Seo Byung Ki is the Editor-in-Chief of the Herald Economy’s Entertainment section. He recently wrote an op-ed discussing what BTS‘s international success means for K-Pop and what it can teach its fans.
Below is a translation of his op-ed in full.
What We Really Need to Learn from BTS’s Success
“At seminars related to K-Pop and Hallyu, the point of discussion is about what conditions and environment are necessary for a second BTS.
To explain BTS’s success, some mention ‘MIC Drop’ remaining on Billboard’s Hot 100 for six weeks straight or successful social media and multi-platform strategies. But there are preconditions: it’s the organic combination of the content. Without an organically, systemically connected content, it’s difficult to have BTS’s level of synergy.
The contents involved in making a music group include lyrics, daily life, fandom, the relationship with the entertainment company, and more. When it comes to BTS, these elements are all seamlessly connected. So the lyrics that talk about BTS’s story appeals to not only national but international audiences.
Unlike many other idols, BTS’s lyrics have been analyzed. In “DOPE”, BTS says, “Well I like beef jerky so it’s yookpo generation. The media and adults say we don’t have willpower
condemning us like stocks. Why are they killing us before we can even try, enemy enemy enemy.”
In “Bapsae”, their lyrics include ‘Ah, stop going on about ‘effort’ and more ‘effort” while in “Fire” they say ‘Who are you to compare me with others?
I’m only human’. BTS criticizes the Baby Boomer generation and challenges social injustices. International fans react to these lyrics even though their social circumstances might be different from that of Korea’s. Even American fans listen in on BTS’s criticism of the Baby Boomers and social injustices.
They say that a lot of kids who left home came back after listening to Seo Tae Ji’s “Come Back Home”. Now, BTS’s lyrics are consoling fans’ hurt and pains worldwide. Maybe they even do as they hear; they put what they hear in the lyrics to action in real life. It’s a very interesting point.
Every idol has a social media strategy. But for BTS, it’s a continuation of their organically connected contents, offering insight into their daily life, and giving a sense of continuity and familiarity. Not every aspect of this is a thought out strategy from the start. It’s more of a natural outcome from the attitude of the BTS members, who truly love music and wish to communicate through it.
— Seo Byung Ki