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Title [Media Analysis] The Beatles of the YouTube generation, BTS
No Inquiry 1240 Date 2018.01.28

BTS’ concerts in Paris, which took place on October 19 and 20, ended with great success. The concerts were sold out as soon as ticket sales opened, and the die-hard fans who began to swarm the performance arena from the day before the concert proved that the global BTS fever was real. Both Korean and foreign outlets are trying to dissect the boy band’s explosive popularity. On an article on their worldwide success, French newspaper Le Figaro went so far as to write the headline: “The Beatles of the YouTube generation.”


Le Figaro, which analyzed the global popularity and success of BTS (Source: Le Figaro)


The article from Le Figaro said that “from the cheers that erupted when the seven members of BTS appeared on the Citi Field stage in New York on October 7, it seemed like the Beatles had returned.” BTS, as stars of the 21st-century Internet age, seems to have inherited their pattern of success from the Beatles fever in the 20th century. Known for their precise, practically error-free choreography and fervently rhythmic songs, BTS performed both in the US and Europe as part of their Love Yourself world tour. On October 15, they performed the finale at the Korea-France friendship concert in Paris, where President Moon Jae-in was making a diplomatic visit, showing off Korea’s soft power. Their following show in Berlin was sold out in just nine minutes—all 17,000 seats.

In their run, BTS has achieved unprecedented feats for a K-pop band: sweeping the top of the Billboard charts twice and accumulating the kind of popularity seen by stars like Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. Their success seems set to continue. “BTS members are young and handsome, so they are very popular with the female fans. Their lyrics are especially piercing,” said the editor-of-chief of K-pop Life Magazine, a magazine on Korean culture.

BTS, who was invited to speak at the opening day of the United Nations General Assembly last September, talked about hope for young people worldwide. In his speech, RM, the band’s leader, talked about his roots as a boy from a small city in Korea and the many mistakes he had made in his life. “We have learned to love ourselves, so I urge you to speak yourself . . . No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself. Find your name and find your voice by speaking yourself.” RM, who is the only BTS member to speak English, said he picked up the language by watching the popular US series Friends. He said he remembers being teased by his friends as he joined BTS, which was formed by entertainment agency BigHit

The analysis in Le Figaro added that “the lives of Korean idols are akin to serving in the army in glittering gold-studded clothing. Although their lives seem glamorous—which is apparent in their flashy androgynous fashion and makeup—there’s an enormous amount of singing and choreography practice and communal life involved.” The work isn’t without payoff though, as BTS continues to receive letters and gifts from millions of “Army” fans across the world.


Countless fans waiting for BTS’ arrival at the Korea-France Friendship Concert on October 15 (Source: Ji Young-ho)


The analysis in Le Figaro said the band’s popularity stems from “the melody-centered rhythm that wavers between hip-hop and rap, and their powerful choreography—and their ability to surpass those elements.” It added that “BTS is more than just a band. They’re like a reality TV show that shares messages of hope with the current generation, which struggles with anxiety in the hyper-connected digital age. Their global fervor connects them with fans across borders.”

The article again made a comparison to the Beatles: “As the Beatles gave hope to the freedom-seeking Yé-yé generation (the Baby Boomers), BTS is providing encouragement to the millennial generation, which is struggling to find its own path in the age of information proliferation, in an age where there is much possibility but also much failure.” The analysis mentioned a quote from RM, who once said, “If we could reduce your pain from 100 to 99, 98, or 97, that makes our existence worthy.”

In its final words, the analysis speculated again about the roots of BTS’s success and ended on a praising note: “The band rose to the top due to their gritty willpower and enormous hard work, as appropriate to the pace of life in workaholic South Korea. From their varying styles of music videos, powerful lyrics, and polished marketing, to the strict management of the members’ personal lives, BTS is a great profit-making business. The members—who are not allowed to go out or have girlfriends—say in public that they ‘only think of sleep.’ But considering their success, it seems like they won’t be able to get any sleep anytime soon.”


Ji Young-ho (Correspondent of KOFICE in France)