Interview With BTS: ‘You Never Walk Alone’, Crossing Over to America and the A.R.M.Y.
BTS are, without question, one of the most popular K-pop acts in the world.
With each passing release ever since their debut in 2013, the group continues to break YouTube streaming records and climb to historic new heights on the U.S. Billboard charts, despite almost exclusively releasing their music in Korean.
As social media continues to put pop culture on an even playing field by breaking down international borders, performers from the East are becoming increasingly visible in the West — and just as massively demanded. Case in point? BTS are currently trekking through North and South America yet again on the Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour, the group's latest world outing, playing sold-out arenas on both coasts stateside.
Aside from their irresponsibly catchy songs like "Not Today," "Spring Day" and "Blood, Sweat and Tears," their insanely hype choreography and gorgeous visuals (both their music videos and the actual guys themselves — they're pretty, just saying), the group's forged an incredibly dedicated fanbase, dubbed the A.R.M.Y., with their relatable lyricism, tapping into themes of adversity, nostalgia and self-empowerment.
Now, ahead of the seven member troupe's run stateside, BTS spoke to PopCrush about their latest release (You Never Walk Alone), touring worldwide and their key to success. (Blood, sweat and tears, indeed.)
After thousands of votes in December, Wings was voted PopCrush's Best Album of 2016, BTS won Best Group of 2016 and the A.R.M.Y. won Best Loyal Fanbase of 2016 in our Fan Choice Awards. Do you have a message to those voters?
We’d like to thank A.R.M.Ys around the world from bottom of our hearts. We couldn’t have done it without your love and support. We know it takes time and effort to vote, listen to the music and watch the videos and it means a lot to us. Thank you!
What inspired the concept of the You Never Walk Alone artwork? The "Spring Day" video is incredibly beautiful.
You Never Walk Alone is a side story or supplementary story to our previous album Wings, and we wanted to tell a different story that was not told in Wings. That is one of reasons why the BTS members look somewhat different, perhaps a little bit more casual and younger, in the YNWA artwork. The same idea goes for the “Spring Day" video. The song is based on memories with old friends who we don’t see anymore and we wanted to visualize the story in the video blended with additional metaphors.
K-pop crossovers are incredibly difficult to achieve in America, but you keep breaking music chart and YouTube records. There have been rumors about releasing in the US. Is that something we could ever see from BTS?
We’ve been trying to do what we do best as BTS since our debut in 2013, and it’s the strength behind our recent success in America, breaking music charts and YouTube records (not to mention the ultimate love from our fans). The team and producers we work with know us the best and always figure out the wisest ways to introduce new music. Thus we believe that whatever it may be, it will be a success in our own terms.
The language barrier hasn't stopped your American fans from enjoying your music, but have you considered doing English version of big hits? Are there English versions of songs like "Blood, Sweat and Tears" we haven't heard yet?
We truly believe that all our songs are "trans-national," which means there’s no boundaries in terms of music genres or lyrics because we make music we like as a listener. We don’t have any plans to make English versions of big hits, but we’ll stay tuned and gear to the trendiest music there is.
Is there a difference between the crowds in South Korea and the crowds in America?
All A.R.M.Ys are passionate and enthusiastic! However, fans in America seem to be the most active when it comes to uploading "reaction videos" to YouTube. If you search "BTS reaction videos" on YouTube, there are hundreds of great videos of fans making interesting, emotional reactions to BTS music videos. Some of us enjoy watching them on the road.
What is the most exciting part of preparing for another comeback? Is it recording, rehearsing dances, performing on TV shows? And what is the thing that you least look forward to?
Actually, it is every part of what you’ve mentioned. For those who contribute to writing and producing songs such as Rap Monster, SUGA and j-hope, it also extends to early pre-production process. For all members, learning the new dance moves, recording and shooting the video are equally exciting and challenging. We truly look forward to every corner and every part of the comeback because we grow and become better people, as well as artists, day by day, year by year.
What are you most looking forward to seeing or doing while here in the US?
We had a really good time meeting our fans, going to Times Square and walking down NYC avenues. Not sure we’ll have time to do all that, but we definitely want to check out the best steakhouse in the city!
To say that BTS is popular is an understatement. What do you think it is about BTS that makes you so beloved worldwide?
We make our own music with the trendiest genres there are in the pop world and we try to tell our stories/thoughts in the songs. Fans emphasize with our songs because they go through similar phases in life. We also try to communicate with fans via social media as often as possible about our daily life so that fans feel attached to us. And frequent updates on YouTube with BTS original contents such as Bangtan Bomb and BTS Episodes help us keep trendy as well!
BTS are currently on their Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour. Check out the dates across North and South America below.
3/19 Sao Paulo, Brazil - Citibank Hall
3/20 Sao Paulo, Brazil - Citibank Hall
3/23 Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
3/24 Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
3/29 Chicago, IL - Allstate Arena
4/1 Anaheim, CA - Honda Center
4/2 Anaheim, CA - Honda Center
BTS Best Dance Breaks:
BTS Through the Years: