Grammy win for BTS (‘Dynamite’) would be a game-changer for K-pop music

BTS made Grammy history in November when their song “Dynamite” got a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Not only were they the first K-pop act ever to receive a Grammy nom, but they also joined an elite group of boy bands that have managed to get Grammy recognition, something most 2010s boy bands like One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer failed to do in recent years. With “Dynamite,” they joined NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men among the famous groups that have broken through.

“Dynamite’s” nomination wasn’t really a surprise. The song was an instant hit, spending multiple weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, and BTS did an extensive campaign, including NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concert” series and a week-long residency at Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show.” Also, Pop Duo/Group Performance wasn’t very crowded this year, furthering their chances at this historic nom. However, now that BTS have made history by getting in, can they continue to make history by winning their first Grammy Award?

A win for “Dynamite” isn’t farfetched either. The song is arguably the biggest hit nominated, close to surpassing “Intentions” by Justin Bieber and Quavo on Spotify and peaking higher on the Hot 100 than all nominees sans Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande‘s “Rain On Me” (which also peaked at number-one, though “Dynamite” spent more weeks on top). It was also released in August, the last month of Grammy eligibility, and late bloomers tend to have a good history in the pop field. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” and Grande’s “Sweetener” album were all helped by being later releases and therefore having more hype during voting. And the boys promoted the song with multiple gigs like the AMAs and “Good Morning America,” not to mention the release of their latest album, “BE,” further raising their profile at just the right time.

A win for BTS would be a huge moment in music. It could open the door for more K-pop artists at the Grammys, and it would, perhaps, be a “welcome to the club” moment that few boy bands get from the recording academy. This would be especially meaningful for a band that’s often dismissed for having quite a young audience, and for pumping out mostly non-English music that can still compete head-to-head with Western songs and albums on the charts. Crossover artists like PSY and Blackpink have thus far failed to be recognized by the academy, so a victory for BTS could indicate that, in the near future, we could see K-pop be a bigger factor in Grammy races to come.

There’s still a lot of work to be done though. It took a lot for BTS to get here: their first ever English-only song, a fierce campaign, a whole album roll-out and multiple remixes to maintain hype … all to get one nomination, and not even in the general field. Even outside of K-pop, non-English recording artists have been mostly ignored by the Grammys in the top categories, with the only recent exceptions being “Despacito’s” 2018 nominations for Record and Song of the Year and Rosalía‘s 2020 bid for Best New Artist.

So will BTS win? Maybe, but they’re more of a dark horse. Taylor Swift (“Exile” with Bon Iver) and Lady Gaga (“Rain on Me”) are definitely tough artists to beat, especially with Swift also nominated for Album of the Year for “Folklore.” And as mentioned above boy bands don’t have a very good Grammy track record in any language. But there’s a chance for NARAS members to continue making history by honoring one of today’s most influential bands with their first Grammy. But hey, even if they end up losing, it’s fun being able to say “Grammy-nominated band BTS,” right?

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