BTS, a Korean pop boy band, has been smashing records with its latest all-English single “Dynamite.”
The music video received the most views of any video in 24 hours in YouTube history (101.1 million), received nearly 8 million plays on Spotify in 24 hours and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. All of these records I feel are justified because the song’s a bop — it’s just a fun, feel-good, funky tune.
What’s funny is even though I was aware of how popular BTS has become the past few years — I’d seen how the band had been invited to perform at American music award shows or as guests on TV shows — I only started listening to its music maybe six months ago. I started listening to K-pop about a decade ago so I think I felt a sense of loyalty to the groups I grew up listening to.
In any case, as an Asian person, seeing those accomplishments is pretty freaking cool.
As a young kid, I rarely saw anyone who looked or lived like me in the movies, and shows I watched nor the books I read. I could probably count on my two hands the total number of Asian students in the schools I attended. It’s not like I didn’t have friends, but that feeling of exclusion eventually led to me, for a long time, ignoring and downplaying my heritage because I just wanted to fit in with the people around me.
I’ve since realized that my concept of worth shouldn’t and doesn’t come from validation from Western entities, but I have to admit BTS’ domination of the international music scene is impressive and groundbreaking.
It’s certainly been a long time coming for the K-pop scene.
I’ve seen many groups try to appeal to international audiences. They often sprinkle some English in their music, and sometimes they’ll release full songs or albums in different languages. Of course, there are the world tours too, but I think that’s par for the course for any big musician.
I’ll admit I don’t listen to the radio too often these days because I’d rather listen to my own playlists, but I’m curious to know if “Dynamite” will get radio play around here.
I’ve only heard a K-pop song on the radio once, and it was 2NE1’s “I Am the Best,” years after the song initially came out and made waves in South Korea.
I think modern popular music here in America is slowly starting to open up to foreign music. I’ve noticed, for example, more Spanish reggaeton music being played on Top 40 radio.
I’m here for it, all of it.
I remember hearing people say, “But Savannah, why do you listen to this music so much if you don’t understand what they’re saying?”
Well, I firmly believe you don’t have to know the lyrics of a song to necessarily understand what feeling or vibe a musician is trying to convey. People listen to all kinds of music that don’t even have words. Music can be made by anybody for anyone.
I appreciate that digital outlets like YouTube or Spotify, for example, can help people easily discover music from all over the world and catapult people to new audiences. If artists like BTS can break into the mainstream American market, I’m excited to see what our musical landscape will look like in just a few years.