World’s biggest ‘Boyband’ BTS
Published: 08:03 PM, 2 June 2019
In February 1964, an English boy band called the Beatles made its US television debut.
Beatlemania, the intense fan frenzy directed towards the fab foursome, was gripping America and the group's performance at the Ed Sullivan Theater was punctuated by fervent screaming from the studio audience.
In May 2019, over 55 years later, another band of foreigners played the same theater.
The visual similarities were striking -- and intentional.
The Korean newcomers sported the same style of slim-fit suits and floppy bowl cuts, emblazoned their name on their drum kit in the same font used by the Liverpudlian hitmakers, and even made their broadcast in black and white.
But this wasn't the Beatles. It was BTS -- a seven-man South Korean mega-group which is quite possibly the biggest boy band in the world right now.
In April, BTS became only the third group in 50 years to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 charts in less than 12 months, joining the ranks of The Beatles and The Monkees. The next month, BTS became the first group in Billboard history to spend five weeks at number one on the Billboard Artist 100 chart.
Like the Beatles, BTS had traveled from another continent to perform for their enormous American fan base. But that the South Korean stars had managed to crack the American market was perhaps an even greater achievement. Most of BTS's songs are in Korean, the group only has one fluent English speaker, and they were selling Americans a distinctly Asian brand of sex appeal.
The K-pop band that could
Six years ago, when BTS released their music video debut "No More Dream" in June 2013, it wasn't obvious that they would be K-pop's breakout success story in America.
The group, comprised of Kim Tae-hyung (better known as V), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Park Ji-min, Jeon Jung-kook, and Min Yoon-gi (Suga), presented itself as rebellious "bad boys," sporting gold chains, bandannas and heavy black eyeliner. The aggressive, rap-heavy track urged young people not to be defined by their parents' aspirations.
South Koreans, however, weren't blown away. The single debuted at number 84 on Korea's government-sponsored Gaon Music Chart.
At the time, boy bands EXO, Big Bang and SHINee dominated the K-pop charts. And while those groups sometimes referenced hip-hop in their songs, they tended to have a more clean-cut image and sing pop songs about romance. In EXO's 2013 hit "Wolf," for instance, the band members howl and compare themselves to an animal who has been tamed by an alluring woman.
But BTS, who were then all aged between 15 and 20, had something else that set them apart: they had been developed by start-up label Big Hit Entertainment, not one of the big three record companies -- SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment -- which formed in the late 1990s, when K-pop was starting to take off.
To dominate South Korea's ultra-competitive, $4.7 billion K-pop industry, those labels had established intense pop factories that found and developed talent to form money-making groups.