For many of BTS’ accomplishments, including appearing at the Grammy Awards and selling out a worldwide stadium tour, the group is referenced as being “the first Asian act” to achieve these goals, which speaks to the lack of Asian representation in America when it comes to music. Entertainment Weekly recently spoke to the group about what it’s like to be an Asian act breaking into America, where they admitted that it has not been easy.
“You know, Latin pop has its own Grammys in America, and it’s quite different,” RM says. “I don’t want to compare, but I think it’s even harder as an Asian group.”
He has a point. Foreign music that has seen success in the U.S. has relatively been from Latin artists and Spanish-language songs, such as “Despacito,” “Mi Gente,” and Taki Taki” to name a few. BTS made a breakthrough on the Billboard charts with their single, “Fake Love,” which reached No.10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a first for a K-pop group. There has been talk about whether the group can chart even higher on the charts for their next comeback.
BTS’ songs are primarily in Korean with sprinkles of English scattered throughout. The group has been asked several times in interviews whether they would release a full-length album or single in English in order to attract the general public in the West, but they say they would prefer to stay true to their Korean roots and not sacrifice them for the sake of getting a No. 1 hit or music nominations.
RM says, “A Hot 100 and a Grammy nomination, these are our goals. But they’re just goals — we don’t want to change our identity or our genuineness to get the number one. Like if we sing suddenly in full English, and change all these other things, then that’s not BTS. We’ll do everything, we’ll try. But if we couldn’t get number one or number five, that’s okay.”
Collaborator Steve Aoki believes that the group can get achieve a top hit without it being in English, however.
“I think it’s 100 percent possible that a song sung entirely in Korean could crack the top of the Hot 100. I firmly believe that, and I really firmly believe that BTS can be the group that can do that. It’s going to pave the way for a lot of other groups, which they’ve already been doing—and when that happens, we’re all gonna celebrate.”
No matter how big they get, BTS has proved that they will never forget where they come from. At the Grammy Awards, for example, the group showed their Korean pride by arriving in a Korean Hyundai Palisade decked out in suits made by Korean designers. When people accused the group of becoming too “westernized,” they also performed “Idol” at the Melon Music Awards, where they showcased traditional Korean imagery and beats.
The group has been active since 2013, but only recently broken into America in the past two years. Their upcoming album, Map of the Soul: Persona, is expected to be their biggest yet, having 2.6 million pre-orders as of March 19. The group has yet to announce a comeback single, but they did release a trailer for the album featuring RM, which you can watch below.