PART 2: Emma Discusses BTS, Their Historic Wembley Concerts & Their Role in Her University Studies
Updated: Sep 20, 2021
In this week's edition of 'Fan Features' we continue our conversation with Emma, a longtime fan of Korean pop sensations BTS. Catch up on part one of our interview by clicking here.
Continuing with from our conversation last week, let's look a little more at the impact BTS has had within your own life. When we spoke on twitter prior to the interview, you mentioned that BTS has played a part in your university studies? Can you tell us more about that?
Definitely! They were my main motivation to start learning Korean (apologies to my 2nd Year Theatre Studies lecturer… I’m sure your lecture on Post-Modernism was interesting but I spent the entire hour learning Hangul – the Korean alphabet), which then helped me find an area of linguistics where I could really dive into. My specific area of interest in linguistics is called phonetics and phonology, which deals with the sounds we make in speech, and sound systems across languages. As BTS had got me interested in Korean from a language-learning perspective, I started to look at it from a linguistics perspective, and I became really interested in the different consonant sounds Korean has, which influenced my undergraduate dissertation. There were particular sounds in Korean that I had real difficulty in hearing the difference between, and so I ended up spending about a year investigating how well learners of Korean can get the ability to learn to hear these new sounds. 13,000 words and a conference poster later, I ended up getting the best grade of my degree for my dissertation, with one of my markers thanking me for introducing them to BTS while they were reading!
Speaking of learning Korean as a second language, do you think that the impact of BTS and the surge of other Korean artists in Western culture, has inspired more people to learn Korean?
Oh, absolutely! When I was doing my dissertation research, a lot of my participants who were learning Korean said they picked up the language because of musicians they enjoyed listening to, or films/TV shows they liked. There has been a marked increase in interest regarding Korean as a language specifically due to the Korean Wave (Hallyu), with language learning resources like Talk To Me In Korean having over a million subscribers on their Youtube channel. There are also K-Pop specific learning resources too: BTS has recently released their own Korean language learning kit, complete with textbook, audio pen and online videos. Everyone will have their own reasons for choosing to learn Korean, but it’s definitely accurate to say that, in recent years, many people will have started on their language journey due to their interest in K-pop and/or Korean pop culture.
A lot of people seem confused about why people choose to listen to songs in another language, what would your response to this be?
Language has never really been much of a barrier for me in that sense; it’s not something I really see as off-putting when approaching music, movies, shows etc. If something’s good, interests me, or inspires me, the language it’s in doesn’t really phase me. I’m not saying that I am a multilingual genius who can understand any non-English media put in front of me (quite the opposite!); I just am not really phased when approaching media that isn’t in a language I know, understand and/or speak. We’re living in an age where global content is widely accessible, so I don’t see why you’d want to limit yourself to media in one language when there’s such exciting stuff out there!
Not to get a bit philosophical, but I think things like music, dance, art etc. can bypass the barriers that may appear due to linguistic differences. Obviously, every individual’s interpretation of creations like these will be influenced by a lifetime of a unique combination of cultural, media and familial input, but some experiences and emotions are so seemingly universal that language isn’t necessarily an obstacle in experiencing media that isn’t in our native language(s).
It might also be due to the nature of my degree as well (I mean, considering I’m in my 5th year of studying linguistics, having an interest in languages is a bit of a pre-requisite), but I tend to actively search out media that isn’t in English. At this point, it feels weird to me if I’m not watching something that doesn’t have subtitles, even if it’s in English! It does mean that if you ask me for a movie recommendation, or ask me what songs I have on my playlist, there’s a fair chance that recommendation is going to be in a language you don’t know.
I’ve definitely noticed over the last 5+ years that K-Pop has definitely got a lot more accessible to Western fans with a higher frequency of content having English translations and subtitles, whether these be official translations or fan-sourced translations (which is an incredible phenomenon in-and-of itself). Within minutes (or even seconds) of k-pop stars posting tweets, there are multiple translations into various languages, and translation accounts routinely live-tweet translations of idol’s livestreams in real-time. It’s an astounding thing to witness, especially as the people behind these accounts do this voluntarily, and considering the huge amount of media that is created and posted… fans are always incredibly appreciative of these accounts doing what they can to help support the bridge between K-Pop idols and their global fans.
I do also find it quite interesting how our understanding and reactions to non-native language media can be so different from a native speaker’s understanding. I know that seems like quite an obvious thing to say (like obviously an English speaker won’t understand a Korean song the same way a Korean listener will), but it’s very interesting how people who have little-to-no knowledge of Korean approach songs that are primarily in Korean. Some people will focus on the musicality, others choreography and general performance analysis, others still might focus on the visuals of music videos and album design, and even more others set out to compare different lyric translations and interpretations.
Let’s talk about the live concert experience. Have you ever had the chance to see BTS live?
I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have been able to see them live in concert twice: first, on the Day 2 concert at the O2 in London, and the Day 1 concert at Wembley Stadium the following year! Saying that still feels so unreal to me… I honestly can’t believe I’ve been so fortunate to have those memories and experiences!
BTS joined an exclusive list of 12 artists to sell-out the iconic Wembley Stadium, how was it to witness such a historic gig for not only K-Pop but music in general?
There was definitely the sense of “this has never been done before, this is unprecedented” running up to the concert. The excitement was palpable! Even travelling down to the concert was exciting; I was going with a friend, and before we’d even gotten on the train we’d already spotted other fans from their merchandise and excited conversations.
Arriving at Wembley stadium itself was incredible: the promenade was lined with posters of all the members, BTS’ discography was playing from phones and speakers alike, and all around were just so many people anticipating one of the most historic concerts the music industry has seen. News crews were dotted in amongst everyone, filming fans dancing along to some of their favourite songs and interviewing people about their thoughts regarding such a momentous event. The sheer anticipation was exhilarating, and that was all before we even entered the stadium itself!
Were there any stand out moments?
Walking into Wembley Stadium was such an incredible moment; while seats were still being filled, seeing such a huge venue filled with ARMY was breathtaking! Particularly as there was such an increase in numbers from the O2 concert I’d been at less than a year before, it was such an astounding thing to see. You really can’t quantify what tens of thousands of people actually looks like in your head, so seeing just how many people actually were there was such a memorable moment. There were more people in that stadium than live in my entire town! It’s a bit of a tradition before BTS concerts for their music videos to be played on large screens, and the fans do not disappoint – even before the concert has started, everyone is singing along, doing the fan chants and waving their lightsticks. If you were to stand outside a venue while this is going on, you would have thought the concert had already started! It’s truly a brilliant way to really get the energy going before the concert starts, and it’s something I adore about BTS concerts.
Having seen BTS live twice, something that never fails to impress me is the intense energy that the boys show in every performance. When you compare their debut performances to now, the enthusiasm and effort put into every performance has not changed; the choreography seems effortless yet packed with power, their live vocals make the songs you know so well sound elevated to a whole new territory of outstanding, and you can just tell they adore performing. Whether its in the opening song or two hours in, their smiles are no less bright and their enthusiasm overflowing. The moments in between songs where they talk to the audience are also really special. Oftentimes, they will learn phrases and will do some (or all) of their speeches in the native language of the country they visit. Considering how many countries they visit over the course of a world tour, this is no mean feat. This was the same for Wembley, with their speeches bringing some of the most memorable moments of the tour – the most memorable for me were from Jimin and Namjoon (RM):
“I was surprised when I hear it was coming – WEMBLEY! I told my friends ‘We’re going to Wembley? WHAT?! What?’. Friend said, ‘You gonna say ‘AYO!’ like Queen?’ I said ‘No […] because I want to shout ARMY!’… Today will be a really meaningful day, so I wanted to say ‘I love you, I love you so much from the bottom of my heart.’” - Jimin
“[The UK] always had the greatest artists, historically, in this music industry […] So UK was like the big, big wall to me. But tonight, we, and you guys, just broke the wall. You guys are the true evidence that we are worthy to live and keep going on and I hope, I truly hope, that BTS could be the same for you guys. And I love you.” – Namjoon (RM)
I also had a bit of a funny moment that surprised me the day after Day 1 at Wembley. As the concert was historic, there was a fair amount of news coverage and that meant a lot of news groups dotted around the stadium with cameras and mics. I remembered seeing a cameraman with a big “MBC” sticker on his gear, and he seemed to be having a good time filming the crowds. I waved at the camera (as you do) but then forgot he was there because the concert started and, as you can imagine, my concentration moved to what was happening onstage. Cut to the next day, my friend and I are sitting outside the Tate Modern (we had some time to do touristy things round London before our train home) and I decide to check up on the Korean news coverage of the concert. I load up an MBC news video on YouTube and we start watching. We started to see some crowd shots from the section we were in and we got ex cited, trying to spot ourselves in the crowd. Then, the camera cut to me. Singing along to “Wings”. With my phone out filming. Absolutely in my own world. The lyrics on the screen. And the camera stayed on me. And ZOOMED right in on me… out of everyone in that section, that cameraman zoomed RIGHT ON ME! Not my finest angle, I have to admit; my side profile leaves a lot to be desired… I was equal parts embarrassed and incredulous, especially as that video currently over half a million views now!
Have recently received their first Grammy Nomination, it’s fair to say that BTS have achieve A LOT since debut and have proven themselves as strong artists in such a narrow-minded industry. Speaking from a fan’s perspective, is there anything else you’d like to see the guys do whether that be achieving a certain award, a dream collaboration or perhaps experimenting in a certain genre? What is your ultimate dream for BTS?
I think the only thing I can really think of is possibly the dream of one (or all) of the members writing and publishing. I always get excited when they discuss what they’ve been reading recently, or what things have been inspiring them or bolstering their creativity. I love listening to what they have to say in their livestreams and interviews, and it would be really interesting to see that translated into print, whether that be through poetry, anecdotal writing, short stories… If their lyricism is anything to go by they would create some amazing literature!
Honestly, the biggest dream for me as a fan is for them to continue to be happy while making music… as long as creating music, performing together and meeting fans brings them happiness and fulfilment, I couldn’t ask for more. I think everyone has their own dream collaboration ideas, or genre explorations, or projects they’d undertake, but for me… if they’re happy then I’m happy.
If you had a chance to speak with BTS, what would your message be to them?
I’m not sure what I could say that hasn’t already been said by thousands of fans before me…
The things I’d like to tell them – the impact they’ve had on my life, the reason I have the friends I do today, the memories I can attribute to them, the influence they had on me changing my path in life – I don’t think I could ever accurately express in words, whether in speech or in writing. I can trace back so many incredible moments in my life back to the fall of the first domino that was me watching No More Dream for the first time. I could never have anticipated the ripple effect that one video could have had on the trajectory on my life.
I think I could probably sum up everything I’d like to say to them into a simple “thank you”. Because more than anything, the gratitude I feel in being their fan is immeasurable.
And finally…if you could recommend a BTS song to someone who isn’t familiar with their music what would it be?
I’ve compiled a wee list of (what I think are) BTS songs that really show the breadth of variety they have, especially as readers of this will have varied tastes!
Looking for some up-tempo songs to blast full-volume and dance around the room to (or in my case, power me through some tough cardio workouts)? Give a listen to:
So What (Love Yourself: Tear, 2018)
Stay (BE, 2020)
Silver Spoon/Baepsae (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2, 2015)
DNA (Love Yourself: Her, 2017)
Idol (Love Yourself: Answer, 2018)
Danger (Dark & Wild, 2014)
If you’re wanting some songs to really tug at your heart-strings, try:
Epiphany (Love Yourself: Answer, 2018)
Blue & Grey (BE, 2020)
Film Out (BTS the Best, 2021)
The Truth Untold (Love Yourself: Tear, 2018)
Lights (Map of the Soul 7: The Journey, 2020)
Your Eyes Tell (Map of the Soul 7: The Journey, 2020)
Jamais Vu (Map of the Soul: Persona, 2019)
Everythingoes (mono., 2018)
Tonight (Jin – BTS Soundcloud, 2019)
Find yourself looking for some chill music to relax or study to? There are my go-to songs:
Still With You (Jungkook – BTS Soundcloud, 2020)
Rain (Dark & Wild, 2014)
Seoul (mono., 2018)
Forever Rain (mono., 2018)
Embarrassed (Dark & Wild 2014)
Intro: Ringwanderung (Face Yourself, 2018)
Outro: Her (Love Yourelf: Her, 2017)
Blueside (J-Hope – Hopeworld, 2018)
Like (2 COOL 4 SKOOL, 2014)
Just One Day (Skool Luv Affair, 2014)
Looking for some fun tunes to give you a serotonin boost?
GoGo (Love Yourself: Her, 2017)
Attack on Bangtan (O!RUL8,2?, 2013)
EGO (Map of the Soul: 7, 2020)
Dynamite (BE, 2020)
Look Here (Dark & Wild, 2014)
Ma City (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2, 2015)
Butter (Single, 2021)
Want to see for yourself how hip-hop has influenced BTS’ music, particularly the members of the “rap line” (RM, Suga and J-Hope)? Look no further:
Ddaeng (BTS Soundcloud, 2018)
Do You (RM – RM, 2015)
Hip-Hop Phile (Dark & Wild, 2014)
Daechwita (Suga – D-2, 2020)
1verse (J-Hope – BTS Soundcloud, 2015)
all of the “Cypher”s!
Want to see some of BTS’ collabs over the years? Here’s a small selection of the huge number of collaborations they’ve had!
Savage Love – Jason Derulo ft. BTS
Dream Glow – BTS & Charli XCX
A Brand New Day – BTS & Zara Larsson
All Night – BTS & Juice WRLD
Blueberry Eyes – Max ft. Suga
Chicken Noodle Soup – j-hope ft. Becky G
Mic Drop, Waste It On Me and The Truth Untold – BTS & Steve Aoki
Change – RM & Wale
Song Request – Lee Sora ft. SUGA
Don’t – eAeon ft. RM
And many, many more!
It has been such a pleasure to discuss and highlight the impact of BTS with Emma over the past few weeks. I'm sure you'll agree that her knowledge, passion and insight surrounding the group and the overall message behind their music is truly inspiring. BTS are the reason 'Fan Features' initially came to fruition so it's been comforting to revisit the roots of the website and speak with a fellow ARMY about their impact and legacy. Thank-You so much once again to Emma for sharing the purple love with our readers and being a loyal supporter of the site!
Be sure to join us again next Friday evening where we'll be joined by a new guest to discuss their favourite band or artist. If you'd like to share your fan story please get in touch by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org