The fact that BTS was not nominated for the main categories at the Grammy Awards as expected from many people has caused a stir in public.
BTS is making history in the world market like no one has ever done before. They have dominated the top spot in the domestic music market and won big achievements at world-class music awards ceremonies, such as the American Music Awards (AMA) and the Billboard Music Awards (BMA), even though they have not been able to hold overseas concerts tour due to the spread of the pandemic.
On the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, which is considered a measure of marketability, BTS’s English song “Butter” released this year showed its longest period of charting by ranking No.1 for 10 weeks. Not only did they gain achievement in charts or music records, BTS also earned numerous “first” and “best” records, including their music videos’ views, their impact on SNS platforms (Twitter, Instagram,…) as well as being the first Korean artist to spoke and performed to people around the world at the UN and the first Korean artist to sell out their tickets for a stadium tour. On November 22nd, BTS beat various world-famous pop singers, such as Ariana Grande, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, to win the grand prize “Artist of the Year” at AMA 2021. An Asian and non-English-speaking artist winning the grand prize at one of 3 biggest music awards ceremonies in the U.S, the home of pop, is considered a magical record. From the moment they stepped on the AMA stage for the first time to receive the “Favorite Social Artist” in 2018, BTS’s unrealistic popularity has started to be recognized.
On their way of gaining “awards”, BTS might expect the final destination to be the Grammy Awards. In the process of them conquering overseas markets without hesitation, this seems to be the only target that they have not captured so far. In every awards season, the public, fandoms, and the media focus all their attention on who will win the awards. In particular, after winning this year’s grand prize of AMA, BTS’s mega-hit songs “Butter” and “Dynamite” are expected to win the main categories of the “Grammy Awards”. The possibility of BTS winning the Grammy Awards is also high. The U.S Recording Academy that hosts the Grammy Awards announced on November 23rd (local time) that BTS was nominated for the Best Pop/Duo Group Performance and failed to become a nominee for the top 4 main categories called the “General Fields”, including “Record of the Year”, “Album of the Year”, “Song of the Year” and “Best New Artist”. Many people poured out criticism towards the “Grammy Awards”, saying, “It is unacceptable”, because the nomination was completely different from predictions by not only domestic but also foreign media.
Of course, being nominated is enough to be called a meaningful achievement. Unlike the other two among the 3 major awards ceremonies in the U.S that are based on popularity and reputation, the Grammy Awards is recognized for its prestige, focusing solely on musical achievements. The structure in which the performance, the song’s musicality, and its “impact” in the North American’s pop music history are bound to be evaluated evenly. The fact that famous names in the U.S music market, including award winners, composers, and producers, have been nominated for the second consecutive year for the “General Fields”, in which they participate as members of the awards selection committee, is the result of the implicit recognition of their influence in the U.S market. In particular, in the same context, regardless of whether BTS will win the award or not, they will perform at the end of the ceremony, and phrases, such as “COMING UP BTS”, will appear during the live broadcast to secure the viewership. This means the Grammy Awards is fully aware of the main attention attractor to the audiences these days, and this could also mean the keywords “KPOP” and “BTS” have been accepted as a trend in the music market that cannot be ignored. Shortly after last year’s Grammy Awards, RM showed his mature attitude as a leader through a live broadcast, saying, “An article wrote about our appearance at the Grammy a “failure”. In fact, it was not a failure but rather be called a solo stage and becoming a nominee. We did it and that’s enough. Of course, it would be a lie to if we say we didn’t regret it but we still think it’s a really great thing.”
It is clear that winning the Grammy Awards is recognized as a measure of musical influence, but it is now questionable whether the award itself should be regarded as one’s “long-cherished project.” Currently, the flow of the music market is changing. In a world where music and artists are consumed, not just through the main music charts, but also in various ways on various platforms in the form of SNS, short-form content, and video content as well, which means the musicality and the recognition from people inside the music industry are not necessarily the only thing anymore. Among them, BTS as a whole, which has a good influence on society as well as their musicality and performance skills, and a huge fandom that supports it, is an achievement that everyone recognizes without relying on whether they win the Grammys or not. It is also the reason why there is no need to be too immersed in knocking on a high wall and get their influence “proven”. Especially, the Grammy Awards has been constantly criticized for being conservative and exclusive to other races and doubts about its fairness. There are also opinions that the proportion of Asian people among the existing selection committee members is significantly low and that diversity cannot be embraced. Last year, even The Weeknd, who had had a huge record of staying for a year on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was excluded from the nomination, so he declared a boycott against the awards show, saying The Grammy “is corrupted.” Two years ago, Drake also showed his distrust towards the awards by saying on the Grammy stage, “If there are people who buy tickets to your performance with their hard-earned money, you don’t need a Grammy trophy.” Rather than a symbol of international musical prestige, there is even a joke that it is just a “local music festival” in the United States. In particular, the kind of “incident” in which BTS was excluded from the main category this year ignites another suspicion that has been going at the “Grammy” for a long time, also proving that BTS is at the center of a situation where people are shaking the existing customs. This is very meaningful and encouraging.
Although they are not nominated in the main categories, they are highly likely to win the “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” category. If they win the award, it will be meaningful to them, but what is certain is that they will be no longer in the stage of hanging onto awards or chart records. If BTS, who has gradually grown through the process of breaking through prejudice or certain “walls” in front of them, enjoys the process of breaking down another wall without having to worry about winning or losing, it will be just part of another thrilling “challenge” for them. As member Jung-kook had said shortly after winning the grand prize at the 2021 AMA, “I think this grand prize will be the second chapter of BTS,” they now need to strengthen their presence in their second act on the global stage. As they are standing on the summit which they have rightfully conquered and become an enormous K-Pop sensation, in order to grow beyond the existence of just a “fresh flow” or a “one-time surprising phenomenon”, the team is expected to strengthen its internal stability rather than target a certain reference point defined by the existing market structure.