Every time a pop group turns hordes of teenage girls into screaming lunatics — something that has happened a great many times over the years — someone inevitably compares them to the Beatles, the band that basically taught the public how to freak out. The comparison never sticks. The Beatles were an entirely unique phenomenon, something that nobody will ever equal. But there is another entirely unique phenomenon out there in the world today, and that phenomenon is BTS.
The Korean boy band BTS has become a global force in the past two years, playing stadiums and causing mass hysteria all over the planet. A couple of years ago, the group paid a visit to Billboard, which shares office space with Stereogum. I wasn’t there that day, but from what my coworkers have told me, the office building was mobbed with howling fans — something that does not happen in midtown Manhattan in this decade — and security guards had to clear out the office bathrooms everytime one of the members wanted to use it. Since then, BTS have only grown in power. And they recently pulled off a Beatles-level feat of popularity: Making three different albums that landed atop Billboard’s album charts in a single year. They’re the first group since the Beatles to do that.
Last night, they celebrated by staging a Beatles tribute on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show. Colbert, of course, films his show in the same studio as the old Ed Sullivan Show, where the Beatles made their iconic American debut in 1964. BTS have been to America plenty of times — they only just played SNL — but it was still charming to see them recreate that moment as closely as possible. And the people at Colbert clearly had fun with the homage.
On Colbert, BTS wore mop-top haircuts and skinny four-button suits, and they performed around a drum set that nobody played, doing an elaborately choreographed rendition of their recent Halsey collab “Boy With Luv.” Colbert impersonated Ed Sullivan, and the show’s producers recreated the set that the Beatles used, filming everything in crisp black-and-white. Even the fans got in on it, dressing like 1964-appropriate attire. (The screaming thing has not changed in the past 55 years, so they didn’t have to alter that.)
BTS also broke the gimmick for long enough to sit for a full-color interview with Colbert. They mugged it up for the cameras and sang a few bars of “Hey Jude,” which probably made their fans even happier and continued to mystify those who can’t figure out what’s going on with them. It’s good TV! Below, watch the BTS performance and interview, and while you’re at it, watch the Beatles’ original Ed Sullivan appearance.
The most recent BTS project, the EP Map Of The Soul: Persona, is out now on Big Hit/iriver/Columbia/Virgin.