MY. FIRST. BTS. REVIEW!
Disclaimer: I love BTS, so there’s gonna be a lot of bias in this review. LOL. Also, I won’t be doing much background research for this blog post, since I’m on a time crunch. I’ll be writing everything from memory and from what I’ve heard floating around the Internet.
A Little Bit About Me
I’ve been into K-Pop ever since I was a middle schooler.
My first K-Pop singer was BoA. I started listening to her songs when I started learning Japanese in the 6th grade. The first song I listened from her was “Every Heart” from the anime “InuYasha”. From there, I discovered her first English song – “Eat You Up”, songs from her 1st English album, and other songs like “Copy + Paste”, “Hurricane Venus”, “Game”, etc. etc.
While I was listening to BoA, I also came across 2NE1’s debut songs “Fire” and “I Don’t Care” before they hit 1M views. Ever since I discovered them, up until today, I’ve always considered myself a BlackJack.
God bless 2NE1 and BoA because they’re the main reasons why I’m in the K-Pop community. K-Pop needs more strong, beautiful, and unique women like them.
On to the Review: BTS
So “why BTS”? Why is BTS so successful not just in the K-Pop music industry, but in the global pop music industry?
If you’re a hardcore K-Popper, then you’ve probably heard BTS’ backstory. If not, then, here it is:
BTS was formed under a “small” company called BigHit. Their CEO used to work at JYP since he was close with the JYP. I put an emphasis on the word “small” because to me, just the fact that the CEO had some experience at JYP leads me to believing that BigHit has sufficient funds to establish a decent working foundation.
I’ve heard stories of how BigHit struggled to pay for production costs to make BTS’ early music videos, like how some BigHit employees lent their cars to use as props in music videos.
BTS dormed together in a small apartment, and ate small meals together.
You can watch their early vlogs on YouTube (and VLIVE?), and clearly see that they were struggling to survive together in the competitive industry.
They weren’t really close in the beginning. They were pretty awkward around each other and towards their viewers in their solo vlogs.
RM (then known as Rap Monster) and Suga are known as the two members that brought success to the group. But back then, they didn’t want to be in the group BTS. Well, they were originally assigned to a hip-hop group by the same name, but their CEO decided to change the group’s concept to a mostly pop-focused and hip-hop-influenced group. RM hated the idea of wearing makeup and dancing, and Suga threatened to leave BigHit. They didn’t sign up to be in a pop boy band, but in the end they stuck to it because they first and foremost want to produce and write music. (You can get a sense of how they initially felt about their boy band concept in this video of them being bullied by a K-rapper:)
I’ve heard different stories about how J-Hope came into the group. He was either scouted, or he was an ex-trainee from JYP who transferred to BigHit along with his CEO. He was added to the BTS lineup because of his street hip-hop dance skills. Although he was originally supposed to be an accompanying vocalist, he learned how to rap from Rap Monster during the group’s early days. His rap skills are pretty good, especially for someone who didn’t have years and years of rapping on the streets like Rap Monster.
As for the other members, they came into the equation after the CEO decided to change the BTS group into a pop boy band. V and Jin were recruited for their good-looks, Jimin for his artistic dance style (which made him one of the top students at a dance academy), and Jungkook for his vocals.
In total, there are seven members. I’d say that four of them had exceptional talents (Rap Monster, Suga, J-Hope, and Jimin), while the other three had much to improve on and discover. Regardless of how good they were at their fortés, they had to become well-rounded in order to compete with other K-Pop artists from big companies.
Overall, BTS is one of the least “vocally-good” K-Pop artists out there. Their voice range is quite limited, and they can’t harmonize. Since the group started off with a hip-hop-influenced concept, the members who didn’t really have a background history of singing hip hop music (excluding Suga and Rap Monster of course) struggled to put up a bad boy and street image, especially with their voices.
Big companies can afford to promote “mediocre” groups that don’t have well-rounded members, and members who can’t quite sing. Moreover, they have stellar producers that understand how to create songs that highlight the vocal characteristics of not-so-great singers.
BigHit has producers like PDogg, Slow Rabbit and Supreme Boi that helps Rap Monster and Suga make songs for BTS. But, since they didn’t start off being stellar producers, they too had to learn how to be well-rounded in the competitive industry.
BigHit’s BTS and producers can’t survive in the industry with a hip-hop concept that didn’t click for everyone.
After enduring so much together for so long, the BTS members eventually learned to embrace each other like family. AND, the CEO and group’s main song writers and producers – Suga and Rap Monster – learned about their own and everyone’s musical strengths and weaknesses.
Jimin may not have been confident with his voice, but Suga and Rap Monster saw potential in him becoming one of the group’s main vocalists.
Jungkook’s dance skills were really weak when he auditioned, so his CEO ordered him to take dance lessons from an American dance academy. After much training, he became one of the group’s most skilled dancers alongside Jimin.
V was originally assigned to be a rapper, but his vocals aren’t fit for rapping. Eventually, someone figured out that his voice is quite good for soft vocal lines and to put some more emphasis on rap lines. (I don’t know how else to describe his voice.)
Jin doesn’t have that many vocal lines in the group, but nowadays he’s getting more recognition with songs like “Go Go”. His role in the group is similar to V’s – to emphasize lyrics and sing soft vocal lines. And sadly, Jin is the worst dancer in the group. He has improved much over the years, and can now compliment the other member’s dance moves.
It’s not enough for the group to have some good dancers and some good singers. Again, they all had to strive for excellency. Even the group’s two main rappers, Suga and Rap Monster, had to correct their weak vocals and dance skills. Rap Monster eventually because the second-worst dancer in the group, while Suga’s dance skills are as good as V’s and not as good as Jimin and Jungkook’s.
So how can everyone harmonize when they’re not on-par with each other? Aside from Rap Monster and Suga figuring out everyone’s vocal parts in songs, BigHit managed to get stellar choreographers that created the illusion of everyone being spectacular dancers. They’re all spectacular performers, but ya gotta admit that half of their awesomeness comes from hardwork while the other half comes from their choreographers.
In order to compete with the very best singers in the K-Pop industry, BTS had to master all the skills needed for someone to have a sustainable living in the industry and bring something new to the scene.
But how can you bring something new to K-Pop? Well, K-Pop’s music before BTS has always been mostly-influenced by J-Pop (Japanese Pop) and Western pop music. The problem with most K-Pop tracks are that they appeal to most Asians and those who love the Asian culture.
BTS mastered what most K-Pop producers and songwriters tried to accomplish, and that is… to make music appealing to a Western (or global) audience.
BUT HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Well, Let’s look at this music video “Fantastic Baby”, by one of the “Kings of K-Pop” – BIGBANG:
The song is quite catchy to dance to in a club. Or in your room, if you like to dance alone. But despite how catchy the tune is, the song isn’t really known outside the K-Pop community. It’s been briefly played in a “Pitch Perfect 2” trailer, but that’s the only American ad I’ve heard that song in.
Now watch this:
It’s not only hip-hop inspired, but it’s listenable. It doesn’t sound too “J-Pop”. But you can say that for the other modern K-Pop songs. SO HOW DID THEY DO IT?
Honestly, I don’t know how else to describe their music other than IT’S LISTENABLE TO A MORE DIVERSE AUDIENCE.
That’s all the time I have for today. I’ll write a follow-up blog to brush up on some things I’ve mentioned here and talk about some new things about BTS. I hope that y’all found this blogpost somewhat enjoyable to read. In the meantime, GET READY for BTS’ COMEBACK!