The K-pop group BTS is riding a global wave of popularity to new heights. The seven members — Jungkook (real name: Jeon Jung-kook), V (Kim Tae-hyung), Jimin (Park Ji-min), J-Hope (Jung Ho-seok), RM (Kim Nam-joon), Suga (Min Yoon-gi) and Jin (Kim Seok-jin) — have taken the world by storm, drawing comparisons to The Beatles.
The boys were certainly riding high Monday: their first entirely English-language single “Dynamite” had just returned to a third week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, making them the first group to lead the Hot 100, Global 200 and Global 200 Excl. U.S. simultaneously. They also each became multimillionaires after their company Big Hit Entertainment landed the biggest stock market listing in three years in their native South Korea. (Each band member now holds shares worth $7.9 million at issue price.)
Variety sat down with the members of BTS the day after they dropped “Dynamite” for an extensive interview over Zoom.
A look at the band, its unique connection to its fans and its powerful message of inclusion will kick off Variety‘s Grammy preview issue, which hits stands this Wednesday. Before the full print magazine drops, here’s a taste of what the band clued us in on:
On singing in English on “Dynamite”:
RM: When we first listened to the “Dynamite” demo, I actually tried different titles or lyrics in Korean. I tried to write some rap on that track, but nothing worked out really well. So, ok, well, why not keep it this way? Let’s give it a shot! It’s 2020, why not do some crazy things?
Jungkook: It was an unfamiliar experience to record and sing this song in English. We had to practice the pronunciation a lot to try and make sure that the feel and emotions of the lyrics were really reflected when we sang it. We translated the lyrics into Korean and read them very carefully. We thought about what they meant in Korean as we recorded them into English.
J-Hope: Pop music in English is really what we grew up listening to. English songs are not something unfamiliar to us — we are used to them. But the feelings that go into writing songs in English is very different from what goes into writing them in Korean, so this was still something new. It required a lot of work, especially on the pronunciation, and a lot of practice.
On whether there will be English songs on their next album:
Suga: “Dynamite” was a special case. You can’t predict what will happen and the things we do. We can’t say for certain what we’ll do in the future. Things change, circumstances change. If we see that there’s a good enough reason to do something — record in English or something else — then we’ll go ahead with that decision.
On going global:
Jin: We just made music that we liked and that people liked in Korea, and then people outside of Korea began to like it — in the same way that we hear pop songs from outside of Korea and enjoy them too. We never made a conscious effort to spread globally. I think it sort of happened organically; this connection happened on its own. Can other groups or people enjoy the same kind of success? I’m sure it’s possible.
On growing as artists and writing their own music:
Jimin: I really love our songs and the style of BTS songs. I’ve been trying to work on my personal music, but haven’t really put something out yet. What I’m trying to do now is learn from the other members and try new things that are in the style of BTS, which I really love. I’d like to release and create my own music.
V: When I was much younger, I listened to a lot of top hits and songs that the other members recommended to me. I often felt that it would’ve been great if I’d written those songs myself. I’m trying very hard so that I can one day write one of those great songs and feel that sense of pride.
The Variety BTS cover story will publish online on September 30, 2020 at 6:00 AM PST.
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