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BTS: Overcoming Xenophobic and Problematic Media

Global sensation, BTS, has been taking over over the worldwide music industry this year with masterful, fantastic music. They perform and produce all their music in Korean, their home language, and as a result, they have been playing a formidable role in diversifying the music industry, which has been dominated by artists who only sing or rap in English.

However, despite BTS’s great strides in breaking barriers of differences, and uniting people to create the most diverse fandom in the world, ARMY, there are still forces and groups who attempt to prevent BTS from reaching new audiences and heights, especially individuals in English predominant countries who have influence at radio stations and in the media.

A concerning revelation noticed by many ARMYs and critics of Western awards shows, media outlets and businesses, is that these structures, platforms and institutions have been focusing too much on ARMY, rather than the global stars themselves. A clear example of this was the 2018 Billboard Music Awards, where the camera workers spent more time on ARMYs, rather than recording BTS’s actual phenomenal performance of Fake Love.

In addition to this, radio stations, especially American ones, often request that ARMYs retweet, vote or give the stations clout, in order to get BTS songs added to their playlists. No artist or group’s fandom, that performs, sings and raps in English, has to go to the extremes that ARMYs have to do.

Despite BTS’s chart-topping singles Fake Love and IDOL, the songs have not been added to many radio stations’ playlists nor have they been played that often. This is problematic, especially when less successful, English singles have immediately been included in playlists without going through ARMYs’ struggle of requesting endlessly, and still being ignored by some stations.

It has also become apparent that many writers and journalists for news outlets are extremely nonchalant about BTS, and yet they are the first to draft, submit and publish articles to do with BTS. Recently, certain writers have been criticised for using BTS’s name to promote other artists and groups, which is extremely problematic on two grounds.

Firstly, BTS has had to work extremely hard to get where they are today, so it is an insult for journalists to use BTS’s name for clout in order to promote others. Secondly, it is unfair for the other artists, who these problematic writers are promoting, because you are essentially taking away these groups/artists’ identities and talents, by using BTS’s name. Rather, keep BTS’s name out of the article, unless the article is actually about BTS!

Finally, Western awards shows need to consider nominating BTS for actual music awards, other than the Social Artist Award. Yes, the Social Artist award has helped BTS in broadening their horizons in the West, but it has come to a point now where BTS’s success in the West is exceptionally high, and is on the same level as award winning Western artists.

Thus, instead of awards shows simply nominating BTS for the social artist award so that they get more attention from ARMYs, they should begin to recognise BTS’s exponential improvement and success, and hence, consider nominating them for music awards such as “Best Group”, “Best Music Video”, and “Best Song.”

There is no doubt that English privilege exists in Westernised countries, even when it comes to music being requested and played on radio channels. Moreover, problematic media groups must stop using BTS’s name for the views when the content is non-caring or unrelated. It is time that these individuals and groups undergo deep introspection, and identify the prejudices that they have towards non-English performing artists and groups.

Nevertheless, BTS should be admired and praised for their massive impact in the industry. Although they have faced barriers, they continue to dismantle oppressive, problematic, pre-conceived notions of who they are, what they sing about, and consequently, are uniting us all behind their message of self-love, self-awareness and healing.

BTS’s latest album ‘Love Yourself Answer’ is out now. You can stream it on TIDAL, Apple Music and Spotify.

Written by Luke Waltham

Luke Waltham is a writer, activist and fanboy. He is a former writer for Huffington Post and currently writes for CelebMix and The Mighty. He is the Chairperson of the United Nations Association of South Africa at SU. Luke is a proud fanboy.