Every seasoned Army knows: what Yoongi wants, Yoongi gets. And he wants a Grammy. The prospect is looking all the more likely for BTS– the internationally renowned seven-member band from South Korea.
On November 24th, the Grammys announced their nominations, where BTS made history -once again- with their hit summer song “Dynamite” under the category of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
The nomination makes the band the first South Korean act to achieve such a major musical milestone. While the nomination is indisputably deserved considering their global domination, the occasion is equally significant for the Grammys, who have a history of failing to acknowledge the cultural shifts Black and people of color introduce to music the industry. Many fans expressed disappointment in the Grammys, despite BTS’s nomination. These fans insist the award show continues to ‘snub’ them.
Their judgment may have merit.
Despite the acclaimed success of the Map of the Soul: 7 album, it has failed to earn a nomination for record of the year. The album made the biggest debut of 2020, and it earned the most in pure sales for an album in 2020. More impressively, they achieved this feat without the use of bundles.
Bundles are a widespread practice in the industry, where record companies ‘bundle’ the album with a redeemable offer, merchandise, concert tickets, etc., while retaining the same price of the album. This method serves as an incentive for fans to purchase. BTS have never utilized this technique and instead opted for pure sales –an endeavor rarely, if ever, witnessed for music charts, such as Billboard. Viewing their accomplishments via this lens, their feats are far from trivial. Rather, they’re exceptional and reason to be celebrated and recognized, especially when taking into account that their music is not typically in English. They’re not American and they’ve sold out stadium tours without the aid of bundling.
In July, Billboard announced reform to the way albums are counted on the charts and that bundles would cease to be counted towards the charts. It complicates the game for other contenders, but not for BTS who are evidently accustomed to, and masters of these guidelines. Billboard expounded on their adjustment, maintaining the stance that the change will “more accurately reflect consumer choice.”
Perhaps, this will be what evens the playing field and allows the industry to become more democratic. Not to mention, the inclusion of BTS may be the opportunity the market can grasp to alleviate themselves of xenophobia and racism, considering their history of segregation and exclusivism. The previous Grammys show had winner Tyler, The Creator feeling conflicted about his award. He expressed in his backstage speech that he is grateful, but remains critical and disappointed in the award shows for consistently categorizing Black music as “Urban” as opposed to mainstream.
“When I hear [Urban], I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was just a backhanded compliment. Like, my little cousin wants to play the game. Let’s give him the unplugged controller so he can shut up and feel good about it — that’s what it felt like a bit,” he said.
The Video Music Awards were guilty of promoting an identical agenda in 2019, with the introduction of the “Best K-Pop” category. BTS’s ability to beat their Western counterparts in sales, performances, and streams is proof of an evolving atmosphere that will test the extent of the industry’s reluctance to become more inclusive, and their willingness to remain relevant.
BTS is commonly regarded by fans as their own genre because of their ability to genre-bend and connect with their audience on an unprecedented scale. Their musical discovery is one reflective of their Herculean journey, steadfast dreams, personal discovery, encouraging self-love, and contagious happiness. Their most recent album, BE, was delivered at a time when the world remains uncertain and deprived of normality. BTS offers an elixir of honesty, comfort, and hope in their new album. Complete with the chart topping “Dynamite” to songs reminiscent of the sentimental queen of charts, “Spring Day.” “Life Goes On”, a single on the track, captures the melancholic themes of desperation and longing for bonding, as brought on by the pandemic, but manages to inspire optimism regardless. It’s an intimate album, and an exhibition to why BTS is as successful as they are. The sincerity present permeates and fulfills BTS’s desire to give back.
While a Grammy would certainly add to their immensely large collection of trophies and awards, BTS have already stated time and time again, they don’t need these award shows. Rather, the award shows need them.
It’s only a matter of time before award show organizers realize the extent of BTS’s ability to garner an audience and start abusing their popularity in favor of viewership. It’s arguably already happening in South Korea, where BTS is awarded 30+ minutes of performance time, and smaller/lesser-known groups granted far less screen time. This is an occurrence commonly attributed by fans to BTS’s hard work, something absolutely no one can dispute. And yet, the perspective that the show organizers are simply milking BTS for their popularity, at the expense of others, is also valid.
Before BTS, South Korean award shows were basically festivals for YG or SM, the other major record labels in the country. It’s beyond question that BTS have revolutionized the industry, however, not all has been rectified yet. Show organizers continue to free-ride on who is popular and who will bring in the most money for them. The monetization of award shows remains a shortcoming of the industry and not of the artists themselves.
It can be argued that this is merely the nature of the business and that BTS earned their place to be able to deliver lengthy and dominating performance times. Contrarily, the tradition comes at the detriment of other groups –something BTS has also experienced in the past, which is what makes their story abundantly compelling and remarkable. In fact, BTS’s first major victory at these award shows was so surprising, that larger rival companies accused them of fraud and insisted on a recount. Irrespectively, the industry is not without flaws and the same can be said about Western award shows. While they may not face a dramatically similar situation, it’s intuitive to assess that there will inevitably be other barriers or maltreatment to navigate through. We’re already seeing a lack of radio plays for the band, which contributes to the chart calculations along with purchases and streams. “Dynamite” received extensive radio time in comparison to “ON”, which has been consistently rejected by radio stations, likely due to “Dynamite” being in English.
Albeit, Army (BTS’s diverse fanbase) has proven that they can be trusted to keep these organizers accountable. In the meantime, BTS can continue their inspirational history of demolishing obstacles and paving the way for others.
Twitter Army users are hopeful for the 63rd Grammy awards show, because Ben Winston will be the new executive producer. Army became familiar with the executive producer through The Late Late show with James Corden, when band member Suga (Min Yoongi), sat beside him in the control room, as a means of hiding in plain sight, during a game of hide and seek. Winston has previously expressed awe of the group and congratulated their success. It will be the second time the group will get to perform at the award show, as last year they performed for a few seconds with “Old Town Road” singer, Lil Nas X. The Grammys award show is currently scheduled to happen on January 31, 2021, and will be hosted by Trever Noah.
Momina Tashfeen is a graduate from The Ohio State University, where she earned a bachelor’s in journalism. Previously, she was a reporter for The Lantern, and a writer for Bahath Magazine and Mvslim.com. She also runs a blog - Eunoia.