With just three letters and seven young members, BTS must be the biggest thing in music globally today. Already huge successes for several years in Japan, China and their native South Korea, this year they have achieved the impossible and converted Western audiences to hyperactive manufactured pop sung largely in Korean.
BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan, which means Bulletproof Boy Scouts) were formed in 2013, the year after Psy’s novelty hit Gangnam Style proved a false start for K-pop as a lucrative export. With their moptop hair echoing the look of another long ago music invasion, they have sent two different albums to number one in the US in 2018. Over here, two O2 sellouts is a mighty feat for a first ever trip to London.
Since the parting of One Direction, there have been a lot of screams left unscreamed in this country. Suga, RM, V, Jimin, J-Hope, Jungkook and Jin may have been singing mostly in an unfamiliar tongue but the language of the boyband show was the same – the pouts, the confetti, the slick formation dance routines, and box-ticking music that found room for rapping on Anpanman, brash EDM synths on Save Me and even reggaeton – the other foreign language trend of the moment – on Airplane pt.2.
A cynic would have reeled at the price of the must-have accessory, a light stick that flashed in time for GPB45, plus another two quid if you neglected to bring your own batteries – but it undeniably upped the considerable spectacle. An injury to Jungkook’s heel, which meant he remained on a stool and was wheeled in and out like the family television set, proved a welcome scuffing of the perfect veneer.
They have their flaws, but this diversification of pop is still to be applauded. Not that anyone was clapping. The screams could surely be heard in Seoul.