A K-pop takeover of Billboard Music Awards social artist category

By Nadine Kam I

Once again, BTS has been nominated for the Billboard Music Awards Top Social Artist award, which they’ve already won the past two years. But what’s new this year has fans elated.

For the first time, the group is nominated for the Top Duo/Group award, winning recognition for their music, not just their social presence. Also up for the award are Dan + Shay, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5 and Panic at the Disco.

And in the Top Social Artist category, their competition includes compatriots EXO and GOT7, in addition to Ariana Grande and Louis Tomlinson.

EXO, from left, Xiumin, D.O., Chen, Baekhyun, Kai, Suho, Sehun and Chanyeol, is BTS’s biggest rival in South Korea, where warring fandoms have helped to spur the protective instincts of Army and EXO-L members.

The Koreans will be difficult to beat in the social category when the winners are announced May 1 because of their fervent fanbases. The fans post, tweet and share all of the bands’ accomplishments, and create special hashtags to make sure their favorite groups are constantly trending and at top of mind.

I’m imagining a complete takeover of that category one day because K-pop groups inspire cult-like devotion and loyalty. I started this blog, in part, to figure out why that is. It just confounds me because don’t have a follower mentality and would be the least likely to fall prey to any cult or cult figure, but I became totally caught up in this culture. My friends know this is so not me. My feeling about anything popular is normally to run in the opposite direction because I associate the popular, the hive mindset, as being indicative of the lowest common denominator. But in this case, the legion of BTS and K-pop followers are the ones woke.

BTS struggled for five years before breaking through to popular and critical acclaim, Because of the hardship they endured, up until early this year, they considered disbanding.

In this day and age, when we’re all connected online, the fandoms wield immense power. That’s why BTS routinely thanks their Army of followers for helping to propel them forward. You don’t get that heartfelt sense of gratitude from Western artists who, once they become famous, seem to instead feel a sense of entitlement. There is little to inspire loyalty there.

The various music award committees know how sizable BTS’s audience is, and fans cynically believe that many award shows have nominated them for so-called booby, or popularity, prizes, just to gain an audience, rather than taking them seriously for music awards.

This year marks a turning point. Even if they manage only to get their feet in the door and don’t take home the top prize this year, no doubt they’ll be back next year for their work on “Map of the Soul: Persona.” That album won’t be released until April 12, but based on the comeback trailer, I have a good feeling about it.

GOT7 is also nominated, and the three groups nominated for Billboard’s Top Social Award come from three different entertainment companies in South Korea. GOT7 is from one of the Big Three companies, JYP Entertainment. EXO is from Big Three SM Entertainment. BTS is represented by Big Hit Entertainment, which, until this spring’s Tomorrow X Together (TXT) debut,
was only representing BTS.

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