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10 Years of BTS: Beyond a Boyband

By Ariel B. | 13 June, 2023

bts 10 years festa

Tannies, Bangtan Sonyeondan, Bulletproof Boyscouts, Beyond the Scene, Bangtan Boys, and BTS are the many names of the seven-member band that has taken over the world for now a decade. Today, ten years ago, on June 13, 2013, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook debuted and made history.

When asked what to write about the boyband that changed my life, there was so much that came to my mind like how I found them, their impeccable discography and my obsession with Trivia: Love to this day, their top performances and songs, their economic impact, or how BTS is a source of motivation for me.

Yet I wanted to write about the impact and influence of this group and how they have shifted the music industry and fandom culture.

Leading the Korean Wave (Hallyu) & Influence Within K-pop

When I ask most people, “What comes to your mind when I say BTS?” The answer nine times out of ten from those who are outside of the fandom is that they are the group that made K-pop popular in the West.

My first encounter with BTS was when a friend of mine during my junior year of high school showed me “Dope.” At first, I was confused by the dancing and the video’s fast pace and transition—mind you, I was a Directioner…One Direction did not dance.

Fast forward after graduating, I saw them perform on the Billboard Awards and was confused why the audience was yelling back at them during their performance. I was hooked. I looked up the basics, went down a YouTube hole of the Wings Era, and bought a few songs from iTunes. My interest soon faded, but I kept up with them lightly. Then, I found their old Ellen DeGeneres interview at ten o’clock one night in college in 2019. My first complete comeback with BTS was Map of Soul:7, and I fell down another YouTube hole, learning about the Love Yourself era. Now, I’m discussing BTS daily with my friends and trying to keep up with each member’s solo projects.

Sharing my story is how BTS has led the Korean Wave. When fans say, “BTS paved the way,” they mean that BTS has made it easier for other K-pop groups to have opportunities and success in the US (the leading music market) and other countries, like Germany, France, and numerous Asian countries.

Of course, there were a few K-pop acts before BTS (PSY and the Wonder Girls) that succeeded in the US, but BTS made it global and broke records. They are the only K-pop group to have #1 albums in several countries and are the only K-pop group to perform and be nominated at the Grammys.

Aside from awards, BTS also spoke at the UN twice and at the White House, won a UNICEF Inspired Award for their “Love Yourself” campaign, and many more. BTS isn’t just a boyband; they are a movement.

Influence in the K-pop Industry

The group also has influenced the K-pop industry. They debuted with BigHit Entertainment, a smaller agency in 2013. The group did not have the same opportunities or funding compared to the Big Three entertainment agencies (SM, JYP, and YG) in South Korea to promote their music or be on variety shows. Despite this, the boys created their own path by utilizing social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to engage with their fans. This led to the group being nominated for the Billboard Social Award in 2017 and winning every year until the awards retirement in 2021.

As a result of BTS’ tactics, many K-pop acts started their own Twitter pages. BTS’ promotion tactics also influenced how other smaller entertainment companies use social media to promote music and interact with fandoms. Now, it’s expected for K-pop groups to have their own YouTube variety show or vlog. Prior, K-pop acts needed to go on variety shows on television.

BTS’ musical influence is vast. From comeback maps to promoting in the US, several trends and even standards have become the norm in K-pop due to BTS popularizing them. One of the most interesting eras to me is Love Yourself from BTS’ Love Yourself trilogy. After the album’s release, several K-pop acts released more songs about self-love and introspection or encouraging others to do the same. Some examples include songs like “WANNABE” by ITZY, “No” by CLC, “My Pace” by Stray Kids, “I Am Me” by Got7, and “Wanna Be Myself” by MAMAMOO.

BTS has also influenced other K-pop groups to use comeback maps. It’s common to see K-pop groups in the fourth generation post a comeback map. It is a fun and often colorful way for fans to be ready for the releases and schedules since there is plenty of content released two weeks after the release. Fans also can engage and plan events easier due to comeback maps.

Fan Engagement

You can’t discuss BTS without talking about their loyal, strong, and unified fandom, famously known as ARMY aka “Adorable Representative M.C. of Youth.” Being part of the fandom is more than simply listening to BTS’ music. ARMY has organized events, matched BTS’ donations, spoken out against prejudice and racism, and the disrespect the group receives. They even protect the group while traveling.

ARMY and BTS go together. This bond between fandom and artist is why BTS is so successful. While others try to replicate the connection they have, it’s impossible. ARMY and BTS’ connections are irreplaceable.

When getting into BTS, I was intrigued by how they communicated and addressed their fans. Compared to Western acts, K-pop groups express extreme gratitude.

From watching more videos during the previous FESTAs, award acceptance speeches, and casual V-lives, I see how BTS truly is grateful for ARMY. ARMY has been with the boys throughout their hardest times. BTS has also helped fans feel safe and seen. Members host FESTA’s every year and drop songs expressing their love and appreciation for ARMY. The group also continues to motivate and encourage their fans with their songs’ messages and speeches.

ARMY also fosters a community within the fandom. One of the reasons I gained more interest in BTS and K-pop was the friendships I made. It’s as easy as having a laptop sticker of BTS or attending a cup sleeve event hosted by ARMY to meet more people. Being part of BTS’ fandom has given me more friends than ever.

What makes BTS different is that they understand without ARMY promoting their work and staying by their side, they wouldn’t have the milestones that they have now. BTS’s gratitude is expressed in tangible ways, like gifting songs for fans that can only be found on YouTube, writing letters to ARMY on WeVerse, speaking directly to ARMY about certain topics, and defending ARMY in interviews. Meanwhile, ARMY continues to push BTS’ music on the radio, host streaming events, educate more people about the group and their message, and surprise the boys with fan videos and support.

The fan-artist interaction is balanced.

Lyrics & Storytelling

BTS’s themes and storytelling go beyond the group’s boyband image. With members producing and writing songs, BTS has given fans some of the most lyrical, thoughtful stories and messages. What truly drew me into BTS was watching YouTubers explain their song lyrics since a lot of their lyrics have deep, complex meanings in Korean/Hangul; reading simple translations does not capture the complexities of what BTS articulates in their music.

From their debut album 2 COOL 4 SKOOL, the single, “No More Dream” rejected the notion that young people needed a dream. There are several more songs that talk about things outside of romance, such as “Spine Breaker” (consumerism and trends) and “Paradise,” (slowing down in life). Each member had some sort of role in writing or producing a song. Most notably, the rap line, RM, SUGA, and J-hope do the majority of the writing and producing. The vocal line, JK, Jimin, Jin, and V, also have songwriting credits.

To cover the depth of BTS’ storytelling and concepts would take a long time—BTS has approximately 235 songs. There are many YouTube videos breaking down the concepts, Bangtan Universe, and the complexity within each album. If one is looking for themes of self-assurance, loneliness, and self-acceptance, listen to Map of the Soul:7.

If you want a touch of nostalgia and youthfulness, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever is the perfect listen.

The Love Yourself trilogy also dives into a wide range of topics. A few examples of songs include “Go Go,” which parodies rampant materialism at the peak of Instagram culture, “Fake Love,” which discusses the toxicity of being one’s self in a relationship, and “Pied Piper,” which tells fans to go study and be more self-aware of their music consumption. Don’t get me started on the wordplay RM has in “Trivia:Love,” one of the group’s most underrated songs, and one of my personal favorites.

BTS’ wide range of songs, genres, and topics, outside of romance, is what makes their discography so intriguing but their romantic and relationship-driven songs are beautifully written: “Just One Day,” “Hold Me Tight,” “Serendipity,” “DNA” “I NEED U,” and the list goes on.

BTS isn’t afraid to dive into topics or limit themselves lyrically. The group writes about their emotions, fears, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. Sharing their stories and personal struggles makes their music stand out.

Overall, BTS is a group that comes once in a lifetime; these ten years have flown by. With the group heading into “Chapter 2” of their careers, I can’t wait to see how they will continue to grow, what topics they’ll tackle, and how their relationship with ARMY will flourish.

Congrats Bangtan on ten years! 💜


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