South Korean boy band BTS (Bangtan Boys or “bulletproof boy scouts” in Korean) blend dance-oriented K-pop with hip-hop influences. The septet’s lineup includes Rap Monster (Kim Namjoon), team leader and rapper; Jin (Kim Seokjin), singer; Suga (Min Yoongi), rapper; J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), rapper and choreographer; Jimin Park, singer and choreographer; V (Kim Taehyung), singer; and Jungkook Jeon, singer, rapper, and choreographer. The group members also produce, compose, and write their lyrics themselves. Combining love ballads and rapping with topical lyrics, BTS connected with similarly aged fans and set themselves apart from the K-pop industrial machine. Formed by producer Bang Si Hyuk, BTS debuted in 2013 with the first installment of their “School Trilogy” series, 2 Cool 4 Skool. A few months later, they released part two of the saga, the EP O!RUL8,2? The group’s final installment, Skool Luv Affair, was released around Valentine’s Day in 2014. Later that year, BTS released their full-length debut album, Dark & Wild, featuring the single “Danger.” As their fan base grew and international tours sold out, they released The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1 in April 2015 and the follow-up, Pt. 2, some months later in November. They embarked on a massive world tour as The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2 topped a record-setting six international music charts, including Billboard’s World Albums chart. After four weeks, they set a record as the first K-pop act to achieve such a feat.
The group continued to break records with the release of its sophomore LP, Wings. Released in late 2016, Wings not only became the first BTS effort to debut atop both the Korean album and song charts, but BTS also became just the third K-pop act to land in the Canadian Hot 100. However, the album’s impact was most apparent on the Billboard charts. The best showing to date for a K-pop act, Wings debuted in the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 — both their highest U.S. chart debut and most sales to date — becoming the first K-pop artists with three albums to enter the main album charts (Wings became their sixth Top Three hit — and second number one — on the World Albums chart). They also became the first K-pop act to spend four weeks on the charts. Wings continued the artistic and creative growth for the septet, featuring seven solo tracks that showcased the personality of each member. Four months later, BTS re-released the album as You Never Walk Alone. The updated version added four new songs to the original Wings track listing, including the singles “Spring Day” and “Not Today.” With their presence in the United States continuing to expand, the group went on to win the Top Social Artist Award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. Their fifth EP, Love Yourself: Her, arrived that September and became the first K-pop album to debut in the Billboard 200’s Top Ten, entering the chart at number seven.
In early 2018, BTS received their first double-platinum certifications in Japan and became the first Korean act to receive two gold certifications in the U.S. That spring, they issued their third Japanese LP, Face Yourself, which featured Japanese versions of tracks from Wings and Love Yourself: Her. The set — which included just two previously unreleased songs — debuted just outside the Top 40 on the Billboard 200. ~ Matt Collar & Neil Z. Yeung
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