On August 21st, BTS, a popular South Korean boy group, released their first ever all English track called “Dynamite.” With an 80’s and 90’s American vibe, the song talks about rocking to The Rolling Stones, doing the moonwalk, and dancing like Michael Jackson.
In 2017, the radio show, “On the Air with Ryan Seacrest,” asked BTS when they were going to release an English album. BTS answered with, “We want to release American songs, but we’ll see.” Since their formation in 2013, they’ve only released Korean music.
As independent artists, they shouldn’t feel the need to release English songs because it isn’t their native language, but the group has always felt pressured to learn English to appeal to a broader audience. RM, the leader of BTS, spent years before his debut teaching himself by watching “Friends.” Even though they’ve done American tours for many years, the pressure was stronger now more than ever.
Before COVID-19 hit, BTS was getting ready to set out on a USA tour. When lockdowns happened across the country they were forced to postpone. They did an online concert for fans around the world and released a Japanese album, but they wanted to do more. A few months later they announced they would be releasing another album and an all English song.
For years, Americans were asking BTS when they would produce an English song. After the release of “Dynamite,” in just 24 hours, BTS broke yet another world record. Their music video received over 100 million views, shattering YouTube records and their own previous record of 50 million from their 2019 song, “Boy with Luv.”
At first, most of the reviews were positive but the day after the release, more critical comments started pouring in. Many people on social media complained, “I don’t like that it’s in English,” or “It’s too generic, where’s all the good rapping?”
Here’s the problem: most of the negative comments are coming from people who have never heard of BTS before this, but also from the people who have been asking for an English song for over a year. Of course the song isn’t perfect, but it’s BTS’ first time singing in English. The rappers (J-Hope, Suga, and RM) aren’t fluent in English, so the rapping will be slower and simpler.
While there are always going to be negative comments, there are some good things to come out of this release. BTS hit the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100 chart the day before the VMA awards. This is the first time in history that a Korean group has hit #1, which was a big deal for the South Korean music industry, the band themselves, and BTS fans. The next day, they won first place in every single VMA category they were nominated for.
In a little under a week, they managed to do what no other K-pop group has done.
They still get hate from American media because their music isn’t in English, but they have been able to achieve so much more than they thought they would ever do. With support of their fanbase (called ARMY, also known as Adorable Representation M.C for Youth), BTS can reach #1 on the charts and beat world records.
On top of that, radio stations and magazine companies like J-14 and iHeartRadio, as well as popular T.V hosts like Jimmy Fallon and James Corden, have started to notice them. All of this attention from American media has helped make them as popular as they are today and given them the ability to smash records and win awards year after year.