ARMYs everywhere were thrilled on Dec. 10 when TIME announced BTS was chosen as their Entertainer of the Year. Although the fandom celebrated the honor and cover story, the group's interview reignited a longstanding debate about how to describe the global superstars' sound and style. RM's quotes about BTS not being defined by K-Pop were especially poignant, and brought up the need to explore how Western media and listeners think about the genre, its unique qualities, and how their music is unbounded by language.
BTS' never-ending stream of successes and accolades during this whirlwind year shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, especially now that they've clinched A-list status on the Western music scene by topping the Billboard Hot 100 and securing an ever-elusive Grammy nomination with their catchy party anthem, "Dynamite." In their interview with TIME, the group discussed how pivotal 2020 had been to spreading their message and growing their fanbase. They all expressed gratitude for the love they received from fans in the United States, too.
The interview shifted, however, when the group began discussing the fact that "Dynamite" is their first song performed entirely in English. This topic caused group leader RM to voice his thoughts about how the world defines K-pop, and the debate surrounding what it means to make a K-pop song.
While members of BTS certainly take pride in spreading Korean culture to fans all around the world, as J-Hope noted in the interview, RM isn't so sure the world should be so strict about boxing them into the genre.
"As K-pop is becoming bigger, we should have some debate: What is K-pop?" RM pondered. "Some might say that ["Dynamite"] is not K-pop ... but what is K-pop? We don't want to limit this music or our heart to this boundary called 'K-pop.'"
This quote in particular resonated with ARMYs, and one user in particular pointed it out as a key takeaway from their Entertainer of the Year interview: "They are reimagining what it means to be musicians from Korea."
The user also pointed out the constrictive nature of labeling the group as one genre, when in reality, BTS' songs possess many different musical elements and qualities that defy typical genre bounds. It's that constrictive view on the genre that led to BTS being unfairly boxed out of main categories at Western award shows that they arguably deserved spots in for years, simply because Koreans who made pop music were relegated to the "K-Pop" category.
In this context, RM's statement was not about labeling their music something different entirely, but more about opening up the world to music that is independent of any one genre, but still tied closely to the identities of the people who make it.