The International Impact of BTS
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
By Melissa Del Carmen Gomez
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A few weeks ago, BTS has made headlines yet again, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group for their song “Dynamite.” It feels like every week they are breaking records or winning awards, on shows dancing with James Corden or Ellen DeGeneres, selling out arenas all around the world, or posing in the latest fashion at red carpet events.
BTS consists of members J-Hope, V, RM, Jungkook, Taehyung, Suga, and Jin. They debuted in 2013 under the company Big Hit Entertainment. It was a small company, and they were considered underdogs in Korea. They created their first album No More Dream, and during this time, the group lived in a single room together, dedicating themselves to training in dance and creating music. In their 2014 reality show, American Hustle Life, the bandmates were in the streets of Hollywood, passing out flyers for their free concert. The group also had to use their director’s and management’s cars for their music videos such as the video Run, and have had thoughts of disbandment due to unpopularity and financial struggles.
BTS is an interesting group for not only breaking records and singing their songs solely in Korean, but the lyrics of their songs focusing on Korean society and self-love. For instance, their song N.O. discusses the Korean education system and how students are now becoming more like robots rather than being able to be free to enjoy their teenage years: “Who will take responsibility [for us] living the lives of puppets? Will this really make our parents happy?” The song Idol is a celebration of self-love and self-cultivation, as well as blocking out any haters: “Whatever your criticism is, I know what I am...I do what I want, so you do you. You can’t stop me loving myself.”
Image via CBS/Getty Images
The boys are also actively working in activism efforts, being the first Korean group to speak at the United Nations. They spoke at the United Nation’s 73rd General Assembly launch of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited. Generation Unlimited is an effort focusing on providing support in education to the youth and providing jobs to millions of young adults around the world. The speech trended on Twitter, BTS leader RM’s words motivating others to express themselves and speak up. “Tell me your story. I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”
Image via Big Hit Entertainment
Fashion-wise, the members are breaking barriers by wearing makeup and dyeing their hair for red carpet events and in music videos, as well as wearing unisex and women's clothing that are considered more “feminine.” Jungkook, the youngest member of the group, discusses with Vanity Fair how he likes, “wearing anything you like, regardless of gender.” Their androgynous style is very influential to young adults and teens, especially from such a large and powerful musical group. Their songs themselves are gender-neutral, using he/him, she/her, and they/them pronouns and all forms of love are explored within their lyrics and are promoted. This is huge for the LGBTQ+ community who are getting representation within lyrics. There is inclusion and a safe environment that is being created and expressed within their concerts and fanbase.
The most influential concept about BTS is the fact that they are a Korean group breaking records. There is little Asian representation in popular media; Asian-Americans representing only 1% of all leading roles in Hollywood. BTS is not only representing their country but represents millions around the world who are seeing themselves on the television. The members never shy away from their Korean heritage, and incorporate traditional clothing, music, and other elements into their music, vlogs, and music videos and keeping their songs strictly in Korean. RM of BTS told Entertainment Weekly in an interview, “A Hot 100 and a Grammy nomination, these are our goals. But they’re just goals — we don’t want to change our identity or our genuineness to get the number one”
Although they come from a smaller company, BTS fought against criticisms and negativity, remain active with their fanbase, break records, and continue to push themselves to be better every day. They celebrate love in all forms, celebrate their gender-fluidity as individuals, and work hard to inspire others around the world to be a better version of themselves. If you haven’t so already, check out BTS on social media! Their latest album BE is available in stores nationwide!
Written by writer Melissa del Carmen Gomez