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BTS: K-pop in America

Korean boy band defies odds, overcomes language barrier

By Beth Biles
On February 6, 2018

Photo from Wikipedia

You may not have noticed it, but Korean pop is creeping its way into the mainstream music scene.

It is no longer an underground fad that is considered a joke, thanks to PSY’s 2012 viral hit “Gangnam Style.” With Korean acts performing on stateside award shows and climbing up the music charts, 2018 could be a landmark year for the genre.

K-pop has long been ready to embrace America but the real question is: is America ready to embrace K-pop? With the recent success of crossover hits like Luis Fonzi’s “Despacito ft. Justin Bieber,” I think yes.

It has shown that Americans as a whole are more receptive to non-English music and it opens the doors for artists across the world to attempt to break into the Western market.

Over the last ten years, many Korean acts have made an attempt to break into the U.S. scene. Artists like BoA, Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation have all tried their hands at a U.S. career with little to no success. Yet, they along with other acts like EXO, BigBang and Got7 have had immense success touring. These groups have huge and loyal fan bases but yet they somehow lacked the crossover appeal to attract casual U.S. listeners.

Enter BTS, the sevenmember boy band created by Big Hit Entertainment in 2013. From their debut, the septet’s mischievous charms, sharp dancing and hip hop style quickly gained them a massive following, whom they call ARMYs, in Korea and around the globe.

In fact, it was the ARMYs who helped BTS gain recognition in the states. In May, the group won the Top Social Artist Award at the Billboard Music Awards, against the likes of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, thanks in part to their fan base furiously voting online.

The award win and vocal fan support caught the eyes of the music industry and led to the group being invited to perform at the 2017 American Music Awards, a first for a Korean pop group. This led to a media tour where the group appearedon “Ellen”, “The Late Late Show with James Corden”, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and a performance on “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve,” allowing the group to showcase their personalities and performance skills to the general public.

The group released their first U.S. track “MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix)” in November, a new version of a previously released track that seamlessly blends Korean and English lyrics with a brand-new intro rap by hip-hop artist Desiigner. The track peaked at No. 24 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on Feb. 3.

This makes BTS the first K-pop group to have a song gain this distinction. Korean Pop is only becoming more diverse and I predict because of BTS’ success so far that there will only be an increase of Korean acts trying to gain traction in the states.

U.S. listeners as a whole are becoming more receptive to international music and if the right song comes at the right time who knows what may happen?

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