The world is falling apart, and evil assholes are doing everything in their power to divide and kill us all, which is partly why writing about pop music, especially since the election, has felt, uh, silly to say the least.
But! Sometimes, there are certain wins in the music industry that feel inspiring or incredible or unifying enough to highlight in these dark times, especially for people looking for anything to celebrate.
This week marked not one, but two major cultural milestones on the Billboard charts.
First — and fittingly, at number one — is social media superstar-turned-Love & Hip Hop cast standout-turned-bonafide rap baddie Cardi B, who just notched her first-ever No. 1 with “Bodak Yellow.” It’s not only the first solo rap female No. 1 since Lauryn Hill‘s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” in 1998 (a shocking statistic in its own right), but the first No. 1 for a person of Dominican descent, ever.
Twitter, especially, exploded with joy over Cardi’s journey all day upon receiving the news — partly because Cardi kept Taylor Swift away from another predictable No. 1 for another week (look what she made Cardi do!) — but mostly because Cardi’s rise has been well-documented on social media, and plenty of people have been along for the ride from the get-go: from countless legendary Vines and Instagram rants to the Love & Hip Hop casting to mixtapes (this cover artwork, foreva) to this moment.
It’s a win for the Dominican community, for women, for the Bronx, for Cardi — and the fact that she’s such a damn goof is just gravy.
Now watch her genuine reaction to the news:
And then, there’s…BTS. [Pause for screaming.]
Korean pop is already a massive phenomenon, but the bulk of that industry’s success, of course, stays concentrated in the East. There are hordes of fans all over the West — just go to KCON LA or NYC or Mexico and see it for yourself — but that niche fandom never quite translated to chart success like this.
With the release of their latest mini-album Love Yourself: Her, the Bangtan Boys successfully set a record by sailing into this week’s Billboard 200 at No. 7 — the highest album peak to date for any K-Pop act. And that’s not all, either: their EDM-drenched title track “DNA” broke into the Hot 100 at No. 85 – which makes them only the second Korean act to do so with a fully Korean language song since PSY. (CL got there too, albeit in English, with “Lifted” at No. 94 last year. And the Wonder Girls got there first with “Nobody,” also in English, back in 2009. #JusticeForBoA.)
Mic drop, indeed.
There are a few factors for this victory: BTS, beyond just having the legitimately great songs and charisma and the choreography to justify their fame, are the new One Direction (bigger, quite possibly) in terms of their utterly rabid fandom. Simply put, the A.R.M.Y. doesn’t fuck around. Didn’t you see them snatch that history-making Billboard Top Social Artist award away from Justin Bieber earlier this year? Also, Love Yourself: Her was made available as a physical pre-order in North America — a first for the group, and hopefully, soon to be the standard for more Korean acts.
Is this feat likely to happen again soon for another K-pop act? Probably not, unless BTS specifically are plotting a repackage in a month or two (and also, give it time for that BLACKPINK album), but it’s nonetheless evidence that the demand is there for more than just the same old industry players.
I couldn’t be happier about this: the global music industry is just too massive to listen to the same damn artists (or even the same language!) on rotation at radio — that’s my philosophy, anyway.
Now, there’s no other way to celebrate these two victories than for these two very similar acts to collaborate on a track. Bring on “Fire (A Hoe Never Gets Cold)”!