A K-Pop Group Beat Justin Bieber at His Own Game and Made History at the Billboard Awards

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History was made at last night’s Billboard Awards. No, this isn’t about Drake, even though he did break Adele’s record for winning the most Billboard awards in one night (13!). This is about something bigger than that. This is about K-pop.

Last night, K-pop band BTS (or Bangtan Boys) won the award for Top Social Artist, becoming the first Asian music act to win a Billboard Award.


This is huge. BTS not only beat out Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Shawn Mendes, but they also beat out Justin Bieber, who has won the award every single year since it was introduced in 2011. BTS literally healed the world of Bieber Fever!

But the Billboard win signals a lot more than that. For years, K-pop groups have been chipping away at the seemingly impenetrable American music market, but it has still remained a niche.

BTS has been inching closer and closer to American success for the past three years. Their 2016 album Wings debuted at #26 on Billboard’s Top 200, and last month, they took third place for most weeks at the top of Billboard’s Social 50 chart, passing Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. That they won an award tied to engagement on social media is no surprise. BTS’ fans (known as the Army) are uh, enthusiastic to say the least. The seven members of BTS may have made it to the finish line with a combination of impeccable choreography, catchy-as-hell songs, and general dreaminess, but it was the sheer force of will from their millions of fans that actually got them across the line.

Now that they’ve officially been recognized—not only by Billboard but also by Vogue.com, who proclaimed them the “Best Dressed Boy Band” at last night’s awards—it is clear that K-pop, with the help of their international conglomerate of diehard fans, has arrived. BTS is hoping to actually perform at next year’s Billboard awards, which would be a good test of just how welcoming the US music industry is for K-pop acts.

Isha is a staff reporter who covers pop culture, representation in media, and your new faves.

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