BTS Wins the VMAs, Making History, but What Does It All Really Mean?

The biggest boy band in the world, BTS, officially known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, has created history. Again. At this point, the group is as accustomed to breaking records and taking home awards as they are to pity-laughing at the eldest member Jin’s dad jokes, but this prize — the MTV Music Video Award For Best Pop — has a particularly subtle importance.

The septet, which consists of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, won four VMAs this year for their music video for “ON: Best Pop, Best Group, Best Choreography, and Best K-Pop. They’ve won VMAs before — the fan-voted Best Group award as well as Best K-Pop in 2019 — but their nomination for Best Pop was the first time the group, or any Asian group for that matter

Many saw this as a xenophobic move on MTV’s part as they felt the network continues to ghettoise international (often meaning non-Western) artists, despite the fact that BTS boast accomplishments that surpass those of their peers nominated in the main award categories. Their 2019 video “Boy With Luv” in fact saw the biggest 24-hour debut of any music video (Taylor Swift came in second).
After the online backlash, MTV hastily added three more fan-voted categories, conveniently including BTS in the new category “Best Group,” which they easily won. However, to most fans, especially BTS’s fans known as ARMY, the gesture came too late. In the end, they felt as though the network was looking to preserve its viewership count and appease the fandom rather than truly respecting and recognising the artistry of the Korean musicians.

The visual for “ON” has tens of millions more views than its competitors (at the time of writing, 237 million views and counting), so if MTV hadn’t given BTS a seat at the Best Pop table this year, it would have been a glaring omission. The VMAs also booked BTS for their first-ever performance and the TV debut of their new, sparkling nu-disco English language song “Dynamite.” But while this was seen by so many people,
There has been a shift in the VMA discourse this year, with members of ARMY and many international music fans at large questioning why the network’s validation even matters. “Dynamite” shattered the YouTube premiere record, amassing 10 million views in less than half an hour. BTS’s Map of the Soul: 7 Songs That Defined BTS. Fans were naturally happy to see BTS clinch another title — a win is a win, after all,
With this ethos in mind, what really matters becomes clear: touching as many people through art. Rapper Suga said as much during a recent press conference for “Dynamite” when asked about their charting aspirations for the song.

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