BTS don’t plan to keep on singing in English, even following the popularity of their English-only songs.
Following the delay and unfortunate cancellation of their 2020 world tour, Korean group BTS released three English singles; “Dynamite”, “Butter”, and “Permission to Dance”. Not only were the songs highly received by their fans, but they also achieved mainstream success and notoriety across the world and on the Billboard charts. It was also the first time that an all-Korean group have had their songs included in the top 10 of Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 Airplay Chart.
Despite this success, however, BTS have cast doubts about continuing to sing in English. The band have previously mentioned how they were not fond of not singing in Korean. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, leader RM stated how: “we don’t want to change our identity or our genuineness to get the number one. Like if we sing suddenly in full English, and change all these other things, then that’s not BTS”.
So, what led the band to release the chart-breaking English songs a year later? While the president of BTS’ label stated in a Billboard interview that the group were simply being mindful of the company’s needs and playing to their strengths, the members contradicted this claim. “There was no alternative”, RM said while vocalist Jin commented on the difficulty of having to sing in English. “The English I learned in class was so different from the English in the song. I had to erase everything in my head first.”
“I don’t think we could ever be part of the mainstream in the U.S., and I don’t want that either. Our ultimate goal is to do a massive stadium tour there. That’s it.”
Korean Music Worldwide?
For those involved with the Korean music scene, the presence of Korean music in the mainstream, while shocking, is not entirely a surprise. While earlier Korean acts have not received the spotlight as BTS have in recent years, it’s not to say that their music hasn’t been as well received. In 2011, Korean Group Big Bang won the award for Best Worldwide Act in the European MTV Awards, beating Britney Spears. In 2012, Girls Generation was one of the first Korean acts to perform on the David Letterman show. Even in Australia, the Korean variety show “Running Man” recorded an Australian special that saw the cast swarmed by fans on arrival, and whilst recording. And none of those songs or recordings were originally done in English.
There have also been notable collaborations with Korean and English producers. Big Bang leader G-Dragon has worked with Producer Diplo and Skrillex to release “Dirty Vibe“, and with Missy Elliott on 2013 track “‘Niliria“.
While there are many reasons why companies are wanting their Korean and other worldwide acts to sing in English, there is also merit in allowing them to stick to their roots. Many international acts have done world tours, even going to countries where neither their native language or English is spoken. Fans will continue to support their favourite artists, and no amount of English-speaking or mainstream popularity can change that.