BTS has exploded onto the American pop scene in the past couple of months. Their album, Love Yourself: Her, became the highest-charted K-pop album ever on Billboard, and they earned their first Hot 100 hit with “DNA" back in September. They won a Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist, and the recent American Music Awards marked the band's first-ever TV performance in the United States. While most of us are just now learning the names of the seven-member group (which, by the way, are Suga, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V, Jungkook, and Jin), the BTS ARMY has been saluting their talent for much longer.
The ARMY fandom (which is an acronym for “Adorable Representative M.C for Youth,") is a unique one. The fans we reached out to hail from Mexico, Honduras, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S. They come from different parts of the world, but are all bonded through a band that performs in a language they don't even speak. The fact that BTS consciously choose to perform in their native language—even with their growing popularity—is part of the reason fans respect them so much. “BTS choosing to release songs in Korean while breaking out in the West with these songs is a prime example that it is possible for your music and content to be loved without the need to completely assimilate to other cultures or languages," an admin for the Twitter account @bangtanUAE tells us.
As BTS continues to creep into mainstream notoriety, we spoke to some fans about their love for the band, how they feel about their recent uptick in popularity, and whether they would consider them to be the biggest boy band in the world right now.
@USBTSARMY, retail worker in L.A.
What about BTS first caught your attention?
I remember thinking they were different from the other K-pop groups I had seen. At this point, I had been into K-pop for about a year, and they really stood out. I did more research on them and started liking them even more. The chemistry they had with one another was something I liked. The way they talked about music and spoke about dreams and being young really pulled me in.
When would you say you first became part of the ARMY?
I officially decided to call myself an ARMY and give BTS my all December of 2013, about six months after they debuted on the music show M Countdown.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve done for the band?
Oh, god. I think, compared to most people, I'm not that hard-core! I've seen them perform all over the U.S., Korea, and even Mexico; I've lied to get out of work and family engagements to go see their shows; I've slept overnight on sidewalks and waited hours in line in freezing temperatures, but, in all honesty, I know about a couple dozen other girls who have done the same thing!
How do you feel when people compare them to other boy bands?
Like BTS has said themselves, I think it's really cool when people compare them to other great groups or artists. My only issue is, I do not want them to be dubbed as an “Asian 1D” or the “Asian *NSYNC,” etc. They are their own group with their own taste of music and style. They write their own music, and their songs have a variety of deep and meaningful lyrics. They are and deserve to be just BTS, a talented and amazing group of artists in a class of their own.
How do you feel about them becoming mainstream?
I am both excited and scared for them. While them gaining more popularity in the West can be good—i.e. bring them more opportunities as artists—I do not want them to be seen as just some novelty. They are artists who take their music very seriously and work hard on it and everything else they do. I hope they get treated and respected as such. I have no doubts—if people were to keep an open mind—that they would love BTS and appreciate their talents as much as their fans do. I am very excited to see how far BTS will go.
Would you say they're the most popular boy band in the world right now?
That's kind of a tricky question. On the one hand, if I say yes, people can say I'm biased. If I say no, that doesn't feel entirely true [laughs]. I definitely think they are the most talked about boy band in the world right now.