Sounds Like: K-Pop gone trap, trop-house and even neo-soul; the seven-headed boss you face at the end of a rap music arcade game
For Fans of: Justin Bieber, G-Dragon, Big Bang
Why You Should Pay Attention: BTS, short for "Bangtan Songyeondan," or, in English, "Bulletproof Boy Scouts," debuted in 2013 and quickly became one of Korea's hottest new acts. In America, they've sold out arenas in Anaheim and New Jersey, and when their airplane landed in Chile, they were greeted with Beatles-esque pandemonium. On record, the group's seven members trade quick, four-line verses that often tackle previously taboo subjects like politics and depression.
According to Rap Monster, the group's leader, their songwriting process is part Rihanna and part Wu-Tang: After selecting beats from Korea's top producers, plus a few made by the artists themselves, the seven members flesh out the songs through friendly competition, going head-to-head to see who can come up with the best verses. So far, the results have been positive. Wings, their second LP, was one the most conceptually and sonically ambitious pop albums of 2016, becoming Korea's best-selling album of the year. It even boosted sales of Herman Hesse's 1919 novel Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth when the group revealed that it was a big influence on the record and its accompanying music videos.
They Say: "I've been reading books, as many as I can, since I was five, seven, 10 years old, and before I made music I wanted to be an author," says Rap Monster. He lists Hesse, Haruki Murakami and Albert Camus as three of his favorite writers. "Authors really create those human expressions too, like some specific feelings. Normal people, usually, when they try to express their emotions say like, 'I'm sad.' 'I'm mad.' But authors make those emotions totally different – they make it sound totally different. There are so many great diamonds in books and movies and we always try to get inspiration from them. Now we don't have so much time to experience outside, like other people. We always have to go abroad and perform and make music inside our studio, so books and movies are the best things to experience instead of going outside."
Hear for Yourself: "Come Back Home," their latest single, has a beat that bridges the gap between Black Sheep and DJ Mustard, plus bilingual lyrics that make "hangry" feel like existential despair. Nick Murray