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#BillboardApologizeToBTS: ARMY up in arms over Billboard's BTS cover story

Published Aug 27, 2021 2:59 pm

The legion of highly impassioned fans of BTS, dubbed as ARMY, are now up in arms on social media over how a Billboard magazine cover story portrayed the K-pop band and their fandom.

Fueled by the ARMY’s indignation over the story, the hashtag #BillboardApologizeToBTS and the phrase “Don’t buy the magazine” have been trending on Twitter since early today, Aug. 27.

The cover story is titled “Inside the Business of BTS — And the Challenges Ahead,” and had the subhead, “As it confronts military service and pressure from its country and agency, the band gets candid about burnout, its future — and the controversy behind its epic No. 1 streak.”

Some fans already took issue with the title itself, seemingly for its less-than-stellar portrayal of BTS. But what riled up fans the most was the “controversy” bit, which talked about the band’s win streak — five No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 since 2018, which hasn’t been done since The Beatles did it in the ‘60s according to the magazine.

According to the story, “fans of some competing acts” are saying that the band’s chart successes “are achieved through concerted ‘manipulation’,” which the story stated is “antithetical to the charts’ purpose of accurately highlighting the world’s most popular acts.”

The story stated how ARMY fans “long exploited loopholes in music chart rules (including those of Billboard) to propel BTS’ singles’ performance.”

Fans of artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa — whose own singles were shut out from the No. 1 spot — began calling ARMY’s work akin to cheating.

The issue, as the story reported, was how the ARMY coordinated efforts in buying singles and albums to prop up the chart ranking of BTS, allegedly skewing the landscape against artists reliant “on streaming for the majority of their weighted points.”

“(T)his summer, when Butter and Permission to Dance reigned atop the Hot 100 for 10 straight weeks total, fans of artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Dua Lipa — whose own singles were shut out from the No. 1 spot during that time — began calling ARMY’s work akin to cheating," the story reported.

RM, the group’s de-facto leader, addressed the issue in the story.

“It’s a fair question,” says RM of allegations that ARMY’s work amounts to chart manipulation.

“But if there is a conversation inside Billboard about what being No. 1 should represent, then it’s up to them to change the rules and make streaming weigh more on the ranking. 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.”

Indignant fans have taken exception to their characterization, with some accusing Billboard of "xenophobia."

Angry fans have been calling out the author of the cover story as well.

The indignation of the fans was also in line with what RM said during the interview.

"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.” (Bim Santos)