Today’s announcement of the Billboard Music Award nominees was an historic and emotional one for BTS and their proud fans, known as ARMY. BTS is already a two-time BBMA winner for Top Social Artist and performed their single “Fake Love” on the show’s Las Vegas stage in 2018, but this year’s nomination for Top Duo/Group marks the first time the band is recognized for their music in addition to their massive social media presence.
It’s an honor for which they have been fighting for a long time. They have been gaining visibility in the U.S. mainstream as they grace the cover of Entertainment Weekly, do interviews with respected media outlets, and garner a Grammy nomination. But it still seems as if there has been a barrier when it comes to acknowledging their music.
Some fans have felt awards shows are using BTS to gain clout (and clicks). It also reflects the way critics don't think work from boy bands merit serious analysis, let alone the music of Asian artists, who still are underrepresented in the American music industry. This nomination feels like a big step. While their nomination is based on streams and airplay, and not critical praise per se, it shows that fans care about BTS' music as much as they care about their personalities. And when the industry truly understands that (as we saw happen with boy bands dating all the way back to The Beatles), it is a stepping stone to more respect from the industry and critics.
BTS will be competing against Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, Dan + Shay, and Panic! at the Disco.
Following the nomination, the phrase "BTS paved the way" trended on Twitter. It has been common assertion among ARMY (and sometimes a point of controversy), who believe that BTS has made the biggest impact and distinguished themselves from their musical peers, opening the door for future Korean acts to follow in their footsteps.
Some ARMY also asserts that the band received criticism, particularly around their first BBMA nomination for social in 2017, from those who said they were pandering to the U.S. and were only popular because of their digital footprint, not their talent.
BTS is also nominated, once again, for the Top Social Artist category, but this time they'll be fighting to keep their title from two other Korean groups, EXO and GOT7, as well as Ariana Grande and Louis Tomlinson.
The 2019 Billboard Music Awards will take place at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 1 at 8:00 p.m. ET.