017.
Though it’s unclear if an artist can breakthrough into the mainstream of American pop music when their songs aren’t even in English, BTS are surely still making their mark on it and making history.
You can check out BTS make their debut U.S. TV performance at the American Music Awards on November 19.