BTS fans were on the internet with bated breath overnight, as the 2020 GRAMMY nominees were announced. It felt certain that finally, this year, the K-pop boy group would get the recognition they so deserve.
There had been teases of the Recording Academy acknowledging the boys: the 2019 nomination for Love Yourself: Tear in Best Recording Package and BTS attending the awards as presenters. Then they visited the GRAMMYs Museum for a special interview, and now their red carpet suits are to be displayed there.
All of this, alongside the Recording Academy’s insistence that they've been focusing on the global impact of music, defying boundaries of all kinds, made us all think - it must be BTS' time, right?
Record-breaking sales, sold-out stadium tours, passionate and vocal fans around the world - you can’t deny BTS’ impact on the current pop landscape. Yet BTS did not receive a nomination for a GRAMMY in 2020.
When the lack of nominations was clear, ARMY expressed disappointment online and adopted a hopeful ‘maybe next year’ attitude. They sent BTS’ entire Korean discography back into the US iTunes chart (for the second time in a month). They trended #ThisIsBTS worldwide on Twitter.
It proved one thing any fan already knows: BTS’ impact is so much bigger than any award nomination.
ARMY want BTS to win a GRAMMY for many reasons, but mostly it’s because the boys want it. They've shown their enthusiasm for it: Suga has hesitantly, hopefully, named the GRAMMYs as a goal in many interviews. And what BTS wants, fans want to give to them.
All the fan projects, the trending hashtags, the streaming parties - they’re not just about making BTS the biggest group in the world (that’s already happened anyway). BTS has inadvertently helped fans build friendships globally. They’ve given people of all ages, races and genders a safe space filled with joy. For that, fans want to say thank you. They want to give back. They want BTS to enjoy the same happiness that they evoke in others.
The other simple fact is that fans want recognition for BTS’ impact. In the last year, BTS has become the best-selling artist of all time in South Korea, hit No.1 on the Billboard 200, broken the record for the most-viewed music video in its first 24 hours, and sold out stadium shows throughout North and South America, Asia and Europe. They’ve crossed cultural boundaries, collaborating with artists like Halsey, Lauv and in RM’s case, 2020 GRAMMYs nominee Lil Nas X. Their name has become synonymous with the breakthrough of K-pop in the mainstream pop realm.
So why is none of this recognised by an institution like the Recording Academy, which has been pushing its new agenda of diversity since inviting 900 new voting members with a focus on under-39s, women and people of colour. According to CEO Deborah Dugan they, “embrace artists of all genres, all generations, all genders with all its fluidity”.
This year’s nominees, like the aforementioned Lil Nas X, show a step forward in recognising music that’s had a significant cultural impact, yet the Academy is still lagging when it comes to acknowledging K-pop and its place in the US market.
It’s probably best summarised by BTS collaborator Halsey, who tweeted after the nominations:
Here’s the thing: we’ve been convinced that recognition by institutions is important for validation. Not just in BTS’ case; it’s the cornerstone of almost any industry, from athletics to business. It’s a tangible symbol of success, and purported ‘recognition from peers’. But what really matters, more than all of this, is the music.
BTS’ music is the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. You’ve got a song for when you’re getting ready for a party, when you’re trying to study, when you’re unbearably sad. Their songs are imprinted in so many people’s lives, in moments big and small. That’s so much more powerful than any award.
BTS aren’t GRAMMY 2020 nominees, and maybe they will or won’t be in 2021 - after all, there’s no end in sight to their upwards trajectory.
Regardless, BTS have made an irreplaceable mark on music history and on the lives of the people who love them most. And every day, that impact continues to grow.
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