“We have to consider ourselves not just better [than other K-pop acts], but the best,” BTS leader RM, 25, tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new cover story. “When we’re out there on that stage, we’re there to conquer. We think we’re the ones.”
Here are the seven most interesting takeaways from the seven-member (V, Suga, Jin, Jimin, J-Hope, RM and Jungkook) band’s chat with the magazine.
They were not an immediate success. During their first trip to Los Angeles in 2014 they had to literally walk around the city “trying to corral people to attend their first free concert at The Troubadour. Only 200 showed up.” Five years later, of course, they’re selling out New York’s 41,000-capacity Citi Field and the 90,000-capacity Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Their team is as tight as can be. In a business in which some boy bands have been duped and ripped-off by unscrupulous managers, the group has a remarkably friendly, familial relationship with 47-year-old South Korean music mogul Bang “Hitman” Si-Hyuk, who put the group together in 2012 for his Big Hit Entertainment group. Described as “Korea’s kinder, gentler Simon Cowell,” Bang says he runs his company by trying his best to “present a long-term vision that can contribute to the improvement of the K-pop industry without compromising these practices.”
There are, of course, some managers who cannot be trusted, but RM tells the magazine that despite their country having “quite a few Lou Pearlmans” — referring to the late Ponzi schemer and music mogul who allegedly defrauded Justin Timberlake and other boy bands under his direction out of millions — “we feel like we’re very respected when we talk to Mr. Bang.” Jungkook, 22, adds, “he gives us a lot of freedom to do whatever we want to do…I’m not quite sure how to say it, but I think we need each other.”
So is the band. They live it up on the road, but when they’re back home, all seven share a single $7 million condo in the most expensive complex in South Korea, sleeping two and three in a room, dorm-style with Banksy art on the walls.
A Korean study found that about 83 percent of BTS fans are female, with 45 percent of them between the ages of 10-30 (only 4 percent are in their 50s). In the U.S., the audience also skews toward young females, according to THR, but the average age is moving North. In 2018, women aged 18-24 comprised 50 percent of ticket sales, according to online ticketing marketplace Vivid Seats; that number dropped to 39 percent in 2019, even as overall demand for tickets grew, surpassing such legacy bands as The Rolling Stones and The Eagles.
They almost went by another name. Bang reveals that he considered several alternate names for the group when it started, including Big Kids and Young Nation, but instead opted for BTS — short for Bangtan Sonyeondan — which translates in English to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts.”
Don’t worry about that recent five-week hiatus they took, it’s no big deal. Seriously. “It’s not a big deal,” Suga, 26, says, brushing off rumors that it was the precursor to a possible break up for the group that has been grinding it out non-stop for the past two years. “It’s literally a vacation.” RM adds, “I’m just a young man who likes to watch Stranger Things on Netflix and loves to eat and drink beer…but I turn on CNN and BBC and they’re talking about our vacation. It feels like we’re living in a different world.”
Their socials are bananas. They have three of the top 25 most retweeted Twitter posts of all time, second only to former Pres. Barack Obama. They sometimes dive into their feeds and post short home movies of themselves called Bangtan Bombs, even personally responding to some comments. “We do it because we really like it,” Jin, 23, says.