The boy band lineage runs from New Kids on the Block to Backstreet Boys to NSYNC to One Direction, and now finally arrives at BTS. The K-pop titans have been on one of the quietest tears ever, (unless you're a dedicated A.R.M.Y. helping the band reach their current heights) amassing a dedicated worldwide following that can hang with the Swifties, Arianators, and Selenators of the world while steadily increasing their prominence among non-K-pop-initiated folks who wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between an f(x) and an EXO. This week may mark the closest thing the Bangtan Boys have gotten to a "Beatles on Ed Sullivan" moment, with a typically dynamic performance of "Fake Love" at last Sunday's Billboard Music Awards largely consisting of fans losing their damn minds while also nailing the call-and-response parts of the song's chorus. Whether because of that performance or not, the group is on the verge of beating Post Malone's recent album for the top position on Billboard.
According to chartdata, BTS' latest album Love Yourself 轉 Tear is projected to sell upwards of 100,000 equivalent units this week. This would place it at number one or something very close to it on the Billboard 200 albums chart once the final numbers come in.
For comparison, the band's previous peak was for the EP Love Yourself 承 'Her', which hit number 7 on the Billboard 200 last year, essentially meaning that Love Yourself 轉 Tear will likely be BTS' highest charting project no matter what happens. It's incredibly symbolic that Beerbongs and Bentleys, by the relatively harmless but at times gratingly all-American Post Malone, is the album in danger of being displaced here. BTS' continuing rise might be the clearest sign of the US' decline as the only pop culture influencer worldwide.
Barring a few choice phrases in English, most of BTS' lyrics are in their native Korean, which would normally be a dealbreaker for bringing music to international audiences. Not only does this apparently not matter at all to the group's fans but said fans (the powerful BTS A.R.M.Y.) adopt Korean terms like hyung in their interactions with each other. There's little to no imposition of North American or European cultural values on the music or the humans performing it. BTS are now at the forefront of a global pop movement that's also repped by Latin artists making headways into English-language markets while still singing in Spanish. If there was just hype and anticipation for the potential of the primarily online K-pop world beforehand, the one-two-punch of BTS' Billboard Awards performance and the impossible-to-ignore impact their music is making on American charts seems to confirm it as a reality we all live in now. That's pretty great, and hopefully K-pop's objective enormity extends itself to not only other genres from East Asia, but music from the entire non-North American world as well.
Phil is on Twitter.