Fans ask Billboard to apologize to BTS for story on chart manipulation

Anna Gabrielle Cerezo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 27 2021 06:30 PM


Pop juggernaut BTS has consistently been topping the global trends and headlines ever since their 2020 disco-pop "Dynamite" kicked off a record-breaking spree on the Billboard charts. 

The latest mention of BTS on the Billboard, however, drew the ire of the septet's massive fanbase, ARMY, after the music publication published a cover story that focused on the debate surrounding the success of their latest summer anthem "Butter" on the Hot 100 ranking. 

ARMY called out Billboard for trying to profit from BTS with the sales of the issue, while downplaying the achievements of the septet by pointing out the allegations of chart manipulation, pertaining to the fanbase's coordinated efforts to voluntarily purchase and stream units en masse. 

The streak on the Hot 100 No. 1, an accolade that undisputedly broke the Asian pop-ceiling in the Western-dominated music industry, is often a hot topic on social media. Critics have accused ARMY, who collectively try to propel their idols to the top by arranging streaming parties and spending their own money to buy the group's music, of skewing the charts, consequently preventing it from showing the popularity of other songs.

When confronted with the allegations, BTS leader RM responded that there should be instead a “conversation” settled by the music publication themselves. 

“It is up to them to change the rules and make streaming weigh more on the ranking,” the rapper told Billboard. 

“Slamming us or our fans for getting to No. 1 with physical sales and downloads, I don’t know if that’s right ...It just feels like we’re easy targets because we’re a boy band, a K-pop act, and we have this high fan loyalty,” he added. 

Similarly supporters reasoned that Billboard, as well as naysayers, would not even dare raise the issue had the group been white. 

It's no secret countless artists have tried all sorts of stunts to up their ranks on the charts, may it be by putting out deluxe editions of their records, creating several remixes, and even bundling their music with tickets, shirts, and other products.

Widely known for being a powerful and organized fanbase, ARMY flexed the massive strength of their numbers by trending "#BillboardApologizeToBTS,” and "DON'T BUY THE MAGAZINE" worldwide on Twitter. 

Several K-pop specialty stores and small businesses have also boycotted the limited edition box set to express their disdain over the cover story that lengthily attempted to dissect such accusations. 

The controversy was not the first time ARMY had to fiercely defend BTS, after believing they had been mistreated by Western entities.

In the previous BTS 2021 FESTA, a celebration of the band’s 8th anniversary, RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook shared that their relationship with fans is “special” as they are aware of how devotedly ARMY tries to protect them and their music. 

The Grammy-nominated act was not an overnight success. Before BTS rose to fame, they were struggling rookies from a near-bankrupt company who were teens that grappled with being cut from broadcasts, faced allegations of plagiarism and chart manipulation, and even experienced death threats.

RM revealed that 2015, 2016, and 2017, in particular, were especially challenging for them and ARMY. 

"I feel like we can talk about it now and this is what I think. For those three years, it was tough for us and our fans. There were so many people who hated us,” he recalled in the same broadcast. 

The BTS leader continued: "ARMY was trying so hard to protect us while we were trying our best to prove ourselves. When I look back, those three years mean a lot to me.”