When the 2019 MTV VMAs nominations dropped on Tuesday, July 23, the BTS ARMY caused quite a stir online. BTS was nominated for "Boy With Luv" in four categories: Best Collab (along with their collaborator, Halsey), Best K-Pop (a brand new category), Best Choreography, and Best Art Direction. As someone who spends a lot of time writing about BTS and the ARMY, I admit I totally went searching for their names in the major categories like Video of the Year and Artist of the Year, and felt blindsided when they just weren't there. And I'm not the only one. The ARMY is proud, as always, of the members and their four nominations, but they're asking the question: Why wasn't BTS nominated for Video of the Year at the VMAs? ARMYs think BTS deserved a spot among the nominees in the major category. And honestly? I think they've got a point.
I'd argue that the BTS ARMY's frustrations are backed by cold, hard numbers. It's worth getting familiar with BTS' successes from 2018 to now to understand how their absence from major categories — particularly Video of the Year and Artist of the Year — is actually a snub in my opinion, and why the ARMY's upset reactions are warranted.
It's unclear exactly how nominations for the VMAs are chosen, as MTV hasn't made their criteria for their selection process public. Because of that, the exact formula to snag a nomination is somewhat of a mystery. But, according to MTV's website, the VMAs honor "the year's most celebrated music videos" and the event "serves as a who's who of the biggest names in entertainment." The nominations are stacked with big names like Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, and Taylor Swift, whose successes this year definitely speak for themselves.
The question is: Should BTS and their music video for "Boy With Luv" be counted among them, like their fans say? Well, let's look at the facts.
BTS' Music Video Performance
Since it's the Video Music Awards I'm talking about, let's start there — with BTS' video. BTS released Map of the Soul: Persona on April 12, along with the music video for their lead single, "Boy With Luv," featuring Halsey. You can watch it below:
Raking in 74.6 million views in its first 24 hours after release, "Boy With Luv" broke the Guinness World Record for the most viewed YouTube video and music video in a day. On top of that, "Boy With Luv" also reached 100 million views on YouTube in less than two days, making it the fastest video ever to do so, according to Forbes. At the time of publication, BTS still holds those records.
Compare this to any music video nominated for Video of the Year this year. BTS beat the 24-hour viewing record, and reached 100 million views faster than every single nominee. Period. Beyond that, at the time of publication, "Boy With Luv" is sitting pretty at just about 471 million views three months after its release — more views than any of the Video of the Year nominees, including those that were released earlier and had more time to rake in views, like The Jonas Brothers' "Sucker," Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy," and Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next."
One could argue that the Video of the Year category takes other, non-quantifiable factors into consideration, like a video's art direction, editing, or choreography, and that's fair. But "Boy With Luv" did well in those areas, and MTV even recognized that. It was nominated for Best Art Direction next to Video of the Year nominees like “Old Town Road (Remix)” and "You Need to Calm Down.” It was also nominated for Best Choreography next to Artist of the Year nominee Shawn Mendes' "Señorita." The VMAs are seemingly acknowledging with these nominations that BTS and "Boy With Luv" have artistic merit on par with the major nominees' videos as well.
I know that "Boy With Luv" isn't the only music video that's pulled in hundreds of millions of streams in a short period of time and features stunning visuals. BLACKPINK's "Kill This Love" video, also nominated for Best K-Pop, was released on April 4 and has over 500 million views at the time of publication. Daddy Yankee and Snow's Best Latin-nominated video "Con Calma," released on Jan. 23, has over 1 billion streams. When the videos' respective release dates are taken into account, all three videos are performing right about on par with each other, so why do ARMYs think BTS rises to the top of the pack?
BTS' Chart Performance
With the release of Map of the Soul: Persona, BTS became the second group in history to have three albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in the span of a year. Who was the last group to achieve that feat? Oh, just a little band called The Beatles. Heard of them? It's also worth noting BTS took the No. 1 spot on Nielsen Music's list of the Top 10 Physical Albums in the United States, with 312,000 units sold, surpassing Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the Jonas Brothers' Happiness Begins (both of whom are nominated for Artist of the Year and Video of the Year).
When it comes to "Boy With Luv"'s Billboard Hot 100 chart performance specifically, it debuted at No. 8 and remained on the Hot 100 for two months before slipping off the chart. I admit that this is where most of the other nominees definitely outperform BTS. But considering that "Boy With Luv" is a Korean song on a chart with almost entirely English-language music, its chart performance was actually very impressive. In fact, it's one of under only 20 non-English songs to crack the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 in its 60-year history.
Their "Boy With Luv" chart performance may, understandably, take BTS out of consideration for Song of the Year, but it doesn't explain the Video of the Year snub. Taylor Swift's "You Need To Calm Down" got a nomination when it hasn't managed to crack 100 million views in over a month since its debut on June 17. And what about Artist of the Year? Halsey (whom I love and adore for obvious reasons) snagged a nomination for the award — one of the night's biggest — despite her only other nominations being in the brand new Video for Good category for "Nightmare" and Best Collaboration for her feature on "Boy With Luv" with — and I can't stress this enough — BTS.
Why The BTS ARMY Has A Point
I didn't point out all these statistics to belittle the achievements of any of the major nominees — they've accomplished a lot as artists, and deserve to be recognized for that. But that's exactly my point: BTS has accomplished just as much, if not more, based objectively on numbers.
This isn't even close to the first time the BTS ARMY has seen BTS relegated to minor categories that don't acknowledge the scope of their achievements. I don't have enough space to list out all the Best Fan Army and Top Social Artist awards they've easily won since 2016.
It's great to see some of the other K-Pop acts nominated in the new Best K-Pop category, like EXO, NCT 127, and TOMORROW X TOGETHER. It'll give K-Pop groups who would have a hard time competing against the likes of stars like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande a space to shine. But BTS' videos and albums have broken records industry-wide; they shouldn't find themselves boxed into the niche category. It's about time major awards shows (not just the VMAs) see them simply as one of the top artists around, K-Pop or not.
Plenty of people, not just ARMYs, agree that BTS had a stellar year, but it's how that praise is framed that often reduces the massive scope of their achievements. The numbers prove that BTS isn't just taking the K-Pop industry by storm — they're taking the entire music industry by storm. They're not just having a stellar year for a K-Pop band — they're having a stellar year for a musical artist, full stop. The numbers show that BTS' accomplishments are, at the very least, on the same level as the artists leading this year's VMAs nominations, so ARMYs are simply pointing out that MTV should have given them a seat at the table in the same major categories.