BTS On Touring America & The Secret Of Their Success: Interview
K-pop remains a niche in the West, but BTS is pushing the boundaries of what the genre can do internationally. The group’s commercially-savvy blend of hip-hop and EDM has broken through the Asian market and gone global, with their sophomore album, Wings, selling over a million copies worldwide and landing at number 26 on the Billboard 200. Countless Korean artists have failed to crack the States with carefully-crafted English-language crossovers, but PSY, and now BTS, have shown that K-pop stars can impact the American market when they’re not trying too hard.
To capitalize on their growing Stateside success, the boys will hit Newark’s Prudential Center later this month to kick off the U.S. leg of their Wings World Tour. We recently caught up with the group’s leader, Rap Monster, to talk about their skyrocketing success, outselling Britney Spears and their plans for the future. Get to know K-Pop’s hottest act a little better below.
You’ve broken records on the Billboard chart and are about to embark on a U.S. arena tour. It’s not an exaggeration to say that BTS is one of the most popular K-pop bands ever at this point! What do you think it is about the band that appeals to such a wide audience outside of Asia?
Since our debut in Korea back in June 2013, we’ve been writing our own music for lyrics, raps and melodies. I think all seven members have been evolving in many areas from producing, writing, singing and dancing. In every album, there are stories of us and our close friends who are in their 20s — we talk about peer pressure, over-competition at school, and mental challenges in everyday life. People feel for what we’re trying to say in BTS’ music.
Secondly, our music is trans-national, international music that has roots in western pop and hip-hop. We try to adapt all the trendiest genres to new songs so that people can listen to our music with little resistance or cultural barriers. That’s why BTS appeals to many international fans outside just the Asian markets, we believe. It’s also the BTS style choreography that people love. It’s similar to other K-Pop, but ours have stories in detail that sync with songs beautifully, like “Spring Day,” our latest hit single.
Your Wings album has sold more copies than recent albums from Britney Spears, Fifth Harmony, and Mariah Carey. How does it feel to know that you’re now so popular that you’re outselling some of the biggest global artists?
It’s such an honor to be rated ‘popular’ on global level. We’re very grateful to our fans around the world. It is also very exciting for us because such popularity motivates us to be better artists who always try to come up with better music.
Other K-pop artists have officially debuted in America, but you’ve already done so well in the American market and you haven’t even officially debuted there yet. How does that feel?
It’s amazing to see thousands of fans singing our songs in Korean and reacting to BTS videos with joy and excitement on YouTube. Most of BTS’ popularity in the American market comes from social media, where fans share the music, ideas and emotions freely. We’re all active users of Twitter and YouTube and such social platforms help us to communicate better with our fans. As much as we’re excited about our success in America, we try to stay humble and down-to-earth because we know that is what fans expect from us no matter what.
Which American artists would you dream of collaborating with on your next album if you have the opportunity?
There are so many. Nas, J. Cole, Eminem, Pharrell, Frank Ocean, Drake, Post Malone, James Blake, THEY.
There’s rumours that your label Big Hit Entertainment is going to debut a new rookie boy group or girl group soon. Is there anything you can tell us about that? We’d love to see a female BTS one day!
It is really beyond our pay grade to answer that (laughs). Our management and producers are always on the cutting edge, in a good sense, and always keep us on top of everything. We’re sure they do have some great plans for the company in the future.
These days, groups like TWICE and SEVENTEEN are really popular, but are there any lesser-known idol groups that fans would be surprised to learn you’re a fan of? We really like STELLAR and B.A.P!
There are so many great groups in K-pop who work hard and have so much talent. We support every group who knows what they are doing and keeps reaching out to their dreams, like we’re doing right now! We’d like to ask Idolator to keep keen eyes on all the upcoming groups.
With your crazy schedule, do you ever get time to just relax and watch movies or TV shows? What do you like to watch?
We try to relax at home during free time when we’re not practicing. And yes, some of us go out at night to watch movies sometimes. The latest movie we all loved was a Japanese animation Your Name by a director Makoto Shinkai. We were all fascinated by the story and artistic details in the movie.
You’ve all been working so hard lately. Will you take a break after your world tour is finished, or can fans expect more music before the end of the year?
We have a very tight schedule for next several months with worldwide tours. However, we always find time to write and produce new songs. As we always have been, we’ll do our best to show you newer, better BTS soon!