It’s hard to believe Beatlemania and the British Invasion was over 50 years ago. Thousands of teens flooded stadiums, screaming at the top of their lungs, enraptured with new sound. And today, we have a new musical invasion-- K-Pop (Korean Pop). Bands from all over South Korea are creating a new wave of pop and people of all ages around the world are fascinated with the genre as a whole. One of the biggest K-Pop bands, BTS, has become a worldwide sensation and oddly enough, two local teens forged a new connection over their love for them.
Hannah Affeld and Natalie White had never met before sitting down for this interview, but we gave both superfans the opportunity to get to know each other. Each girl had discovered BTS last year by watching videos on YouTube. This led to a new love for all things BTS and K-Pop. Immersing themselves in the fandom, they watched so many K-Pop videos that they soon began picking up the language. Many songs include English lyrics and are enjoyable even if you don’t understand all of the words.
“There’s English in the song. You can listen to a song without subtitles and enjoy it just as much, just hearing their voices,” said Natalie.
This past May, both Hannah and Natalie had their dreams come true when they were given the opportunity to see BTS live at Soldier Field. In fact, they were both at the same concert. The experience was one they will never forget. Nor will their devoted parents who took them.
“For six or seven minutes you see a small girl going through every single emotion you can possibly have,” said Drew White, Natalie’s Father.
Both Natalie and Hannah found the concert to be a unique experience and shed many tears of joy throughout the day. The biggest impression for everyone was the joy and happiness that they saw and felt from the entire crowd there.
“There was nothing like it. We stood in the rain for hours, and nobody was mad! Nobody was upset. Everybody was talking to each other, it was like a giant meet-up,” said Elissa Affeld, Hannah’s mom.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a situation where there have been kinder people. You just knew that everybody was excited to be able to be around other people that share the same enthusiasm. It was kind of surreal,” said Drew.
The K-Pop genre and BTS is more than just a music movement. The music teaches lessons to fans proving they are more than pretty faces who can dance and sing. Through their lyrics, they promote and emphasize mental health, taking care of other people, and simply being kind.
“Some of their songs are about mental health and they really work on improving people’s mental health,” said Natalie. “Taking care of yourself is important. That’s big in the Korean culture and making sure people take care of themselves is very important to them. At the concerts or in their videos, they’ll tell people to do that.”
“I appreciate people more than I would have before,” said Hannah.
Hannah and Natalie have taken their love of K-Pop to their friends and schools. They want to teach people about what K-Pop really is, and how diversifying it can be. Many people don’t understand it and don’t try to.
“There are a lot of different groups and they’re not all the same. There’s a lot of different genres, K-Pop isn’t just a category,” said Hannah.
It’s even made an impression on parents.
“There’s a self-esteem component. They want people to appreciate themselves for who they are,” said Drew.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It is something that unites us and bonds us together with those we may have thought we had nothing in common with. With the rise of the internet, the world has gotten smaller and can bring us together much easier. K-Pop is just one of the ways people bond. For two girls in Northwest Indiana who had never even met, their fandom gave them an instant connection.
“We’re all united. We’re all so different, but we have that one thing (BTS) that brings us together,” said Hannah.