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Letters from America
Who Is the Bigger Band, the Beatles or BTS?
By Greg Evans
Special Correspondent
BTS: TIME's Entertainer of Year 2020
It is 2021, a strange time, and we find ourselves tackling a question whose answer is more or less determined by the generation responding. Who is the bigger band, the Beatles or BTS? Ask someone over age 50 if they know who BTS is, and they will reference a sandwich. Ask my twelve-year-old daughter to hum one of the hits by the Beatles, and she will respond, “I don’t know the sound Beatles (the insect) make.” It is true that these two groups both sold over a million units in 2020. Both are boy bands, with each member of the group building its base of followers, and if the member of BTS had bowl cuts, you just might not be able to tell the mega-groups apart.

The Beatles have been broken up longer than I have been alive, but they were still the most popular selling rock band of 2020, beating out Queen despite Freddie Mercury’s blockbuster movie. They are hugely popular on various streaming services generating hundreds of millions of plays worldwide.

BTS, on the other hand, is a grittier yet more glamorous version of The Beatles. They are exotic and uniquely dressed in the latest trends with colored hair and makeup. It is not something you would see on a Beatle, per se. Yet some might argue if John Lennon were alive in 2021, he too would have green and blue hair.

BTS is a seven-member boy band out of South Korea formed in 2010, also known as the Bangtan Boys, though BTS is the worldwide marketed name. The members consist of RM (Rap Monster), Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. They were originally a hip-hop group though their music has developed and evolved into more of a mainstream pop sound. With more than 20 million albums sold, they are the best-selling artist in South Korean history. The Beatles are the bestselling band of all-time, and in 2020 and we can speculate it will continue into 2021, they will compete for music sale omnipotence.

BTS was created during South Korea’s push to market its culture, music, and the arts. There was a slew of groups getting formed through auditions. And all on a similar model. The South Korean government spent a ton of money building the culture of South Korea as a brand. And the focus of this brand was to be exported. It was genius. And it worked. EXO, BTS, BLACKPINK, and numerous others. The fusion-style music of these bands is known as K-Pop. It has immersed itself in the cultures of cities from London to Sydney to Charlotte.

Many of us are somewhat surprised that BTS wasn’t one of the bands on the inauguration bill yesterday in Washington. BTS nearly caught The Beatles this year for most units sold in the United States, and the direction music is going, once the pandemic is over, will be very interesting.



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Greg Evans, associate director of communications of King University in Bristol TN, in the US, serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times. The seasoned journalist has been writing for such papers as the Mooresville Tribune, Lake Norman Citizen, the Bristol Herald Courier, and the Sentinel-Progress (Easley, SC). He can be reached at gaevans1@king.edu

 

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