Yes, in 1982 I was too cool for school, and at 16 years old I left school and went to art college to study fashion design. So if I was that cool, who would believe I was going to like a k-pop band forty years later? I was a person who wrote poems in school books, who cycled to nowhere to look at the starry sky, who was angry, but liked both jazz and hip-hop, who tried to dress to impress, liked art; and I thought I was open minded.
That’s more or less until I started thinking about writing this a week ago, “Discovering BTS”, what had been my initial thoughts? I realised that when our daughter started to listen to BTS when ‘BE’ was released (Nov 2020), I was very prejudiced towards the thought of k-pop. Now, I’d also like to think that BTS are beyond k-pop, but when she was watching their music videos I was making myself NOT watch, because of that k-pop tag. She had found BTS through an online group of friends, and we were both at home in UK lockdown two, and then three. My Dad had just died, and the lockdown restrictions meant I couldn’t see my Mum. I was at home trying to declutter our house, not working, and our daughter had just finished college, not working.
It took four months for the seven members to slowly chip away at my stone heart, through a variety of TV content we watched over lunches: music videos, concerts, Run BTS, Bon Voyage, BTS bombs & episodes, old interviews, the legend that was Carpool Karaoke with James Cordon. Until the stage came when I started to research online for more information (How did they all join BigHit?) Until the stage came when I could identify all the members, and some of the songs. Until Bang Bang Con April 17th 2021 (online concert day) when I saw V perform ‘Singularity’, and I became lost in love. Rapidly followed by the promotion for ‘Butter’ and listening to old albums with key rap-line parts (‘Dark & Wild’ is my favourite).
What circumstances made the Indie Middle Aged Mum of three, a fan of Foals and Arctic Monkeys, fall in love with seven South Korean men, the same age as her children? And why two years later is she so obsessed – that’s more time than she loved Adam Ant in 1980. I suspect without the pandemic neither my daughter or I would have found BTS. There’s a lot of sliding doors moments in all this! But pandemic circumstances led her (and BTS) to BE, and UK lockdown number three led me to Bang Bang Con, and from then on BTS replaced lost family members, and distanced friends. They give us a mutual talking point, and we do try to drag husband/ father in to conversations as well (He merely asks: “Who’s birthday are we celebrating now?”)
Would I still be here without the novelty that is k-pop fandom in the world of technology and social media? Again I wonder. It’s all such a different life to pen pals of the 1980s found through personal adverts in the back of Smash Hits magazines, and the content released by Korean artists is an overwhelming scale compared to UK artists. Right now, on ‘hiatus’ I’m still catching up on things from BTS past. For example, just this week, I have used the release of Jimin’s ‘Set Me Free Pt 2’ to look up a stack of lyric translations on some songs I hadn’t really bothered about before. It took me ages to listen to RM’s first (soundcloud) mixtape. The unwatched Run BTS episodes will keep me going for at least two years, the rate I’m going. So I feel I am still discovering them now, due to the quantity of content. I have found several groups of ‘Dope Old People’ across social media who make life more fun, it’s totally different to liking a UK group (in my experience).
Am I open minded now, two years on? Maybe I still have prejudices I don’t realise I have. Are my friends and family open minded? I constantly have to explain why I’m stanning BTS, but no one ever queried why I liked (for example) Lizzo, so I think there is still a stigma. I suggest to my indie music friends that they try to listen to Epik High, or Se So Neon. More than just the group, BTS have opened up a whole new part of the world to me. I have been reading about Korea over the past two years – history, culture and geography. We have cooked Korean, and RM has opened our eyes to Korean art. Oh – and then there’s k-drama….. And they have introduced me to other non-Korean musicians, such as Anthony Joseph, NF and J. Cole, and non-Korean artists (Ugo Rondinone). In fact I could watch RM’s vlog in Basel and Paris endlessly for calming content. Is that mad?
We have been to the two recent cinema concerts – Permission To Dance and Yet To Come – and we really hope one day in the future BTS will return to the UK and we’ll get to see them live in concert. Aside from their chaos, and pouty photo shoots, they are great performers. I just didn’t twig that when I had my Who’s Who chart in February 2021.
- United Kingdom