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Music & Entertainment

BTS becomes first Asian act to win top AMA honor

The award may affect S.Korean lawmakers’ decision on the members' possible exemption from military service

By Nov 23, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

BTS and Coldplay perform during the annual 49th Annual American Music Awards on Nov. 21
BTS and Coldplay perform during the annual 49th Annual American Music Awards on Nov. 21

The world’s No. 1 boy band BTS became the first Asian act to take the prize for artist of the year at the American Music Awards, one of the top three US music awards, along with those given at the Billboard Music Awards and the Grammies, to adorn the throne at the top of the global pop industry.

BTS won the top honor on Nov. 22 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, beating five global pop stars – Ariana Grande, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. BTS also bagged wins in two other categories -- favorite pop duo or group and favorite pop song for its mega-hit Butter.

“These awards confirmed that BTS is a world-class act that captures the era, like the Beatles in the 1960s, Michael Jackson in the 1980s and Nirvana in the 1990s,” said pop music critic Lim Jin-mo in South Korea.


The South Korean band has continued its record-breaking run this year with Butter taking the No. 1 spot for 10 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. Its Permission to Dance, for which it teamed up with a British pop star Ed Sheeran, and My Universe, a collaboration with Coldplay, also topped the chart.

“The AMAs focus more on commercial performance and popularity, while the Grammies pay more attention to musicality and the quality of the work,” said a music industry source. “Since BTS released the hottest songs this year, it was only natural they were awarded the grand prize.”

The feat at the AMAs is likely to raise the chances of winning at the Grammy Awards. BTS was nominated for the best pop duo or group performance award last year, but it failed to take the coveted trophy. Nominees for the 64th Grammy Awards will be announced on Nov. 24, with the awards ceremony set for Jan. 31, 2022.

BTS delighted members of ARMY, its global fandom, with its first live performance alongside Coldplay performing My Universe during the 2021 American Music Awards. The seven-member group closed the event with a live performance of Butter.

"All we wanted to do was to put out positive energy despite the hard times," said its leader RM.
BTS receives the award for artist of the year at the American Music Awards on Nov. 21.
BTS receives the award for artist of the year at the American Music Awards on Nov. 21.

The band is scheduled to hold a series of concerts in Los Angeles, titled BTS Permission to Dance on Stage-LA on Nov. 27-28 and Dec. 1-2 at the city’s SoFi Stadium. On Dec. 3, it is set to take the stage during the LA stop of the Jingle Ball Tour.


BTS’ awards at the AMAs were a key milestone for the K-pop industry that made inroads into the West around 2000.

“K-pop has been accepted as a genre thanks to many groups’ attempt to enter the US market,” said pop culture critic Jung Duk-hyun. “But BTS has significantly improved perceptions of K-pop with its unrivaled achievements.”

The AMAs honors may affect discussions over the possible exemption of BTS from mandatory military service for all South Korean men at a certain age, some speculated. Lawmakers are scheduled on Nov. 25 to review an amendment to the law, which would allow popular artists such as singers and actors with high contributions to the national interest, to serve as public cultural personnel instead of soldiers. The current laws grant such allowances only to medalists at major sports events such as the Olympics, and winners of classical music and dance competitions.

The Korea Music Content Association urged lawmakers to make a “meaningful” decision for the country’s pop culture industry on Nov. 22, saying the discussion would be the last chance for the exemption of BTS from the duty.

Write to Soo-Young Seong at

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.

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