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Comparing the lyrics of BTS’ songs to other K-Pop artists to understand WHY they are so huge

By Mica Lowe

BTS are the first K-pop group to hit no.1 in Billboard’s Artist 100 chart, and the first group in the world to sit there for five consecutive weeks.

They have over 20 million followers on Twitter, over 21 million followers on Insta, and are the first K-pop group to hit the top 10 in the Billboard 200, and their album has hit no.1 on the iTunes charts in over 80 countries. With this phenomenal worldwide success, BTS have been labelled, somewhat haphazardly, the ‘Korean Beatles’.

But what got them there?

Breaking into the American market is no easy feat. Unlike many other K-pop bands that dominate the charts, BTS did not sign with any of the major South Korean record companies. In 2013, their label Big Hit Entertainment didn’t have the money, the status, or the connections that had helped other groups skyrocket. Instead, BTS  had to rely heavily on building their brand and reputation using social media.

For BTS, it was about connecting with fans on an intimate level, sharing seemingly mundane moments of their life online. Hundreds of back-stage videos, pictures of the boys resting, sleeping, eating, rehearsing, which created a unique relationship between the group and their faithful fanbase, the A.R.M.Y.

BTS’ lyrics compared to other K-pop lyrics

Using Relative Insight‘s unique text analysis language comparison technology, we compared the lyrics from some of BTS’ most popular songs and compared them to the lyrics of two other K-pop bands, EXO and SHINee. This analysis uncovered unique audience insights, meaning we were able to try and decipher some of the reasons why BTS have created such a distinctive fanbase and understand what sets BTS apart in a crowded global market.

One of the biggest selling points for BTS’ music is how unique their lyrics are in the K-pop genre. What’s really interesting is how the language used in their songs stands out against the rest of the scene.

The first major difference is that BTS’ lyrics focus on issues that don’t necessarily represent the clean image other K-pop bands have, and their lyrics are more concerned with perception of ‘wrong-doing’.

Another crucial difference is that BTS are a lot more expressive with their lyrics than other K-pop bands. The emotions displayed are more extreme in nature, reflecting the topics covered in their songs. This might explain why they resonate with a younger audience who are more likely to be appealed to through emotional language.

Another interesting discovery is that BTS are much more likely to refer to their family members than other bands do, they talk a lot about their own family’s love and support and the impact this has on their careers.

This personal touch makes the band appear more relatable and authentic, and is reflected in their online presence on social media.

How fan conversation about BTS has changed over time

Along with having the ability to compare BTS’ lyrics to that of other popular K-pop groups, we can also analyse how their fans engagement with them has changed over time on social channels, in this case Twitter.

We can see how fans are reacting to the intimate nature of the group’s presence online. Do they engage with it more now after their success?

The first interesting difference we uncovered is that fans are much more actively engaging with the band than they were two years ago. In 2017, fans were more likely to use hashtags to refer to BTS in online conversations, whereas in 2019 they are more likely to communicate directly with BTS’ official page.

There is also a noticeable increase in fan pages and online communities, suggesting there are more fans who are actively engaging with one another.

Another interesting different is the increased mention of Halsey after the band released their extremely successful collaborative song, Boy With Luv, with her in 2019. However, a lot of this conversation was rather negative in nature.

This negativity reflects how many of the A.R.M.Y were  actually unhappy with BTS sharing the spotlight with another artist, particularly those who they believe do not respect the fanbase. The intimate nature of the fans relationship with the band, alongside the increased direct and active engagement in 2019, has resulted in some negative backlash. Small incidents become exaggerated quickly through the online community.

Why comparison matters

Through the use of comparison, we can uncover what actually makes the band different, and what topics they are addressing in their lyrics that other bands are ignoring. It is this comparison that could reveal how the language BTS are using in their lyrics fills a white space that appeals to an American audience in a way other K-pop groups don’t.

Language is an important tool in understanding why people resonate with one group over another, particularly in a world of social media. With a band like BTS, who don’t actually release music in English, it is beyond interested to uncover the ways in which the group sets itself within and apart from a crowded American music scene in such a successful way.

Linguistic nuances in the way fans speak will immediately become apparent through the power of comparison. With this information, we can help you break into new markets, uncover white spaces and fill them in a way that resonates.

Just like BTS.

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