The groundbreaking success of BTS has erased any lingering sense that K-Pop is a passing phenomenon. This year alone, the seven-member troupe has landed three No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, while groups including BLACKPINK, NCT 127 and TOMORROW x TOGETHER have notched top five albums on the Billboard 200. K-Pop is here to stay, and it’s time for the genre’s mega-successful, culture-shaping artists to be recognized with Grammy nominations.
And not just in the pop categories. Given BTS’ undeniable impact on the music industry as a whole, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook could be in the mix for the big awards — album of the year, record of the year and song of the year — when nominations are announced Nov. 23.
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The South Korean hit machine has a habit of making history with each new release. When BTS’ 9th LP, “Be,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in November, they became the fastest band to accumulate five chart-toppers since the Beatles. Their record-shattering run continued well into 2021 when “Butter” broke the first-day Spotify record (11 million-plus global streams), while the accompanying visual raised the bar for first-day YouTube views to 108.2 million. That translated into a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100, where the catchy banger, produced by Stephen Kirk, Rob Grimaldi and Ron Perry, stayed for 10 non-consecutive weeks. BTS followed it up with another chart-topper courtesy of the Ed Sheeran co-penned “Permission to Dance” and weeks later, made it a hat trick with “My Universe,” a Coldplay collaboration.
It’s the kind of commercial dominance that the Recording Academy usually pays close attention to, which suggests that BTS could be adding to their solitary Grammy nomination for pop duo/group performance for 2020 hit “Dynamite.” The K-Pop titans stand a good chance of reappearing in that category with “Butter,” while its visual has to be a contender for music video. “Be” also falls within the 13-month eligibility period, which could result in a nod for pop vocal album.
A Grammy nomination in any category is a huge honor, but a more meaningful acknowledgement of BTS’ success, as well as the massive popularity of K-Pop in North America, would come from nominating the group in one of the big three categories.
“Be” finds BTS at their most experimental, weaving in elements of pop, hip-hop, electronica, disco and even folk. Promoted with a slate of explosive live performances — including the American Music Awards, which was beamed live from South Korea’s Seoul Olympic Stadium, “Good Morning America” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden” — the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 2.6 million copies worldwide. It even prompted a reboot of “MTV Unplugged” with “MTV Unplugged Presents: BTS” in February. It certainly would feel like a long-overdue acknowledgement from the industry if “Be” earned a nomination for album of the year.
While that still feels like something of a long shot, BTS might have more luck in the record of the year and song of the year categories. “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” have the pedigree, polish and popularity to be competitive. The Recording Academy could also look to other crossover artists if it wants to recognize K-Pop. BLACKPINK’s “The Album” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 on the back of pop anthems such as “How You Like That” and high-profile collaborations with Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez. A BLACKPINK nom would add a degree of diversity to the pop vocal album category. Other K-Pop acts that made their presence felt in the eligibility period include SuperM, which also debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with “SuperOne,” while 10-member NCT 127 ranks as one of the genre’s most adventurous acts and landed a top 5 album with 2021’s “Sticker.”
TOMORROW x TOGETHER (aka TXT) could make a run in the new artist category. They make crisp, complex pop music and already have a top 5 album under their collective belt with “The Chaos Chapter: Freeze.” The Recording Academy could dig even deeper and acknowledge other K-Pop newcomers with nascent global followings including æspa, TREASURE, ITZY and ENHYPHEN.
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