A controversial news article is receiving backlash for its claims that BTS and ARMY have rendered pop music charts “useless.”
In an article entitled “BTS And Their Fan Army Are Rendering The Pop Charts Useless,” music news site Stereogum examines BTS’s rise on the Billboard Charts, beginning with the 2020 GRAMMY-nominated English single, “Dynamite.” The article refers to this song as “a piece of product” with mass appeal.
BTS and their handlers delivered a piece of product designed to attract as many consumers as possible into their whole thing. They succeeded. ‘Dynamite’ came out in August of 2020, and it promptly debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first K-pop single ever to scale those heights.
“It got actual pop-radio airplay,” Stereogram’s Tom Breihan wrote. “something that had previously evaded BTS. It was a genuine smash. But then some funny things happened.”
Breihan went on to mention BTS’s chart success with Jason Derulo‘s remix of “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)” and their BE track “Life Goes On.”
That song, which has a complicated history of its own, was hanging out in the lower rungs of the top 10 for a while. When BTS showed up on the remix, the song went straight to #1. A couple of months after that, BTS released the breezy midtempo ballad ‘Life Goes On,’ and that debuted at #1, too.
In May, “Butter” came along, debuting at No.1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” Chart. Breihan described BTS’s second English language single as an “oddly murky” song that “sounds a whole hell of a lot like ‘Dynamite.'”
The entire creation of ‘Butter’ feels oddly murky; one of the seven credited songwriters, for instance, is Columbia Records chairman Ron Perry, a man with no previous songwriting experience. The song has done what it was intended to do. ‘Butter’ now sits at #1.
“Butter” achieved this remarkable chart feat despite it not being, “the most popular song in America right now,” according to Breihan. Breihan attributes the song’s high ranking to Billboard’s “arcane combination of streaming, sales, and radio play,” and BTS’s “tireless fan army,” who work hard to boost BTS’s music.
‘Butter’ made it to #1 almost entirely based on sales of discounted digital singles. ‘Butter’ did get a lot of streams, but it didn’t get as much as any of the three most popular songs from Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album. [. . .] So ‘Butter,’ like the big BTS hits that preceded it, sits at #1 right now mostly because BTS have effectively mobilized their tireless fan army.
Breihan states, however, that BTS aren’t the only artists benefiting from their fans’ dedication. “Last year, people like 6ix9ine and Travis Scott weaponized their self-aware fanbases to push unremarkable, unmemorable singles to #1,” he wrote. “helped in part by scams like merch bundles.”
Although Breihan does not deny BTS’s talent or accomplishments, he feels their fans’ organized efforts are making charts less accurate.
…But it’s frustrating to see a phenomenon like this inflating the stats, obliterating any sense of accuracy in how we keep these records. [. . . ] Organic popularity, once the driving force behind pop music, barely feels like it exists anymore. Instead, the pop charts are turning into a battlefield for warring stan armies.
In response, fans have flooded Stereogum’s Twitter with counterarguments about what makes music valid, organic, and truly popular.
Some have also pointed out alleged biases in the American music industry, stating that ARMYs are not the only people championing BTS.
Journalists and music critics are also weighing in, including Lenika Cruz, senior editor of The Atlantic.
i have lots of thoughts about that silly stereogum piece, but one i'll share now is that the writer admits he is loyal to the way the billboard charts have always worked and is unskeptical of the broken system that has determined what things get "organically popular" in the U.S.
— lenika 🌺🧈 (@lenikacruz) June 2, 2021
What are your thoughts?