The Loyalty of ARMY
By Siyumi Dasanya
Music is one of the many forms of art through which people communicate their emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It’s pretty safe to say that the majority of people in this world do enjoy listening to music to some extent. When you find a song that resonates with you, you get attached to it more often than not. Consequently, you start to explore the discography of the artist who created the said piece of music, and get attached to them as well.
That’s how a fanbase is created. The world famous South Korean band called BTS, also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan (translated to Bulletproof Boy Scouts), is no exception when it comes to attracting people instantly with their music. However, the kind of bond that can be seen between this group and their fans is quite rare.
The fanbase which is called ARMY, consists of over 40 million people coming from diverse nationalities, age groups, genders, and cultures. Something worth noticing here is that it keeps growing rapidly, and anyone rarely turns away from the band’s music once they’re hooked on it. So what’s the mystery behind this rare type of bond? What secret ingredient was taken into the making of BTS? What sets them apart from many other artists?
The relationship between BTS and ARMY
The truth is that it’s not just one thing, but a combination of a few things that makes BTS and their fandom different from any other artist and their respective fanbase. “I love plenty of artists’ music without giving them the time and dedication I give to BTS. The reason behind it is very simple, BTS and their music are one. You can’t love what they do without loving what they are, because most of their songs are written based on their own thoughts and feelings,” said one fan of the band when asked about what made them a part of the fandom.
A few other fans gave similar answers, mentioning that BTS’s music comes from genuine, personal feelings and that made it possible for them to build up a close connection with the band. According to the ARMY, they had, “Never seen such a beautiful relationship between an artist and their fans before. They love, support and respect their fans as much as the fans do.” In a recent interview with ABC News during their visit to New York with the South Korean president Moon Jae-In, BTS didn’t forget to bring up ARMY, saying, “The most important thing are the people who trust us, who love us, who embrace everything about us. Our fans, ARMY.”
The reason why the band was in New York was to attend the 76th UNGA as special presidential envoys of South Korea, and to address world leaders and other important guests, promoting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and raising awareness. These young and talented men started out at a small company with absolutely no recognition in the industry to begin with, and have worked their way up to the very top with their hard work, passion, dedication, and talent. However, they never forget to express their gratitude to their fans, constantly referring to them as the biggest reason why the band is at where they are right now, and always staying humble despite their success.
It’s truly heart touching to see this artist-fan relationship in which the distance between them never widens no matter how high the band goes in the industry. Despite their busy schedules, they always make time for their fans, constantly interacting with them through social media posts and live streaming. A few members have even played online video games together with ARMY. In addition to acceptance speeches at award ceremonies and social media posts, they even mention the importance of their fans through a lot of their songs with lyrics such as; “We are not seven with you,” “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so,” “You give me the best of me, so you’ll give you the best of you,” and “You got me, I dream while looking at you. I got you, inside those pitch black nights.”
Diversity in music
Even though there’s much more to say about the relationship between BTS and ARMY, that’s not the only reason why the fandom keeps growing. When it comes to music, the band has a very diverse discography, and listeners are bound to find something they like. “I am a big musicophile and a music scene nerd. I was bored with the repetitive music of the 2000s. Then one day I came across BTS. They are pushing the boundaries of music interpolation and actually proved to me time and time again that new sounds have indeed arrived,” says an ARMY from Greece.
They’ve created songs for almost every genre including pop, EDM, funk rap, R&B, Hip Hop, Emo rock, dance pop, ballad, and so much more. In addition to that, they’ve even combined different genres, and released music in different languages such as Japanese and English in addition to Korean, their native language. So if you think you might not find BTS interesting because of your unique music taste, you really shouldn’t hesitate to give them a chance because they’ve got almost everything in store.
Healing the world and taking steps to make it a better place
Another ARMY from India said, “BTS aren’t just great musicians, they’re amazing human beings too. They have been doing their bit every chance they get to make the world a better place and have always made sure to use their voice against any kinds of hate.” As I mentioned earlier, the band who attended the 76th UNGA with the South Korean president on the 20th of September, have actually been a part of the UNGA back in 2018 and once more in 2020 due to their anti-violence campaign with UNICEF.
In addition to raising their voices for good causes, they have also donated considerable portions of their wealth for movements such as BLM (Black Lives Matter), and for people in need like Sewol Ferry Disaster 416 Family Council in 2017, children in Tanzania, Seoul Samsun School to help students who are hearing impaired receive music education, polio patients, and so many more charitable organisations. Through these kind-hearted actions they’ve also encouraged their fans to take steps in order to help those in need.
In 2020, during the BLM movement, ARMY followed in the band’s footsteps and managed to raise US$1 million, mirroring BTS’s contribution, within just 24 hours. They also carry out various birthday projects for the band members such as blood donations, planting trees in different parts of the world, and other donations for charitable organisations and funds. In addition to helping people in need with their wealth, BTS has helped so many people around the world with mental health issues. “Their songs have helped me to heal slowly over the past years.
I have stayed with them since debut and I will always continue doing so,” “Their music has healing properties and it’s just unexplainable; you have to experience it to understand,” says ARMY. By addressing one of the main problems faced by the society today (mental health) through their own views and experiences, BTS have unknowingly healed the world and reminded the people who are struggling that they’re not alone. Fans have found comfort and a safe place in these songs and in addition to that, they’ve received inspiration and encouragement to face their fears and reach their dreams.
I mentioned before that BTS’s fandom is diverse, with people from different nationalities, genders and age groups. I spoke to an ARMY, aged 41 years, who shared their thoughts with me. “They are wise beyond their years. I am far older than they are but I actually find inspiration in their work ethic and views in life. They aren’t perfect but they set some of the best examples.” It’s not a secret that BTS fans are often discriminated against and bullied to a certain point for simply supporting an artist with amazing music and good morals and principles.
They are often referred to as ‘crazy teenage girls’, overlooking the diversity of the fandom and invalidating the opinions of teenage girls at the same time. One of the reasons for this exaggerated ‘insult’ is that the fandom is protective over their band and defends them passionately when necessary.
There was an artist who understood this behaviour of ARMY. Halsey, who collaborated with BTS back in 2019 on their song Boy with Luv, mentioned in an interview, “ARMY’s are rightfully protective over BTS because this is a band that was obviously taken advantage of by the music industry because of the power that their fan base holds.’’ All in all, despite the criticism and the discrimination that they constantly receive, this fandom continues to support the band, and reward them with the recognition that they deserve, and stay by their side as they have promised each other.