MANAAL ALI WRITES — For the first time, a K-pop group found its way onstage at music’s biggest night—Sunday’s Grammy Awards. BTS, the South Korean boy band, performed with Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mason Ramsey and Diplo in their rendition of “Old Town Road.” This artist avengers-like group was formed by Lil Nas X, who reached out to RM, the leader of BTS. The two had already made a remix of an original song, “Seoul Town Road,” in 2019.
As the Grammys proceeded with artists such as Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish and more, BTS fans patiently awaited the band’s musical number—in hopes that they would perform their new single, “Black Swan,” Instead, the shared performance started with Lil Nas X on a revolving stage singing “Old Town Road,” then moving to the next stage, which revolved to the right, joining BTS to perform “Seoul Town Road.”
Was it much ado about nothing? According to many BTS followers, who are also known as BTSArmy, the performance was less than adequate. Why? Because BTS shouldn’t share a stage—with anyone. They are bigger stars than all of the performers combined.
Fans took to twitter, trending the hashtag, #BTSdeservebetter, setting off an inferno of rage, with comments claiming that the BTS boys were treated like back-up dancers rather than elite artists who have outsold millions of stages. Many others claimed that the joint appearance was a sign of xenophobia, just as last year, when the Grammy nominations were announced, BTS did not make the cut, despite their meteoric rise. This left many fans calling the show a sham. One twitter user stated “BTS. Are. Not. Backup. Dancers. Or backup singers. They deserve a solo stage. Not this…” (@X_EXO_SUHO.) Another stated, “this is single handedly the most embarrassing and disrespectful thing the westerns have done to BTS.” (@ELMXRIACHI)
While twitter rages on, BTS themselves took a rather positive view of the night. Interviewed on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” the same week, when the host asked the group what they thought was the highlight of the performance, members J-hope and RM answered, “Everything about that night [the Grammy Awards] was so special. The fact that both BTS and K-pop were on that stage, we couldn’t believe it,” and “It felt like K-pop was finally recognized worldwide…” Now, there’s a different take!
Perhaps BTS themselves are realizing that it takes baby steps to reach goals and change worldviews, especially through a western lens. In the same interview, BTS’s Suga even stated, “Next year we’re going to do a BTS stage too,” giving hope to fans that they will be able to headline the Grammys by themselves. Some also said BTS hopes that they win a Grammy in 2021. At the iHeartRadio interview, RM said: “We’ll be really happy if we could be nominated for the next Grammys.”
He’s hoping that fans can look past Grammy night to brighter futures for the boys, as they themselves have already started doing.