By: Keilany Ligons
Bangtan Sonyeondan, or BTS, were first discovered separately in 2010 by BigHit Entertainment.
Korean talent companies have different ways of recruiting talent and debuting them. Many have to audition and some are even personally scouted. They then go through a training process, for however long is needed, before they debut as an artist, which could vary from a few months to years.
Some companies put together survival shows that trainees might participate in to form groups to debut. Most of the BTS members were discovered through auditions. For example, RM, the rapping leader, and most fluent English speaker of the group, auditioned for a hip-hop group before getting in contact with a BigHit producer, and Suga, another one of the group’s rappers, auditioned for BigHit.
Jungkook, the youngest member and a vocalist, was scouted by several agencies after being eliminated from a talent competition in Busan, before deciding to join BigHit.
V, another vocalist, went to the company to support a friend who was auditioning, and was encouraged to audition himself.
Jin, a vocalist and the oldest member, was at first scouted by a large company, but declined it as he thought it was a scam. He was later scouted again by BigHit.
Jimin, a vocalist and the last member to join, was encouraged to audition for BigHit after impressing his dance teacher at a school of arts.
J-Hope, a dancer and rapper for the group, originally auditioned for a bigger company as a dancer but was cut. He then auditioned for BigHit.
At the time, BigHit was a fairly small company. However, when BTS debuted in 2013 with their song No More Dream, they saw a fair amount of success and popularity.
At first, they had a more “hard” concept, trying to heavily give off a hip-hop persona. They mostly wore black, eyeliner, chains, baggy shirts, and shorts. During this era, they spent some time in LA, learning from hip-hop artists in the area to gain a true respect and understanding of hip-hop and R&B, along with the history and culture behind it.
They were able to stand out from other artists in Korea because BTS had the creative freedom to make their music about social issues and topics that would be considered taboo in Korea, where it was rare for groups to do so, addressing teen stress, mental health, the corrupt education system, and at times the government. They used their music to embrace their Korean identities, wanting to share a narrative that was personal and authentic to them as Koreans.
From 2015 and forward, BTS were able to break out of their forced, hard concept, and opened up to consistent new concepts, and looks as they became more creatively independent. Most of the time, their concepts for videos are very artistic and metaphorical, including bright and soft colors mixed with lighting, while still going back to tapping into more intense concepts at times (mostly for the rap line’s solo work).
While they’ve always been participants in the creation of their music, they began to be even more hands on in the process at this time, being able to write, produce, and compose their own songs, along with even directing their music videos.
Their global popularity had grown largely at this time as well, and they went on their first world tour in 2015 for their album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. In 2016, their song, Blood Sweat & Tears, broke the record for the fastest music video to hit 10 million views (in 41 hours), fastest boy group video to hit 20 million views (in 136 hours) and the fastest Kpop video to hit 30 million views (in 13 days and 20 hours). They broke another record in 2017, when their music video for their song DNA became the highest charting song by any K-pop group ever.
BTS have grown to have a very large, and organized social fanbase, known as Army. However, there have been issues with their fans’ communities – especially Korean and white fans – having several instances of racism towards black and Asian fans along with some fans sending others death threats and speaking badly of other groups.
There have even been several instances of fans stalking BTS and taking unsolicited pictures of them, finding their plane flights and buying near theirs, and only supporting one member of the group while openly expressing hate towards the others. Despite this, Army also has many good attributes. In June of 2020, they matched BTS’s donation of 1 million dollars to Black Lives Matter and matched their other donations before, they have held several streaming parties to help their music chart and gain attention. The fanbase is very diverse as well, with people from many different backgrounds, with different talents and hobbies, making it easy for people to find their own small communities amongst fans.
BTS have also broken several records as a group. Their most recent album, BE, was their fifth album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts, and they currently have 4 songs that have reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Life Goes On, Dynamite, Butter, and Permission to Dance), one being the first ever primarily Korean song to hold the spot. One of their most recent songs, Butter, has broken the record for the most viewed music video in 24 hours, being their fourth song to do so. Their other songs like, Boy With Luv and IDOL, have also broken this record, and were just about their only competition. They’ve also been able to work with many recognisable artists such as Halsey, Nicki Minaj, and more recently, Megan Thee Stallion. They were the first Kpop group to win a Billboard award. And while not winning the award, BTS became the first Korean act to be nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group at the Grammys this year, and the first Korean act to have done a solo performance at the show, after participating in Lil Nas X’s performance the prior year.
Along with group success, they’ve managed to also be successful in their solo careers. Suga has been credited as a producer for several other musical artists. Under the name Agust D, his second solo album D-2 became the highest charting album on Billboard by a South Korean artist. Both RM’s Mono, and J-Hope’s Hope World, became No.1 in several countries on iTunes and other charts, Mono setting a record with 121 countries, and Hope World having the most No.1 chart spots by a Korean album in 24 hours. Although the group’s vocalists have yet to release their own solo albums, each of them have released their own songs on different platforms. V had even been into acting for a while in a Korean period drama called Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth.
Over the last 7 years, BTS has become one of the biggest acts in the world, musically and socially. They have constantly used their platforms to spread awareness of issues and promote self love, as they’ve spoken at the UN twice. They continue to help introduce people to be more open to even more international music as they continue to make music that spreads good messages, tells stories, and touches people.