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From hip-hop idols to global superstars, BTS shatters records over decade

June 4, 2023 - 09:30 By Yonhap
K-pop band BTS (Big Hit Music)

BTS, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on June 13, has grown from a lesser-known hip-hop idol group to the most successful K-pop band, breaking numerous records in K-pop history along the way.

Initially launched as a band under Big Hit Entertainment, a smaller K-pop label that later transformed into Hybe, the group encountered considerable challenges in capturing the attention of its fan-base within the fiercely competitive idol music industry.

But with its strong rebellious image, the septet gradually built a fan-base, captivating them with music that resonated with the younger generation, dazzling stage performances and a friendly style of communication.

And then a passionate and cohesive fandom called "ARMY" was established. As this fandom grew tremendously, BTS began to make a name for itself in the mainstream pop market, churning out back-to-back hits, such as "I Need U," "Fire," "Blood, Sweat & Tears" and "Spring Day."

Especially since 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, BTS has continuously achieved unprecedented records in K-pop history.

The band's fourth full-length album, "Map of the Soul: 7," released in February of that year, sold over 4 million copies and topped the album charts in the world's top five music markets: the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, and France.

The English songs "Dynamite" and "Butter" reached the pinnacle of the highly coveted US Billboard Hot 100 chart. With the feat, the members of BTS solidified their position as the top pop stars in the world, shattering the prejudice that K-pop cannot appeal to the Western market.

They became the first K-pop act to be nominated for the Grammy Awards and won Artist of the Year, which is considered the top honor, at the 2021 American Music Awards. The AMAs are one of the three biggest music awards in the US

The group's performance at the Grammy Awards, where the members whispered to global pop star Olivia Rodrigo, and the commemorative photoshoots with top stars, like John Batiste, Lady Gaga, John Legend and Megan Thee Stallion, showcased its status.

Furthermore, BTS left a distinct mark on popular culture with a wide range of activities, including a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, receiving the Order of Cultural Merit from the South Korean government, holding solo concerts at Wembley Stadium in Britain and SoFi Stadium in the US, and visiting the White House.

Experts evaluate that BTS' success has opened the way for K-pop to be embraced in the global market.

Kim Jin-woo, head researcher of Circle Chart, which reports accumulated sales and streams, said, "I have often heard that other agencies found it easier to expand overseas, as BTS paved the way in the global market."

He added the group can be said to have played a leading role in the global expansion of K-pop.

The AMAs' recent creation of a K-pop category is evidence that K-pop's status has risen.

Another music critic, Lim Jin-mo, said BTS' past 10 years were a history of both the group's own leap and remarkable growth for K-pop as a whole. Following BTS, groups like BLACKPINK and NCT have also achieved great success, he added.

"BTS made a crucial contribution to K-pop becoming a leading music genre worldwide. They deserve to be rated highly for the success achieved through the members' passion and unwavering determination without relying on the resources of a large K-pop agency," he emphasized.

After dropping the anthology album "Proof" in June last year and holding a concert in Busan in October to support the city's bid to host 2030 World Expo, the band began a hiatus from group activities to pursue solo projects.

The oldest member, Jin, joined the military to fulfill his two years of mandatory service in December, followed by another member, J-Hope, in April this year. Their agency has said other members will also enlist sequentially.

BTS members achieved remarkable success in their solo endeavors as well, including Jimin claiming No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a solo track and Jungkook's performance of a song from the official soundtrack for the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the event's opening ceremony in Qatar. Suga had a world tour to promote his first official solo album, while RM and V appeared on TV variety shows in their home country.

ARMYs around the world are now eagerly anticipating the return of the group in 2025, as predicted by their agency.

"Famous bands, like U2, have been active for over 40 years, making a world tour and releasing albums," Lee Gyu-tag, a K-pop expert who teaches pop music and media studies at George Mason University Korea, said. "I believe BTS will also walk a similar path and have a long-lasting career." (Yonhap)