On New Year’s Eve, South Korean pop band BTS delighted their fans when they appeared on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. When they did so, BTS sent Twitter into a frenzy and became 2017’s most tweeted-about celebrities. BTS reminded us of the power of social media to shape the careers of pop bands, a trend that began in 2010 when British boy band One Direction appeared on TV show X-Factor.
By the time One Direction went on hiatus in 2015, they were the biggest thing in pop music. Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, and Louis Tomlinson had amassed over 200 million followers on social media, and the One Direction fandom dominated internet chatter. With the members of One Direction pursuing their solo interests, many assumed that Australian pop-punk outfit 5 Seconds of Summer would step up to dominate the boy band scene. Instead, we have seen a rise in the popularity of K-pop, and the ascendance of BTS to a position of social media dominance.
If you are in any doubt as to the popularity of BTS outside of their native South Korea, reflect on the fact that BTS became the first K-pop act in history to hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart. As reported by USA Today, a tweet of a BTS member sleeping has been retweeted almost 400,000 times and the attached 13-second video clip has been viewed almost 6 million times.
웃음참느라 진짜 힘들었다 후하후하 pic.twitter.com/OYw2sIfTIv
— 방탄소년단 (@BTS_twt) July 10, 2017
The BTS official Twitter account now has nearly 12 million followers, admittedly a long way behind the 32 million who follow One Direction’s official account. The tweet of Jungkook sleeping may have been popular, but it has a long way to go to catch Louis Tomlinson’s infamous “always in my heart” tweet to Harry Styles. With over 2.6 million retweets, that message is the third most retweeted message of all time.
Always in my heart @Harry_Styles . Yours sincerely, Louis
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) October 2, 2011
Like One Direction, the secret to BTS’s success lies in the strength of their “fandom.” As reported by Elite Daily, the BTS fandom is known as the ARMY, an acronym standing for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth. Of course, BTS is very much a breakout band outside of South Korea, whereas One Direction was a worldwide phenomenon.
That said, BTS has now broken into the mainstream in the U.S. and elsewhere. The strength of the BTS fandom and appearances on shows like Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve will undoubtedly fuel the rise in BTS’s popularity and the popularity of K-pop in general.
Having been the most tweeted-about celebrities in 2017, BTS are riding a social media wave that will see them grow in popularity. Exposure outside of South Korea and Japan will only add to the success of BTS, so you can expect the BTS Army to dominate social media in 2018.
BTS is still some way short of the pop music dominance achieved by One Direction, but they are well on their way to catching their British counterparts.