美 ‘Billboard Music Awards 2018’ … Music Critic Kim Youngdae’s Vivid Experience
If I exaggerate a little, it was as if I had watched a BTS solo concert.
The afternoon of the 20th, the ‘Billboard Music Awards 2018’ opened in America’s Las Vegas. Receiving the greatest cheers from the audience, BTS grabbed the trophy for ‘Top Social Artist’ for the second year in a row.
Even on the 19th, the day before the award ceremony and before I left for Las Vegas, I recognised their impressive force. To buy BTS’ new CD (released on the 18th), I visited many branches of the large retail store ‘Target’ in the city of Seattle, but there were many places in which it had [already] been sold out. I met local fans wearing BTS t-shirts at the Seattle airport.
In the early hours of day of the award ceremony, I went to the vicinity of the stadium ‘MGM Grand Garden Arena’. From the early morning of the event, around the stadium, hundreds of ‘ARMY’ (BTS’ fandom name) were already camping out. Though the prices of accommodation had soared to 5 or 6 times the average, there were fans who had been arrived at Las Vegas on the 18th and were already waiting. Those of various cultural backgrounds gathered in front of the red carpet chanting their hit songs such as ‘Fire’ in accurate Korean, simply waiting for BTS to arrive.
The afternoon of the event, the fever of the red carpet was at its tipping point as the vehicle that had BTS on board arrived. Reporters who had come from many different countries said they had “come for BTS”, and were busy following the members’ every move. The promoters were also obvious in their regard [or, care] for BTS. Their seats were placed right in the front middle of the stage. BTS’ performance was also assigned to be second from the end. They also had a separate waiting line just for fans. 70-80% of the audience that filled the award ceremony looked to be BTS fans. It was to the point even the security guards and employees of the stores around the area seemed to know BTS’ names.
Nearing the climax. The inside of the stadium was basically a space for BTS. At every point of this day, shown live by America’s NBC TV, that was a mid-show break for advertisements and cleaning of the place, the arena was always filled by chants of “BTS!” Even pop stars like Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes seemed to be overwhelmed by this atmosphere. The arena reverbrated with fans screaming their given names like army officer drills in the way of “Kim Namjoon!” “Park Jimin!”
For ‘Top Social Artist’, where the winner is decided by the number of fanvotes, BTS were able to beat out Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Leader RM was able to deliver his award speech without nerves, saying in English “‘We had a chance to think about what ‘social’ really means for us. Thank you”.
In the latter half of the award show, the singer and MC Kelly Clarkson while introducing the global first performance of BTS’ new song ‘FAKE LOVE’ said that “[because the fans’ screams are so loud] I have to put these on first”, wearing her earlier-prepared earmuffs [or, more literally, large headphones]. One could see the audience members who watched BTS live immediately searching through music services after their performance to search for the song and listen to it.
Though most of the fans there were female, their race and age range was diverse. There were many mother and daughter couples who were to be seen wearing BTS t-shirts. Having spoken to fans, I realised that not only do they understand BTS’ lyrics better than myself, a music critic, but it could be carried into recognising its meanings and symbolism too.
Even just last year, the American media considered BTS to be a ‘guest’ that they had to introduce. The situation has changed. It’s as if they are now on the tier of being a main guest. It is a trajectory hard to deny.
Kim Youngdae, music critic, from Las Vegas
Source: Kim Youngdae for Donga News, 22nd May 2018.
Kim Youngdae is a Korean music critic who witnessed BTS at the 2018 BBMAs. He wrote a series of tweets there, this being my favourite. You can find him here on twitter and youtube. I have translated one of his previous works here.