How BTS Is Helping Spread Korean Music Worldwide

A deeper look on how the South Korean boy group has taken over the world with their music.

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How BTS Is Helping Spread Korean Music Worldwide

Made by Millie Garcia

Made by Millie Garcia

Made by Millie Garcia

Made by Millie Garcia

Millie Garcia, Reporter

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Looking at the charts of Billboard, you’ll see some of the most well-known names in American music. As of writing this, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X is number one on the Hot 100, following it comes in “Sunflower” by Post Malone ft. Swae Lee, and in third is “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande. If you listen to the radio at all, it’s kind of obvious as to why these songs are at the top of one of the most important charts in the US music industry. It’s because the songs are played all the time! It takes a lot of streaming, radio play, and fan support to be able to get a song on the Hot 100. It’s hard enough for English speaking recording artists to debut on the chart let alone music in Korean.


With over 19 million followers on Twitter (@BTS_twt) and an average of over 400,000 engagements per tweet, it’s obvious that South Korean boy group, BTS, is transcending the barrier of language and making their mark in the Western music scene. While the South Korean music industry has a reputation for its mass production of boy bands and girl groups, BTS has been changing the game for not only the industry itself but also the spread of Korean music worldwide since as early as their debut in 2013.


But the question is, who is BTS and how did they become the biggest boy group in the world?


What does BTS mean?

In Korean, “방탄소년단” (the romanization being “Bangtan Sonyeondan”) roughly translates to Bulletproof Boy Scouts. The name “BTS” originally comes from the romanization of their name, but another name they have accepted is “Beyond The Scene.”


Who is in the group? How many members are there?


BTS has seven members, boys ranging from ages 21 to 26. In their names, there are links to each individual members’ solo song from their 2018 album, Love Yourself: Answer.


Kim Nam-joon (Stage name: RM), 24: Leader, main rapper.


Kim Seok-jin (Stage name: Jin), 26: vocalist, oldest member.


Min Yoon-gi (Stage name: Suga), 26: rapper, producer.


Jung Ho-seok (Stage Name: J-Hope), 25: rapper, lead dancer.


Park Ji-min (Stage name: Jimin), 23: vocalist, dancer.


Kim Tae-hyung (Stage name: V), 23: vocalist, dancer.


Jeon Jeong-guk (Stage name: Jungkook), 21: vocalist, dancer, youngest member.   

How did BTS get their start?


BTS was formed by producer Bang Si-hyuk, the co-CEO of Big Hit Entertainment. In 2010, after being impressed with his audition, Si-hyuk signed Namjoon as the first official member of BTS. The other members shortly followed and they began training together. After three years, BTS debuted their first studio album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, in June of 2013. From the beginning, this group of seven boys showcased their talent in music, lyricism, and delivery.


“No More Dream,” the lead single on the hip hop album, discusses the reality of youth in South Korea. The song tells teens to rise up and follow their dreams instead of listening to society’s expectations. The album criticizes the country’s education system and the pressures of parents towards their children to become successful rather than follow their dreams. This was only the start of the group’s opinions on modern social issues. The group has focused on topics such as politics, romance, mental health, self-love, philosophy and more.

As the group’s newest album, Map of The Soul: Persona is less than a day from release, I thought it’d be interesting to see what City High students think of some of BTS’s older music and their latest release.


No More Dream


What do you think the message of the song is?


Feda Elbadri ‘21: “I think the aggressiveness of the song matches with the message that they’re trying to send. I like it because it makes you feel like you have power and that you’re right even when people seem to be dragging you down.”


Cristina Garcia ‘21: “They seem rebellious and you can’t tell me what to do. It’s kind of like definition of “bad boy.” The message is like not caring about society’s rules and doing what you want to do.”




Is the message in their latest release similar to the first?


Elbadri: “I love the way it’s such a good party song. It makes me feel geeked up to dance and the chorus on this one is really good too. The overall message of loving you for you and keeping it general can connect to anyone and make them feel better.”


Garcia: “It’s super catchy and make you wanna dance. It has a similar theme with loving yourself and focusing on you and your dreams compared to following other people’s dreams.
Idol has more meaning to it and it comes off gentler than the first song. The first song is more aggressive and talks about harsh reality while Idol has a message say that no matter what happens, in me first and that’s all that matters. You can really see the growth in not only the group’s growth as individuals but as musicians too.“


How is famous is BTS globally? What achievements does the group have?


Even the obstacle of a language barrier did not stop the power of BTS’s fanbase, called A.R.M.Y (Adorable Representative MC of Youth) from getting BTS’s songs on the Billboard charts. The Korean group’s first album to ever make it on to a Billboard chart was Skool Luv Affair back in March of 2014. Their 2016 album, Wings, had peaked at #26 on the Billboard 200, and their title track “DNA” from their 2017 album, Love Yourself: Her was BTS’s first song to ever make it on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, the group has had 5 songs on the Hot 100, their song “Fake Love” from their 2018 album Love Yourself: Tear, debuting at #10, the highest out of the five. They are the first and only Korean group to do so.


The group had started to gain more exposure and recognition in the US after they had beat out Justin Bieber for “Top Social Artist” at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, breaking his winning streak of multiple years. BTS performed at the American Music Awards later that year and have since taken the US by storm. In 2018, the group gave a speech in front of the U.N. General Assembly to help launch “Generation Unlimited”, an initiative for youth empowerment. Their album Love Yourself: Tear was nominated for “Best Recording Package” at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards earlier this year. The group has been on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen Show, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and more.


The group will be performing music from their newest album, Map of the Soul: Persona on Saturday Night Live! On April 13th.


Even with all of this recognition from the West, BTS has continued to stay true to themselves and have not forgotten where they came from. “Waste It On Me” a collaboration with DJ and producer, Steve Aoki, is the only song that BTS has released that is completely in English. The group has stated that they have no intentions on releasing a full English album to gain more success, Namjoon stating in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “We don’t want to change our identity or our genuineness to get the number one. Like if we sing suddenly in full English, and change all these other things, then that’s not BTS.”


What songs should I listen to first?


While BTS was originally supposed to have more hip hop styled music, the group has since sampled many other genres ranging from ballads, to EDM, to Latin inspired, BTS’s music has no limits. The group tends to stick around the hip hop/EDM genres, but as each song is fresh and authentic, you’re bound to find one that fits your music standards.


If you like EDM, I would suggest songs like “Save Me” and “DNA.” They are upbeat and uplifting. If you enjoy more rap-heavy music, then have a listen to “Outro: Tear” and “Cypher Part 4.” The rapping is amazing and the flow that each rapper has is unique and stable. If you like more sentimental pop, I would recommend “Magic Shop” and “Answer: Love Myself.” The songs make you feel warm inside and give you a sense of comfort. If you just want to know their most popular songs, “Fake Love” and “Blood, Sweat and Tears” are the most memorable songs that the group has.


BTS continues to make their mark on the industry, and they show no signs of stopping.