I Love BTS and the Joy of Becoming a Proud Superfan

I’m going to tell you a secret, something that many of my friends and even my family don’t know. I love BTS. And it’s not just their music. I mean, I – a 59-year-old suburban mother with a high level of education, a professional career, two grown daughters, and a husband of 33 years – am 100% obsessed with everything about this K-pop boy band.

It all started in December 2020, and it happened fast. My 15-year-old daughter was watching a show with seven Korean guys doing silly challenges at a water park. At first, I didn’t get it, but the next day, while I was cooking dinner, I could see her watching a group performing on Jimmy Fallon. It was the same boy band. I found myself lurking at the doorway, holding a wooden spoon with a raised eyebrow.

The biggest music act in the world? I was skeptical, so I Googled the band, and a few days later, I emerged from the rabbit hole wide-eyed and even more enchanted. BTS’s global fandom, ARMY, is a powerful force with tens of millions of devoted fans. The inside joke is that we all start thinking, “I just want to know their names” – but then there’s no turning back. Soon enough, I not only knew their stage names but also their real names, where they were from, their ages, where Jimin’s “NEVERMIND” tattoo is, and the fact that RM learned English by watching “Friends.” And ARMY is not just about the music; it’s also a strong social movement. When BTS and their label donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter in 2020, ARMY matched the gift, raising an additional $1 million in 25 hours.

Exactly one year after my obsession began, I found myself on a plane from Boston to Los Angeles.

What impressed me the most is their origin story. Under a contract with a bankrupt company, living in a dorm with a single bedroom for all seven of them, going to school during the day, practicing all night, surviving on a few hours of sleep (or none at all), they persevered through the K-pop system with talent, humility, and resilience.

The author and her daughter, Hadley Timmermann, were ready for the first performance of Agust D (also known as SUGA) on his D-Day World Tour – the first solo tour for any BTS member – at UBS Arena, Long Island, New York, in April 2023 (left); and customized ARMY Bombs raised high as fans cheer and await the start of BTS’s Permission to Dance On Stage at SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, in December 2021 (right). Image: Tracey Palmer

A week after I watched Fallon’s show, I sat down with my daughter to watch a previously streamed BTS concert for free. Just one. But those two hours turned into four, then eight, then over two days, and I realized I had been engrossed in over 18 hours of BTS concerts. Their 2019 performance at Wembley Stadium gave me goosebumps as the boys shed tears in front of over 60,000 fans, surprising themselves as they sang the chorus of “Forever Young” – in Korean. I made a vow right then and there that I would be there to see them in person. By February, I was fully invested.

Every morning, I check their social media updates. Throughout the day, I listen to their music. And at night, I watch their music videos, variety shows, or one of their 600 Bangtan Bombs (vlogs from 2013) – with or without my daughter. Songs like “So What,” “Cypher 4,” and “Stay” make me dance in the kitchen, belting out lyrics in a language I can’t speak. I even learn some of their choreography, taking inspiration from their “On” performance video.

The joy and intensity are addictive. It helps me forget the outside world, which, as you may recall, hasn’t been particularly beautiful in early 2021. I wake up every day with a renewed sense of excitement, as if anything is possible. And listen, if I’m going back to some teenage dream, it’s certainly not my dream. I’m a middle-aged woman wearing a leather jacket, standing tall, hair clipped with a butterfly pin. We’re talking Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen. Do you see the disconnect here?

Exactly one year after my obsession began, I found myself on a plane from Boston to Los Angeles. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this excited about a concert since my first Springsteen show in 1980 when I was 16. I’ve been to many concerts since then. BTS blew them all away.

It’s hard to describe because it wasn’t just a concert; it felt like a festival or a grand party with 60,000 of your closest friends. It started days before the actual performance, with BTS-themed exhibitions and events taking over the city. ARMY was everywhere, meeting online friends for the first time, dancing to BTS choreography on the streets, handing out handmade BTS keychains and bracelets for free. Everyone was kind, friendly, and in high spirits – like a grateful deadhead minus the tie-dye and weed.

Then came the actual show. The stadium filled with energy. The music started slowly and escalated in urgency and volume: “Kim Nam-joon! Kim Seokjin! Min Yoon Gi! Jung Ho Seok! Park Jimin! Kim Tae Hyung! Jeon Jeong-guk! BTS!” Suddenly, there were lasers and fog, fire and paper confetti, and a sea of synchronized ARMY Bombs (official Bluetooth-enabled lightsticks of BTS) flashing and waving in unison. You were transported to a place where everyone, regardless of age or nationality, understood each other completely. And then came the cheers – deafening cheers until one of the BTS members spoke, and then complete silence. Time stood still. You lived in that moment. The love and genuine gratitude each person had for ARMY were extraordinary. You were there for BTS, but suddenly you realized you were also there for each other and for yourself.

The author at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, after securing VIP soundcheck seats at BTS’s Permission to Dance concert in April 2022. Image: Tracey Palmer

You were there for BTS, but suddenly you realized you were also there for each other and for yourself.

At the time my daughter and I flew to Las Vegas to attend two more shows, my reluctant husband and older daughter reluctantly joined in. Honestly, I thought my obsession would fade as the pandemic subsided and we all returned to semi-normal lives, or as my daughter graduated high school and prepared to go off to college. I thought it would be put on hold when BTS temporarily paused activities to pursue solo projects and fulfill their mandatory military service obligations. But it didn’t. Two and a half years later, this passion still burns within me.

So, what does it all mean? The truth is, I don’t care anymore.

Min Yoongi (also known as SUGA/Agust D) once said that you’ll find BTS when you need them the most. This past spring, we saw the rapper and music producer twice on his solo world tour, his first solo tour for any BTS member. In Newark, I met Kim from Pennsylvania. After six hours of waiting in the rain to gain VIP soundcheck access, my daughter and I secured a spot right in front of the stage and stood for two more hours before the show started. Just as I began to think I was too old for this, I noticed a woman next to me, looking my age. We exchanged knowing smiles. “This is my reward for surviving a year of chemotherapy,” she said to me. She leaned heavily on a walker with one hand, her ARMY Bomb flashing in the other.

For the next five hours, despite almost collapsing from exhaustion, not once did Kim stop smiling. We sangtogether and screamed together until our voices became hoarse. We weren’t there to escape our lives; we were there to live them fully.

The journey doesn’t end here. BTS continues to inspire and captivate me. Their music, their performances, and their message of self-love and unity resonate deeply within me. They have become more than just a boy band to me; they are a source of inspiration and joy. Through their music, they have created a community of love and support that transcends borders and brings people from all walks of life together.

As I reflect on my journey as a proud Superfan, I realize that BTS has brought so much happiness and positivity into my life. They have reminded me of the power of music, the importance of chasing your dreams, and the beauty of connecting with others who share the same passion.

So, yes, I love BTS, and I embrace my role as a Superfan with pride. They have touched my heart and ignited a fire within me that will continue to burn bright. I am grateful for the joy they bring into my life and for the community of ARMY that I am a part of. Together, we celebrate their music, their achievements, and the bond we share as fans.

In the end, it’s not just about BTS; it’s about the love, inspiration, and connection that their music brings. And as long as that flame keeps burning, I will continue to support and cherish this extraordinary journey.

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