Image credit: Big Hit Entertainment

The Curious Case Of BTS: How Journalism Mistakes Production For Manufacture

The Western media still fails to comprehend or accurately portray the Korean group, so here is a comprehensive elucidation on why you’re missing the hottest artistic shift of the century.

Sarah C
13 min readApr 29, 2019


It is common for the Western media to characterize the artistry of BTS as "manufactured", "robotic" -- or to quote an arrogant Bowie fan’s response to the comparative analysis I drew up in Part One, "just production".

Gee, I guess "Swan Lake" is also "just production”.

It is fascinating how quickly people will jump in to defend and elevate the authenticity of a Western favourite like David Bowie, as though he didn’t very openly build his whole career identity on artifice, while entirely dismissing the authenticity of a Korean group they have only perfunctorily listened to. If you were to listen only to his greatest hits -- think “Starman”, "Let’s Dance", "Rebel Rebel" -- you would assume that Bowie too was nothing more than a bop machine. Besides, he was an artistic inheritor of the pop art movement, and therefore the supreme leader of Warholian "just production". He verbalized this on many occasions -- he was fixated on it both artistically and philosophically.

"Sometimes, I don’t feel as if I’m a person at all. I’m just a collection of other people’s ideas"

— Bowie, 1972

Against a contemporary backdrop where many Western charting songs do not even belong to the performers, as we will see, the Korean group BTS have quietly arrived while cutting their own uniquely authentic path. A culture of self-direction embedded within broader production values, rather than the scattered and diluted creativity culture of the West or the bland company standards of other K-pop idols, is behind the quality and success of their music.

Obsessed with a specific, static and fairly outdated image of authenticity, however -- generally a lone singer-songwriter strumming a guitar -- it is near impossible for many Westerners to imagine that genuine, self-composed music could come out of a choreographed Korean group.



Sarah C

My interests span art, philosophy, music and history, with a focused interest on different generational experiences.