How exactly does one accomplish world domination? Surely it takes remarkable talent, charm, kindness, altruism and dedication. But you’d still be missing a key component: a devoted community to uplift your efforts, soften your stumbles and shoot light from their eyes into the sky in your name every single night.
By these parameters, BTS has reached the top. Over the past few years, the K-pop group has taken the music industry by storm—shattering sales records, gathering accolades and performing across the globe for head-spinning audiences—all the while remaining exemplary ambassadors for their Korean culture. But behind those three letters are seven astounding young men who believe that music is stronger than the barriers of language. It’s a universal dialect.
With positive messages of self-confidence, intricacies of philosophy hidden in their sparkly songs, true synergy and brotherhood in every step of their elaborate choreography, and countless charitable and anthropological endeavors, BTS have put their 14 best feet forward as role models to millions of adoring fans and anyone else who finds themselves drawn to BTS’s undeniable allure.
I have known “the boys”—as I and other fans affectionately call them—for years and had the pleasure of traveling to Korea to hang with them on multiple occasions. Outwardly, they are polished and professional, but hours of laughter, secret handshakes and gifts exchanged show those around them that underneath this showstopping, neatly groomed movement are just some guys who love music, one another and their fans.
For BTS, world domination is just another 8-count in the contemporary dance of life. But if you think that’s easy, you haven’t seen the love and effort these young men put into each and every step.
Halsey is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter
BTS were part of TIME’s 2018 Next Generation Leaders series.