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Why K-Pop in the western world is a win for the Asians

Searching headlines from this week's American Music Awards brings up a number of results; Pink telling fans she wasn't cringing through Christina Aguilera's performance, Demi Lovato singing to her haters, Selena Gomez bleaching her hair... But other than those three headlines, there were three letters constantly repeated in the AMA newsfeed: BTS.

For millions of viewers, this was an unfamiliar name with unfamiliar music. Foreign, in more ways than one. But for a subculture of Hallyu fans, and a dedicated self-described Army, it was an event that marked a new milestone in Korean music, and Asian entertainment.

When the world became most familiar with K-Pop through Psy's 2012 viral song, 'Gangnam Style', it was an accidental sort of appreciation and fame - in the same manner when the bizarre Spanish 'Las Ketchup' song was a hit in the 2000's. Defined by a catchy melody and a gimmicky dance - 'Gangnam Style' did wonder for Psy's international career, but heavily polarised the western audience.


However, the western popularity that comes with BTS (known in Korean as the Bangtan Boys) is different. It's not viral, or gimmicky, or of "one-hit wonder" status. This is a genuinely dedicated fandom. You only have to see the Twitter trends, hear the screams, and witness the fan chants that you understand this is like One Direction's Korean equivalent craze.

However irritating you may consider fan girls in any capacity (wherever Directioner or Army) I can't help but feel a sense of pride at the reaction. I'm not Korean, not one of BTS's Army, but as an Asian living in the western world, I'm proud of them.

The western media is influential on how society shapes it's thinking. And, no offence to Psy and the work he did (because he has opened the doors for the Asian entertainment and pop culture), but for Asian men in western media, the assumption and visualisation of them has been painted as awkward, dorky, uncomfortable weak men who yell and get frustrated easily.


Take 'Han' from '2 Broke Girls'. A TV show I used to enjoy until I really broke down the humour and heavily stereotyped nature of the comedy to realise 'it's not actually funny'. He's a restaurant owner, verbally harassed by his staff, with an overexaggerated accent, and painted to be an undesirable sexual deviant. It's no wonder that, to mainstream media, Asians are seen as the least desirable.

And don't get me wrong, there have been influential Asian stars in the industry (Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, John Cho) but every generation needs a new example.

Which is what brings me back to BTS. They're called one of Time's top 25 most influential people on the internet, Billboard's 'Top Social Artist', and one of the most retweeted bands on Twitter. They're proving that they're talented, can sing, dance, rap, are seen as attractive and desirable. And if Ed Sheeran can do wonders for ginger people, what can a Korean boyband do?

As an underdog in the midst of rising mainstream, BTS's invitation to perform onstage at the AMAs will hopefully lead forward more genuine acceptance and diversity in the western entertainment industry. Watch out western world - you're only tapping into the surface of the Asian entertainment market.

If you're curious about what is BTS, hear a few more of their hits, which I prefer more than their current 'DNA' song:
- 'Spring Day'
- 'Blood, Sweat and Tears'
- 'Fire'

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