K-pop industry has no longer been a mere phenomenon in global music industry nowadays. With BTS listed multiple times in international music charts like Billboard, world media has paid special attention a this 7-member Korean boyband. This is the first time a K-pop group has ever achieved such popularity, so what’s their recipe of success?
Do you know BTS?
This question was often posed by BTS members in their early days when they were still not so famous. But if you see them ask the same question in their videos, you will see it sounds a bit ironical. Why? Because they make headlines and break record after record in a way that no other Korean artist has been able to do.
BTS or Bangtan Sonyeondan, translated as Bulletproof Boy Scouts, was founded in 2013 by Big Hit Entertainment. They rebranded in 2017 as Beyond the Scene but many fans (ARMY) refers to them as Bangtan boys, a 7-piece group (RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook), whose music style is originally hip hop but evolves to various genres.
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How did they come up with the group concept?
BTS is a rare phenomenon of K-pop, when the septet became more famous abroad (though not fluent in English) before being very popular in South Korea. To explain how they managed to do so, let me first describe the context.
Korean music industry has been dominated by idol groups for decades but behind the scene, there exists a great deal of rumours about its hostile working environment. The suicide of Jong Hyun, a SHINee member along with the Burning Sun scandal (an entertainment and sex scandal) in 2018 are just the 2 cases to disclose how toxic the studio culture is. Also, this culture did not systematically encourage personal expression and societal issues. Therefore, not until the end of their music career, do idols feel relieved to be able to open up about their difficulties.
As a result, Bang Si-hyuk, a previous music producer from JYP Entertainment, decided to resign to build his own company, Big Hit Entertainment, a revolutionary kind of studio. His ambition was to create a studio revolving around singers whose music is an expression of their personalities. So, at the beginning, he did struggle a lot to establish his position within this industry. But regardless of meeting difficulties, he still made the idea of authenticity in the heart of his company values.
To realise this ambition, President Bang gathered a group of 7 teens and called them Bulletproof Boy Scouts. As the name suggested itself, Bulletproof implies the kids’ toughness and ability to cope with social pressures as J-Hope indicated:
Block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim on adolescents like bullets, to preserve the values and ideal of today’s adolescents.
This is however not just a mere name but what they truly believe and want to share the message to the world. Big Hit President then encouraged the group to be themselves, to show their real personalities and talents instead of being “artificial products” like many other current K-pop bands.