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The Grammys exploited BTS to get viewers

BTS, the boy band consisting of RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, V, Jimin and Jungkook, has taken the world by storm — the same world that watched as they were exploited by The Recording Academy at the 63rd Grammy awards March 14, 2021. 

The group released the title track ‘Dynamite’ for album ‘Be’ on Aug. 21, 2020. In the span of seven months, it amassed international notoriety and broke multiple Guinness book world records. The music video became the most viewed YouTube video in 24 hours by a K-pop group, raking in more than 100 million views in that short time frame.

Not only did the song spend three weeks as No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it also peaked at No. 1 four times on the Billboard Hot 200, breaking yet another record for holding a top spot on American music charts. 

BTS performed ‘Dynamite’ numerous times, the first being at the VMAs, where they also won every award for which they were nominated.

The momentum truly couldn’t seem to stop when it was announced that ‘Dynamite’ was nominated for the Grammy category “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance,” making the BTS members the first K-pop artists to achieve this.

Leading up to the awards, BTS was plastered on Grammys advertisements, exciting their worldwide fanbase, “ARMY.” During the actual Grammys night, the group was mentioned numerous times as their performance was saved for the end of the night.

However, ARMY and a number of other artists were rocked when the announcement came that BTS didn’t win. Despite them being the face of the award show this year and breaking multiple world records for their nominated song, the award went to ‘Rain on Me,’ a collaboration between Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga — who weren’t even there to accept.

Within minutes, BTS’ fanbase had #Scammys trending on Twitter, calling out The Recording Academy for this massive disillusionment. The disappointment and rage, along with mass support for the group under the tag #BTSOurGreatest Prize, trended No. 1 on Twitter, garnering more attention than the Grammys itself.

Across the Pacific Ocean, the BTS members had woken up at 2:30 am KST in order to prepare for and then watch the awards. In the wake of this awful shock, they performed ‘Dynamite’ once more on the rooftop of a skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea, recreating the Grammys stage in a performance that truly “set the night alight.” 

Following the awards, the group’s reaction could only be seen as positive in the V LIVE they hosted. “ARMY everywhere, no worries. It’s all good. We did it. We made it. We got you. You guys are our prize. You are our champagne. Let’s cheer,” Kim Namjoon, the group’s leader, said.

This V LIVE, a 17-minute stream, brought in almost as many viewers as the entire Grammy ceremony, which truly begs the question of whether it was BTS who needed the Grammy recognition, or the Grammys who so desperately needed BTS to increase their viewership.

Holding the group’s performance off until the end was clearly a choice made to keep the viewership numbers raised. Although this tactic is nothing new and is a move other American award shows have also used, to do it knowing BTS didn’t win adds a layer of disrespect that can’t be brushed aside.

The Recording Academy knew the winners for each category long before they were announced, and yet their marketing chose to elevate and project BTS throughout the night, highlighting their presence and performance. 

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this. Truly, no one is more deserving of recognition for music on the American stage than the South Korean group who managed to break more records, and hold higher spots, than musicians who are actually American. Yet, this doesn’t feel like recognition. It felt like a media stunt to increase earnings and views for the night, which is a gross use of exploitation of the group so many have come to love.

The Grammys has been criticized previously for lack of inclusion and representation in the music awarded, and this nomination appeared groundbreaking in the face of that. But using a nomination of a foreign group as a mask to imitate inclusion isn't the answer to the problem.

Luckily, as so many have pointed out, BTS continues to break records and sell out entire stadium tours, while the Grammys slowly fall from prominence

But at the end of the day, until there’s a spot on the Grammys stage for musicians who are truly deserving of recognition, this pattern of artists being snubbed won’t cease. 

McKinley Mihailoff is a first year International Affairs and Media Arts & Design double major. Contact McKinley at mihailmx@dukes.jmu.edu.