I wrote this a few weeks back regarding the BTS performance at the American Music Awards. I debated whether or not to post it here, but as you can see, I’ve done it.
November 19, 2017
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved music award shows. There’s nothing more magical and inspirational than seeing some of the most celebrated, creative and talented individuals share a stage together. Tonight I was able to witness something that I could never have imagined.
In 2012, a man known as PSY, who became a viral sensation for his hit “Gangnam Style”, was invited to perform at the American Music Awards. He did so and people loved it. Everywhere I went, I started hearing that track and witnessed people attempting his horse dance move. Part of me felt proud to see Korean music be acknowledged globally but there was also a bad taste that lingered with it. Growing up as a K-Pop fan, I knew that there was so much other talent flourishing within the industry and as much as I respect PSY, it felt like another incident of the world not taking K-Pop seriously. To everyone outside of that realm, it was an opportunity to milk the quirkiness of a foreign individual and exploit it as novelty. I often wonder, why him? There were other massively popular artists at the time (BIGBANG or 2NE1 to name a couple) that could have easily been better representations of K-Pop and probably would have succeeded in the Western market. Instead, they chose to highlight a song where its context couldn’t be properly understood globally and perpetuated a ridiculous stereotype of Asian men that has long existed in American society. Even if US media wasn’t intending to present K-Pop to society though PSY’s global rise to fame (or the disappointing representation of the Wonder Girls on Nickelodeon that same year), it happened and allowed for the formation of a very skewed representation of what the K-Pop industry is about.
Once again, through the power of the internet, a new group of celebrities have been able to shine under the spotlight in a similar and yet completely different fashion. Debuting just four years ago, the boys of BTS have already have accomplished more than most of their peers and seniors. They’ve smashed the social media game, been the first K-Poppers to have an album listed in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart, were invited to two music award shows in the US this year and numerous other accomplishments.
Tonight they performed “DNA” live at the AMAs, which I sat through the entire show just to witness. (So did my mom, as a way of supporting me I think? She’s too good to me. Ha!) Never in my entire life would I have ever thought K-Pop could be viewed on NATIONAL AMERICAN TELEVISION! Unlike back in 2012, BTS’ performance felt sincerely received by everyone. (Plus, they looked ridiculously cool and well rehearsed.) Not only was the audience significantly more enthusiastic during their song than acts before them (the fan chants were so loud) but other artists were clearly fawning over them as well. It was a moment that I anticipated would be significant but didn’t expect to impact me as much as it did. Being able to finally see a tiny speck of the industry that I’ve passionately believed in and loved for so long surface into mainstream culture was a moment of relief and inspiration. To witness Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook, who have had to work harder than most, finally be recognized and admired for their efforts was really, really satisfying.
Having collaborated with The Chainsmokers and Steve Aoki already, I foresee many others on the way for BTS. (I’m thinking Zedd and Marshmello are next.) If only this leads to the floodgates opening with more opportunities for not only them but other Korean artists as well to find their place in the international spotlight. I hope that this is the beginning of a greater awareness of all of the unique talent and charms that K-Pop has to offer and recognition that it definitely has the capability to compete and thrive on a global level.