I am in my late 40’s and I am a proud member of the BTS Army. If you have been living under a rock, BTS is a seven-member boy band from South Korea who has been capturing the hearts of millions of people around the globe. Mind you, joining fan clubs is atypical of me. In fact, it is the first time I ever joined a fandom in my whole life. Although the Bangtan boys are handsome and very talented, especially when you are watching them perform with their in-sync choreography; those are not the sole reasons why I love BTS. There are many artists out there who are equally or even more good-looking and talented than the seven boys, but there are deeper reasons why the group has caught my fancy and are breaking international barriers.
How I Found Out About BTS
I first learned about BTS when I heard my teenage son listening to one song over and over again. The song was Boy with Luv by BTS with Halsey. Although I like the melody of the song, being the authoritative parent that I am, I quickly check the English translation of the lyrics of the song. Yes, I do that. I screen songs, games, TV shows and other media content that my child is into. My belief is that media content has an effect on the subconscious mind of a child. Too much violence, inappropriate sexual content and offensive languages can have a negative impact on the well-being of a child. Since I found the lyrics wholesome, I let him be.
During that time, BTS was already gaining popularity in the west. So, imagine my surprise when I began seeing news about them from publications that I follow. Just a quick background, I don’t normally read the mainstream news because it is full of negativity. I am also not much into entertainment news. My leisure time was limited to the two-hours I allot each night watching two episodes of Korean Dramas. I do stock options trading so I mostly read business and economic news from Economic Times, Fortune, Forbes , The Wall Street Journal and the likes. And I’ve noticed that since that year, BTS with their company Big Hit Entertainment, now rebranded as Hybe Labels, always shows up in business and economic articles. So, that’s when I began to read about them.
The BTS Story
I have nothing but admiration for people who are able to succeed despite their humble beginnings. And BTS did exactly that. The Kpop industry is infamously known for its years of strict and intensive training from packed schedules, extreme diets to the pressure it subjects its trainees. To be able to complete training and debut as a Kpop artist is already an achievement by itself. What is more laudable is that BTS had to undergo all this without the financial support and influential backing of a big entertainment company. In fact, Big Hit Entertainment was already on the verge of bankruptcy then. There are even stories about how BTS performances were shortened and even cut from broadcast by major television networks. What is worse is that there was even an instance where they were humiliated live during an interview. It is so easy to give up given such circumstances, but they did not. Instead they used the hate, discrimination and criticisms as fuel to hone their skills. Bounded together with a common dream, the group had to overcome struggles not just in their professional lives but also in their personal lives as well.
Today, eight years after their debut, BTS is now a global phenomenon. As I write this, they dominate 70% of the uppermost tier of the World Album Charts. They broke numerous records from Billboard charts to different music awards in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Their names can even be found in the Guinness Book of World Records 18 times. A joint study conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Culture & Tourism state that their song Dynamite alone was able to bring US$1.43 billion dollars in the South Korean economy and was able to generate 7,928 jobs in the middle of the pandemic. To be able to accomplish all these at such young ages is truly remarkable. And to be able to use your talent to be a blessing to others is really commendable.
One of the reasons why BTS became so popular is that a lot of people resonate with the lyrics. The messages are familiar. Thus, listeners are hit on an emotional level. Most of the songs nowadays talk about the same topics – love, friendships, breakups and death. But BTS songs are different. Yes, they also talk about love and friendships but they go beyond that. They talk about hope, aspirations, dreams, challenges, happiness and struggles in life. They even took it further by talking about mental health, social issues and challenging the status quo. Because of the messages of their songs, they were even invited not once but twice by the United Nations General Assembly to be the guest speakers in front of member representatives from 193 different countries for their Love Myself Campaign.
Here are inspirational quotes from some of their songs:
- DREAMS and GOALS – “What is the you that you dreamed of? Who do you see in the mirror? I gotta say, Go on your path. Even if you live for a day, do something. Put away your weakness. “- No More Dream
- HARD WORK and SACRIFICE – “I worked all night, every day while you were out clubbing” – Dope
- HOPE – “The morning will come; No darkness no season is eternal.” – Spring Day
- LOVE YOURSELF – “I’m the one I should love in this world, shining me, precious soul of mine. I finally realized so I love me, not so perfect but so beautiful.” – Epiphany
If you are going to compare my BTS playlist to that of my son, one will be surprised that only about 20% of the songs are the same. That is because BTS music is so diverse that they have released songs from multiple genres.
To illustrate, my son is more into contemporary music such as pop, club music and rap. His favorites include:
- Pop Funk – Boy with Luv
- Kpop – Dimple, Pied Piper
- Contemporary R&B – My Time, Serendipity
- Pop – Save Me, Fake Love, Black Swan
- Electronic Dance Music / Club Music – Cypher Part 4
- Rap – Ddaeng
Although we both like pop, I, on the other hand, prefer slow songs such as ballads and those a little in between. My favorite songs include:
- Pop Rock – Spring Day, Friends
- Pop – Zero O’Clock, Life Goes On, Magic Shop, Stay Gold, We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal, Just One Day
- Latin Rhythm – Filter, Airplane Pt 2,
- Indie Pop – Sweet Night
- Ballad – Still with You, Epiphany
My point, whatever generation you belong to or whatever preferences you have for music, BTS has something to offer.
No BTS song is a stand-alone, meaning everything is connected to something else. Every frame in a music video is full of clues and secret messages that refer to either a past song or the personal life of a member. They also give hints of future works or releases. Sometimes, the intro of a song is connected to an outro of a past song. Not only that, their songs give references to specific books. For example, the whole Map of The Soul series is derived from Carl Jung’s analytical psychology on the Map of the Soul.
As a result, their songs are like embarking on a journey with the member’s personal and professional lives whether individually or as a group. And in each step of the journey, they never failed to include the BTS Army in the depths of their narratives.
So watching a BTS music video is no longer just for entertainment purposes alone. It is like solving a puzzle or a mystery. You have to look for clues and hidden meanings. It is thrilling and mind-boggling. And sometimes, one needs to read books to fully understand the meaning of it all.
There are millions of BTS content in every social media application out there. Unlike other artists wherein content is limited to videos of them on stage or pictures taken by paparazzi; BTS has as many videos of them off-stage as well as on-stage from the time since they were newbies. One thing worth noticing is that the boys are consistent with their behaviors. How they acted a decade ago is exactly the same as it is today. Each member is so funny. They laugh at the silliest of things. They fight over food. The maknaes are always goofing around. And their hyungs are trying hard to maintain order in the group. I love how each one has a unique personality that complements the group.
It’s so easy to fake a personality for a while but to be consistent for almost a decade, that’s no longer fake. Those are really their personalities. They are not afraid to show their weaknesses. That’s why a lot of people can relate. They are not some idol on a pedestal, they are just normal human beings like you and me.
A Way to Connect
One good thing about them is that there is actually a way to connect with them through V-live. Sometimes, the group or a member of the group will go live and talk and just answer questions from fans. I have seen how fans will literally tell their problems and struggles in life and the member will do his best to answer and give advice based on his personal experiences. How cool is that!
But what I love the most about them is their positive effect on their fans.
The BTS Army is the official fan club of the septet. Already millions strong, it is not just your typical fandom. It is a community. With a common goal of helping the septet reach out to unchartered territories. Legions of fans helped translate BTS song lyrics and video contents into several languages to ensure that BTS gets introduced to new audiences and be internationally recognized.
But what’s special about the Army is that they go beyond supporting the group. Since BTS is also popular for their philanthropic works, it is not surprising that BTS Army is not far behind. When BTS launched the Love Myself Campaign with UNICEF, BTS Army made individual donations to UNICEF on the individual members’ birthdays. When BTS donated $1 million dollars to Black Lives Matter, Army matched that amount and donated a few days later.
True, there is always a toxic minority in every fandom that gives the organization a bad reputation. But as a whole, this passionate fandom has been using their influence for positive change. They helped Korean orphans be sent to school. They raised money to bring medical help to Syrian refugees, to provide clean water to families, to help LGBTQ refugees living in poverty, to donate 100 cameras to assist kids in Kenya learn about photography and to donate toys to children suffering from cancer.
On a personal level, I too have experienced first hand the positive effect of BTS.
For one, BTS served as a bridge between what seemed to be a widening gap between an adolescent and a parent relationship. This is not only true for me but to my friends as well. BTS made it possible for parents and their children to reconnect and create a deeper bond with one another.
Second, BTS served as role models and inspiration for many. Seeing how they were able to survive and conquer their difficulties gave their fans hope to never give up and fight for their dreams. Their messages are very inspiring especially during this pandemic. If there is anything, they showed people that there is always light at the end of the tunnel and that dreams do come true.
In addition, it is not just their passion for their craft and determination to succeed. Fans also learned to love themselves. I personally witnessed the positive changes BTS had on my child. My son started taking care of himself. Drinking lots of water, having a skin care routine, reading books, being fashionable, finding his passion, working hard and not giving up are just some of the habits he had adapted for himself with BTS as his role models. As a parent, I am truly grateful for that.
“Kim Namjoon! Kim Seokjin! Min Yoongi! Jung Hoseok! Park Jimin! Kim Taehyung! Jeon Jungkook! BTS!”
How about you? Are you a member of BTS Army too? I would love to hear why you love BTS too.
Image Credit from Bangtan TV, BTS official page