BTS members left to right – V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, and J-Hope. (Photo: Hannah Carr)
CHICAGO, IL – The seven-member K-pop group, BTS, created a commotion during the North American leg of their Love Yourself World Tour. Two of the 15 concerts were held at the United Center on Oct. 2-3, 2018.
All 47,000 tickets sold out in less than ten minutes. The excitement the group is causing with American fans is being compared to The Beatles: many people call them the biggest boy band in the world.
Fans of various ages gathered together from all over the country with light sticks in hand to see their favorite idols. Hundreds of general admission ticket holders camped out days before the concert to get a good spot by the stage. Outside the United Center, tents of red, green, blue, and yellow colors give a brighten up the greyish-beige venue. The area is abuzz as fans pass the time by dancing and singing to K-pop, playing card games, and interacting with other fans.
Long time member of the ARMY [what BTS fans are called], Cally Wilkinson, arrived at the venue over 24 hours before the second concert. She was already waiting behind over 200 other fans who had decided to pitch their tents sooner.
The 19-year-old traveled from Minnesota to see the group she feels is different from other popular groups. Cally praises BTS for being highly involved in producing their music. “They’re on a different level,” Cally explained. All seven musicians participate in creating the groups songs or dances. Because they pen their own compositions, BTS writes about sensitive topics that other groups might avoid, such as: rejecting society ideals, politics, depression and suicide.
Contrary to popular belief, not all BTS fans fall into the teenage female demographic. Middle school teacher Marcie Eberle flew in from Nashville, Tennessee with her two children, who are also fans. When asked how she became a fan of BTS, Marcie laughed and blamed the English band One Direction. “[One Direction] did a collaboration with Steve Aoki” she states, “After that, I found the song that [Steve] did with BTS and instantly became a fan.”
The 39-year-old teacher mentioned the Love Yourself Tour will be her very first K-Pop concert. Her students back home in Nashville voiced their envy. Marcie made sure nobody would think she only came to the concert as a chaperon for her kids. From head to toe, Marcie arrived at the United Center smothered in BTS and BT21 merchandise.
13-year-old Hayden Stevenson traveled with his mother, Marcie, from Nashville to Chicago. Until last year, he only listened to electronic and EDM music before discovering Korean Music.
Hayden insisted that he’s the family’s original ARMY because he’s liked BTS longer. But the teen admitted he isn’t very vocal about K-pop around non-fans. However, when Hayden spends time with people who share the same love, it’s nearly impossible to silence him.
When asked to admit who his bias is [favorite BTS member] Hayden proudly declares that he doesn’t rank them. “I love them all,” he exclaimed. Even though Hayden comes off as a shy teenager, he loves representing male ARMYs in a predominately female community.
Speaking Korean isn’t a requirement to listen to K-pop. Multiple websites offer accurate translation for their songs and videos, so language isn’t an obstacle. In fact, it seems most American fans of K-pop don’t know any Korean or only started learning the language after they discovered Korean music.
An exception to this is 26-year-old Paige Valdiva from Texas. The female wanted to learn Korean as her third language and became a K-pop fan because of it. “I was interested in learning Korean and the best way to learn is by using movies, TV shows, and music in that language,” said Paige. So far, she can read Korean, but isn’t yet orally fluent.
Fans agree that people shy away from K-pop mainly because it is in a foreign language. Cally asks for people to give Korean music a chance. “Even if it’s in a different language, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be enjoyable. Look past it [the language barrier]. It’s just music,” the teenager urged.
BTS also set a record by becoming the first Korean act to hold a stadium concert in the U.S. on Oct. 6, 2018, at Citi Field in New York. The septet closed out the North American leg of their Love Yourself World Tour by performing in front of the sold-out crowd of over 40,000 fans.
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