[Article] 170709 Stealing global fan hearts with the relatable messages they share on SNS

[CRITICISM] The secret of BTS's popularity looked seem through 4 types of keywords

It was about October last year. The number of people inquiring idol group BTS's record increased remarkably. This was due to the fact Bangtan Sonyeondan has imprinted the three letters, their English name BTS on the Billboard US Chart. The glorious number they won with their second full album "WINGS" was No. 26. What's better? This was an achievement accomplished on "Billboard 200", one of the main Billboard charts. Billboard also published many columns focusing on "BTS effect" and explaining, "Without any US promotion and English songs, BTS set amazing records".

Gayo industry in Korea was surprised by the news flown back to Korea from overseas like reimportation. Articles questioning who was BTS, the secret behind their success began to pour out. And in last May, as if to reconfirm their global popularity they brought a stunning news.

At the "2017 Billboard Music Awards", an annual music awards ceremony held every May to cover the entire music industry for that year, BTS won the "Top Social Award". This was a Bonsang (main prize) and they were the first Korean artist to win the award and BTS was also the only Asian winner at the awards ceremony. What could be the secret behind the popularity of BTS formed with the members Rap Monster (23), Suga (24), Jin (25), J Hope (23), Jimin (22), V (22) and Jungkook (20)? We analyzed the phenomenon through 4 keywords.

[NUMBER] Around 6.5 million followers on Twitter

The easiest way to explain BTS would be their various awards and numbers related to them. No. 26 was the highest ranking recorded by a Korean singer on the Billboard Album chart. When you reverse this number, No. 62 is the record the group achieved with the same album on the "UK Chart" and this is the best record set by Korean artist on the Official Album Chart of UK.

When we look at the album market, their numbers turn even fancier. "WINGS" did not only rank No. 1 on US iTunes "Top Album Chart" for the first time but it swept the No. 1 spots in Brazil, Chile, Turkey, Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and 27 countries' music charts. The Numerical Revolution of BTS who is strongly supported by the generations who are familiar with the internet continued the inexorable march. In 1 year and 4 months since the release, DOPE music video surpassed 100 million views on Youtube and "FIRE" released back in May 2016 surpassed 100 million views in 8 months, 6 months faster than DOPE. 

Besides these, the Twitter account managed by the members together (@BTS_twt) has surpassed 6.5 million followers, and they have about 5.5 million fans on "Naver V App"- celebrity live broadcast managed by Naver. They hold the best and highest records among the present idols (as of early July). These are the figures left by BTS who uniquely built up their fandom in their own way by personally communicating with their fans on SNS.

[YOUTH] Storytelling as your next door oppas who understand your heart

Even when they debuted in 2013 with their debut song "No More Dream", their identity was a hip hop idol. However, the combination of hip hop and idol seemed quite odd. They put forward the perfect group choreography as their talent but the gayo industry was already filled with "protractors" (T/N: describing how idols dance in perfect sync, even making sure their moves angle the same way). 

And even until they took off the uniform they wore during their first full album "DARK & WILD", released in August 2014, they were solely inside the school fence. As if to reenact the glory of first generation idols who cemented themselves as the "idols of teenagers" back in the days, BTs's songs focused only on dreams and happiness of teenagers, and love. They were able to build a solid teenage fandom thanks to this but this made the general public appraise them as childish along with their group name. 

It was these 5 letters, "YOUTH" that provided them with a bright turning point. Beginning with their 2015 April album "HYYH pt1", they began their 2 part Youth series. This was a shocking change to those who only remembered BTS's dark and rebellious adolescent period. The group who escaped from the school fence quietly painted the frustrating and cynical lives experienced by the 20s and 30s instead of success and happiness.

The title "Dirt Spoon Idol" from a small company unlike the idol groups from large entertainment companies played a role. They began to move the hearts of the youths who witnessed the group incorporating their own past stories with trendy music that has been adjusted to the temperature and chroma of the major pop scene. I smiled to their lyrics like DOPE (3포세대? 5포세대? 그럼 난 육포가 좋으니까 6포세대!(‘쩔어’)”/ sampo generation? ohpo generation? Well I like beef jerky so it’s yookpo generation) which reflected the reality. Even if we lived the lives of "dirt spoon" we were comforted by their shouts, "Dream, hope, move forward, forward" (Young Forever). 

Youth is considered as a universal value but this isn't a subject that will always make listeners empathize just because one sings about it. However, BTS's "Youth 2 part series" rose as one of the representing contents that brought "series" trend into the KPOP industry along with GFriend's "School trilogy". The comforting message- "You aren't the only person having such hard time over here right now" moved the youths' hearts. The result was brought bu the success of their second full album "WINGS".

If you are a youth in Korea, the country where the members were born and raised and of course, anywhere around the world, everyone had hard times and we earnestly sought for a place we could lean and rest for a while. Even the story of "Dirt spoon idol group" who reached the bright success after overcoming with the comfort and empathy they created made their passionate fandom stronger. They began their concert in 2014 at "Yes25 Live Hall" and expanded to Gocheok Skydome that can hold 30000 audiences. The live scale was the barometer of BTS's deadly growth narration.

[SELF PRODUCED CONTENTS] They often dropped "Bangtan Bomb" on SNS

If they had found the attractive narration that penetrated the reality and ideal, the next level they needed to attain was power to dig into that narration. BTS stimulated the fans' hearts by frequently posting their self-produced contents on SNS. Their push and pull skill that made them jump from friend and star with their fans was outstanding.

Many entertainment companies worried because of idol group marketing strategy planning during BTS's debut. It was difficult for groups to catch the general publics' eyes only with good albums and amazing performances. The earlier groups were focusing on building recognition by holding hands with broadcasting stations and appearing on real variety programs or by pushing the members who were talented in acting or variety shows.

This was the very point that set BTS apart from others. They didn't hold hands with anyone and instead of promoting individually, they chose to be the start and end inside the world called BTS. They built their own Youtube, blog, etc and constantly made and shared self-produced contents like "Bangtan Bomb", "Bangtan Gayo", "Run BTS", "log" and various others on their official channel. The duration of the videos varied from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes long and they didn't restrict themselves to particular location or time.

The SNS channel used by members together was constantly updated. It was safe for me to say "information tsunami" or "information tornado". Once you click, it was quite difficult to focus your attention on something else. I wanted to know the members more after watching their performance videos and after watching the members, I missed the performances. In the end, this deadly addiction was carried away by the universal system called the internet and spread far and beyond around the world.

[GLOBAL] More popular in the overseas, they expand as if they're imported back to Korea

Even now, a lot of people are curious. "How did BTS become so worldwide popular?". Their management company, Bighit Entertainment CEO Bang Sihyuk mentioned the following as the secret.

"Firstly, the fact we based our work on African-American music (hip hop) preferred by BTS members and myself was effective. Western has a long pop tradition. They divide their genre when they listen. However, it's not easy to categorize KPOP according to the genre. It has a trendy beat but it's combined with Korean melody, performance, and other elements so it's not universal. I think BTS makes music that belongs to a genre that is comfortable for Western listeners to enjoy compared to the existing KPOP.

Secondly, it's the fact that members personally work on their songs. Western market thinks it's important how much of the singer's is blended in their song. Lastly, it's the contemporary characteristics in the lyrics. Unlike the love and breakup songs in the existing KPOP, BTS talks about school and what the youths face."

In other words, BTS did not make excruciating efforts or waited for the moment to target global popularity or to localize. However, ever since their debut to this moment they have stayed on their temp, constantly made music and produced contents based on this. In the timeline of the unified world, they brought this result by their own colors and pace.

And through this assimilated world, it attracted the attention of the person who is reading this article right now. This isn't BoA's style or PSY's style. This is the new reimport equation of this new generation. This is why we can't help but still be curious of the existence of BTS who shook the world.

Kim Younha, pop music critic

Original article here

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Users who commented on this article

1. I think it's not something anyone can achieve. This is based on the members' personalities, humbleness and honesty when communicating and I think this was possible because we know how genuine they are. And their passion for music is the foundation +645 -3

2. This is an article that really explains BTS properly. Thank you for the nice article +514 -1

3. cool♥♥♥ BTS fighting♥♥♥ Love you~ I'll be looking forward to your album for the second half♥♥♥ +434 -1

4. this was possible because they were BTS!! I believe that BTS will fly higher in the future! ♥ +401 -1

5. I wish BTS will only experience moments that will make them smile~~ +372 -1

6. thank you for the nice article. 4th anniversary of ARMY... during that long period, it's only been a while since I became an ARMY. But BTS is a singer that made me feel like we're a family. I think one of the best chose I made in 2017 was becoming ARMY +70 -0

7. I don't like the word "reimportation" a lot but... I think it's true that BTS is brought back to Korea... I was present at LA Kcon in 2014 before they won the first place in Korea and almost everyone who attended the Kcon was BTS fans and even when they weren't their fans, most of them knew BTS so I was quite surprised... BTS doesn't give you time to escape once you become interested in them... something is uploaded every day and there are many fancams too.. plus I really love the attitude of all members towards music +62 -0

8. As I got to know and love BTS, I understood what it was meant to find music relatable. Singer was no longer that far away object of envy who was just cool. They represented their fans with their attitude towards music and I felt like they related to me a lot. Although they are much younger than me, I like their thoughts and I can feel their sincerity towards music so before I knew, I became their fan. I hope their passion that continued until now will not die +59 -0

9. I think you analyzed well! thank you! happy 4th ARMY anniversary❤️ +58 -0

10. this is cool ^^ +58 -0

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