Table Tennis and (k)Pop Culture: BTS - Butterfly Table Tennis
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Table Tennis and (k)Pop Culture: BTS

(by Steve Hopkins)

Table tennis regularly finds its way into Pop Culture in the US.  In April, we ran an article here that referenced table tennis as a part of the plot of episodes of MASH, Last Man Standing, Friends, Girls, The Office, The Gary Shandling Show, The Big Bang Theory, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Entourage, and Star Trek Discovery.  This week, a neat musical table tennis reference appeared on the Pop Charts.

Korean “K-Pop” band BTS’s song “Dynamite” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list today and YouTube confirmed over 100 million views in the first 24 hours (one version of the video is embedded below).   The band BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan or  loosely translated to”bulletproof boy scouts”) is a seven-member South Korean boy band.  They have proved to be one of the most successful K-Pop bands at crossing over to English music charts, and table tennis features prominently in their videos, in their stage presentations, and in the case of this most recent hit – also in the lyrics.  The final line of the first verse of the song Dynamite is “Ice tea and a game of ping pong”.  Honestly, if this was the only reference (perhaps one of the few choices of rhyming with other lyrics “King Kong”, “Sing Song”, and “Ding Dong” which also appear in the first verse), there wouldn’t have been need for an article.  But with some quick research, its clear that our sport is more than a snappy lyric to these musicians.

Aside from the lyrics in THIS song, table tennis has featured prominently in other songs and remixes as well (check out Jimin’s Ping Pong Party).  The group  (Jungkook, Jin, J-Hope, V, AgustD, Jimin, and RM) has also apparently had a nod to the sport in concerts – with dance moves including a fake ping pong match.  The band currently has a table where they live and work – There, in fact, a Korean reality show featuring the band (called In The SOOP) which has shown the guys enjoying their outdoor table tennis table in both of the first two episodes.  Going back a little further, a 2015 promotional video posted by Bangtan Subs (shown below) shows all seven band members in a short mini-table ping pong tournament.

Obviously, table tennis makes more appearances in pop culture in Europe and Asia, but its nice to see the sport on the U.S. airwaves as well – this time, through the first all-English song of a Korean boy-band.

So join me in listening for the ping pong reference the next time you are tuned in to a Top 40 radio station.   If you want to go all-in, may I suggest an ice tea and a game of ping pong while you listen.



Here’s the song: A link to BTS (방탄소년단) ‘Dynamite’ Official MV

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