Hear me out.
It’s not that I’m trying to relive my teen-aged years. The truth is that I am bipolar and have an anxiety disorder. And somehow, this singing, dancing K-pop boy band is a salve for my itchy mental wounds.
Should I feel embarrassed about being a fangirl? Should I think of them as a guilty pleasure? The answer to both questions is absolutely not.
Over the last six months I have tried to explore what makes BTS’s fandom so special, as I am a recent convert. It’s hard to articulate. It’s like they’ve created an alternate world that you just want to escape into, particularly now.
I had a vague idea about what K-pop was and had heard of BTS slightly but had never bothered to listen. I had initially dismissed their popularity as a teeny bopper, what-could-possible-be-great-about-a-seven-member-boy-band phenomenon. But when my students kept mentioning them, I thought: Maybe I should give a quick listen, see what all the hype’s about.
The first thing that I found in my Google search was their hit, “Dynamite.” I clicked. Six boys popped up on my screen, dressed in pastels. When the six walked away, one appeared, pointing his index finger out, gently shooting me straight through the heart. The 808 claps were constant. At 110 BPMs, and with a funk guitar that slides through the whole song, I found myself involuntarily dancing. A rainbow of fireworks shot into the sky at the end. These kids were pure joy. By the end, I was smiling.
That was a curious feeling. I had to wonder: How could BTS make me forget about all the things that are going wrong in the world for three minutes and 43 seconds?
Almost overnight, BTS has become a fixture in my everyday life. Whenever I feel upset, I watch them and they immediately alter my mood. I’m not gonna lie. I do dance around my kitchen and try to mimic their moves — that’s definitely the 13-year-old in me trying to get out.
These comments and others BTS has faced also signals the colonialist attitudes that folks have about the music industry, which is dominated by English. Maybe this is changing in a world where Bad Bunny and BTS are leading the music charts. I don’t know. But it should make us question why many dismiss music in the United States that isn’t made in English — a language that is, among other things, a reminder of a violent, colonial past.
For me, what has been most important is that BTS is my salve. I am not embarrassed to be a fangirl. If I saw them live, I would scream along with all the Gen-Zers. They are an antidepressant during this time of isolation, bringing me up from depressive lows. For a few hours a day after binging their videos, my anxiety is quelled as they allow me into their colorful, musical world.
BTS has given me what we can’t have during the pandemic: a sense of closeness. And everyone should go and stream the new single, “Butter.” It is pure sunshine-summer joy.