Will BTS be the most successful k-pop band ever?

A small South Korean company has created a boy band that’s about to conquer the world

epa06753557 South Korean boy band BTS, known as the Bangtan Boys, arrive for the 2018 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 20 May 2018. The Billboard Music Awards finalists are based on US year-end chart performance, sales, number of downloads and total airplay.  EPA/NINA PROMMER
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The formula is nearly always the same – hold nationwide auditions, whittle down potential members, throw in singing and dancing lessons then launch the new boy band. As with many other Korean pop acts, that is how boy band BTS found success.

But with BTS there is one impressive difference – the group are something of an anomaly in the pop pantheon because they were not created courtesy of a powerhouse entertainment company, this is a story of the little guy making it big.

Big Hit Entertainment, which doesn't have any other artists that are even as close to as popular or successful as BTS on their books, is a relatively small affair. It only has four other solo artists and one actor signed up. In comparison, fellow South Korean company SM Entertainment has a plethora of artists and groups that include Exo, BOA, Super Junior, Girls' Generation, Shinee and Red Velvet, among others. In fact, SME has so many artists under its brand it was able to showcase a four-hour K-pop concert in Dubai last month, all with acts entirely from from its own roster.

It's safe to say that Big Hit's investment in BTS has paid off. The group have released six albums, four compilation albums, five EPs and 22 singles since the boys' debut in 2013. And even more rewarding for all that hard work? They've made headlines this week by becoming the first K-pop act to reach No 1 on the US Billboard 200 with their album Love Yourself: Tear.  

Who are they?

Short for Bangtan Boys –which roughly translates in English to Bulletproof Boy Scouts – the seven-member group consists of Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. In the five years since their debut, they have smashed records and amassed popularity with uncanny ease after every single that they've released. 

Perhaps even better news for fans though is that the band has stayed together. Unlike other K-pop groups that often lose members due to contractual disputes, fall-outs, dreaded musical differences between members or just fatigue from the relentless nature of the pop music machine, BTS have remained intact.

Read more: Five BTS songs to know

Their fan club has been given the moniker A.R.M.Y – Adorable Representative MC for Youth, and BTS have amassed 15 million followers on Twitter, 10.7 million on Instagram and 6.5 million likes on Facebook.

Crossover to the US

Their popularity is especially fast growing outside of South Korea. Last year, the boys became the first K-pop band to win a Billboard Music Award when they took home the fan-voted Top Social Artist Award, dethroning Justin Bieber and ending his six-year winning streak. They then won the same award this year, just last week.

2018 Billboard Music Awards - Show - Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., 20/05/2018 - BTS accepts the Top Social Artist award. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
2018 Billboard Music Awards - Show - Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., 20/05/2018 - BTS accepts the Top Social Artist award. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In part, their western success might be down to one of their songs being remixed by DJ Steve Aoki. Mic Drop, which also features added vocals from rapper Desiigner, became a hit on the radio in the US and topped the US iTunes charts after debuting at No 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to become their first US top 40 single. While most of their songs are in Korean or sometimes Japanese, it seems that it doesn't matter to their fans around the world what language they perform in.

When BTS delivered their debut performance of Fake Love at the Billboard Awards, huge chants of "Fake Love" could be heard throughout the chorus, even during the moments when the cameras were not cutting back to fans.

Watch their performance of Fake Love at the Billboard Music Awards:

What next?

The members of BTS are all aged between 20 to 25, and so are surely still young enough to keep producing music for a while longer. With appearances on The Ellen Show and Jimmy Kimmel, it's not hard to imagine the group finding even more worldwide success. 

Click to watch BTS on The Ellen Show:

In August, the band will begin their Love Yourself 2018 world tour. It will start in Seoul and then head to the US and Canada, before ending in Paris. The 14 dates on the American and Canadian legs of the tour have already sold out. Will there be plans for a stop in the Middle East after the success of SMTown Live? While there isn't anything marked on their official tour schedule, the website mentions that there are "more dates to come", which still leaves hope for fans in the region

Even South Korean president Moon Jae-in sent a message of congratulations to the band after all of the chart-topping success. In his message, he seemed to convey the very reason why BTS has been so successful over the last five years: "At the very heart of BTS's outstanding dancing and singing is sincerity. This magical power turns grief into hope and differences into similarity.

“Each of the seven members sings in a way that is true to himself and the life he wants to live. Their melody and lyrics transcend regional borders, language, culture, and institutions. Thank you to BTS for spreading joy across Korea and the world with your great performances.”