K-pop group BTS is riding a wave of global 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 going high on Monday: their first entirely English-speaking single “Dynamite” had just returned to a third week at No. 1 of the Billboard Hot 100 chansons, making them the first group to lead the Hot 100, Global 200 and Global 200 Excl. US simultaneously. They also became multimillionaires after their company Big Hit Entertainment landed the largest stock exchange listing in three years in their native South Korea. (Each member of the group now owns shares worth $ 7.9 million at the issue price.)
Variety sat down with the members of BTS the day after their release from “Dynamite” for a lengthy interview on Zoom.
A look at the group, their unique connection to their fans and their powerful message of inclusion will kick off Varietythe Grammy issue, which will be released this Wednesday. Before the full issue drops, here’s a taste of what the band told us:
On the vocals in English on “Dynamite”:
RM: When we listened to the demo of “Dynamite” for the first time, I tried different Korean titles or lyrics. I tried to write rap on this track, but nothing really worked out well. So, okay, well, why not continue like this? Let’s try it! It’s 2020, why not do some crazy things?
Jungkook: It was an unknown experience to record and sing this song in English. We had to practice the pronunciation a lot to try to make sure that the feel and the emotions of the lyrics were really reflected when we sang them. We translated the lyrics into Korean and read them very carefully. We thought about what they mean in Korean by recording them in English.
J-Hope: Pop music in English is really what we grew up listening to. English songs are not unknown to us – we are used to them. But the feelings that come with writing songs in English are very different from what goes into writing them in Korean, so it was still something new. It took a lot of work, especially on pronunciation, and a lot of practice.
To find out if there will be any English songs on their next album:
Suck: “Dynamite” was a special case. You can’t predict what’s going to happen and the things we’re doing. We cannot say for sure what we will do in the future. Things change, circumstances change. If we see that there is a sufficient reason to do something – record in English or whatever – then we will make that decision.
In the process of globalization:
Jin: We just made music that we liked and people liked in Korea, then people outside of Korea started to like it – the same way we hear pop songs from outside of Korea. Korea and that we appreciate them too. We have never made a conscious effort to propagate ourselves in the world. I think it happened organically; this connection happened on its own. Can other groups or people experience the same kind of success? I am sure it is possible.
To grow as an artist and write your own music:
Jimin: I really like our songs and the style of BTS songs. I’ve tried working on my personal music, but I haven’t really released anything yet. What I’m trying to do now is learn from other members and try new things that are BTS style that I really love. I would like to go out and create my own music.
V: When I was much younger I listened to a lot of great hits and songs that other members recommended to me. I often thought it would have been great if I had written these songs myself. I’m trying really hard to be able to write one of these great songs one day and feel that sense of pride.
The cover story for Variety BTS will be published online on September 30, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. PST.