On February 9-10, fans everywhere will be able to see the BTS Love Yourself World Tour on the big screen in select theaters, courtesy of Fathom Events. For fervent fans of the band (and we’re not sure their fandom comes any other way), this is cause for excitement. But for those of you who have been seeing the boy band everywhere lately but aren’t sure who they are (including you parents desperately trying to keep up with your teenagers’ BTS obsession), allow this crash course to catch you up to speed on the hottest band in the world.
First, What The Heck Is K-Pop?
Ahh, glad you asked. K-pop, short for “Korean pop,” is a music genre that has been around since the early ’90s, with the term “K-pop” becoming ubiquitous in the 2000s as the genre gained worldwide popularity. It became so popular that it quickly formed its own subculture, with distinct fandoms, terminology, and style.
One of the trademarks of K-pop is its experimental nature. While, yes, the base of it is pop, it incorporates multiple musical genres from around the world, including a heavy rotation of electronic dance music and rap, hip hop and R&B. But multiple genres from classical, jazz, traditional Korean music and country are also incorporated into K-pop, blending together into one unique style. It also often mixes English lyrics and phrases in with the Korean lyrics, making it a truly global style of music.
The stage shows are just as diverse, usually featuring elaborate stage design, props and pyrotechnics, along with a heavy dose of choreography. Colorful outfits and costume changes help enhance live shows that are as much a visual feast as they are an auditory one. Think the boy bands of the ’90s, like *N’Sync and Backstreet Boys, but on a grander scale with bigger groups.
Okay, Great! Now…Who Are BTS?
Of the K-pop phenomenon, BTS is the band that has blown up biggest. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say BTS is arguably the most popular band in the world right now. BTS (which stood for Bangtan Sonyeondan, meaning Bulletproof Boy Scouts, also known as Bangtan Boys, also ALSO known as Beyond the Scene) first formed in 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. Various members have cycled in and out of the seven-man group, but the current members of the septet are Kim Seok-jin (stage name Jin), Min Yoon-gi (Suga), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Kim Tae-hyung (V) and Jeon Jung-kook (Jungkook).
So Who Are The Members Of BTS And What Are Their Roles?
Similar to Western boy bands, K-pop bands have members that slot into different roles and BTS is no different. But unless you’re familiar with K-pop, who goes where can be confusing.
RM – Leader, Main Rapper
In K-pop bands, there’s a special role known as the leader role. That’s where RM comes in. Usually one of the older and more mature members of the group, think of the leader as the team mom. They’re the ones who look out for the rest of the group and tend to field the questions and scrutiny from press; in other words, they’re the spokesperson of the group. Last year when BTS spoke at the United Nations Generations Unlimited conference, for example, it was RM who spoke for the group:
Along with being the team leader and de facto head of the group, RM is also the main rapper. The main rapper is the rapper who gets the lion’s share of the rap verses and is largely considered the most technically skilled rapper of the group. They’re often responsible for writing the rap sections in the music.
Jungkook – Main Vocalist, Lead Dancer, Sub Rapper, Center/Face of the group, Maknae
Jungkook is the jack of all trades of the group, the Swiss army knife of BTS. As the main vocalist, he is the singing equivalent to RM’s main rapper spot, getting the majority of the solos. He’s also the lead dancer, meaning when the group is dancing together as a whole, Jungkook is usually the one front and center, expected to lead everyone through the dance. Along with that, he’s one of the sub rappers – think of him as rap support, a pinch hitter when needed, even though his main focus is vocals.
But along with his positions on stage, Jungkook also holds two special positions that have nothing to do with his stage performance. He’s the maknae of BTS, the youngest of the group. In other words, he’s the baby of BTS and is considered adorable to their fans – the whole adorable, huggable quality is an important one in K-pop.
Lastly, as the center, or “face” of the group, Jungkook is the one expected to bring the charm offstage. In interviews, he’s the one cracking jokes and putting everyone at ease, and often appearing on variety shows to participate in skits and charm the audience.
Jimin – Lead Vocalist, Main Dancer
As the lead vocalist and main dancer, Jimin somewhat trades places with Jungkook on stage. And as the main dancer, Jimin is the one who has the best skills on the dancefloor (or…stage). He’s the dancing showman of the group, and when there are solo dance breaks, it’s Jimin who is handling them. Occasionally, he’ll only be a backup vocalist in order to save his breath for the big dance numbers where he solos. However, when he’s not leading a solo bit of choreography, he picks up the vocals in the position of lead vocalist, right behind Jungkook. He’s often the one that leads them into songs and then allows Jungkook to take over. Plus, if Jungkook is sick or injured, he can fill in as the main vocalist. Consider him the vocal understudy, if you will.
Jin – Vocalist, Visual
As a vocalist (or sub vocalist), Jin doesn’t normally get a huge piece of the songs. He’s there to support Jungkook and Jimin vocally, but he normally only has a few lines in any given song, and some dancing. However, Jin has a particular role that makes him indispensable to the group: the visual. It’s similar to the face of the group, but where the face of the group is the center of attention in interviews thanks to their personality and charm, the visual of the group is considered the most aesthetically pleasing member of the group according to K-pop idol standards. If there’s a photoshoot, Jin is at the center of the shot. Often actors and actresses, the visual is also the one who appears in commercials and ads, endorses products and struts their stuff modeling in Korean fashion magazines. While it may seem shallow, the idea of beauty is viewed differently in Korean culture than our Western culture. Jin being the pretty face to attract new fans is an important and valued role in the group.
J-Hope – Lead Rapper, Main Dancer
Just like Jimin, J-Hope is considered the main dancer of the group, so he often gets solo dance breaks, or is performing the hardest part of the choreography in any given dance. He and Jimin trade off there depending on the song, or swap back and forth. He’s also lead rapper, second to RM, and often begins rap sections before passing the torch to RM. He’s quite skilled as a rapper, but splits his performances between handling the choreography and the rapping, filling in where needed.
Suga – Lead Rapper
You know the drill. He and J-Hope handling the secondary rapping after RM. Originally a songwriter, he has written and produced a number of tracks on all of BTS’ albums, helping RM in the creation of their music since the first album.
V – Vocalist
Last but not least is V. As the second-youngest member of the group to Jungkook, V is a fully-fledged member of the group but still learning the ropes. While he gets a few lines in songs, he’s still learning to polish his vocals to take a larger share of the songs. He’s also started to help out in the writing of songs, contributing melodies to a few of BTS’ songs and becoming more involved in the songwriting process.
So, those are the members. But what strange alchemy has made them so special? What is it that sets them apart from all the other K-pop bands out there? It’s because of the huge following they’ve cultivated through their loyal ARMY (their fanbase) thanks to their philanthropic endeavors.
BTS’ Philanthropic Endeavors Are Kind Of Amazing
Granted, BTS wouldn’t be where they are if their music weren’t catchy and they weren’t so social media savvy. That said, lots of K-pop bands have fun music and a strong social media game. What sets BTS apart from the rest is the rabidly loyal fanbase they’ve cultivated through their Love Yourself campaign and various philanthropic endeavors.
The music of BTS, you see, isn’t necessarily only concerned with romantic love as so much pop music is. Instead, it often focuses on self-love, with empowering lyrics, body positivity and strong support for the LGBTQ community. It’s not just in their music that this charitable mindset continues, either. They’ve done everything from donating literal tons of rice to charity to working with LISA, a nonprofit organization that helps to find blindness and degenerative retina diseases. A few years ago, each member of BTS secretly donated KR₩ 10,000,000 to the families of victims of the 2014 MV Sewol ferry disaster.
But their biggest endeavor to date has been their Love Yourself campaign in partnership with the Korean arm of UNICEF. The campaign is meant to work with young victims of domestic and school violence and sexual assault. Once again, each member donated a considerable sum out of their own pockets to jumpstart their project. On top of that, 100% of sales of all goods from the campaign are being donated right back to Love Yourself, as well as 3% of all record sales for every album recorded as part of the Love Yourself album series.
Most recently, BTS attended the United Nations 73rd General Assembly to help launch the Youth 2030: The UN Youth Strategy initiative, where they spoke about self-acceptance and their Love Yourself campaign. They were specifically chosen to speak thanks to their history of philanthropy and charitable endeavors, a truly impressive honor when you consider the fact they are, on the surface, a simple pop band.
But if this piece has shown you anything, it’s that there’s nothing simple or shallow about BTS, and their drive, compassion and talent have vaulted them to the top of the charts and earned them millions of loyal fans. There’s a reason they’re the first K-pop group to top the U.S. album charts and have a U.S. stadium show, as well as being the first Asian group to perform at the Billboard Awards and American Music Awards. And there is a reason they’ve landed in the Guinness Book of World Records – twice – once for the world record for the most Twitter engagements, the second for having the music video with the most views in its first 24 hours in history. It will be fascinating to see where they go from here, but for now, you get to see them in concert thanks to Fathom Events:
If you missed their concert the first time around, you have your chance to snag tickets again. Just head here to get your tickets for the BTS Love Yourself World Tour and be the best parent (or best fan) on Earth. Congrats! You’re now officially part of the BTS ARMY.
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