1. Their videos are dazzling works of art
If you miss the seven-figure budgets and eye-popping dance routines of the Britney and Justin era, step this way. BTS showcase their addictive Korean-language mash-up of synth pop, trap and dance in videos with old-school showstopping pizzazz. Their choreo is more intense than a Barry’s Bootcamp session – check out Bambi-like leaps across floating CGI platforms (‘DNA’), and dance-offs with ninjas in post-apocalyptic landscapes (‘Not Today’). In 2018, Western pop videos can suffer from a lack of imagination, so BTS’s splurge on creative mini movies is paying off: this August, their eye-poppingly colourful ‘Idol’ video racked up 45 million views in a single day, snatching a record previously held by Taylor Swift (it now has a gargantuan 185 million!).
2. Their fans are unbelievably dedicated
Beyoncé’s Beyhive and Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters have nothing on Army, BTS’s continent-spanning fanbase. Thanks to their support, the boys already have two US number one albums under their belts. They’ve also become the first ever K-pop group to score a UK Top 40 hit, with ‘Idol’. And last year, they beat off competition from Justin Bieber to be named Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards. But even non-obsessives might be tempted by BTS’s thoughtfully curated physical releases, which often feature collectible gifts like sticker sets and photo books. But as 23-year-old superfan Nadia told us, a band doesn’t get to BTS’s position from retweets alone: ‘If the music they’re releasing wasn’t great, none of this would happen.’
3. They also have one of pop’s most inclusive fan communities
Come for BTS’s music, stay for the friends you make along the way. Army is among the most racially diverse and LGBT+-inclusive fanbases around, according to Blackburn-based Nadia, who’s excited to see her heroes at the O2. ‘People are of all ages and of all backgrounds,’ she says. ‘Nobody is ever made to feel excluded.’
4. They stand for something bigger
Last year, BTS partnered with Unicef on an anti-violence campaign called ‘Love Myself’, and part of the proceeds from their current album campaign are going to the cause. Last month, they followed in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and Shakira by delivering a United Nations address. ‘Many mainstream celebs shy away from social issues,’ says Sammy of K-pop-obsessed YouTube duo Niki and Sammy. ‘It’s so refreshing to see BTS, who have such an incredible platform, engaging with these topics.’
5. BTS embrace Western influences without compromising their style
‘What’s good, Korea?’ purrs Nicki Minaj at the start of her guest verse on BTS’s ‘Idol’. Western pop’s heavy hitters are now eyeing a slice of the boys’ fanbase – they’ve also collaborated with dance duo The Chainsmokers, rapper Desiigner and emo band Fall Out Boy. Now, other pop A-listers are definitely taking note of K-pop’s snowballing appeal: Dua Lipa is about to drop a collab with sassy K-pop girlband Blackpink.
6. The boys address topics that can be taboo in mainstream pop
In BTS’s songs – most of which they co-write – the septet, all aged between 22 and 25, give thoughtful lyrical takes on online trolls, mental health and Korea’s class inequalities. That frankness gives BTS an edge over most Western boybands, who’ve usually stayed on the fence politically. It also separates their music from more mindless radio fare. ‘Typically people around me listen to Western music about money, drugs, sex, or cheesy love songs,’ says 17-year-old Londoner Josefa, who’s also seeing BTS at the O2. ‘BTS aren’t afraid to change it up.’
7. They epitomise pop’s global future
Why limit yourself to English-language listening? A bop is a bop. Whether it’s Cardi B teaming up with Spanish-language rappers J Balvin and Bad Bunny on the smash ‘I Like It’, or Christine And The Queens’ Francophone twist on synth pop, music fans – and radio programmers – are turning their ears to songs not in the English language. BTS have always incorporated snippets of English into their turbo-charged hooks, but say they won’t stop singing in Korean any time soon. ‘If you approach K-pop with an open mind,’ says Niki, of YouTube duo Niki and Sammy, ‘I can guarantee you’ll discover a whole new genre of music you’ll enjoy.’
BTS play the O2 Arena on Oct 9-10.