Hey! Hallie here!
I hate that I so often come on this blog to talk about my favorite group of all time, BTS, to address the horrible things yet another American company has done to them. It happens far too often and I think it exhausts every ARMY who closely follows BTS. But the blatant xenophobia coming from companies that simultaneously use BTS for attention is worth talking about. BTS has worked too hard for these companies to get away with this behavior. Today’s American company is Billboard, who decided to come out with a magazine heavily featuring BTS. As usual, the magazine featured an exclusive photo shoot and a large article claiming to explore BTS’s success. Besides being a scatterbrained article that’s “exclusive interviews” were underutilized in favor of a lot of conjecture, the article seemed adamant to paint a negative image of BTS and ARMY. So let’s address all of their worst offenses as well as some of BTS’s best responses.
ARMYs Manipulating the Charts:
This is the major point of the article that sparked outrage. This article spent paragraph after paragraph accusing ARMY of finding “loopholes” in Billboard’s charting system and “mass buying” physical copies in order to cheat BTS into the top ranking. While trying to prove these things, the article quoted the Twitter accounts of random people either hating on BTS, or seeming to prove that ARMYs were “organizing” to buy albums in mass. Like Twitter accounts from anonymous people are suddenly inarguable proof that something heinous is going on. On top of that, this article seemed to gloss over that large fan groups of American artists, such as Beliebers and Swifties, have employed similar tactics to support their favorite artists after their releases. In other words, mass buying a song is normal behavior for a fan group. It isn’t some negative, psychotic action. Nor is it proof of a fan base “cheating” the system. A group gets to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 by streaming and sales. ARMYs did nothing more than stream the song and buy copies of it. Under this criteria, there is nothing being done wrong here. This article also didn’t seem to grasp the massive amount of people that consider themselves ARMY. The article called into question how many people would even know about “Butter” because it was played on the radio less than its competitors. Obviously this person doesn’t know that K-Pop groups are widely popular without being played on American radio stations at all. BTS received their recent success because of hard work, which has in turn given them an incredibly large fan base. Of course their songs will see large numbers. They have a giant amount of fans.
Along with these unfounded conjectures the article tried to shame ARMYs for buying multiple copies of one album, as well as BTS for releasing multiple versions of one song. This is also ridiculous. Many artists release multiple versions of songs or albums, and many fans like to collect them. BTS albums are even more collectible because they come with items such as photo cards that you get randomly when you purchase an album. This sales tactic is, once again, not the company cheating Billboard or trying to manipulate American charts. It’s a common marketing tactic in South Korea. And it’s not completely unique to South Korea either. Additionally, “Butter” did admittedly come out with multiple remixes. But “Butter” hit number one on the Hot 100 chart long before the remixes were released, and none of the remixes usurped the original song’s position at the top of the chart. All of these random conjectures had no backbone. They seemed to only serve the purpose of casting BTS in a bad light. And if all of this isn’t bad enough, the author of this ridiculous piece of writing decided to confront Namjoon about it to his face. The complete disrespect that was shown here is beyond words. Namjoon’s response was wise and well put together. He said that, if Billboard wants to change their criteria to discount physical sales, that’s up to them. But as of now, he sees no reason why BTS and their fans are being accused of manipulating the charts outside of the fact that BTS is from Korea and that BTS is a boy band. In other words, Billboard’s entire argument was rooted in xenophobia and the misogynistic hatred society directs towards boy groups and their predominantly female fanbases. Namjoon proved himself far more respectable than whoever wrote this article.
This article also seemed to find it fun to constantly mention the inevitable downfall of BTS. The amount of times it mentioned the traumatic time in 2018 where BTS admitted they had considered disbanding while half of the members sobbed onstage? Insensitive at best. But they also decided to directly ask BTS about it at the end of the interview. Jin took this one, saying that they hadn’t ever wanted to disband and that their company takes care of them in a more satisfying way now, so there’s no reason for them to consider disbanding anymore. But he did say that BTS decided to move forward with a ‘screw the company, screw everyone else, we’re here for the members and the fans’ mentality. Another expert shutdown for a horrible question. This article also spent many paragraphs talking about how their inevitable enlistment might be the end for BTS, Hybe, and even South Korea’s entertainment industry as a whole. The fact that whatever idiot wrote this article doesn’t seem to know the amount of people signed under Hybe, or the popularity of K-Pop as a whole, makes this whole thing ridiculous. BTS isn’t the only thing Hybe has. Nor is BTS the only popular K-Pop group in South Korea. However, the worst part of this whole line of thinking is the idea that BTS’s enlistment means their popularity will instantaneously die. As if ARMYs haven’t proven themselves loyal or other K-Pop groups haven’t continued thriving after their members began to enlist. This article grasped at anything it could to make it seem like BTS’s success will die out soon. They even used a Yoongi quote, where he spoke about how BTS would inevitably hit a peak in popularity and begin to come back down again, to prove that BTS won’t last long. The author evidently doesn’t know that lessening popularity doesn’t equal a complete fade into obscurity. If that was the case we wouldn’t be listening to artists like Michael Jackson years and years after they passed away. The more I think about this reasoning, the worse it gets.
From starting out this article by trying to paint BTS as unsavory with a few sentences about the boys talking about their hangovers, to trying to get BTS to admit to either wrongdoing or the doomed future of their careers, this article was one of the worst examples of “journalism” I have ever seen in my life. It was biased, insensitive, and full of unproven lies. It made ARMYs just as uncomfortable reading it as it seemed to make BTS during their interview. I’m glad Namjoon so eloquently shut them down. He even rejected the idea that BTS would want to fit into the American media’s expectations of them. And I hope that Billboard knows now that they messed with the wrong fandom. It isn’t a smart move to market something towards ARMYs and insult them and the group they love the whole way through. I hope the backlash they’re receiving now results in an apology and serves as a lesson to other American companies. We don’t tolerate xenophobia here. And we won’t tolerate your harassment.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!
One thought on “BTS: Billboard and Racism”
Thank you for posting this! I’ve honestly been so curious about this article, but at the same time I was scared to read it because people have been saying how bad it was. A reason why I haven’t been active on twitter even is because I only ever see the increasingly ridiculous takes people keep making about the authenticity of the boys’ popularity, and my heart hurts because of the blatant show of racism and misogyny.
RM really answered the charts question very well. I’ve no doubt an article like this that is intentionally written to put BTS in a bad light would be willing to twist the boys’ words to support their own bias, so I’m wowed with how precise and direct he was with his answer. Still, the fact that those ridiculous allegations were just thrown in their faces like that. I’m so MAD. 😡
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