“This is a very serious and deep question,” says RM, the 26-year-old leader of the world’s biggest band. He pauses to think. We’re talking about utopian and dystopian futures, about how the boundary-smashing, hegemony-overturning global success of his group, the wildly talented seven-member South Korean juggernaut BTS, feels like a glimpse of a new and better world, of an interconnected 21st century actually living up to its promise.

BTS’ downright magical levels of charisma, their genre-defying, sleek-but-personal music, even their casually nontoxic, skin-care-intensive brand of masculinity — every bit of it feels like a visitation from some brighter, more hopeful timeline. What RM is currently pondering, however, is how all of it contrasts with a darker landscape all around them, particularly the horrifying recent wave of anti-Asian violence and discrimination across a global diaspora.

“We are outliers,” says RM, “and we came into the American music market and enjoyed this incredible success.” In 2020, seven years into their career, BTS’ first English-language single, the irresistible “Dynamite,” hit Number .

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