In Depth

How BTS took over the world

The South Korean boyband holds record for the most engagements on Twitter

South Korean boy band BTS are ruling both the charts and the internet as the most tweeted-about celebrities in the world - and now they are taking Britain by storm.

Tweets from the band’s account “totalled an average of roughly 252,200 retweets” each in 2017, beating former One Direction frontman Harry Styles into second place, says Entertainment Tonight

The seven-strong group, all aged between 20 and 25, fall into South Korea’s K-Pop genre, popular across Asia - but “since forming five years ago have shattered every glass ceiling to achieve superstar status worldwide”, says the Daily Mirror

And with two sold-out shows at London’s O2 Arena last week, “the lads are set to conquer the UK - despite 90% of their lyrics being sung in their native language”, says The Sun

The band are already a hit in the US, where they have topped the charts with album Love Yourself: Tear, and have collaborated with stars ranging from Fall Out Boy to rapper Nicki Minaj.

Now, BTS are setting their sights on the British market, after becoming the first K-pop group to enter the top 40, with their song Idol landing at No. 21 in August.

That the seven-piece “has become the biggest thing since One Direction, inspiring Beatlemania-style devotion, is undeniable”, says NME

But with great power comes great responsibility, and “as the group has been exposed to even greater outside forces, their [army of fans] has become weaponised”, adds the website.

NME cites the case of Capital radio host Roman Kemp, who was hit with a barrage of angry messages on Twitter after making a joke about the band’s music. 

So who are BTS - and why are they so popular?

Who are BTS?

BTS is a seven-member boyband founded in 2012 which has quickly become one of South Korea’s biggest acts. Their most recent album, Wings, sold more than two million copies, and their singles regularly rack up more than 100 million views on YouTube.

BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan, meaning “bulletproof boyscout” in Korean, but to their Western fans, the band is commonly also called Beyond the Scene. The group announced their new English name in July, in a move perceived by music critics as an attempt to expand their reach into the English-language market.

The bandmates may look like typical clean-cut pop idols, but their sophisticated blend of K-pop and hip-hop has won critical praise, and the group has also been applauded for tackling subjects which remain taboo in South Korea, such as bullying and mental health.

Why are they so popular?

Their music may have won critical praise, but the main driver of BTS’s meteoric success is their deft use of social media, which saw them beat off Justin Bieber to be named Billboard’s Top Social Artist in May 2017.

The band’s aggressive social media strategy began before the group had even released its first single, but the hard work has paid off in the form of eight million devoted Twitter followers, many of whom feel a personal connection to their idols.

Their social reach is formidable. A 13-second clip of one the bandmates sleeping amassed 400,000 retweets, USA Today notes.

BTS’ fans call themselves the Army, which, in accordance with the slightly garbled English that characterises the fandom lexicon, stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth.

Exact numbers of their international fans are hard to come by, but the US dates of their 2017 international tours sold out within minutes, Fuse reports.

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