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Title [Media analysis] From Beatlemania to Hallyu: British Media Responds to BTS’s No.1 Hit on Billboard Chart
No 75 Inquiry 466 Date 2018.06.04

BTS (Source: The Guardian website)


Major British media such as The Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Telegraph reported on BTS’s topping the US Billboard 200 chart. In a May 27 article titled “Korea’s other summit: K-pop album tops US charts for first time,” The Guardian wrote: “BTS, a seven-member all male group from South Korea, beat Post Malone with their album Love Yourself: Tear to take the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200, which ranks albums by sales in the US. The group’s third full-length record sold 135,000 equivalent units, which includes a combination of traditional sales and streaming, in its first week. It is the first album sung predominantly in a language other than English to top the Billboard 200 in 12 years.”


The report pointed out, “[The album] coincides with furious diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, though the band’s devoted fans—known as the ‘army’—were unlikely to have been motivated by that to buy the album.” The newspaper also linked to the band’s official YouTube and Twitter posts and wrote, “K-pop groups are known for droves of devoted fans, with scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania of the 1960s when band members are spotted on the street.” The newspaper added, “It is part of a global phenomenon of ‘Hallyu’, or Korean Wave, which has promoted the country’s culture in the past eight years. The South Korean government has also emphasized promoting K-pop around the world in its cultural policies.”


Fans took to Twitter to celebrate the news of the album’s success, with the hashtag #LYTear1onBB200 used to mark the milestone being tweeted more than one million times. “No other genre has so successfully harnessed the power of fans on social media to spread the word,” writes The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis in his review of BTS.


While the music is “just commonplace,” according to Petridis, he says “the phenomenon of BTS seems more interesting than the music at its centre, although Love Yourself: Tear is certainly good enough to keep the phenomenon moving smoothly.”

Despite its record-setting rise, The Guardian speculated that BTS was likely to give up its place at the top of the charts after just a week, thanks to an upcoming album from Canadian singer Shawn Mendes.


BTS on BBC (Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-44276216)


The Daily Mail reported the group’s achievement, emphasizing that it is “a vivid illustration of the genre’s growing global appeal.”


“Known for their boyish good looks, floppy haircuts and meticulously choreographed dance moves, the septet has become one of South Korea’s best known and most lucrative musical exports,” the article said. “While plenty of older music listeners in the West might be asking ‘who?’” the newspaper wrote, “According to one data analysis, they were the most talked-about phenomenon on Twitter in 2017, with nearly twice the number of mentions as US President Donald Trump and Justin Bieber combined.”

“Add in their similarly massive appeal across the globe—they have huge social media followings in Japan, China, Southeast Asia and parts of Latin America—truly global supergroup.”

The Daily Mail stressed that “with a multi-billion-dollar K-pop market which traces back to the early 1990s, it’s been reported that the stars and bands are trained in bootcamp-like conditions, with their image tightly controlled by management.”

Mentioning that BTS “is managed by a small record label Big Hit Entertainment—minute compared to bigger labels such as SM Entertainment,” the Daily Mail quoted a fan who congratulated BTS in a written comment. In its May 21 issue, The Sun reported on the band’s Europe tour after the release of the Love Yourself: Tear album. Mentioning that the boy band, made up of members V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, and J-Hope, and their debut song “No More Dream” won many awards, the tabloid wrote about their tour, which starts from London’s O2 Arena on October 9 and 10, and goes on to Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Tickets were sold through Live Nation to adults aged 16 or above at prices between GBP 40 and 100. The Telegraph and The Guardian also reported on the tours. This illustrates that BTS has already established itself as the forerunner of K-pop, which even the British major media have taken interest in.

K-pop’s power that shook the established global music scene with the BTS’s hit on Billboard 200 chart can be proven by the fact that most news reports on K-pop ask the question “Who is BTS?” and focus on why the world is paying attention to K-pop and Hallyu. British media generally appear to be struggling to interpret this unprecedented cultural phenomenon. As of June 2018, they apparently need to depend not only on Beatlemania but also the history of British pop music and global music and culture to better understand the phenomenon. It remains to be seen how Hallyu and K-pop, which had been merely a part of minority culture in the UK, will grow in this part of the world.


Lee Hyun-sun (Correspondent of KOFICE in the United Kingdom)