[Art that has become history, song that has become myth] BTS, K-POP’s jewel that has conquered the world

[10 successful strategies] How their music has enthralled the world

At 5.55am on the 23rd, Incheon International Airport turned into a runway. K-POP’s seven member boy group BTS’ glorious return from America captured the world’s attention. Just like they seemed to change an airport into an award ceremony venue with their arrival due to their individualistic fashion choices, the songs they sing have already become legend to this attentive world.

Such a figure of speech is not, in fact, an exaggeration. They (‘RM, Suga, Jin, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook) all possess a genius ability in lyric-writing and composing. Their SNS followers exceed 10 million through mediums such as Twitter and Youtube. They have also made the ‘Guinness World Record 2018’ for the most amount of retweets. And in May this year, they were awarded the ‘Top Social Artist’ award at Billboard which Justin Bieber had dominated for the past six years as well. Their flashy stage performances and high vocal ability is being judged to be the world’s best.

This past 20th [of October] (KST), BTS left for America to participate in the ‘2017 American Music Awards’. They, who at that point were the first to rise on the stage as a K-POP group, showcased their new album title song ‘DNA’ and managed to receive love simultaneously from audiences both home and abroad.

The global EDM duo ‘Chainsmokers’ who introduced BTS on-site there, complimented them greatly saying “We’re nervous, having to introduce their American debut performance” and that “they’re a team who are too great even for the term ‘international superstars'”. The American audience sang along to the Korean lyrics, filmed the scene with their phones, and even cried, drenched in delight and strong emotion.

Through the exclusive broadcasters ABC TV, 9 million American viewers were charmed by BTS. They recorded 1st place on Google Trends at their time of performance. As they appeared on the like of the three main talk shows of each American channel and pre-recorded the end of year ABC show <Dick Clarkson’s New Year’s Rockin Eve>, the worldwide BTS craze was able to be verified.

BTS’ leader RM, after finishing the performance, shared his feelings in interviews with famous media outlets, saying “We’re really touched to have received such a passionate response in America” and that “It seems that music is a language that moves hearts”.

In relation to this, on the 21st, Ha Jae Geun, a culture critic reporting on TV Chosun, said “They have given us the lesson that even without the background of a powerhouse agency, it is easily possible to become a world top star through individual activity, charismatic contents, and a digital medium.”

Their title song ‘DNA’ on September 25th (KST) surprised the world by rising to 85th on the American Billboard Single Chart ‘Hot 100’. Through this, BTS became the second K-POP group singing in Korean to enter the relevant chart after Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ which stayed second for seven straight weeks in 2012.

At the time, BTS took 7th on the ‘Billboard 200′ Album Chart for their new album. Their top records for a K-POP artist showed us their god-like power.

So what are the strategies of success and the reason for popularity that are hidden within BTS? <Monthly Chosun> divided their factors for success into ten categories.

1. Lyrics that teens can empathise with
2. Members’ genius ability in lyric-writing and composing
3. Exquisite music videos and powerful fandom
4. Music that shares the reality of this era
5. The harmony of their vocals, sound, and performance
6. Use of contents from various artistic fields such as culture and film
7. Use of digital media, such as the internet and SNS
8. Narration that sings of youth’s worries and surroundings
9. ‘The beauty of co-existence’: Revelation of teamwork
10. Active effort to move from music to good deeds

“Lyrics that teens can empathise with… to exquisite ‘mvs’ and powerful fandom”

The American press, too, analysed BTS’ international influence and reason for popularity. On the 21st (KST), CNN International’s morning news program set the spotlight on the musical art of BTS who performed at the American Music Awards, under the title of ‘K-POP sensation’.

On the channel, a UCLA ‘School of Theatre, Film and Television’ professor Suk-Young Kim said “BTS is currently the most popular kpop group, and they have an immense fandom called ‘ARMY'”, and that “They’re an impressive group that has its foundations of dance and song in professional and hip hop”. She examined that “The music video[s] are very exquisite” and that “Through lyrics that teens can empathise with, they are advertising K-POP as they lead their powerful fandom’.

Furthermore, Professor Kim revealed that “BTS produces their own music, and are incorporating their own stories.”

This year in August, an art thesis (Kim Yo Han, <A study on the increased competitiveness of our country’s idols in their capability to compose professionally>, Kyung Hee University’s Performance Studies and Practical Music Major Doctorate Thesis) also chose ‘the members’ lyric-writing, composing ability’ and ‘lyrics that seem to credit youth’ as the cause of BTS’ musical success.

Below, excerpts of the relevant parts of the thesis are given.

<BTS before their debut used a blog to upload their freestyle raps, own songs, mixtapes of their own rap arrangements over existing songs, daily logs of their work, etc., and in doing so, establised their own world of music. So by polishing their capabilities in that way, BTS released three albums on the concept of ‘the stories of teens’, singing about dreams, vision, and love. This which is called the three-part School Series, through the members’ own participation in lyric-writing and composing, was able to increase fans’ empathy and their popularity amongst them.>

(Summary) BTS’ members, through participating in the lyric-writing and writing about their present stories, were able to receive much empathy from the youth that lived out this era.

(Summary) BTS, while presenting highly skilled choreography and performances, also all have lyric-writing, composing ability. For this reason, BTS are regarded not as mannequin-like idol singers, but as musicians who know how to do their own music made up of their own stories.

“They shared stories about the way they as individuals view their era”

Big Hit Entertainment’s Bang Shi Hyuk CEO, who has reaped the most in BTS’ success, saved his words on November 1st at the ‘Love Myself’ UNICEF Campaign Press Conference about the group’s secret to success; “There are so many factors working together (for their success)”, and “There are things that I haven’t been able to grasp either”.

He did, however, also reveal that “BTS from their debut has consistently shared stories about their way of thinking and the way they view their era, and through digitalised mediums, this has been shared simultaneously all throughout the world; [this is how] they’ve come to reach today’s popularity”.

Bang CEO, in relation to the plans for their future global expansion, said “We will keep the focus on how to show the human-side of BTS” and that “I do think that it will be unfolding in the direction of being able to listen to the worries of the global fans”. [This is probably sharing how their music will expand to involve not just the worries of their country’s youth, but the international youth.]

“The harmony of their vocals, sound, and performance… to use of contents from various artistic fields such as culture and film”

On November 6th’s issue of the <<SME Daily>>, a column with the title ‘Why BTS is the current trend’ published by Jo Kyu Han CEO divided BTS’ factors for success into seven. In the column, CEO Jo analysed that BTS is able to block aspects like prejudice, suppression and discrimination of youth in society through their ‘bulletproof vests’ and that instead, promise to protect aspects like dreams, love, and individual worth in their music. His seven-fold factors are as the following –

First, they are made up of good-looking members in their early 20s. Through them, you can feel the strong, refreshing, and beautiful energy of a Korean youth.

Second, they all have abilities in lyric-writing and composition. Their strength is that the members actively participate, more so than even the company planned.

Third, they have incredible performances and perfect synchronisation of choreography. They capture the audience’s attention through a harmony of husky vocals and acoustic sound.

Fourth, like ‘HYYH’, ‘Demian’ and the poet Kim Choon Su’s ‘Flower’*, they use contents from various artistic fields such as culture and film to stimulate emotional sensitivity.

Fifth, they use SNS and their individual internet broadcasts well. It is a strategy that uses the fourth stage of the ‘industrial revolution’.

Sixth, they sing of the youth’s worries, hopes, and love, using subjects like school violence and university entrance examinations. They are working through the maturity of youth by narrative.

Seventh, they are acting in accordance to the message they work into their music. Recently, this has materialised into a UNICEF campaign.

In a column written by the editor in the 2017 October issue of <<Shin Dong A>>, titled ‘The bird that has flown above a giant’s shoulders – the abstract to the Bangtan-discipline’, it explained BTS’ ‘greatest weapon’ in capturing their international fans’ attention to be as follows:

“They speak of reality through music, and approach us as those with ‘real stories’ made by those strongly engaged with the reality of life. BTS grasp tightly onto the string that connects them to reality, with the authenticity of hip-hop offering fans the joy of ‘immersion’.

Growth in co-existence, harmony of teamwork

On the 20th (KST), at the exclusive interview with <<Daily Chosun>> in Los Angeles, America, the members chose ‘the growth epic [or narrative]’ and ‘teamwork of co-existence’ as the factors that differentiate them from other groups.

In the interview, leader RM said “I think BTS is like a collection set”, and that “Music, performance, clothing, music video, social media contents, fans are able to enter fandom from various ways. And this concentration of strength, BTS is able to pull towards themselves.” He also said “Another difference between other groups and ourselves is that of an epic and co-existence”, and that “We show them through our music ‘we’ve risen to here from nothing’.”

Member V, in fact, added “None of the members try to stand out, and I think we all love each other’s way of co-existing and creating harmony”.

Member Suga, too, said “There is no member that would think ‘I’m hard-carrying this group’” and that “I think that the main point of an idol team is their harmony. The team has to do well for the individuals to do well. It’s not easy for seven people to think that way, but I think it is our strength that we do think this way.”

J-Hope said that the unique nature of BTS’ music is that “We make stories about those of the same generation, and of the worries and surroundings of those in our age group”, and further explained that “From school violence to the wanderings of youth, the appeal is that we simply write of the way we mature as it is”.

They also showed in this interview their innovative mindset and pride as singers. Member Jimin said “There is a pride of our work on stage. I don’t worry any longer about whether I won’t be able to do well on stage.”

BTS held ‘the practice of happiness’ as their future goal. Member Jin, even whilst saying “It’s not that I have lofty goals”, also said “I want to become happy. I would like it if I could keep laughing and having the joyful life I have now.” Member Jungkook said Singing, dancing, and I want to write songs well, and I want to be good at languages” and that “My ultimate goal is to be able to proactively do the things I want, without pushing it aside due to laziness.”

They are not a miracle of myth or legend. This is the fair result of their innovation and search through their ‘blood, sweat, and tears’. BTS’ success was as inevitable as the pain, realisations, and love of ‘the growth of youth’.

Source: Monthly Chosun, by Shin Seung Min, 23rd November 2017


Notes

‘Demian’ and HYYH have been explained in detail by many a fan. The poem ‘Flower’ is less known. It was one of the inspirations behind Jimin’s single ‘Serendipity’. Here is the original poem with a fine translation.

The poem describes how ‘when I spoke her name / she came to me and became a flower’. Jimin’s lyrics in fact respond to this, as he says ‘when you called for me / I became your flower / as if I had been waiting’.

I find this makes the song even more beautiful, for it’s a response to the yearning found in the poem. He had confessed, and she had bloomed. He longs for someone to call his name in the same way. Serendipity answers: I answered you, who called me. Our meeting is not serendipitous, our meeting was written in the stars – let me love you (who loved me first).

It’s not a call to love, it’s a response to love already received.

However, Serendipity goes further. In the music video, the flower is not as soft as one would imagine. It’s in fact a cactus, and one of the lines say ‘We’ll bloom until we ache.’ The speaker has looked far enough into the future to recognise that there will be pain in this love. It foreshadows a concept hinted at in Outro: Her, and delved into in the hidden tracks of the Skit and Sea. It will come into fruition in the sequel, the third in the series – ‘the turn’.

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