Korea's other summit: K-pop album tops US charts for first time

Love Yourself: Tear by band BTS reaches No 1 on Billboard chart, promoted by loyal fans known as the ‘army’

A Korean pop group has topped the album sales charts in the US for the first time, a milestone for the genre that has seen an explosion in global popularity in recent years.

BTS, a seven-member all male group from South Korea, beat Post Malone with their album Love Yourself: Tear to take the No 1 spot on the Billboard 200, which ranks albums by sales in the US. The group’s third full-length record sold 135,000 equivalent units, which includes a combination of traditional sales and streaming, in its first week.

It is the first album sung predominantly in a language other than English to top the Billboard 200 in 12 years. It coincides with furious diplomatic efforts to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, though the band’s devoted fans – known as the “army” – were unlikely to have been motivated by that to buy the album.

#BTS #방탄소년단 'FAKE LOVE' Dance Practice 공개!

— BTS_official (@bts_bighit) May 27, 2018

Korean pop, or K-pop, groups are known for droves of devoted fans, with scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania of the 1960s when band members are spotted on the street. It is part of a global phenomenon of “Hallyu”, or Korean Wave, which has promoted the country’s culture in the past eight years. The South Korean government has also emphasised promoting K-pop around the world in its cultural policies.

News of the success of the new album lit up Twitter and the Korean hashtag #LYTear1onBB200 announcing the milestone was used more than a million times.

“No other genre has so successfully harnessed the power of fans on social media to spread the word,” Alexis Petridis, the Guardian’s head rock and pop critic, wrote in a review of the band’s latest album. “The phenomenon of BTS seems more interesting than the music at its centre, although Love Yourself: Tear is certainly good enough to keep the phenomenon moving smoothly.”

However, the album is likely to remain at the top for only a week, with projections indicating it will be overtaken by Sam Mendes’ upcoming record.


Benjamin Haas in Seoul

The GuardianTramp

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