In my personal life, the people I know fall into two categories: fans of K-pop, and non-fans who understand the sheer breadth of its reach. I’m in the latter group. Despite not really following K-pop (even as someone of Korean heritage), I’m fully aware of how influential it’s been around the world. While K-pop still has yet to reach mainstream appeal in the United States, one group just made a huge stride toward that goal this past weekend: BTS.
BTS made its official American debut on stage at the American Music Awards (AMAs). Not only did they put on a stunning performance, complete with signature K-Pop style and dance moves, but they were one of the biggest acts of the night. In fact, their performance of their hit song, ‘DNA,’ was strategically placed toward the very end of the award show to keep the millions of enthusiastic fans watching. The buzz around BTS’s performance stood out, even on the same night as P!NK performing a song while scaling the side of a high-rise building, Diana Ross being honored, and Whitney Houston being remembered.
BTS has had concerts in the U.S. in the past, and even made it onto Billboard 200 just a few months ago. Additionally, they received the ‘Top Social Artist’ Award at the Billboard Music Awards this past May. However, this was their first performance on U.S. national television.
Introduced by The Chainsmokers (who won an AMA earlier in the night), BTS finally took to the stage. Even as they walked out, you could hear BTS fans chant all throughout the venue hall. Fans were dancing along. One was even caught crying.
Whether you’re a fan of their music or not, BTS’s performance was near flawlessly executed. Even on stage in front of thousands, being broadcast to millions, the group didn’t show any sign of nerves. Every dance move was set in perfect sync. The thing that tends to baffle the minds of non-Koreans and non-K pop fans, is the precision and degree of perfection to which a group coordinates on stage. K-pop isn’t just music; it’s a meticulously assembled product, on all levels. Singing isn’t enough; usually, K-pop band members also rap and dance. These guys are trained to perform like this and it really shows. That isn’t to say that there is no soul at the core of what this group does. There is a reason why they are the biggest thing on the Korean music scene. Even watching the interviews leading up to their performance, you get a feel for why people like these performers. They’re talented, but they’re also very human and relatable. BTS is collaborating with UNICEF on a campaign called “Love Myself,” centered on the goal of ending violence to make the world a better place for children and teens.
While I’m by no means a K-pop follower, I can’t deny that it was really cool seeing a group of Korean artists on American television, AND singing in Korean. Where as the all-female K-Pop group, Girl’s Generation, attempted to break into the American music scene a few years back with all-English lyric songs, that campaign fizzled. This similar thing happened to the Wonder Girls, who even had a television special. Yet, this group of young singers managed to reach this level with a foreign language song. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this group accomplishes next. If you want to see more of BTS, they have scheduled appearances on Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Late Show this week.
Check out their latest album.