In 2013, BTS surged onto the K-pop scene as yet another hip-hop-inspired boy band. But this week, the group surpassed international boundaries as their newly released album, Wings, became the highest-charting Korean album to ever appear on the Billboard 200 when it debuted at No. 26.
While not mainstream to most mainstream music listeners, BTS’ overseas reach is undeniable, as the septet continues to attract fans from all over the globe with their unique blend of hip-hop, electronica and more melodious elements.
Since 2013, the group has released more than 20 singles and has multiple chart-topping albums. While their discography could be daunting, if you want to enlist in their fan ARMY, there are a few BTS songs that you definitely need to take a listen to:
1. BTS – “Blood Sweat & Tears” (Wings, 2016)
The newest single from BTS is innovative and the culmination of the group’s career so far. After preceding singles began the transition away from old-school hip-hop sounds, “Blood Sweat & Tears” completed the shift with one of the group’s most symphonic singles to date. It’s also one of BTS’ best-selling songs ever, and the lead single from the highest-charting K-pop album ever on the Billboard 200. That’s some serious street cred right there for a song that came out less than 10 days ago.
2. BTS – “No More Dreams” (2 Cool 4 Skool, 2013)
They may have eschewed their athletic wear and heavy hip-hop sound in recent days, but “No More Dream” is still one of the most iconic BTS songs. The group’s debut song paved the way for the rest of BTS’ career with its energy and inspirational message. While the septet may have outgrown their original sound, it’s still a fan favorite that any BTS fan must know.
3. BTS – “Cypher Pt. 3: Killer” (Dark & Wild, 2014)
BTS has been able to set themselves apart from other K-pop acts by not simply incorporating short raps into their songs but instead seriously incorporating hip-hop into their overarching sound. There’s no better exhibit of the septet’s dedication to hip-hop than the cypher tracks on several of their albums. The most popular is 2014’s “Cypher Pt. 3: Killer,” which was written by members Rap Monster, Suga and J-hope in collaboration with featured rapper and producer Supreme Boi. (Also check out “Cypher 4” on Wings.) The song’s disjointed rhythm and beats paired with the forceful lyrics and venomous raps is extraordinarily different from BTS’ most popular singles, but it’s where the depth of BTS is found.
4. BTS – “Save Me” (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, 2016)
Their last single prior to “Blood Sweat & Tears,” the whirring “Save Me” took a sharp turn from BTS’ early influences and ushered in the group’s most accessible sound to date. (It was released along with co-single “Fire,” which features BTS’ more traditional aggressive styling.) While not entirely devoid of hip-hop influences, “Save Me” incorporates trap and EDM to create a more modern, mainstream sound. It is one of BTS’ most popular songs and claimed the third spot on the Billboard Twitter Top Tracks chart at the beginning of October, months after its initial release.
5. BTS – “Boy in Luv” (Skool Luv Affair, 2014)
The 2014 single is arguably the group’s first successful attempt at incorporating hip-hop with more typical K-pop elements. The aggressive ode to young love was the start of several romantically tinged singles from the group in 2014 and was the first attempt from BTS to show a more sentimental side after storming into the K-pop scene in 2013 with their belligerent sound and messages.
6. BTS – “Silver Spoon” (The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Part 2, 2015)
Never ones to shy away from criticizing South Korean culture, “Silver Spoon” is full of BTS’ typical bombast and calls out haters for trying to keep BTS from singing and pursuing their dream. And while its literal meaning of fending off naysayers was enough to make “Silver Spoon” a fan favorite, it’s the underlying meaning of the song that makes it truly special. Like many BTS songs, “Silver Spoon” criticizes South Korean society: the title is a reference to a popular metaphor in South Korea that equates people’s wealth and social class with spoons (gold, silver, rusty, dirty, etc.).
7. BTS – “Run” (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2, 2015)
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy that was unleashed on BTS’ fans over the past two years is one of the primary reasons behind BTS’ rise to fame. While the beginning of their career was about youth and subversiveness, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life albums brought BTS to a new level as the songs explored a variety of new musical elements and matured the group’s styling as a whole. “Run” has a more typical pop sound than many of BTS’ previous singles, with its hyperactive chorus, but the underlying angst within the song’s melodies exemplified the shift in BTS’ style and led to “Run” becoming one of the group’s most popular songs of 2015.
8. BTS – “Attack on Bangtan” (O!RUL8,2? 2013)
At the start of their career, only three years ago, BTS seemed like rebellious students, and no song portrayed this more than “Attack on Bangtan,” which still garners love from fans of the group all over the world despite only being a secondary single. “Attack on Bangtan” is a pump-up track that may get overlooked at first glance but is an integral part of BTS’ discography as one of the group’s cleanest attempts at blending pop melodies with their hip-hop swag.
9. BTS – “Dope” (The Most Beautiful Moment In Life Pt. 1, 2015)
Two years into their career, BTS’ first EP of 2015 propelled the group to a new realm of musicality, ensuring that each of their following albums appeared on the Billboard 200. The dual singles “Dope” & “I Need U” each presented new aspects of BTS’ burgeoning style and raised the septet from a mid-tier K-pop act to one of the most popular boy bands around the globe.
“Dope” explored new instrumentation, highlighting funky horns and pounding rhythms before leading to the ultimate build of the chorus. Like the best K-pop hype tracks, “Dope” is segmented into a variety of styles but seamlessly transitions from one verse to the next to form a cohesive pump-up anthem.
10. BTS – “I Need U” (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1, 2015)
Like “Dope,” “I Need U” brought something new to BTS’ sound. Electronic sounds rose to the forefront of BTS’ sound in “I Need U,” while the pulsating beats, low-key raps and melodic harmonies combined to propel BTS to new heights. The emotive delivery of the lovelorn lyrics paired with the song’s surging chorus marked the transition of BTS from a simple K-pop act regurgitating trends to true artists paving their own path. As a show of its influence, BTS’ follow-up singles, “Save Me,” “Run” and “Blood Sweat & Tears,” all build on the style of “I Need U.”