Happy Tuesday, y'all.
I'd planned to drop Part 3 of the Blood of Christ Mountains series on you today. But I found some really interesting, wonky, historical data that I now need to weave into my narrative. Seriously, I spent the weekend deep in topographical maps of Colorado and studying treaty boundaries. I'm totally geeked out by it, but I need some time. (Now's a good time to catch up and read Part 1 and Part 2.)
This week she dropped her opus on BTS, the boy band from Korea that she is obsessed with — but in a good way, not a creepy-stalker way. Recently we went kayaking together and spent a good amount of our time on the river discussing BTS and their impact on the broader culture and how seven guys from Korea are changing the global music business. It was fascinating.
So for this week, I give you Joanne Gerstner on BTS.
So how’s your Monday going?
Mine was made immensely better by watching the United Nations General Assembly at 8 a.m. Admittedly, I pay zero attention to the UN, other than if I am in New York City and the body meeting blocks traffic.
But here I was, appointment viewing of the UN armed with a cup of coffee, waiting for one thing: the Korean delegation to take the podium.
And by the Korean delegation, I mean the President of Korea, Moon Jae-in, and his new special diplomatic Envoys, BTS. The guys talked about finding hope during this lost time of COVID for youth, discussed their own vaccinations (THANK YOU), and ended their presentation by dropping a performance video they shot on Sunday inside the UN main chamber.
The inside joke of “Do you know BTS?”, once uttered by the guys to poke at a world that had previously not embraced K-pop, is now meta.
The world knows BTS. They’ve taken over with or without your permission. And I stan all of it. I’m old enough to be their mom, or at least the coolest Noona they know. I’m not here to marry them, baby them like they are still 15, or worship them through stalking. I truly appreciate how hard they work, their thoughtfulness and creativity, and genuineness in an industry built on fleeting illusion and harsh transition.
They’re seven guys from Korea, ranging from 24 to 28 (that’s international age, in Korean age, they’re all one year older. Korea makes you 1 at birth, counting time in womb as the clock running.) They’ve have had the most Billboard No. 1 hits over the last 2 years of anybody and have gone farther into international music success than any other K-pop group. Their songs play overhead at Target, ads for Samsung and McDonald’s run during NFL games and the Emmy’s, merchandise collabs with Louis Vuitton and Fila sell out in seconds, and their videos get more than a billion views on YouTube. They have killer social media traffic, were nominated for a Grammy, and their Seoul-based record label (Hybe, also known as Big Hit) is becoming one of the most powerful companies in Korea and a true global player in music.
BTS is more than just a group that makes me smile with their music, videos, reality shows (Run BTS, In the Soop, Bon Voyage) and all the other stuff they do. I see how they are changing many games, from how musical artists will get treated by fighting for more rights; having the conversation on hip hop, toxic masculinity, and identity; openly discussing mental health and their fears; pioneering successful, high-level online concerts during the pandemic; breaking barriers in Asian men being the faces of Western/European beauty and fashion; to their absolute mastery of social media to connect with their fans.
Cover photo by John Angelillo - Pool/Getty Images