BTS' AMAs Performance Comes After Extended Push Into The U.S. Market
With their first American primetime television performance at the American Music Awards tonight, BTS has rapidly gone from being sub-culture faves to becoming the most popular boy band in the States. Coming two months after becoming the highest-charting Korean act on the Billboard 200album chart, the septet’s rendition of “DNA” was one of the most anticipated moments of the night, coming on air only moments before Diana Ross closed the show out.
While BTS’ AMAs appearance may come as a surprise introduction for some viewers, the group has been gradually approaching the American market for several years now. Whether it’s through intimate concerts, their socially aware hip-pop musical style, or their social media content, the seven members of BTS–RM, Suga, Jungkook, Jin, Jimin, V and J-Hope– have endeared themselves to millions of fans around the country over several years. They broke through to the mainstream music world’s conscious last May after taking home the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards, going from an under-the-radar international act with a strong following locally to one that is all but impossible to ignore in the current state of the American pop industry.
It’s been a long run for the boy band as they have pushed into the U.S. scene at a time when Korean music in general has seen major growing interest in the States: there have been well over a dozen K-pop and K-hip-hop concerts in the country this year, reports CNN. The leaders of this push are BTS, who held a sold out a multi-city arena tour earlier this year as part of their 40-show global 2017 BTS Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour.
With spots on major network shows like "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," "The Ellen Degeneres Show" and "The Late Late Show with James Corden," November has proven to be a busy month for BTS stateside, but it’s hardly the first time the group has turned its attention to American audiences.
Exploring American Music Early On
Coming out of the gate in 2013, BTS– an acronym for their Korean name Bangtan Seonyeondan that in turn translates into Bulletproof Boyscouts– presented themselves with a rebellious, hip-hop-tinged style of pop music. By the following year, they had begun to develop their identity further by investigating the American roots of hip-hop first hand through a reality show. “American Hustle Life” brought the septet to Los Angeles to learn from the likes of Coolio and Warren G.
The aimed intent to understand the roots of the genre they were drawing from, plus the bandmembers’ input into their music, appealed to early fans of BTS, creating a rapidly growing fanbase known collectively as ARMY. “What made BTS appeal to foreign fans is that there is a kind of authenticity in their performance,” Professor Suk-Young Kim, a K-pop expert and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said. “Their lyrics are so close to reality, [for people] who are suffering from pressures coming from all directions, uncertainty about the future, [and] low paying jobs. BTS really has the dark side of revealing it, a very honest way, rather than trying to gloss over and talk about love and relationships. Given the limitations of the K-pop industry, BTS comes across as a fairly authentic group.”