Why BTS Getting #1 On the Hot100 is Important
Hundreds, maybe millions, of fans, including myself, were anxiously awaiting the results of the Billboard Hot100. We all wanted to know if our streaming, buying, and the radio plays finally worked in BTS' favor. I probably have far too many copies of Dynamite and I can probably give each house in my neighborhood a copy.
This morning at 10:42AM PST, the Billboard Charts released the results of the top songs in the U.S. from the previous week.
That's right folks, your eyes are not deceiving you. BTS grabbed the number one spot on the Billboard Hot100, the first for the all-Korean act. Their previous title track, 'ON' grabbed the number four spot earlier this year, with little to no radio airplay.
Now you're probably wondering, "Okay, they grabbed the #1 spot. Why does it matter?" They are the second Asian act to ever achieve this goal. The last person to achieve number one was Kyu Sakamoto in 1963, with the song "Sukiyaki."
Within the western music industry, it's rare to see Asian/Asian American musicians rise to become global phenomenons. BTS has been one of the only acts to sweep the western music industry by storm and many industry insiders/journalists still try to debunk the reason as to why they're so successful, especially for an act that sings primarily in Korean.
"But Jessica...this song is completely in English." Yep, it is. It's their first full song completely sung in English. Some may say, "Well, they're selling out if it's all in English," and to be honest (just my opinion), sometimes you have to play the game because the industry is unjust, frayed, and broken.
this is why bts fans spend so much time paying attention to/learning about industry metrics and awards shows—things that we know are deeply flawed and sometimes poor measures of achievement. because gradual changes in these dinosaur-like institutions add up to something bigger.
RM (BTS' frontman and leader) said in USA Today, "Many things have changed and during the process of making our album which we will release later this year, we just kinda met this song as destiny. When we first listened to the demo and lyrics and the vibes and everything was so perfect. We thought “Why not keep it this way [In full English]?” Some have said things have changed and this is a new challenge for us as well. We’re giving a shot." And there's nothing wrong with wanting to challenge yourself and trying something new, that's how artists grow. I mean, I'd love to see a western artist try to sing in Korean.
Some of you might be wondering, "If BTS is one of the most popular groups worldwide, then why aren't they on the radio?" Brian Byrne's article, "Radio, Why Won't You Play BTS?" states,
"The industry often fears that non-English songs will lead listeners to tune out. “A radio programmer wants songs that the listener is going to sing along or rap along with,” said Chris Molanphy, a chart analyst, pop critic, and host of the Slate podcast “Hit Parade.” “They want engagement from the listener. Call it xenophobia, that's certainly part of it. But when you look at the scant history of non-English language hits over the years, the fact that BTS would be facing this challenge is not all that surprising.”"
Dynamite has been one of the biggest pushes the ARMY (BTS's fandom) has ever seen when it comes to a single, in terms of radio airplay, and if you look at BTS' previous tracks, ON and Boy with Luv, the airplay for these tracks were way less than other western artists.
You see friends, they aren't just making history for themselves or the K-pop industry but for Asians/Asian Americans. As PoC, we constantly have to prove ourselves and our worth, and work twice as hard to even get our foot in the door. BTS has proven time again and again, how hard they work, how given they are to their music, but when will they finally get the recognition that they really covet? *cough* I'm looking at you, Grammys *cough* Don't get me wrong, I honestly think the Recording Academy loves BTS, the only thing is, I don't know if the Academy members will take the time to truly dive into their music and see why the rest of the world loves them.