By Leah Devorak | Editor-in-Chief
On May 21, music history was made when the first Korean pop group to ever be invited to the Billboard Music Awards also became the first K-pop group to win an award at the show.
Bangtan Sonyeondan, a group otherwise known as BTS that debuted in 2013 and has since dropped 9 albums, won the Top Social Artist award, beating Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Shawn Mendes for the title.
Fans started voting for the nominee most active on social media weeks prior to the show. As of the morning of May 21, BTS had already amassed 313 million votes for the category, becoming the first act ever to receive more than 300 million votes for a Billboard fan-voted award, the organization announced.
In second place was Bieber at 23.1 million. With a gap as large as the that, it was suddenly guaranteed that an act previously unknown to mainstream America was about to win at one of the most lucrative award shows in the country.
This historic triumph has not only flung BTS into the American spotlight, but it has also paved a new road for foreign – or at least non-English speaking – artists to actually have an impact in the mainstream music world.
Before this incredibly important night, there was a general stigma behind non-English music, with artists being seen as somewhat lesser due to the language barrier that supposedly prevented their music from having an impact abroad.
But BTS and its fan base, called ARMYs, proved that any music from any place can be impactful and loved no matter the language in which it is written.
As Kim Nam-joon, the leader of BTS who goes by the stage name of Rap Monster, said during an interview with Yahoo! Music after the awards, “Music is a universal language.” With fans able to translate everything into their own tongue, something the young star also mentioned, there is no longer an obstacle to listening to and working with foreign artists. Their impact on the world is just as strong as those who perform in English and thus should be just as recognized.
And now that the doors for BTS have opened, with collaborations with The Chainsmoker and Steve Aoki being hinted at, that recognition is finally about to occur. Expect other major non-English acts to follow suit, especially in the already incredibly popular K-pop sector. As BTS showed, this is a time for embracing diversity, and because of that, the music world is about to change forever.