In 2017, if you asked most Americans to name just one Korean performing artist, odds are high the answer would have been a resounding “BTS.” Known as “Bangtan Sonyeondan” in their home of South Korea, this seven-member boy band has grown from a local pop sensation to a global phenomenon that’s made “K-pop” a household word in households that have probably never even looked at South Korea on a map.
How did they do the impossible, and crack the elusive and highly-competitive American market? Not just crack it; smashed it to the tune (no pun intended) of 1.6 million song downloads, over a billion online streams, and a veritable army — literally “ARMY” as their fanbase is known — of screaming admirers at each and every appearance on their recent U.S. circuit.
No matter that those fans, for the most part, don’t actually understand the Korean lyrics of major hits like “DNA” and “Mic Drop.” That hasn’t stopped BTS devotees from singing along in phonetic approximation, screaming the band members’ names in unison with their patented “fan chants,” and, perhaps most crucially, from buying their record. The group’s latest album, 2017’s Love Yourself: Her, sold nearly 1.5 million physical copies, according to South Korea’s Gaon chart.
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