In February 2018, Billboard Magazine announced that they would feature K-pop sensation BTS as a cover story, and the initial release of the collectible box set, which includes an exclusive cover for each member, sold out in less than three days. 2018 is beginning to look like an exciting year for the band, and their next album is just around the corner. In anticipation of BTS’s upcoming comeback, let’s take a closer look at the seven individuals who collectively make up the biggest international phenomenon in music today.
RM (Kim Namjoon)
Birthday: September 12, 1994
Position: Leader, Main Rapper
Spotify Playlist: RM’s Heavy Rotation
Kim Namjoon was the first member recruited by Big Hit Entertainment to form what eventually would become BTS. Originally, the company envisioned BTS as a hip-hop group and recruited Namjoon, who was rapping in the underground scene under the name Runch Randa. He would later settle on the name Rap Monster, which he has since moved on from in favor of the more ambiguous “RM.” Hip-hop has played a significant role for the rapper, and RM has demonstrated his connection with the music genre and its associated culture in way that indicates understanding and appreciation rather than appropriation.
As a producer and rapper, RM is incredibly adept at instilling emotion as well as waxing philosophical in his music. This skill is particularly notable in the song “What Am I to You” from the 2014 album Dark and Wild, where the emotional progression from hopeful to frustrated is reflected in the lyrics as well as instrumental changes. RM has also helped write several songs for BTS and is credited on popular tracks such as “Spring Day,” which won Song of the Year at the Melon Music Awards. In 2015, he released a self-titled mixtape, featuring the provocatively motivational track “Do You.” RM’s talent has been recognized by American musicians as well, having collaborated with artists such as Wale and Fall Out Boy in 2017.
RM acts as the leader for BTS as well as the de-facto spokesperson when conducting interviews in English, a language he taught himself. Despite being the only fluent speaker in the band, RM will encouragingly hand off the mic to the other members, giving them the opportunity to practice their English skills and stepping in to translate when needed. Insightful and diplomatic, RM possesses both the confidence and compassion of a true leader who is more than capable of guiding his team to success.
Jin (Kim Seokjin)
Birthday: December 4, 1992
Position: Vocalist, Visual
Spotify Playlist: Jin’s GA CHI DEUL EUL LAE?
It was Kim Seokjin’s dashing good looks that led to him being scouted on the streets twice and eventually recruited as a member of BTS. Since he began making public appearances, Jin has earned numerous nicknames as a result of his breathtaking visuals, including “Car Door Guy,” referring to his dreamy entrance at the 2015 Melon Music Awards, and “Third from the Left,” a name bestowed upon him by Twitter following BTS’s attendance at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards.
Besides his brand as “Worldwide Handsome,” Jin is one of the four vocalists in the band. Studying acting at Konkuk University prior to entering the music industry, he had no formal training as a singer or dancer but has worked diligently at his craft since joining BTS. In “Awake,” his solo track off the WINGS album, Jin addresses his feelings of inadequacy and his struggle to overcome them, and he has clearly developed his singing skills throughout the past few years.
Although Jin is the younger of two sons in his immediate family, he has readily taken on the role as the eldest hyung (brother) in BTS. With his fondness for food and impressive skills in the kitchen, Jin often expresses his love for the other members by cooking for them. In the past, he has held livestreams called “Eat Jin,” which features him trying different foods, and uploaded blog posts with tutorials on how to make various dishes. Notorious for his dad jokes, Jin never falters at the chance to make other people laugh even if it means embarrassing himself. An incredibly caring soul, Jin has shown that determination pays off and that kindness and humor are never out of style.
Suga (Min Yoongi)
Birthday: March 9, 1993
Position: Lead Rapper
Spotify Playlist: SUGA’s Hip-Hop Replay
Like Namjoon, Min Yoongi was an amateur rapper before he auditioned with Big Hit Entertainment. His stage name, Suga, is an abbreviation of “shooting guard”, a reference to his love for basketball. Although BTS is no longer solely a hip-hop group, much of Suga’s music is deeply rooted in the genre. The rapper has written several songs related to his past, including “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life,” in which he relates his hardships through the metaphor of shooting hoops on a basketball court.
In 2016, Suga released a mixtape under the name Agust D, derived from the reverse concatenation of SUGA and Daegu Town (DT), his birthplace. The title track of the mixtape shows off Suga’s rapid flow and what the rapper himself refers to as his “tongue technology.” Originally solely available on Soundcloud, Agust D has recently been released on iTunes and Spotify. In addition to working on several of BTS’s songs, Suga also composes music for other artists. In 2017, he won the Hot Trend award at the Melon Music Awards alongside Korean R&B singer Suran for producing her song “Wine.”
Because he speaks only a small amount of English, Suga is much more expressive when communicating in Korean interviews. He is incredibly eloquent in his responses, and his answers reflect both his maturity and self-awareness. Compared to the other members, Yoongi may seem more reserved and somber, and his ruthless rap lines may give him a hard image, but his sentimentality and soft-heartedness is apparent in the way he treats the people he cares about.
J-Hope (Jung Hoseok)
Birthday: February 18, 1994
Position: Lead Rapper, Main Dancer, Sub Vocalist
Spotify Playlist: J-Hope’s JAM
After winning a national dance competition in 2008 and catching the eye of the K-pop industry, Jung Hoseok, a.k.a. J-Hope, now holds the positions of main dancer, lead rapper, and sub vocalist in BTS. Although not initially recruited as a rapper, he quickly adapted to his new role and has since developed his own rapping style. J-Hope’s evolution can best be seen throughout the four Cyphers, tracks which feature the three members of the rap line. For the past year, J-Hope has been hinting at the release of his own mixtape and it’s likely to be completed in the near future.
With his training and background in underground dance, J-Hope distinctly stands out from the others, executing each movement with particular accuracy and precision. In a striking performance for the song “Boy Meets Evil,” J-Hope demonstrated his strength and flexibility both as a rapper and a dancer, and his power is undeniable in this choreography. Occasionally, he posts videos of his dance practices, known as “Hope on the Street.”
Choosing his stage name as a representation of the hope and light he wants to bring to others, J-Hope is known as the sunshine of the band. He has a vivacious personality, often acting flamboyantly during interviews to help lighten the mood and ease the nerves of his bandmates. Despite his bubbly disposition, J-Hope gets down to business when necessary, especially when it comes to teaching the other members during dance practice, and fulfills the role of a secondary leader in the band.
Jimin (Park Jimin)
Birthday: October 13, 1995
Position: Main Dancer, Lead Vocalist
Spotify Playlist: Jimin’s JOAH? JOAH!
Although he received the least amount of time training as the last member to join BTS, Park Jimin excels in both his roles of main dancer and lead vocalist. As a singer, he retains an airy quality to his vocals and is capable of belting out high notes as well as gentle, breathy verses. In BTS’s most recent album, Love Yourself: Her, Jimin is featured as the soloist on the first track, “Serendipity”.
Like J-Hope, Jimin was a dancer before joining the group, and his previous training in contemporary dance is evident in the intensity and fluidity of his movements. He dances with incredible agility, concentrating all of his power into each action. Simultaneously strong and graceful in the choreography for “Spring Day,” Jimin effortlessly leaps from one point to the next as if floating on air.
In a behind-the-scenes article by Rolling Stone last year, the author described Jimin as “puckish,” which is a perfect description of his mischievous yet affectionate nature. A sense of camaraderie exists amongst all the members, but Jimin perhaps gets along the best with every one of the other members, and his warmth and dependability has made him a trustworthy friend and teammate.
V (Kim Taehyung)
Birthday: December 30, 1995
Position: Vocalist, Second Visual
Spotify Playlist: V’s Join Me
As a kid growing up in Daegu, Kim Taehyung pictured himself one day becoming a farmer, not a K-pop idol. However, encouraged by his passion for music and the support of his parents, he participated in a casting call, a decision that ultimately landed him a vocalist position in BTS. In choosing his stage name, Taehyung settled on the name V, a symbol for victory as well as a reflection of his quirkiness.
Possibly the most distinct vocalist in BTS, V sings in a low timbre that often carries a sense of wistfulness in tone. Although he may sometimes act younger than his age, V’s voice is very much an embodiment of his personality in that it possesses a deep, almost profound quality. In “4 O’Clock,” V conveys the soft, quiet moments of dawn in an emotional performance with fellow bandmate RM.
While attending the same arts high school as Jimin, V began learning the saxophone and he has continued to engage in other creative activities outside of BTS. An artist at heart, V loves photography and occasionally posts his photos on the BTS Twitter account. In 2016, V began acting in the historical Korean drama Hwarang and later released “Even If I Die, It’s You” with his bandmate Jin for the show’s soundtrack.
Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook)
Birthday: September 1, 1997
Position: Main Vocalist, Lead Dancer, Sub Rapper, Maknae
Spotify Playlist: Jungkook: I am Listening to It Right Now
Although he is the youngest member of BTS, Jeon Jungkook often takes center stage when it comes to performing. Like Justin Bieber, one of his musical role models, Jungkook was recognized for his talents at a young age and entered the music industry in his early teenage years. Besides his role as a vocalist, Jungkook is also one of the foremost dancers and even lent his voice to a few lines of rap in BTS’s early days.
Inspired by many American pop artists, Jungkook has covered songs such as Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” and Justin Bieber’s “2U.” His voice is particularly suited to ballads and his falsetto is also quite developed. In “Begin,” his solo song from the WINGS album, Jungkook demonstrates both his singing skills as well as his nimble footwork in the live performance.
As the youngest member of BTS, Jungkook is known as the Golden Maknae for his many talents. He picks up new hobbies frequently, whether it’s learning English or playing the piano, and aims to be the best at whatever he does. Jungkook’s ambition is a source of motivation for the rest of the team, and even though he is five years younger than the oldest member, Jungkook is treated as a peer by the others when it comes to musicianship.
K-pop bands often fall under the criticism of being manufactured, but BTS defies this image. While the band still follows the norm of each member taking on specific roles (Vocalist, Rapper, Dancer) based on their set of skills (Lead, Main, Sub), they maintain their individuality in their musical sound and how they carry themselves. Moreover, Big Hit encourages them to pursue other interests, whether that’s dropping a mixtape or acting in a drama.
Besides the unique background and personality of each member, BTS also stands out among K-pop groups because of the chemistry within the group. After training, debuting, and performing with each other for over five years, their relationships have only grown stronger, as seen in how they complement each other musically as well as their casual interactions in interviews and behind-the-scenes videos. In the choreography for BTS’s hit single, “DNA,” all seven of them link up in a representation of the molecular structure, and the formation symbolizes not only a bond in the physical sense but also the emotional connection between the members.
Conquering one barrier after the next and taking the world by storm, Namjoon, Seokjin, Yoongi, Hoseok, Jimin, Taehyung, and Jungkook may seem like extraordinary beings. But at the end of the day, they are just seven young men chasing their dreams of making an impact through music. They are dorky yet sexy, fun-loving yet disciplined, talented yet flawed, and it’s their multifaceted personalities and willingness to remain true to their themselves that have made BTS loved by so many around the world.