In case you haven’t heard, BTS won the Top Social Award at the 2017 Billboards Music Awards. That’s great to hear, but for different reasons you might think! Winning a music award is a great achievement for any music artist, especially for a foreign artist to win an award in America, and BTS is the first Kpop group to win an award at the BBMAs. My question, however, is what does winning the award mean? Kpop already has a global audience, but will this award mean anything for BTS and Kpop in the future?
Before I dive into what the award means, I want to get into the award itself. Me personally, I don’t like award shows because they often do not award the artists who really deserve awards and recognition. Don’t get me wrong! Drake is a fine rapper, but there are better rappers out there who deserve the recognition he gets. Plus, the public doesn’t really cares about award shows anymore. In today’s world, just because an artist sells a lot of singles doesn’t mean they’re any good. Award shows like the Grammys and Billboard Music Awards are basically the equivalent of running for Prom Queen— they’re a form of advertisement trying to attract more people to the thing people already like.
Some people will say, “just don’t watch award shows if you hate them so much!” But it’s almost human nature to wonder about the best things out there. Look at YouTube and all of the videos detailing top ten lists of various movies, actors, products, and more. People want to know what the best things are, so it’s a shame these award shows tend to suck so much. Even though I’m personally highly critical, I do admit that they do one thing really well: advertise.
We all know who BTS is, but the vast majority of American music fans have no idea who they are. BTS won the Top Social Artist Award due to votes by the A.R.M.Y. fandom, and now BTS is in the American spotlight and people are clamoring to know who BTS is. I can imagine BTS becoming more popular because of the award show. Their American shows had already sold out within hours, and now a more mainstream audience is hearing about them. The BTS audience is going to grow larger, and more people are being exposed to Korean pop music. Other Kpop groups had their shot as well. SNSD had their run, and PSY took over the planet in 2012. But, so far, there hasn’t been a Korean group to really penetrate the American mainstream audience, despite some groups having passionate fan bases that rival American pop stars. So what gives?
Well, with the exception of PSY, the groups that tried to break into America did so by appealing to American tastes. “Gangnam Style” was like a meme that took over the world’s consciousness. Then the hype train reached the end of its track, and PSY hasn’t been able to get another huge hit like that again, despite having help from Snoop Dogg. Kpop and American pop have their distinct differences and styles, so it would make sense that if you want to make it big in another country, then you would emulate their style, right? No! The problem with that type of thinking is people can see through insincerity. People don’t like insincerity, and they don’t like artists shamelessly trying to make people like them. People like authenticity, at least in America.
BTS got their award because they didn’t change who they were, and their fans loved them for it. All they did was release their music overseas, and here they are getting awards. Their fans loved them for being BTS. Despite PSY’s best efforts, he couldn’t capture what made “Gangnam Style” so special: authenticity. Snoop Dogg is the type of rapper who would do any song for a paycheck, for better or worse. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If Snoop Dogg wants to feature in a song, then that’s great. Now the question is, however, what kind of effect would Snoop Dogg have on the song he’s featured on, and how will people respond to that. Snoop Dogg is a legend, but he isn’t as big as he once was. He’s no longer the flavor the year. Now, it’s other rappers. Does Snoop Dogg’s feature in “HANGOVER” feel genuine or is it a shameless grab at popularity? Does BTS’s song “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” feel genuine or is it a shameless grab at popularity? I think we know the answers to both questions.
BTS could pave the way for other Kpop groups to make it big in America. I’m not saying that BTS is going to the next big thing in the U.S. and take over the airwaves. They’re probably not, but the interest and the exposure is there thanks to the Billboard Music Awards. It shows the industry that it doesn’t need a gimmick song to make it big in the U.S. No, the way to make to it big in America is, in my opinion, to be yourself.
Thankfully, Rap Monster has already laid those concerns to rest when it comes to BTS. When asked about whether they will now try to appeal more to American fans, he assured the press that they would continue to do what they have been doing until now— continuing to produce Korean music with an important message to the youth of today. In other words, they will be staying true to themselves.
So, what do you guys think? Will the Top Social Award have an effect on Kpop in America? Will it affect BTS only? Or will it have no large effect on Kpop at all? Let me know in the comments below!
Meanwhile, check out BTS’s winning moment at the recent BBMAs!
KyeongJun is a writer for WTK, where he gushes about his love for Korean rock music (You guys need to listen to Jaurim). When not writing, he’s at the gym listening to the newest K-Rock bands. You can catch KyeongJun @ElCrazy_Diamond on Twitter (Don’t worry that it’s a bit barren—he’ll soon be posting regularly! You can also Tweet him if you know any cool new artists you would recommend!)