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Luck, hard work or dedicated ARMY — what caused BTS' rapid rise to fame?

BTS had an impressive rise to fame. What can we attribute this to? – Photo by armymedunion / Twitter

BTS has achieved the heights of superstardom that many artists dream of. The group is the first — and so far only — K-pop act to sell out London's famous Wembley Stadium, have the best-selling album of all time in South Korea, "MAP OF THE SOUL: 7," and consistently break records with every new comeback. With the recent influx of the K-wave in the West, how has BTS managed to stay on top? What makes this seven-member boy group so special?

I would be remiss if I didn’t speak about their long and hard road to fame. Before BTS, Big Hit Music was an extremely small company. Founded by Bang Si-Hyuk in 2005, the company had mixed luck with its groups.

Its first and only girl group, called GLAM, was involved in a scandal in which one of its members, Dahee, was accused of blackmailing actor Lee Byung-Hun. Big Hit Music collaborated with JYP Entertainment to form 2AM, but the company had never formed a successful group on its own.

BTS was formed in 2010 and came on the scene three years later on June 12, 2013, with the debut single album "2 Cool 4 Skool." At the time, the group went relatively unnoticed, with neither the album nor title track performing very well.

Contrary to most K-pop groups at the time, BTS rapped and sang about issues pertinent to the youth of South Korea like extreme academic pressure and the intense desire to succeed in a competitive society. Years later, the group would be heralded for this breakthrough, but it was not until the release of “I Need U” on the mini-album “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1” that BTS skyrocketed to general public fame.

"Dope" or "쩔어" on the same EP garnered viral success, with the music video being viewed more than 700 million times. From there, BTS’ success was a continuous upward climb. After numerous hits, sold-out shows and millions of albums distributed, BTS’ fans — known collectively as ARMY, helped BTS win the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards, breaking Justin Bieber’s six-year streak. We would effectively be here for hours if every single one of BTS’ achievements were listed.

So, what exactly makes these seven boys so special? Fans regularly cite their heavy involvement in their music. Suga and RM, two members of the group, come from underground rap backgrounds, which in turn, has flavored their music with hip-hop influences.

Many of the members have been credited on numerous albums with songwriting, production and composition credits. A few members have solo songs or albums, which they allegedly had a heavy hand in creating.

Or perhaps it is their unconventional backgrounds. Many idols are taken in as young teens or children and trained, likely through scouting or auditions, but the backgrounds of the members of BTS are a bit different.

Suga and RM were mentioned before, but J-hope was part of an underground dance group called Neuron. His sense of timing and isolations are superb, and his experience allowed him to train the other members adequately. Jimin was training to be a contemporary dancer at the Busan High School of Arts before joining BTS, making his dancing look effortless.

Everyone loves a good underdog story, and BTS is certainly that group. Big Hit Music was small and, prior to BTS, not well-funded.

The band's growth as a superstar group was organic, as the group had little or no prior recognition or fame. BTS was extremely resilient, and that grit is what many fans are attached to. Seeing the boys go from a no-name group to selling out stadiums resonates in the heart of every single ARMY.

Their fans are also incredibly dedicated and loyal. ARMYs have done far more than sell out venues and win Billboard Awards. Many ARMYs host charity events and help raise money for notable causes. They organize fan events, random play dances and goodies before concerts.

With every event or comeback BTS has, the ARMY is right beside them as they are on this journey together. BTS is truly bulletproof with the support of the ARMY.

Even as someone who has supported BTS since the group's debut, I can’t pinpoint exactly why I’ve continued to love them for this long. I can’t help but open up my laptop to see Jin laughing at his own jokes, Jungkook teasing Jin or V being himself.

These seven boys have brought me so much comfort, laughter and joy over the years that I can’t help but stick with them. For many, BTS is a source of inspiration, and for some, the band is a source of comfort. Give BTS a try. I can guarantee the group have something for you in its extensive library of content.


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