As BTS announces a temporary break from group activities, here is their 9 year history filled with never-seen-before achievement legacies.
The 9-year journey of the 7-member boy band BTS begins with a first meeting in 2010 between producer Bang Sihyuk and leader RM (whose real name is Kim Namjoon). At the time, RM was a middle school student active under the rapper name Runch Randa, stood out at a hip-hop audition and was recruited as a trainee under Big Hit Entertainment (now Big Hit Music), which was founded by Bang Sihyuk. In 2009, RM formed a hip-hop crew called DaeNamHyup (DNH) with his peers and nurtured his dream of becoming a rapper. Apparently, the idol’s music was able to touch Bang Sihyuk deeply, who said in an interview in 2014 that: “I trust and listen to RM’s rap. RM was the reason that made BTS”.
Prior to Big Hit, Bang Sihyuk was an exclusive producer of JYP Entertainment, who participated in the formation of G.O.D and Wonder Girls, before founding his own agency. After roping in RM, he recruited Suga and J-Hope, Jungkook and V, Jin, and Jimin, respectively, to form a 7-member hip-hop group called “BTS”. In June 2013, BTS debuted with their first full-length album “2 COOL 4 SKOOL”, which featured an old-school hip-hop style based on rap, gossip-style skit, and cypher – a short rap performed by several people, on top of a message about youthful aspirations and anguish. This is a precious album where you can see BTS’s hip-hop protoplasm. On July 9th of the same year, the official fan club “ARMY” was established in BTS’ fan cafe.
BTS’ 9-year journey was dazzling. In 2018, the group became the first Korean act to top the US Billboard’s main album chart “Billboard 200” with their 3rd full album “Love Yourself 轉: Tear”. Since then until BTS’ latest album “Proof”, the group has reigned over this chart for 6 other albums. Although they missed out on winning at the Grammys, BTS secured awards at Billboard and the American Music Awards every year. In addition, the group has appeared on the stage of the United Nations three times, gave speeches, and was recently invited to the White House.
Starting in August 2018, BTS’ “Love Yourself World Tour” was held 62 times around the world for a year and two months, setting a milestone for Kpop acts. Their concert night at Wembley Stadium in London, England, on June 1st and 2nd, 2019, also established BTS as one of the top pop groups in the world, as they stood on the same stage as pop legends Queen’s Freddie Mercury, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce. As a result, BTS was hailed as “The Beatles of the 21st century”.
It is true that singer BoA’s English album “BoA”, Wonder Girls’ “Nobody” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style” previously hit the Billboard chart and knocked out the US market. However, it was BTS who broke the high barrier of this hometown of pop, and stood alongside mainstream music in the United States. “Hip-hop idol”, which was unfamiliar to the Kpop scene, was extremely effective in the U.S, and BTS is a prime testament. Compared to other groups at the time, all 7 members of BTS have participated in the entire creative process for their releases, from making hip-hop beats to composing, lyrics writing, arranging, and producing. They successfully broke apart from the image of “Factory Idol”, which was often stuck on Korean boy bands, and won the hearts of American fans. In fact, it was the sincere lyrics and melody that made BTS BTS. In creating their musical works, all of the members went all-in, delivering honest and heart-felt stories of themselves and their peers, as well as their views on society into their rap and lyrics. It can be said that BTS music relayed a comforting message to struggling youths, who are anxious and anguished amid the world.
By combining this message with musical elements that expanded from hip-hop to R&B, ballad, and evenLatin pop in general, BTS’ songs acquired a universality that touched the hearts of people around the world. The presence of Bang Sihyuk, often dubbed the “father of BTS”, who emphasized the group’s individuality, creative freedom, and musical ego, and the support of ARMY, a strong fandom, also gave wings to this achievement.
One of the most well-known messages conveyed by BTS is ‘Love yourself.’ However, as the world’s No.1 boyband, they have become exhausted. The reality is that even BTS suffered from the K-pop system, which requires artists to run non-stop without a break for the sake of bigger achievements. BTS has released a total of 16 albums since their debut in 2013. Even during the pandemic, they could not take a proper rest and continued to drop more albums and songs such as ‘Map of the Soul: 7’, ‘Dynamite’, ‘Butter’ and ‘Proof’.
In particular, the initial public offering of BTS’s agency HYBE in October 2020 is believed to have further caused the members to burn out. The length of breaks between BTS’s new releases was reduced. The group’s images were consumed on webtoons, web novels, mobile puzzle games, non-fungible token (NFT) projects, various TV programs, awards shows, and even huge events such as visits to the United Nations and the White House. It is no coincidence that the songs that entered Billboard Hot 100 during this period, such as “Dynamite”, “Butter”, and “Permission to Dance”, were the ‘Bubblegum Pop’ genre and had a different sound from the music BTS, a hiphop-based group, was pursuing.
The members said in a YouTube video on June 14th, “K-pop and the idol system itself do not allow people to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep working like a machine,” expressing their ‘burnout’ and announcing to temporarily halt group activities to focus on solo careers.
BTS released their latest album ‘Proof’ on June 10th. Covering the 9-year journey since their debut, the title track of this anthology is ‘Yet To Come’. This song contains a message of hope that ‘the best moment has not come yet’, heralding the second act of BTS’s music career that is about to begin. The announcement of BTS’ suspension of group activities is four days after the release of ‘Proof’. It must have been a difficult choice for BTS to make at this point of their career.
A fan commented, “BTS made a courageous decision because they needed time to become more mature after leaving behind popularity, fame and wealth.”
Meanwhile, J-Hope will be BTS’s first official soloist by releasing his solo album ‘Jack In The Box’ this July and kick start his solo promotions.