The ‘separate but equal’ rules of American music awards
As the biggest boy band in the world, BTS has been dominating music charts and selling out tour dates. They are the first group since the Beatles to earn three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than a year, with the fastest YouTube video to hit 100 million views. That video, for the hit “Boy with Luv,” has now amassed 472.5 million views since its release in April — enough to have been seen by nearly the entire populations of the U.S., Canada and Mexico combined.
“They don’t fit the mold of a traditional Western pop act, attacking people’s notions of what can fly, what can be popular,” said pop culture writer Phil Yu from the popular Angry Asian Man blog. “Add on top of that, a healthy dose of xenophobia and Orientalism. That’s when you can go after their looks, the fact they are singing in Korean, and how they don’t match what looks ‘masculine.’”
The latest controversy surrounds the Video Music Awards, which announced on Tuesday a new category for “Best K-Pop.”
In addition to the new K-Pop category, BTS was nominated in three others — “Best Collaboration,” “Best Art Direction” and “Best Choreography.” But given the group’s overwhelming popularity, fans questioned why BTS and other K-pop groups needed to be separated from the main awards, such as “Best Pop” and “Artist of the Year.”
The sentiment spread across Twitter, leading their fans to create the trending hashtags #VMAsXenophobic and #VMAsRacist.
The K-Pop category keeps BTS “snug in that box, to stop them from having a seat at the table,” said Mona Mohamed, a 25-year-old fan from Decatur, Georgia. “Imagine if BTS were an all-white, English-singing [and] -speaking group. ... We have other groups, such as One Direction, as proof of what the ‘proper race’ can achieve and receive from the media and the industry.”
On Twitter, BTS fans noted that no separate category was created for Canadian singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes or Australian group 5 Seconds of Summer, who were nominated for “Artist of the Year” and “Best Pop” respectively.
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