BTS’ blend of catchy music, slick choreography and camera-ready looks have made them a global sensation.
Now the K-pop band will check off another milestone on its long list of achievements.
After conquering the American music market – and McDonald’s – BTS’ members will make a cameo on the highly anticipated “Friends” reunion special premiering early Thursday on HBO Max.
The cross-cultural pairing is not as random as you might think.
Band member RM, whose real name is Kim Nam-joon, says the show played a big role in teaching him English.
He’s told interviewers that his mother bought all the seasons of the series on DVD when he was a teenager in South Korea. He said he began watching the show with Korean subtitles, then switched to English subtitles and eventually removed all subtitles completely.
“Ross, Chandler, Monica – they were my English teachers actually from the States,” RM told television show ET this week. “I’m so excited about this (TV special)… I feel like I actually became friends with the Friends.”
“Friends” debuted in 1994, the same year RM was born, and has remained popular worldwide through reruns. BTS fans went into a frenzy after news broke about their appearance on the “Friends” reunion, but Ben Winston, who directed the special, has tried to temper their enthusiasm.
“I want to manage your expectations on this – it’s a really short moment from BTS,” he tweeted. “They are great of course, but they are one of the interviews, talking briefly about why they like Friends.”
HBO Max, which like CNN is part of WarnerMedia, declined to offer specifics about BTS’ cameo.
“To ensure a spoiler-free viewing experience for fans, details about the special guest appearances are under embargo until premiere,” the streaming service said in a statement.
BTS are increasingly part of big cultural moments
BTS’ seven members, all in their 20s, debuted their first music together in 2013.
For the uninitiated BTS took their name from the Korean expression Bangtan Sonyeondan, which roughly translates to “bulletproof boy scouts.”
But as they grew into an international movement the band announced their acronym would also stand for “Beyond the Scene” – a nod to the empowerment and individuality themes in their music (and their growing legions of English-speaking followers).
To their fans, it may as well mean Be Total Stans. BTS’ fiercely loyal followers – known as ARMY – are many and unstoppable. With headlines comparing the band to the Beatles, the BTS effect has dominated international media coverage and thrust the band into big cultural moments.
Last week BTS released its latest English-language single, “Butter.” Its video already has more than 200 million views. A record 10 million of those views came within the first 13 minutes of the video’s posting.
BTS also has been part of the ongoing conversation around racial justice.
The band donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement last year and tweeted its support for the cause. The members said they wanted to send a message after being subjected to prejudice and discrimination while on tour.
“We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter,” the band posted to its 30 million followers on Twitter.
Their fans interpreted it as a call to action and jumped in to match their donations.
Their fans have mastered the art of trolling
In a world where social media dictates trends, the prowess of K-pop fans may be unmatched.
BTS’ ARMY works across time zones to make sure the stars remain trending topics. They’ve hijacked QAnon and MAGA hashtags and are among the online pranksters credited with helping derail President Trump’s June 2020 campaign rally in Oklahoma.
Ahead of the rally, Trump bragged he’d received about 1 million RSVPs. But the arena didn’t even reach its 19,000-seat capacity, and many people credited K-pop fans for the low turnout. One video had called on BTS fans to join the trolling campaign, in which people registered online for the rally but never showed up.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez credited them with flooding the Trump campaign with fake ticket reservations. “Kpop allies, we see and appreciate your contributions in the fight for justice too,” she said.
A year later, Trump is gone. But BTS and their fans remain busy.
Today the band launched a celeb meal – specially packaged McNuggets, fries and a Coke, along with new dipping sauces – at McDonald’s. Many of their super fans have been breathlessly awaiting the event.
“If the bts meal is not available in Hawaii i will simply riot McDonald’s, do u hear me i will RIOT,” one tweeted.
McDonald’s has implored eager fans to remain calm. “Breathe bestie, BREATHE,” the fast food chain tweeted.
A day after BTS’ partnership with the Golden Arches, it’s on to the “Friends” reunion special. BTS’ members will be there for their new TV sitcom pals – and, as always, there for you, too.