After the 2014 iteration of KCON in Los Angeles, I noted that BTS "might have been the newest artist on the bill, but the huge crowd reaction could have made you think otherwise" as the audience roared for the newbie group, barely letting the members introduce themselves before bursting into shrieks. I vowed to keep my eye on them and fast-forward just two years later, the seven-member boy band is headlining both KCON New York and Los Angles.
If you were on hand to witness KCON NY Day 1 or Day 2 this past weekend, you'd know that BTS by far created the most pandemonium of all the performing artists. But the next greatest response came from Seventeen's remarkably loud reaction and, if KCON history tells us anything, the 13-member boy band may be the next big act in America.
First off, Seventeen has slowly but surely proven that there is swelling interest for them in America. The group's debut EP 17 Carat didn't make a huge impact Stateside when it dropped last May, but the EP wound up spending 11 weeks on Billboard's World Albums charts (a chart where most K-pop acts quickly fall off, much less spend nearly three months on) and outlasted recent releases from much more established boy bands like EXO and GOT7. The group followed up with Boys Be in September. It hit No. 1 on World Albums and also spent 11 weeks on the chart. In April, their debut full-length First Love&Letter made for their biggest first-week sales yet in America and sent the band to make their first appearance on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart, which sees much fewer K-pop acts.
But more important than chart stats, Seventeen has a certain authentic factor that many Westerners crave from their pop artists. Although K-pop labels have been upfront about manufacturing their stars, we're seeing a slow change in the market where the bigger acts are increasingly considered "artists" rather than "idols" (the name given to a Korean pop singer operating in the scene). In American, authentic K-pop is more important than ever: BIGBANG, known for writing and producing their own music, were the first K-pop act to sell out arenas in the America. BTS has found their huge U.S. following in part thanks to their self-composed, honest lyrics that take a conscientious look at youth and culture.
Seventeen seems next in line in serving that authenticity by writing, composing and producing not only their music and singles, but their choreography as well. Even on their debut track "Adore U," member Woozi wrote and produced the cut, while Hoshi staged the 13-man choreography. The group has continued on this kick and only found more success as members contribute to their work. Watch them bring their most-recent single "Pretty U" to life in a musical-like live performance:
Given everything, the huge response to Seventeen at KCON shouldn't be too surprising. As long as everything continues to go the way they are going now—a new re-packaged deluxe version of Love&Letter with a new single out July 4 indicates they will—it may be less of a question of "if" the group will be the next superstar headliners and more of a question of "when."
Stay tuned for interviews and loads more with all things KCON coming to Fuse soon. Check out all our on-the-ground coverage here and below watch fellow KCON NY performer Ailee discuss why she loves Seventeen below: