Since their debut in 2013, BTS have become the epitome of the pop music phenomenon. They’ve been nominated for two GRAMMYs, they’ve had four number 1 albums faster than any group since Beatlesand broke up 25 Guinness World Records. And the South Korean group did it all singing mostly in their native language, creating progress for other Asian music groups.
The septet – made up of members J-Hope, Jimin, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Suga and V – hasn’t released an album since the 2020s Be, so naturally, fans are excited to BTS’s upcoming anthology album, EvidenceJune 10. The three-part project will feature both old and new tracks, and will surely showcase the magic that is BTS.
In preparation for release, let’s take a look back at the record-breaking career of the record breakers as they return to their roots in a new way. That you are part of the ARMY or just wondering what makes BTS so special, GRAMMY.com answers some of the hottest questions about the K-pop phenoms.
Has BTS always been a K-Pop group?
BTS debuted on June 12, 2013 with a single album titled 2 Cool for school. The project had a rebellious character, addressing issues of misunderstanding and prejudice. Musically, it leaned more hip-hop – but it’s not too surprising, as members Suga and RM have a background in the underground rap scene in Korea. Still to this day, BTS’ hip-hop influences allow them to stand out with authenticity.
Although they identify as a K-pop group, they have changed their style over the years and have always had a strong rap guideline. The strength of their rapping skills has allowed them to be one of the few non-Western artists to appear on Billboard’s Top Rap Album chart. (The 2020 reissue of 2014 Skool Luv case debuted on the chart in November).
Their rap inspirations continue Evidence: One of the upcoming singles, “Born Singer” is adapted from J. Cole’s “Born a sinner” from his 2013 album of the same name. BTS unofficially released and performed the track in 2013.
Why is BTS so popular?
Their music – which spans multiple languages including Korean, English and Japanese – attracts a global audience, even sparking a huge spark in tourism in their home country. In 2020, the HRI reported that at least 796,000 people visited South Korea for BTS.
This is just a glimpse of the breadth and diversity of their ARMY. Their fan base – which stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth – has also proven to be incredibly loyal, especially on social media. Each member has over 34 million Instagram followers on their personal accounts, and the group’s 64 million followers make them the most followed group on the app. On Twitter (where the band has 46 million followers), each of their posts garners around 2 million likes.
There are many calls to BTS. Good music that transcends genres is just the icing on the cake. They are also extremely talented performers, have uplifting messages in their music, speak out on important issues, and have built an organic bond with their fans. It also doesn’t hurt that their friendship with each other is palpable. Because of the community and comfort many people find in the group, it makes fans all the more passionate to support them.
Was “Dynamite” BTS’ first English song?
“Dynamite” – which took the world by storm in 2020 – was BTS’ first all-English single, but one of their 2018 collaborations with Steve Aoki, “Waste it on Me”, marked their first song entirely in English. (Only Jungkook, RM, and Jimin sing on the track, though.) The chill EDM single followed previous Aoki/BTS team-ups like 2017’s “Mic Drop” and 2018’s “The Truth Untold.”
Who did BTS collaborate with?
With Aoki, BTS hopped on tracks with a notable number of their superstar peers. Recalling their rap influences, the septet has collaborated with several rappers, including Nicki Minaj, DesignerWall and Megan you stallion. Snoop Dogg also claims that he has something in the making with the group.
2019 was a busy collaboration year for BTS, as they recruited Halsey for the colorful single “Boy With Luv” and Lauv for a remix of “Make It Right” (Jimin and Jungkook featured on a song by Lauv called “Who” in 2020). That summer, BTS released a soundtrack album titled BTS World: soundtrack (from the mobile game of the same name), which included Charlie XCX, Zara Larsson and the late Juice WRLD. In 2021, BTS teamed up with cold play for the anthemic single “My Universe”.
What inspires BTS’s music?
BTS don’t just make music, they make art. While it’s easy to enjoy their infectious melodies and punchy beats, there’s also a deeper layer that can be explored. Much of their music is inspired by literature and psychology.
Their 2016 studio album wings was inspired by Hermann Hesse Demian, with references to its apparent theme in the video for “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”. “Persona”, from their EP Soul Map: Persona was inspired by “Jung’s Map of the Soul”, the music video for “Spring Day” referenced Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” with a sign reading “Omelas” and “Butterfly” is reflected through RM’s direct lines to the plot of Takashi Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore.” There are many more hidden gems throughout their work worth exploring.
Who is the 8th member of BTS?
Although BTS has always been publicly known as a group of seven members, they were almost known as eight. Kim Ji-Hun trained with BTS and hoped to join the final roster – initially scouted for his breakdancing skills – but was eliminated by management before the group started.
In a interview with Vice, Ji-Hun details training for life as an idol and his relationship as a “second parent” with the other members. Ji-Hun now works in a government position in veterans health while making YouTube videos under the name biton.
Does BTS have GRAMMYs?
BTS was nominated for two GRAMMYs, both for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Their first name came in 2021 for “Dynamite”, then “Butter” earned his second nod in 2022. Although they are not the only Korean musicians nominated for the GRAMMYs, they are the only K-pop act to receive nominations.
Who writes BTS songs?
All members of the group have participated in songwriting since the group’s debut, most often RM, Suga, and J-Hope. (RM has recent writing credits on “Black Swan” and “Butter.”)
The group has also contracted out to other pop stars, including Ed Sheeranwho is credited on “Permission to Dance” and “Make It Right”, and Troye Sivan, who co-wrote “Louder Than Bombs” a cut of Soul Card: 7. Swivel DJwhich is best known as BeyonceBTS’ personal sound engineer co-wrote several BTS songs from 2018 to 2020. South Korean producers/composers Pdogg, Supreme Boi, and Hitman Bang are also listed as songwriters in different projects over the years.
What issues are BTS fighting for?
BTS has a long history of supporting mental health awareness and self-love, as evidenced by the themes of their music, including the love yourself trilogy of albums. From 2017 they also joined UNICEF for the Love Myself campaign against violence and spoke at the United Nations in 2018 to promote Generation Unlimited, a youth education and job training campaign. They were joined at the UN with former South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2021 where they were appointed as Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture.
In 2020 they also did a statement in support of BLM coupled with a $1 million donation. This prompted fans to match their donation in one day.
Then BTS is heading to the White House as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month ends on May 31. The group will meet with President Joe Biden to discuss diversity, Asian inclusion, representation and anti-Asian hatred.
The guys from BTS addressed the discrimination they faced in the past, issue a statement condemning anti-Asian hate in early 2021 amid a spike in Asian hate crimes. “We oppose racial discrimination,” they wrote. “We condemn the violence. You, me and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand united.”
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