BTS are everywhere.
From South Korea to Europe to the United States, it’s hard to go anywhere without running into an A.R.M.Y, BTS’ music, or their faces. Even in the United States, their songs and likeness are featured on products (most recently, cell phones) and in United States media as the prime K-Pop group. For those outside the K-Pop fandom, it seems like only BTS exists in the K-Pop Realm.
BTS are everywhere.
Of course, this isn’t without good reason as they exploded in popularity due to their music, charisma, and likeable and charming members. Of course, their loyal fanbase shouldn’t be forgotten as a group is nothing without fans.
BTS are doing many things that even older K-Pop groups cannot boast. They break YouTube viewing records left and right; they’re the first K-Pop group to ever perform in a US stadium (Citi Field, home of the New York Mets), and also the first to be lauded on US awards shows. They even own records for ranking high on the US music charts, a feat that very few Korean acts could say they own. They’ve also made multiple appearances on several US talk shows and news programs, joining Wonder Girls, BIGBANG, B.A.P, and Tablo as some of the few Korean artists to have done so.
BTS are everywhere.
But, is being everywhere a good thing?
BTS’ rise is well-earned, much like PSY’s global popularity back in 2012 when The Summer of “Gangnam Style” gripped fans and non-K-Pop fans alike, amassing in billions of views on YouTube and YouTube needing to change their view counting abilities to accommodate viral fame. PSY rode high, made the rounds much like BTS are now, and then he fizzled with subsequent releases like “Gentleman” and the ill-received “Hangover” collaboration with Snoop Dogg.
After “Gangnam Style,” PSY struggled to have a strong global hit. It was as if global recognition took the “art” out of the artist and replaced it with something broken. When one tries to appeal to the masses instead of the niche audience one that started it off, it’s as if that person loses touch with the soul that attracted audiences and brought joy to them.
This is where BTS seem to be headed, especially since the release of “Idol” on August 24, 2018. “Idol” features a strong beat, a catchy chorus, and a poppin’ track that succeeds following the hit-making formula of any pop track, especially those composed for summer. The MV is also brightly colored and quirky. With over 122 million views at the time of this writing, and guaranteed wins on the music shows thanks to the power of the A.R.M.Y fandom, BTS has another hit track, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good track.
“Idol” is weak compared to past BTS tracks, and even weaker than the previously mediocre “Fake Love” and “DNA.” All three tracks have been released during the time of BTS’ global domination, and all three tracks lack BTS’ color that made them a fan-favorite phenomenon. Instead of BTS’s recognizable rap-pop fusion, we have a basic summer track that’s highly over-processed with auto-tune and vocal distortion and a track that is more cocky than humble. While the backing music is cool, it’s nothing special and forgettable given how similar summer fare exists globally. Composition-wise, the song is a mess and lacks cohesion. It’s like the writing team, composers, and producers didn’t care enough to make a quality track. The same goes with the MV, which is filled with CGI and self-love (and not of the positive “love yourself” way but in the “full of themselves” way).
And that’s the thing: A quality track didn’t need to be made because fans still checked out and bought the song and album because of the BTS name. When a fandom as large as BTS’ will do anything for their group, who needs quality when everything released is pretty much lined in gold?
Pre-global domination, BTS had solid tracks with meaningful lyrics. The lyrics had soul and spoke of issues that related to different fans. It was easy to find a song on a BTS album that matched a mood, an emotion, or a situation. Now, BTS have begun to tread into vapid territory because that’s what relates to global audiences, especially Western audiences in a Western music scene that sees very few meaningful tracks because “bops” with a good beat dominate charts more than a track that may have some significance. Who cares about emotion and relatability when songs about bling, degrading women, drinking, and essentially written in a way that equates the mental IQ of an empty blonde joke make money and gain fame? Throw in a catchy beat and you have a million-dollar track.
BTS as a group is not the problem. It’s clear they care about their fans and wanting to produce quality. They announced ahead of their US tour that they will not be partaking in interviews in order to focus on their concerts and producing a quality show. The company, writers, composers, and producers are the problem because they have lost sight of the core fanbase that made BTS who they are. Instead of reaching out to those fans by making quality music that speaks to them in incredible ways, those fans have been thrown to the curb because global fanfare has become more important.
Of course, as long as fans buy the music, there’s no need to care about the core that made it all happen from the start. This is where companies lose their souls. This is where artists begin to lose their hearts as well.
Global fame has taken away from BTS’ quality, and it shows in their recent music. BTS can experience the fruits of their labor while paving their way to K-Pop Royalty, but they need to not alienate their core fans. BigHit and their writers, producers, and composers need to stop looking at the “big picture” while needing to see the big picture, meaning that they need to return to their roots before they completely wreck BTS’ credibility and start having issues with keeping fans. While shooting high, they need to aim at the heart and go back to creating quality singles and albums that reach the original fans. By doing so, things will fall into place as they should. If they continue to aim toward Joe Nobody in the West, their efforts could lead BTS down a path of ruin and a quick fade following their meteoric rise.