From best-selling albums to YouTube records: A look at K-pop group BTS’ milestones so far

It’s shaping up to be a “Dynamite” weekend for BTS fans. 

After months of anticipation, the K-pop super group’s latest album, “BE,” is set to drop Friday. It features eight tracks, including “Dynamite,” the first BTS song recorded entirely in English.

In August, RM told USA TODAY that creating the song while working on the album was “like destiny.”

“Who would ever think of this pandemic?” he said. “No meeting, no karaoke, no concerts? Even no walking in the park. So we never expected this song would come fully in English. During the process of making our album … it just came to us.” 

“BE” is BTS’ second album this year. Members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook released “Map of the Soul: 7” in February. Only 10 months prior to that, the ever-busy group dropped “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which quickly made history as the best-selling South Korean album of all time. (A record BTS broke again this year when “Map of the Soul: 7” took the top spot.)

Ahead of the album’s release, we take a look at BTS’ rise to stratospheric fame. 

RM tapped as first member

BTS traces its roots back to 2010, when RM became a trainee at BTS’ management company, Big Hit Entertainment. Record executives were initially planning a hip-hop group, but later pivoted to K-pop. Suga, J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V and Jimin joined and released debut album, “2 Cool 4 Skool” in 2013. BTS is an acronym of Bangtan Sonyeondan or “Beyond the Scene,” a reference to their mix of musical styles, including pop, hip-hop and electronica.

Sold-out tours and social media records

While the first BTS tracks were successful in Korea and Japan, it took the group a couple years to hit it big across the globe. Tours helped fix that, including one in 2017 that included stops in a dozen countries and sold out US arenas on both coasts. In 2019, they had the sixth highest grossing tour, according to Pollstar, topping musical giants such as Ariana Grande and Paul McCartney.

Social media helped boost the group’s profile as well. They have a handful of Guinness World Records, including fastest time to reach one million followers on TikTok (they did it in 3 hours, 31 minutes) and most-viewed YouTube music video in 24 hours (which they first earned in 2019 for “Boy With Luv” featuring Halsey (74.6 million), then shattered in 2020 when “Dynamite” hit 101 million views). They’re an awards favorite in social media categories, racking up wins at the Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards over the last few years. 

Breaking chart records 

In 2016, album “Wings” was the highest-charting K-pop record ever on the Billboard albums chart, debuting at No. 26. Two years later, “Love Yourself: Tear” debuted at No. 1. It was the first time a K-pop song earned the honor but not the last. 

They’ve had five Top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100, including collaborations with Halsey (“Boy with Luv”) and Jason Derulo and Jawsh 685 (“Savage Love” remix). This year, they earned their first No. 1 single debut with “Dynamite,” but more on that song later.  

Speaking at the UN (twice)

In 2018, BTS became the first K-pop group to speak at the United Nations. Members were on hand for the launch of Generation Unlimited, an initiative aiming to improve career education and training for young people worldwide.

“We have learned to love ourselves. So now, I urge you to speak yourself. I’d like to ask all of you, ‘What is your name?'” RM, the group’s leader, said. “I want to hear your voice, and I want to hear your conviction. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, gender identity, just speak yourself.”

The group returned to the UN this year, virtually, addressing the coronavirus pandemic. “COVID-19 was beyond my imagination,” RM said. “Our world tour was totally canceled. All of our plans went away, and I became alone.”

‘Dynamite’ 

“Dynamite” is BTS’ first time singing entirely in English. It debuted to rave reviews on Aug. 21. The most difficult part of making the disco-pop hit was stepping out of the comforts of singing in Korean and getting the English pronunciations down, the group told USA TODAY via an interpreter. “It was more not hard, but interesting. It was an interesting kind of challenge,” Jungkook said, with RM noting that it was a “fun hard.” The song’s getting extra airplay as the beat bop featured in the Samsung Galaxy Commercial

‘Tonight Show’ residency    

To help get fans psyched for the new album, BTS had a weeklong residency on NBC’s “Tonight Show” in September. On the first night, the group performed “Dynamite” with a little assistance from host Jimmy Fallon and house band The Roots. “We love having BTS on the show,” Fallon said at the time. “These guys are incredible.”  

Contributing: Rasha Ali, Sarah M Moniuszko and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY

Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges

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