Last night Korean boy band BTS made history by being the first K-pop group to perform on an American awards show, the American Music Awards. Not only was the event heavily attended by the band’s American fan-base, it was also broadcasted live in South Korea on Mnet. Twitter exploded with live tweets and retweets easily making BTS one of the most talked about and searched topics of the evening. Considering how wildly popular they are, it’s really no surprise to their fans, but that didn’t stop us from worrying about how our boys would be received by the American audience. It’s no secret that there is a huge gap in representation in American media when it comes to Asian-Americans. We have only just begun to see a bit more African-Americans on screen and behind the cameras as of late. So you can imagine how Asian-American representation pales in comparison. Thankfully, new shows like Dr. Ken and Fresh Off The Boat have made waves recently, but TV isn’t music. Unfortunately, there is practically no representation of Asians in the American music scene, whether foreign or domestic.
But why is that?
It’s not like others haven’t tried (Jin Akanishi, Se7en, and Wonder Girls to name a few). So what is different about BTS from the other groups that have tried to break into the market? Based on my observation, it’s because of Bang Si Hyuks’s philosophy that BTS should remain true to K-pop. The CEO of the super band’s label, Big Hit Entertainment, has repeatedly stated that they would not try to be anything other than who they are, a K-pop group. Because he has allowed them to be true to themselves in and outside of Korea, their work is unique and sincere. The authenticity is not lost on the masses. In fact, it’s a part of their charm. As an American fan, I am thrilled to see one of my favorite groups perform on a domestic program. I am even happier that they did this without conforming to the status quo.
So where do we go from here?
Now that BTS has shown America and the world that not only are Asians beautiful, handsome and sexy (as noted in the plethora of tweets about their amazing visuals every time they hit the red carpet), but they are also amazingly talented singers, dancers, composers, actors and more. It was a long time coming and I hope now that the blinders are off, Americans will start to appreciate local Asian talent more as well. I can’t begin to name all of the domestic talent that deserve recognition right now. I have a few in mind, but we will discuss that later. What’s important is that now that the light has finally shone on Asians, how can we continue to illuminate and support them? The answer, I believe, again lies in Bang Si Hyuk’s words. Let them be who they are. Asians, whether American or not, do not need to look like, act like or be like any other group. They are uniquely talented in their own ways, creative in their own sounds, and beautiful in their own right. We should continue to break down walls of bias and stereotype by celebrating and appreciating the ways we are different and the same. That’s how we move forward. Continue to support BTS on the international scene, but also support artists from all ethnicities, not just the dominant ones.
Now that BTS has come bursting through to open the doors even more for K-pop, what other group would you like to see perform on an American program? Do you know a local favorite artist that should be celebrated? Tell us about them in the comments.