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For BTS fans, a Korean boy band is at the heart of the AMAs

UPI News Service, 11/20/2017 

At an American Music Awards viewing party in Manhattan Sunday evening, it was clear a group of dozens of screaming young women had gathered to exclusively celebrate the rise of a South Korean pop sensation.

BTS, the seven-member boy band who recently debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 with hit track "DNA," is not just another K-pop group, they say.

BTS' ascent to fame in the United States is a sign a Korean pop group can realize a longstanding goal of other Korean artists: gain recognition in America, while staying true to their roots.

K-Pop acts are not new. Others, including the women singers of Girls' Generation, have appeared on shows like "The Late Show" with David Letterman.

Korean artists have collaborated with top U.S. hip-hop artists to create fusion soundtracks heralding a new era of K-pop.

But Amanda Hale, 26, who attended the viewing party, told UPI BTS is "different" from their predecessors and rival bands.

"I think they're different because of the lyrics they write,"

Hale said.

The New Jersey native, who listened to K-pop as a teenager, said BTS resonates with fans because their songs deal with other issues, and not just romantic love.

"K-pop music is about love songs, and that's totally fine," Hale said. "But most of [BTS'] songs are about social issues, or mental illness, or just feeling stuck about where you are in life. So many people can relate to that."

BTS' willingness to venture into a realm other K-pop acts did not may have tapped into a market of quietly anxious U.S. millennials, who can now listen to BTS songs on the radio and at giant retailers like Walmart, according to Hale.

Leah Moses, 20, told UPI that BTS built a broad base of support across the United States, something their predecessors could not do.

"BTS really has the support of the fans," Moses said. "They're very much known globally."

The diverse group of women who assembled on Sunday were not shy about their love for the group, bringing attention to their knowledge of K-pop lyrics, or showing off the synchronized dance moves of RM, Suga, Jungkook, Jin, Jimin, V and J-Hope.

As fans talked among themselves, some of them became emotional.

"Don't mess your eyeliner," said one fan to another, who was overcome with emotion while talking about a certain band member, or "bias," that she felt most close to.

For BTS fans, the AMA performance is a breakthrough not just for the band, but also for all of K-pop fandom.

"It's a really big deal they're performing at the AMAs," Moses, who is studying at Hofstra University, told UPI. "I'm really happy they're living their dream."

"This is so exciting," Hale said. "Mostly because of the exposure that it's going to bring them. It's exciting how much more popular they can get."

On Sunday the fans watched the live broadcast of the awards show, like stock investors monitoring an automated screen, waiting for their emotional stake in the boys to reap dividends.

Selena Gomez came and went; the singer Pink was a throwback to an older era of pop music, and Christina Aguilera paid tribute to Whitney Houston, who passed away in 2012.

BTS, the wave of the future, appeared to be nowhere in sight.

Then suddenly the fans let out a deafening scream.

BTS had begun to perform "DNA" in a neon tunnel on stage.

But as the music grew louder and the pace of dancing grew faster, the screen froze momentarily before returning in low resolution.

Fans later said too many users had slowed down the Wi-Fi as others began to use Snapchat and other apps to chronicle a piece of BTS history.

"I'm so proud," one fan said, after streaming the performance on her smartphone.

A YouTube sensation Korean pop act had made a breakthrough, and not even a frozen screen could return them --- or their fans --- back into Internet obscurity.


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