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Five Burning Questions: BTS Score the First K-pop Hot 100 No. 1 With ‘Dynamite’

It’s been a long time coming, but this week completes the long journey for BTS — and Korean pop music in general — from stateside cult fandom to a total American mainstream takeover, with the debut of the group’s “Dynamite” atop the Billboard Hot 100.

The historic bow — three spots better than the group’s previous best, with “On” peaking at No. 4 earlier this year — comes with a massive first-week sales number of 300,000, the biggest tally in three years, as well as 33.9 million U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Both numbers were helped by a number of remixes released simultaneously with the explosive original English-language single, produced by David Stewart and co-written by Stewart and Jessica Agomba.

What does it mean that “Dynamite” was the song to put BTS over the top on the Hot 100? And how big will it remain from here? Billboard answers these questions and more below.

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1. What’s your one-word summary for “Dynamite” being the song to break the seal for BTS (and K-pop in general) at the Hot 100’s No. 1 spot?

Gab Ginsberg: Universal! “Dynamite” checks all of the boxes. It’s catchy and the right amount of funky, marking a slightly new direction for the band (also, that key change). The music video is colorful and well-choreographed, with each member of the septet showing off his individual charms — which, okay, they’re already known for. But I believe that it’s no accident that it’s BTS’ first all-English song that sent this release to a place they’ve never been able to reach before. It seems silly that that’s what it took for them to finally get a No. 1, because they’ve put out many other songs deserving of that spot, but I don’t think it’s a leap to say that the English lyrics made the song a success at radio — which is the one piece of the U.S. charts puzzle they’ve always had trouble cracking. As a result, BTS’ signature style, already beloved by longtime fans, is reaching more people than ever before.

Lyndsey Havens: Anticipated. Considering the continual growth and strength of K-pop in the states — which BTS has in many ways led, with performances on Saturday Night Live and at the Grammys, and of course support from its dedicated ARMY — it was only a matter of time until a K-pop hit would dominate the Hot 100, and BTS was always the likely frontrunner to do it first.

Jason Lipshutz: Overdue. K-pop has become undeniably influential on the makeup of modern U.S. pop over the past few years, and it was only a matter of time before an artist notched a Hot 100 chart-topper. Truthfully, I thought BTS would reach the summit with some of their previous singles — that assumption speaks to the passion of their fan base, but also their dynamic musical approach, which has been evident for years. “Dynamite” is a fitting song to make history, but it’s also not surprising that this domino eventually fell.

Joe Lynch: Inevitable. Given the snowballing fan fervor over the group and the industry’s gradual warming up to the boys and their potential, it was only a matter of time before BTS went No. 1.

Andrew Unterberger: Fair. I probably would’ve preferred if it had been “On” or “DNA” or another earlier BTS single to do the deed, but “Dynamite” is such an obvious and masterful crowd-pleaser that it’s hard to argue with any level of success that it might achieve. It’s an undeniable pop smash, through and through.

2. We’ve asked about this before with BTS songs in this column, but do you think “Dynamite” will be the song that not only demonstrates the size of the group’s always-growing following, but really sticks around as a stateside pop hit and becomes part of larger pop culture on its own?

Gab Ginsberg: I do think it’ll stick around as a hit for a while, and it’s already made pop culture history as the first No. 1 by an all-South Korean group. More importantly, I’m confident it’ll be the first of many No. 1s for BTS — one day, we’ll remember this one as their first, if not their best, because there’s no way this is their musical peak. After all, “What Do You Mean?” was Justin Bieber’s first No. 1, but there are plenty of fans who will tell you that later No. 1s, like “Sorry” and “Despacito,” are even better. This is a stellar first Hot 100-topper, and I think BTS can keep ‘em coming!

Lyndsey Havens: The concept of a hit’s longevity is particularly fascinating right now, because so many means for extending its lifespan from live performances to streams in a bar or club remain on hold. That being said, I do already think “Dynamite” has become a permanent part of pop culture just for the history it made alone.

Jason Lipshutz: This is finally the time that BTS will seep into the American public consciousness, with a song so catchy, a key change so mighty, that even those completely unfamiliar with the Army’s power will be humming along through the end of 2020 and beyond. The bedrock of “Dynamite” is the pop craft of BTS, honed and perfected over the past few years, but the hook is among their most immediate, and the production reflects the disco revival currently dominating American top 40 radio. It’s a perfect storm of a song, and it will be around for a long time.

Joe Lynch: Tough to say if it’ll become part of larger pop culture given that straight-up pop songs are not what defines culture these days given the streaming and viral dominance of hip-hop, but I think we’ll be hearing “Dynamite” in regular radio rotation for quite some time.

Andrew Unterberger: Yep, this’ll be the one that even your great aunt and uncle start to recognize as they hear it at countless weddings and communions and bar mitzvahs over the course of many years to come. (Assuming those things are still part of our cultural future, anyway.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qq5bs5WdEo

3. Helping BTS get to No. 1 this week was a number of remixes released as part of the “Dynamite (Deluxe)” package. Do any of these add to or expand your appreciation of the song, or ain’t nothin’ like the real thing?

Gab Ginsberg: I did listen to all of the remixes, and while they are fun (especially the instrumental version), it’s the OG “Dynamite” that I’ll keep returning to.

Lyndsey Havens: Remixes? Deluxe package? It’s the real deal for me all the way. I’ll admit while the song took a minute to grow on me, now I can’t seem to get it out of my head — and can’t imagine it any other way.

Jason Lipshutz: The EDM remix is basically a full-on sensory assault and makes my teeth rattle in my skull, which I appreciate. But nothing tops the original.

Joe Lynch: Hearing the acoustic version certainly helped me appreciate the rock-solid songcraft behind this tune – it’s easy to imagine this being a hit in the ’90s, ’00s or ’10s. The Poolside Remix has a nice energetic but laid-back vibe that suits summer quarantine listening, but all in all, the original is the winner.

Andrew Unterberger: The instrumental version actually gives me a new appreciation for the groove having a little more turn-of-the-century Phoenix to it than I realized. But I also like the EDM remix, which puts a little muscle in the production, and would sound great on a top 40 station’s Saturday night dance party mix show.

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4. We wrote recently about the chances of BTS getting recognized at the upcoming Grammys — what do you think would mean more to BTS and their ARMY, this No. 1 for “Dynamite” or a Grammy win?

Gab Ginsberg: Both accolades are important, so I wouldn’t say one would mean more than the other, but BTS have said that winning a Grammy is a personal goal of theirs. It would definitely be cool if they finally got that recognition in 2021.

Lyndsey Havens: One of the things I love about BTS is that in most interviews, it’s clear they’re equally humbled and proud of each accomplishment along the way — and content at making the ARMY proud as well — no matter the feat. In some ways, topping the Hot 100 does arguably mean more because it’s a direct reflection of consumption habits opposed to a smaller, more exclusive pool of votes that determine a Grammy win, but I truly believe that for now, BTS and the ARMY are just enjoying this current moment.

Jason Lipshutz: Both represent different types of achievement, one commercial and the other critical. To see BTS notch the biggest song in the United States is a tremendous accomplishment for a fan base that has been a global force; meanwhile, a Grammy win would represent a key acknowledgement from the Recording Academy, which has yet to formally recognize the staying power of K-pop. This is a cop-out answer, to be sure, but I do think they’re of equal meaning.

Joe Lynch: If I say the No. 1, I look like a company shill. If I say the Grammy, Gary Trust will have a hit put out on me and everyone I love. Let’s just say the ARMY would rightfully be over the moon about either one. After all, referring to an artist as “chart-topping” or “Grammy-winning” are both major boasting points.

Andrew Unterberger: Both obviously enormous, but I think the Grammy nod would probably mean just a little bit more. We already basically knew that BTS was this popular with fans and pop listeners, even if the Hot 100 stats didn’t quite reflect it yet. But them getting the kind of industry and insider recognition that a Grammy nomination implies would be a legitimately new (though long-deserved) achievement for the group.

5. Now that BTS has officially blown all the way up on the Hot 100, give a shoutout to another song with an explosive title that you would’ve liked to see get to No. 1.  

Gab Ginsberg: Kesha’s “Blow” deserved more than its No. 7 peak!

Lyndsey Havens: Eve and Gwen Stefani’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” which stalled at No. 2 in 2001. Although… it’s pretty hard to be mad at Alicia Keys’ chart-topping “Fallin,'” which kept it out.

Jason Lipshutz: Dutch Eurodance stars Vengaboys scored a top 40 hit in 1998 with “We Like To Party (The Vengabus),” but the superior, pyrotechnically titled “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” only peaked at No. 84 on the Hot 100. It should have exploded four times bigger!

Joe Lynch: Michael Franks’ 1976 song “Eggplant” is nice, but I’d have to go OutKast’s “B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad),” which a lot of people forget was the lead single on Stankonia. It’s a searing, breathtaking piece of art that was wildly ahead of its time.

Andrew Unterberger: Well someone’s gotta rep for the original wedding classic “Dynamite” — Taio Cruz’s ten-year-old smash of the same name, which somehow stalled at No. 2 on the Hot 100 even though they were basically teaching it in social studies classes by the time its period of 2010 radio dominance was over.