I recently saw an article on allkpop, a very popular ‘news’ site for everything K-pop related. The article was an OP-ED (personal opinion) piece tackling the topic of how western artist, who are ‘not too famous’, are trying to use K-pop to get more fame. Although the article inspired mine, it’s not a direct criticism to its author nor is it meant as a rebuttal. But, since the author shared their opinion, I want to share mine, as well.
It’s a known fact that BTS has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially since they’ve started their US tour. They’ve been talked about in the news, they had quite a few interviews, and they even got noticed by a few western celebrities. Singers like Tinashe, Kehlani and Charlie Puth, rapper Wale, even a pop-punk band State Champs are just some of the people who have given a shout-out to BTS, mostly through social media.
However, some fans (and some random sceptics) have expressed their concerns for the said shoutouts, as they fear that BTS is being used. Although BTS is probably very grateful and maybe even ecstatic for the amount of recognition they’re getting, a part of their fanbase speculates that artists, who are apparently not too popular, are trying to get more fans through BTS.
Now, seeking attention and trying to get famous through other people is not a new concept, especially in today’s world. But, let me show you why I think that in this case it’s just… not happening. At least not with all the artists mentioned above.
Let’s start with Wale. It’s by now one of the most told stories in the K-pop community: a fan tweets about RM to one of his favourite rappers. The rapper sees the tweet, replies, and the rest is pretty much history. Now, the key thing in this whole story is the fact that the fan tweeted to Wale, which made him notice BTS in the first place. The rapper probably didn’t even give two cents about K-pop, if he even heard of it before.
The collaboration he did with RM was because he liked BTS’ music (which you can hear in his freestyle track). And that was it. Besides, if we look how Wale’s music fares only on YouTube, and how he’s actually pretty known in the US, I think it’d be safe to say he’s been doing fine on his own even before BTS.
Kehlani recently hit quite a lot of fame due to her track being on the Suicide Squad soundtrack. But, even before that, she had been known to R&B and Hip Hop lovers, not only in the US. Before she tweeted how she’d like a collaboration with the boys, she was tweeted to by a BTS fan, telling her how they named her as a great female influence in music. I admit, that might not have been the sole reason for her shoutout, as she already knew about BTS before. But I could say her shoutout was definitely not an attempt to gain more attention, as she already has quite a lot of it.
Similar case was with Tinashe, who had admitted in a short interview that BTS fans kept tweeting at her to have a collaboration with J-hope, ever since he mentioned she’s one of his favourite singers. When it comes to Tinashe, she is probably not as known as Kehlani or Wale (don’t take my word for it though, I don’t follow the US music scene that much), but she’s still doing pretty good.
I won’t even talk about Charlie Puth because everyone, including at least half of K-pop fans, know who he is, what he’s famous for and what kind of a singer he is. If you went around and asked ‘hey, who do you know, BTS or Charlie Puth?’ more people would most likely say the latter. One of the reasons he probably noticed BTS was because fans tweeted him about Jongcook’s (sorry, I had to) cover of his song. Are you starting to see the pattern here? In any case, it made him appreciate BTS’ music, which is pretty cool.
The Chainsmokers and the State Champs? Well, the Chainsmokers simply thanked RM for sharing their music, and the State Champs just tweeted how they liked Not Today. It was pretty random for a pop/punk band to tweet about BTS, but maybe they’ve heard of them and decided to give their music a go. Honestly, no one would probably even notice their tweet if it weren’t for news sites blowing things out of proportion.
All in all, I think most of BTS’ recent celerity shoutouts were thanks to their fans. When you have hundreds of people tweeting something at you, of course you’re going to check what it’s about. Though, I do think that the fans are going overboard a bit, ever since the thing with Wale happened. I know BTS has a lot of wishes and collaborations that they’d like to do, but sometimes you just have to leave it up to them to make it happen.
Most of the people that mentioned BTS already have a stable fan base and a known name. The only ones that profited from all of it were actually BTS themselves. By having popular western artist sharing their music and name, they get more fans and more recognition, which they want and need. Thankfully, BTS are a talented bunch, so all the recognition they’re getting is well deserved. And, if you ask me, the only people using BTS’ fame to their advantage are the so called ‘news sites’ which basically throw them everywhere to get more views.
What do you guys think? Am I wrong? Are western artists trying to mooch off of BTS’ fame?