Three years old and breaking records with every move they make, the Korean boy band BTS is one of the peninsula’s rising acts. Without any English singles, they’ve managed to become the highest-ranked Korean act on the Billboard 200 and even topped the Social 50 chart.
But while they’re doing phenomenally, BTS isn’t exactly a household name to many American music listeners. Here’s what you need to know about this border-defying act:
1. BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan, which means “Bulletproof Boy Scouts”
At the time of their release, the group’s name surprised fans with how cheesy it sounded, thanks to its Cub Scout-inducing name. Luckily, the group picked BTS as their English-language tag, saving face for English-speaking fans.
2. There Are Seven Members
Five is the typical amount of members for American boy bands, but Korea has gone all the way up to double digits, so seven is pretty tame. BTS consists of rappers Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope and vocalists Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook. Out of the septet, only Jimin and Jungkook don’t go by their stage names.
3. They Produce Most of Their Music
Each of the seven members of BTS has their fair share of writing credits littered throughout the group’s discography, with rappers Suga and Rap Monster in particular gaining recognition as producers. The group has co-written the majority of their songs with Korean producer Pdogg and Slow Rabbit to create their distinct hip-hop-infused dance style.
4. They Like Trilogies
Aside from their full-length albums, 2014’s Dark & Wild and this month’s Wings, BTS’ Korean discography has consisted of two EP trilogies. (The group also has released two Japanese albums.) The beginning of their career was accompanied by the Skool trilogy: their debut album 2Cool 4Skool, 2013’s O!RUL,2? and 2014’s Skool Luv Affair. The trilogy featured aggressive songs that related to the lives of students and the hardships they faced. The 2015-16 trilogy, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life (Part 1, 2 and Epilogue albums) consisted of songs with more experimental sounds and more nuanced meanings that draw on the experiences of young adults.
5. BTS Has Explored Hip-Hop’s Origins
Hip-hop has had a role in K-pop since its early days in the ’90s, but Korea is the midst of a rap renaissance. BTS, as a boy band, seems like the unlikely harbingers of K-hip-hop, but they’ve made inroads into the genre that has made it more accessible to audiences more attuned to bubblegum pop. (Several members also were part of Korea’s underground hip-hop scene prior to debuting.) After starting their career attempting to mimic typical hip-hop swag, BTS was criticized for cultural appropriation and for being inauthentic. They explored hip-hop’s history and musicality through their 2014 reality show American Hustle Life, featuring a crash course in the genre with help from Coolio and Warren G.
6. Rap Monster & Suga Aren’t Just K-pop Singers
K-pop is typified as a manufactured pop genre created by companies with performers who have little say in their music. Over the past few years, that’s been changing as more Korean artists show off their production skills, and BTS has made it clear they’re not playing around. Rappers Rap Monster and Suga each have released intensely personal mixtapes that displayed their individual colors, proving that the group is more than the typical pop boy band. Suga’s Agust D mixtape earlier this year touched on depression, providing the antithesis to the industry’s idol-like imaginings of its performers.
7. They’re Very Fan-Friendly & Accessible
Along with being one of the only groups to tour outside of Asia frequently, BTS has gone out of their way to interact with their global fanbase. Not only do BTS’ members often update their Twitter accounts, they’ve taken advantage of how popular live-streaming has become too. Each of the members interact with fans through regular live streams, with English subtitles for international audiences. And that’s along with the group’s ongoing Bangtan Bomb web series, which features clips of their daily lives and tours.
8. The BTS ARMY Is Fierce
BTS’ accessibility has helped them connect with fans from all over the world through their personalities just as much as through their music, resulting in one of K-pop’s largest fandoms. Earlier this year, ARMY may not have been able to make it past the first round of Billboard‘s Fan Army Face-Off, but they put up a pretty big showing, garnering nearly 450,000 votes in that one round alone. ARMY has also garnered attention for helping BTS rack up an immense amount of YouTube hits: “Blood, Sweat & Tears” has been out for less than a month but is closing in on 30 million views. It also reportedly broke the record for being the fastest K-pop music video to achieve more than 6.3 million views in one day.
9. BTS Was the First (And Currently Only) K-pop Act to Get Its Own Twitter Emoji
Thanks to their widespread social-media presence, and the “Golden Tweet” of Korea in 2015, BTS was the first K-pop group to receive a unique Twitter emoji. In May and June, fans were able to use a variety of hashtags featuring a small image of BTS’ bulletproof-vest logo. The emoji was created in part of BTS’ search for their biggest fanbases; Brazilian, Turkish and Russian ARMYs utilized the hashtag the most to gain the title.
10. They’ve Made K-pop History
It seems like each new release from the group sets BTS up for something bigger and better. Wings proved that once again when it became the highest-charting and best-selling K-pop album in the U.S., as BTS jumped bounds ahead of previous Billboard 200-charting K-pop acts. The group outsold albums by 2NE1 and EXO, who held the ranking in 2014 and 2015, respectively. BTS also stood apart from the previous acts for being the only Billboard 200-charting Korean act not backed by one of the Big Three: South Korea’s largest entertainment agencies (YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment). BTS’ wide reach also extended to the Social 50, where they took the top slot for the first time. Wings is also notable for appearing at No. 19 on Billboard‘s Canadian Albums chart and No. 1 on the World Albums chart.