5 instances from BTS’ debut era where they were seen as underdogs

5 instances from BTS’ debut era where they were seen as underdogs. (Images via X/@bts_bighit)
5 instances from BTS’ debut era where they were seen as underdogs. (Images via X/@bts_bighit)

For years, BTS, the K-pop powerhouse, has been saturating the American music market with an unparalleled level of dominance. Though they are now regarded as one of the most successful boy bands in history, BTS was formerly overlooked, as mentioned in their biography, Beyond the Story: 10 Year Record of BTS. They came from an almost bankrupt company, BigHit Entertainment, which was regarded as a minor player in the K-pop industry early on.

They were often overlooked by their more seasoned peers in the industry. BTS became the most well-known K-pop group in the West since PSY broke through with Gangnam Style in 2012. In May 2017, owing to the support of their hordes of followers, known as ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth), who helped them steal the Best Social Group title from Justin Bieber at the Billboard Awards.

However, there was a time when the group was considered an underdog and wouldn't be able to make it to the big league. Suga revealed during his Suchwita episodes that the group was never meant to debut in the first place, but fatefully they got to perform as another K-pop group refused to perform. He highlighted how they would bring thrown-away mattresses from a dump yard and practice in a worn-down small garage during their debut era in 2013.

Since making their debut in 2013, they have put in countless hours of effort on hundreds of behind-the-scenes YouTube videos known as Bangtan Bombs that depict the banal side of celebrity as well as a number of mini-shows, including American Hustle, Bon Voyage, Run BTS!, and BTS GAYO. For years, only their fans believed in them, believing that the band would rise through the ranks in no time.


A peek into the past: BTS' journey to the stars despite being filled with hardship, humiliation, & threats

BTS' enormous influence is felt all the more since nobody anticipated that they would thrive in the first place, much less upend the status quo in K-pop. Their music explores and blends genres from hip-hop to rock, EDM to future bass, and their self-penned lyrics may be honest and emotional.

The accompanying films convey deep stories centered around social realism and have helped set a new benchmark for K-pop visuals. Let's take a closer look at moments when the group faced nerve-wracking odds and still overcame them with sheer determination and their unified love for music.

1) Taehyung revealed they were mocked and ignored by everyone

In their biography, the members underlined instances when they would greet their peers and seniors and would get blatantly ignored. Kim Taehyung (V) mentioned how a member cried in the van, while others were too stunned to speak after they were ignored and humiliated by seniors during their debut days. Now, with over a decade under their belt, they are the only K-pop and Korean artists to garner five GRAMMY nominations for their musical merit.

"After the broadcast, we all got into the van together… Someone was crying, someone was really mad, and someone just couldn’t speak. That unspeakable disappointment and that tear-jerking emotion was just too much," V said.

2) Mistreated by their own industry and on Korean variety shows

Suga, a member of BitHit Entertainment (now HYBE Corporation), who nearly left the company while still a trainee, offered a self-written song for Doni (Jung Hyung Don) and Yoo Dae-joon, aka Defconn/Coni, on Weekly Idol. Suga mentioned being a fan of the two artists; however, they abruptly stopped the song and insisted it was "not their style." They even turned down Suga's invitation to use it for their own solo marketing and said that it sounded like "porridge."

Furthermore, Jungkook appeared on Flower Crew (2016) and brought burgers for everyone with his own pocket money. The show host humiliated him on national television, stating that the food looked like leftovers and telling Jungkook to take them away. Despite it all, Jungkook tried his best to hold back his tears on the show. He was only 16 years old.

When Doni and Coni rejected Suga's song on Weekly Idol and Jungkook humiliated on Flower Crew. (Images via YouTube Shorts/@savoutro and X/@yoonglemin09)
When Doni and Coni rejected Suga's song on Weekly Idol and Jungkook humiliated on Flower Crew. (Images via YouTube Shorts/@savoutro and X/@yoonglemin09)

3) The group got removed from the performing roster during the 2016 Busan One Asia Festival

The Korea Herald noted that BTS was abruptly removed from the lineup of the 2016 Busan One Asia Festival, even though they were scheduled to play there. The broadcasters used VLive (now Weverse) for the event to notify attending fans, with a message announcing that "BTS will not be appearing in the broadcast."

The group was removed from the TV live broadcast, although they still performed at the end of the performance. It was also the time when Namjoon couldn't perform due to health issues, and the present ARMY sang his parts along with the group as they performed on an uncleared stage with little lights. Since then, the videos of the show that have been made public on YouTube were recorded by ARMYs.

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4) They gave out fliers on the streets of Los Angeles and requested people attend their free shows

During their debut era, the boys handed out fliers on the streets of Los Angeles and asked people to attend their free concerts in their variety show, American Hustle Life. Videos of Jimin, Taehyung, and Jungkook dancing on the streets to convince them to come see their show are still available on their official YouTube channel, BANGTANTV.

Later, the location where the boys had distributed those flyers years ago was turned into a store along Hollywood Boulevard offering BT21 products. It is regarded as one of the monumental places for their fans, which is a testament to their hardships during their debut era.

The band were on the streets of LA, handing out flyers to their free concert for 200 people. (Images via X/@tvehyungg and @renkiger_)
The band were on the streets of LA, handing out flyers to their free concert for 200 people. (Images via X/@tvehyungg and @renkiger_)

5) Receiving death threats from the public quite early in their career

The Los Angeles Times reported in July 2023 that Jimin mentioned in their group's biography, Beyond the Story: 10 Year Record of BTS, that they would avoid making eye contact with other K-pop groups and were shunned by everyone. The group received multiple death threats early on in their career, which shook the young boys to the core. However, with an unwavering zeal to show their musical talents, they strived and fought harder one day at a time.

"If I wanted to improve somehow, I had to practice my singing, but I didn’t know how to practice. So I just kept singing blindly. Every time I made a mistake, I went to the bathroom to cry," Jimin said.
When the group received death threats. (Images via X/@Jadan53597127, @miniseeri, @SKshiti, @jjktopic)
When the group received death threats. (Images via X/@Jadan53597127, @miniseeri, @SKshiti, @jjktopic)

Through many ups and downs, in-jokes, catchphrases, and an emotional journey, they have established their own massive realm that serves as a sanctuary for members and their beloved fans. Between BTS and their ARMY, this closeness has created an unbreakable bond and resulted in a steamroller of support.

On June 13, 2024, the group will mark their 11th anniversary, and Jin will meet 1,000 fans as part of the Festa celebration. Jin was discharged from the military on June 12, 2024, and the rest of the members are still serving in the military and will return in late 2025.

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Edited by Somava
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