How BTS became one of the most popular bands in history – 71Bait

Professor Candace Epps-Robertson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has described BTS fans as an army of librarians. She wrote down her methods in the diary Rhetoric Review, “comprises tracking and documenting Twitter hashtags, participatory archives of research and teaching materials, blogs archiving translations of songs, and an emerging archive of fans recounting their personal experiences of survival and growth.” Epps-Robertson has her own growth narrative: In 2019 she began caring for her mother who was dying of ALS,” she wrote in a blog post. She feels particularly connected to “Mikrokosmos” (no relation to Bartók), a synthesizer up-tempo track that affirms the “starlight” in every soul.

In July, Epps-Robertson, whose Twitter name includes a superscript “7” in homage to the band, will fly to Seoul to attend the third convocation of BTS: A Global Interdisciplinary Conference. (One of the keynote speakers is New Age novelist Paulo Coelho.) Her teenage daughter, Phoenix, the original ARMY of the family, will accompany them. Before BTS, neither mother nor daughter had much interest in Asia. Well, Epps-Robertson told me, Phoenix attends a Korean-language school once a week, plus two hours of tutoring. “I was so impressed that she got up early to watch Korean news and research Korean history,” she said. “I was like, how can I capture that in my own classes — this excitement, this desire to learn more?”

The concert I attended in Vegas in April was the finale of the band’s “Permission to Dance” tour. After two years of the pandemic, fans were keen to see the group live, and ongoing uncertainty over if and when the older members will have to complete their mandatory eighteen months in the South Korean military added to the frenzy. Still, none of us would have thought that the tour could be BTS’ last, at least for a while. A ARMY from New York, who flew to Los Angeles for one of the shows, recommended that I dress to the nines. At the LA concert, she said, many fans wore clothes modeled after the sophisticated, gender-specific outfits worn by members in music videos and had their hair dyed in homage to BTS’ colorful beanies. The fan, whose own hair is shaded a pleasing soft pink, giggled at the memory of a concert-goer dressed up as a tangerine, a nod to SUGA’s love of the fruit.

Before Las Vegas, I didn’t know BTS had a favorite color. But maybe V – who coined the phrase “Borahae,” a composite of “purple” and “I love you” in Korean – was smiling at me. I happened to have packed purple sunglasses, a purple-pink fanny pack, a purple handkerchief, and a silver slip that I would discover lavender glowing under the desert sun. When I landed at the Las Vegas airport ARMYs were revealed through BTS keychains, luggage tags, and T-shirts that said “TAEHYUNG” or “JIMIN.”

That morning, in my hotel lobby, I met a young woman named MK Jourdain, who was carrying an armful of BTS merchandise and looking out of breath. A Haitian-American woman, who wore her hair in braids and a headband adorned with two plush SHOOKY balls, had flown in from Florida, where she attends college and works in a bank. (SHOOKY is the cartoon character who represents her love, SUGA, in the universe of BT21, a BTS merchandise line.) She had queued up outside Allegiant Stadium at half past four that morning hoping to get her A selection of BTS souvenirs to have. But by the time she got to the front of the line, Permission to Dance blankets and t-shirts had sold out. However, she managed to snag some photo cards and a plastic fan decorated with members’ faces. Jourdain had been drawn to K-pop after dabbling in Japanese anime, whose fandom overlaps with that of BTS ARMY and shares similar customs of language learning and translation. Jourdain learned Korean and explained what drew her to BTS, alongside SUGA’s “cute, lovely” rapping and dancing, were the values ​​the group projected. “I feel more of Korean and Haitian culture. It’s very together. There’s a lot of warmth there,” she said. In the US, on the other hand, “it’s like, OK, I’m just for me. Nobody will really care.”

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