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Are BTS the world’s biggest band?

Tim Newton

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Are BTS the world’s biggest band? | The Thaiger
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Simple answer, yes. But there are still people that have never heard of the group or might have been living under a rock for a few years. The South Korean group has risen up through the ranks of K-Pop, somewhat of a musical blood sport, since 2013. From their almost unnoticed debut as pimply hip-hop ‘try hards’, the 7 members are now basking in well-earned musical respect around the world.

But there are still plenty of people asking “who the hell are BTS?” Well, they’re THE music group of the moment. Whilst there’s been Beatlemania, the stand-out genius of Michael Jackson, the charm of Elvis, the YouTube-discovery Justin Bieber and the half-century run of The Rolling Stones, there’s never been anything quite like BTS. Here’s why.

Whilst difficult to compare musically, statistically BTS are up there with the greatest bands of all time, and they’re still on the rise. By the way, BTS is short for their full Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), translated loosely as Bulletproof Boy Scouts.

In the white-washed pop music world, and a storm of noise on the internet, it’s difficult for a performer to ‘break out’ and find a voice in the current model of the music business. How could 7 young Koreans claw their way to the top of the charts and fill sports stadiums with screaming fans?

They sing mostly in Korean. Just consider that for a moment. They’ve passed through the musical bamboo curtain to have #1 hits in the UK, the US, Europe, Asia… well, everywhere. Indeed they’ve scored three number one albums in the US on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, in one year – a feat only achieved once before by The Beatles, a situation that hasn’t been lost on the humble septet. BTS even sent themselves up, along with Stephen Colbert, on The Late Show performing in the same Ed Sullivan Theatre The Beatles debuted to a US TV audience back in 1964 – a pop culture moment that not only launched The Beatles to global stardom but changed music forever, proving that bands would have to be TV-friendly to succeed in the future.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

For 2020 BTS have already sold the most albums of any artist in the world, when you include actual albums and digital downloads, beating out a host of huge US, UK and European artists. Map of the Soul – 7 is a reflective look back at their own careers, over 7 years, as a team of 7.

At their sellout concerts, the audience sings along with all their hits, in Korean. At their concert in Bangkok in 2019 I witnessed 50,000 (mostly) Thais singing along in Korean, whereas most Thais battle to speak much English, a language they’ve been partly taught at school. (By the way on one side of me at the concert was a 40-something husband and wife who had flown from Sydney to see the concert, on the other a mother and three kids (8 – 15ish) – I think the mother enjoyed it more than the kids.)

The group, comprised of Kim Tae-hyung (V), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Jeon Jung-kook (Jungkook), and Min Yoon-gi (Suga), are hardly ‘overnight successes’. They debuted 7 years ago in the cut-throat K-Pop scene and they were hardly an instant success. Working with an almost unknown production company (Big Hit Entertainment), the 7 members started crafting their sound with long nights and weekends, living in the one dorm room, using their managers cars and homes as props and sets for music videos and fitting in their schooling as well. They contributed to the production and writing most of their material, and still do.

They battled a cruel K-Pop industry and haters that didn’t like that BTS didn’t fit the ‘mould’ of K-Pop. There were plagiarism controversies, death threats, social media hate campaign and just plenty of people who thought they’d go the way of most K-Pop acts, into obscurity. But they persisted and were relentless in their dream to make it big in South Korea and even dream to one day reach the shores of the lucrative US pop market. In November 2016 they won Album of the Year in the main music awards program in South Korea. They were utterly surprised but it was a turning moment and they would never turn back…

Eventually they clawed their way to a position of recognition in the K-Pop world, meanwhile garnering growing support in the west, well, everywhere around the world. Whilst it’s difficult to measure their success against other bands, there are a few important keys to their success which has music executives scratching their heads.

Their big weapon is their ARMY, the name they’ve given to their loyal fanbase around the world. Whenever the group speaks they ALWAYS attribute their success to the legion of loyal fans. ARMY have meanwhile weaponised social media – you could say that BTS came along at the right time – reaching beyond Korea’s borders in a way that had been impossible even ten years ago.

As #BlackLivesMatter trended in social media, as part of a larger protest movement in the US following the death of George Floyd, BTS made a $US 1 million donation to the movement. ARMY responded and within two days had matched the BTS donation from fans. They’re fans were also part of the K-Pop fans flooding of the #WhiteLivesMatter counter-movement, replacing messages of hate with pictures of their favourite BTS photos or lyrics.

BTS’s YouTube music videos (there are hundreds) have broken several records on YouTube, their Twitter followers were the world’s most dedicated in 2018 and one member, J-Hope, had the most tweeted video in the world last year. BTS, through 7 years of sharing their lives, battles, dance practices, ups and downs, have weaponised social media.

Many of their videos are expensive, cinematic extravaganzas with hidden messages and ongoing story lines threaded between them. Blood, Sweat and Tears is 4 years old now but was a breakout video for the band and exemplified their command of music, story-telling, dance and style – all in one piece of art.

The band members shared the minutiae of their lives with thousands of uploaded photos and videos and also relentlessly shared their core message – that life isn’t always easy as a teenager and young adulthood, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else and your mistakes will make you stronger in the long-run. Their music isn’t all sugary sweet and often lapses into darker messages and addresses current social issues.

They also shared videos showing themselves fighting, crying, arguing, laughing, eating, shopping and backstage – just being seven young men battling their way through the music industry labyrinth as underdogs.

The difficult-to-measure ‘X’ factor is also strong in these seven talented guys. There is a genuine bond of friendship between the Bangtan boys and it shines through whenever they appear in public, or video – it’s not fake. And, after working their act for seven years, there’s a comfort and ease on the stage, some describe it as ‘swag’, where their performances appear effortless whilst pulling off breath-taking dance routines. As they’ve grown over 7 years their music and performance has also morphed from earlier hip-hop beats to more sophisticated performances.

Within their six years of ensemble work there are also generous sprinklings of solo projects, fully supported by the rest of the team. Whilst ‘doing a solo project’ from within a group is usually code for ‘I’m going solo’, with BTS it’s been a core part of the band’s raison d’être. At every BTS concer each member also have their solo moments to shine.

Another part of their strength is that they’re all remarkably talented – they sing, they dance, they rap, they write, they produce. They also have great ‘visuals’ (in K-Pop speak) presenting an all-Asian look to a white-washed western pop industry. There are no weak members along for an easy ride.

They keep collecting legions of adoring fans and celebrity fanboys and fangirls, have had two successful cinema releases of concert tour documentaries, have spoken at the UN, appeared on just about every important TV variety show around the world, and somehow stayed reasonably grounded along the way.

Their music, whilst often sung with Korean lyrics, is immediately catchy, has plenty of pop influences yet shines through with something unique that continues to set them apart and keeps amassing new fanbases around the world. In their concerts you’ll here pure pop, hip-hop, rap, power ballads and other songs that simply show-off their voices and powerful dance moves. That they keep it up, at full throttle, for their two and a half hour live concerts, is one of the modern wonders of the music world.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

Yet, amongst the hype, the YouTube records, the sell-out concerts and music sales, are 7 young men who have allowed their true personalities to shine through.

RM is the group’s leader (the only member to speak fluent English) with an IQ of 148, V is the quirky one who’s often described as the band’s ‘secret weapon’, Jimin the ‘flirty’ one who shares his ‘up & down’ journey with fans, Jungkook the supernaturally talented youngest member (or ‘maknae’ in K-Pop speak). J-Hope is hyper-energetic and perennially cheerful, Suga is the brooding musician with the sharp tongue, and Jin the ‘world-wide handsome one’ (a self-mocking moniker he gave himself after the media attention to his looks over the years) who loves cooking for the band and telling dad-jokes.

There are thousands of videos on YouTube recording the band’s rise from very bottom of the K-Pop pile to international stardom. Whilst you can check out any number of their music videos or live performances (there are thousands of videos!) I would urge BTS-newbies to start with this address by leader RM (Kim Namjoon) at the United Nations in September 2018. It provides an insight into the intellect and feeling behind the pop sensation and a small part of what sets BTS apart from just about every other musician in the world today.

Whilst they are obviously riding high on a wave of fame right now, most music pundits think they’ve got plenty of room, musically, to extend their fandom and fame. Perhaps, even to become one of the greatest music bands of all time.

As a footnote, looming over BTS is the Korean government’s insistence that all it’s young men must enter two years of national army service by the time they reach the age of 28. The oldest member, Jin, is already 27 and the band members have already stated they are happy and proud to serve their time of conscription. In the meantime they’re not wasting any time as they continue to plunge head-long into a grilling schedule they’ve been keeping up now for seven years.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Raymond Vaillancourt

    July 1, 2020 at 7:20 am

    So, as far as I can tell these guys play no instruments but only sing and dance. So, “Whilst difficult to compare musically,(understatement), statistically BTS are up there with the greatest bands of all time.” That is a difficult statement to justify. Check back with me in 20 or 30 years and tell me if anybody remembers them. They truly are THE music group of the moment. I like it here under my rock…the music is really good.

  2. Avatar

    Simon

    July 4, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I hadn’t heard of them until very recently – now I have a feel the worse for it. They are simply terrible.

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Entertainment

Future of Bangkok’s iconic Scala cinema building uncertain after closing

Maya Taylor

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Future of Bangkok’s iconic Scala cinema building uncertain after closing | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Supanut Arunoprayote/Wikipedia

Cinema lovers and theatre employees are mourning the closure of Bangkok’s legendary Scala cinema after 51 years in business. The theatre was the last one to remain independent in the capital, amid an expanding landscape of multiplex cinema chains. Khaosod English reports that many Scala lovers turned out to bid farewell to the theatre prior to its final screening on Sunday evening.

The Scala’s lease ran out at the end of June and Chulalongkorn University, which owns the building, has not made any statement on what its future plans may be. For Phiboon Phorchaiyarach, who has worked as an usher at the theatre since 1981, the Scala felt like a second home.

“I feel sad. I’ve worked here since I was 21. I’m impressed every day I come to work, it’s like my second home for me.”

He recalls the Scala’s popularity in the early days of his career, mourning the death of the independent movie theatre in favour of modern technology.

“The theatre was always crowded. People lined up all the way to the downstairs to get their tickets punched. Nowadays there are CDs and mobile phones where everyone can readily enjoy what they want to watch. Coming to theatre is not a special moment anymore.”

The Scala belonged to the Apex chain of theatres, which also owned the Lido and Siam theatres. The Lido is now a multiplex and mini-mall, while the Siam theatre burnt to the ground in 2010 as political protests rocked Bangkok.

Nuphu Chayalat, a 63 year old concession stand worker, worked at the Lido for 18 years before moving to the Scala. She recalls watching her favourite films at the Scala, adding that one of them, James Cameron’s Titanic, drew huge queues.

The Scala was named after Milan’s renowned Teatro alla Scala and its first screening upon opening its doors on New Year’s Eve in 1969 was The Undefeated. Over the weekend, those visiting for the last time, were treated to screenings of a number of classic movies, including 1966’s Blow Up and CinemaParadiso, whose soundtrack composer, Ennio Morricone, passed away yesterday.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Bars and clubs can re-open soon, but with a list of 22 requirements

The Thaiger

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Bars and clubs can re-open soon, but with a list of 22 requirements | The Thaiger

“Musicians and performers must wear face shields.”

Well, there’s some good news and there’s some bad news if you’re the owner of an entertainment venue in Thailand. You CAN re-open… soon. BUT, the CCSA has put together a list of 22 requirements you’ll have to meet when you re-open your doors.

Not surprisingly the owners and representatives are unhappy about the long list of encumbrances on venues who will re-open under the new phase 5 guidelines. The list of rules is being submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration this Friday.

Of businesses left to re-open in Thailand, the entertainment industry includes pubs, karaoke outlets, massage parlours and other types of adult entertainment venues. Shuttered since March, the venues are eager to open in July.

Here’s some of the main restrictions, among the long list…

• Restrict the number of customers

• Check body temperature of patrons and provide hand sanitiser

• Groups of people sitting together – maximum 5. They will have to sit 1 metre away from each other.

• At least 2 metres between tables, or install barriers

• No singing or dancing (that includes your club team song after the 9th beer)

• Drinks in glasses only, not bottles

• Staff must wear face masks AND face shields

• No ‘gathering’, ‘shouting’, or ‘wandering’

• Musicians and performers must wear face shields (who wants to hear those silly lyrics anyway!?)

• No competitions or group activities, including pool and darts

• Ensure social distancing in smoking areas

• Ban ‘product presenters’ from sitting with guests (huh?!)

Last week the country’s musicians and entertainers pleaded with the the government to allow them to return to work. They told officials that they were in dire financial straits.

Operators say limiting customers to five in a group may keep them from coming and are complaining that the rules for entertainment venues are stricter than the ones imposed on eateries and filming crews.

But, keen to pry their doors open again, operators admit they will have no choice but to comply with the new rules. In the meantime they are urging the CCSA to reconsider the draconian list of restrictions and consider relaxing the rules, either before Phase 5 starts or a few weeks after.

There is no doubt the country’s battered entertainment industry will take time to recover. In towns around Thailand the locals will likely trickle back as more confidence is gained in social gatherings again. But for the tourist spots, many former businesses will simply go broke as the government delays opening borders for international tourists. Many will never re-open. Some 2 million people are employed in the country’s entertainment and nightlife business.

Meanwhile, Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam says the government will consider the lifting of the emergency decree by this Friday.

Mr Wissanu says the decision whether to lift or extend Thailand’s emergency decree will be made based “on the assessment of Covid-19 risks”.

“If the country does not face a second wave of infections, then the Communicable Disease Control Act is adequate to contain the virus.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Government considering unlocking music venues, meetings today

Jack Burton

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Government considering unlocking music venues, meetings today | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

Thailand’s often flamboyant and occasionally controversial Public Health Minister and Deputy PM, Anutin Charnvirakul, spoke to reporters this morning after significant recent media coverage of the estimated 100,000 musicians still out of work due to the continued closure of the entertainment and nightlife industry.

Anutin says he himself was once a musician (yeah, we can see that…) and he “feels for these people,” who have been without work for more than 3 months. He said the CCSA and Department of Public Health are meeting this afternoon and will specifically discuss “live music entertainment venues” and get advice from the doctors advising the CCSA.

Anutin said he would especially like to see musicians be able to earn an income, but certain rules such prohibition of dancing and mandatory mask wearing at live venues would likely be needed.

It’s not clear whether the potential of “unlocking” music venues would lead to a larger reopening of pubs, bars and entertainment venues in general, or only bars that feature live music. Anutin didn’t clarify this question at the press conference, but did confirm that the matter is being considered and they would see how they could potentially allow musicians to get back to work.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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