Billboard has a “BTS bias” problem. That might seem rich coming from me, a full-fledged ARMY, someone expected to be biased when it comes to BTS. However, I am not claiming to be a reliably objective “Bible” for the week-by-week popularity of American music.
An organization like Billboard should not be going out of its way to make it abundantly clear how disappointed it is that a non-white, non-English-speaking group like BTS is doing so well in the United States. Nor that it eagerly awaits any little sign of BTS’ downfall
and never having to track the group’s America-based success ever again.
If they hoped these reactions came across as subtle then, no, they do not. It’s really hard to miss these disappearing hot-takes when Billboard chooses to react to BTS’s success in a passive-aggressively negative way that it hasn’t reserved for other acts who blatantly ballooned their numbers to skip up the charts.
Billboard Has Some Problematic Habits
Remember that time Billboard yanked Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” off of the country music charts? “Not country enough” was the justification. Okay, if you put Gene Autry, Hank Williams, Reba McEntire, and Blake Shelton in a room together, who gets the boot for not being purely country?
Here’s Billboard dipping its nose into a genre spat for the sake of appeasing a select group of people. By doing so, Billboard makes it clear it toes the line of someone else’s status quo…and toeing the industry line while enabling problematic antics seems to be what Billboard does best.
Billboard played along with artists and labels using everything from lollipops to condoms to hit the charts. Even as fans bought everything but the music, Billboard enabled a narrative where these acts somehow meant they really wanted to hear the music, they just forgot to put the songs in their digital shopping carts. *cough*
I’m prepared to say that if it weren’t for the success of BTS in the face of unapologetic bundles, the bundles era would probably still be going strong. But then I’m an ARMY and I’m allowed to be biased. Billboard shouldn’t follow my example by enabling certain acts at the expense of others.
Billboard Puts BTS’s Success Under A Microscope…But Not Shameless Others
The deleted tweet mentioned above isn’t the first time that Billboard took it upon itself to go into detail about BTS’s chart position in a way that it didn’t seem to for anyone else.
With the success of “Dynamite,” Billboard initially went above and beyond to point out how BTS owed their #1 to all those remixes. Curious how BTS was able to repeat the effort with a single remix (“Savage Love”) and then with one song, sang almost entirely in Korean (“Life Goes On”).
When it comes to BTS, Billboard almost can’t help but explain away or pick apart the Korean septet’s success on its chart. Now, if Billboard did these kinds of “by the ways” and break downs and dismissive tweets for every artist, it wouldn’t even be worth noticing. But they don’t.
There’s no mystery to BTS’s American success: They sell albums and singles. Their streams are growing by leaps and bounds. Surely Billboard would be happy with BTS demonstrating that it’s possible to chart without gimmicks and payola.
All things considered, I believe that Billboard clearly has an issue with BTS and I’m prepared to offer up a couple of theories as to what those issues are.
THEORY #1 – THEY’RE ANSWERING TO OTHERS
Perhaps Billboard really isn’t personally pressed about what BTS is doing but is constantly getting an earful from people in the industry who aren’t very happy to have spent all that payola and not be able to topple them.
Those quick tweets might be nervous quirks, an attempt to quickly rationalize and dismiss BTS’s charting achievements in the face of people who are increasingly impatient about the septet.
A lot of time, though, planning, and not to mention money, goes into selecting when a particular artist is going to drop their music. Decisions that the label often makes rather than the artist themselves. Artists are very competitive about getting a #1 album or single, and it’s usually very hard to reliably assure a debut at the top of the mountain.
Right up until “Dynamite,” they probably didn’t have to worry about competition with BTS on the singles side of things. But then “Dynamite” ended up being a hit that ARMY willed to the top of the chart. There was no freefall, and the single is obviously a global smash.
Billboard could be feeling tremendous pressure to tweak or adjust its charts in ways that benefit certain acts while harming BTS outright. It might be pointing to sales to explain why it can’t outright do so. They might also be trying to satiate such people by pointing to the “Life Goes On” drop as some kind of proof that maybe BTS will be falling off soon.
ARMY is used to people having a vested interest in BTS’s failure, it’s not too surprising. Still, at least this theory paints Billboard at the mercy of others instead of having a personal vested interest in BTS flopping at some point.
THEORY #2 – BILLBOARD IS UPSET AT WHAT IT VIEWS AS “FAN-BASED CHART MANIPULATION”
At least when the industry acts up, it’s from within. They’re all on the same side of the curtain, opposite the paying public, sharing kayfabe signals before unveiling a dazzling new chart for the unsuspecting music fan, topped by predictably popular Western acts who obey a predictable, even if problematic, formula.
And here comes ARMY, trampling all over all of that by blatantly buying that #1 out from under the nose of everyone else in the industry. It is probably seen as unfair that ARMY is both willing and able to spend whatever amount of money is necessary to guarantee a #1.
Especially by parties in an industry that (allegedly) try to do as much without getting caught. Billboard is probably used to putting up with many a silly rabbit and their tricks. ARMY is an entirely new and terrifying monster.
Don’t think so? Please let me know the last time a fandom went out of its way to not only understand and calculate how the Billboard chart works but to do so in conjunction with plotting out a comprehensive strategy for buying a set number of copies to guarantee chart success and having the funds to do so.
ARMY is quickly becoming able to guarantee something for BTS that other US labels cannot guarantee for their artists no matter how hard they push them: The top of the charts. And I imagine there’s some resentment at ARMY for this.
We demystified the entire process and, even worse, gave zero fucks.
THEORY #3 – Maybe it’s a combination of factors.
Maybe these two are just part of a long list of why Billboard is counting the days until it doesn’t have to count any BTS related sales, streams, or radio spins toward its charts.
Truth be told, I’m not as concerned about “why” this bias exists as I am annoyed that it exists in the first place. BTS deserves far more respect than what they receive versus those who do less than the bare minimum and yet never have their “success” questioned.
Billboard needs to figure out why it’s mad at the group with the organic sales and the genuine fandom support and not nearly as angry at the industry that’s made a monkey out of its metrics for decades.
What’s the deal with Billboard’s “commentary” about BTS’s success? Share your thoughts below!
IMAGE: Billboard’s shady Twitter account