BTS continue to push where no K-pop act has gone before with a debut in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart.
The seven-member group’s new album, Love Yourself: Her, debuts at No. 7 with 31,000 equivalent album units earned in the week ending Sept. 21, according to Nielsen Music. Of that sum, 18,000 were in traditional album sales. The Billboard 200 chart ranks the most popular albums of the week in the U.S. based on multi-metric consumption, which includes traditional album sales, track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA). The new Oct. 7-dated chart (where Foo Fighters‘ Concrete and Gold debuts at No. 1) will be posted in full on Billboard‘s websites Tuesday (Sept. 26). The rest of Love Yourself: Her‘s starting unit sum was comprised of just less than 4,000 TEA units, and a little under 10,000 SEA units.
BTS earns both the highest-charting album ever on the Billboard 200 by a K-pop act, and the genre’s biggest sales week. The group beats its own record, as the act’s 2016 album, Wings, was previously both the highest-charting K-pop album (debut and peak at No. 26 on the Oct. 29, 2016-dated list) and owner of the biggest sales week for a K-pop title (11,000 copies sold in its debut frame — all from digital albums). Notably, Wings and Love Yourself: Her are the only K-pop albums that have charted in the top 40.
Since the release of Wings, BTS’ popularity has grown tremendously in the U.S., so it’s not a huge surprise to see the robust sales figure for the new album. For example, the act debuted at No. 1 on the Social 50 chart the same week that Wings entered the Billboard 200. (The Social 50 chart measures the most popular artists on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wikipedia and Tumblr.)
Since hitting No. 1, BTS has racked up 40 nonconsecutive weeks atop the list. The group’s extraordinary popularity on social networks (and very active fanbase online) led to its first Billboard Music Award win for Top Social Artist back in May.
Also helping the sales cause, the new album is distributed by Sony’s independent distribution arm, The Orchard. It’s the first time an album by BTS has American distribution, as the group’s previous releases were issued through U.S. digital retailers independently by the group’s South Korean label, Big Hit Entertainment. While Love Yourself: Her is currently only available as a digital album in the U.S., a physical CD release is forthcoming.
Lastly, BTS’ online fan army mobilized in high volume during street week in order to get the word out about the album. The passionate fandom was very focused on achieving high chart placement, as fan-run social media accounts helped fellow BTS fans understand how Billboard‘s charts are compiled, and how sales and streams impact the Billboard 200 during an album’s first week, and so forth. (Some fans even went so far as to gift the album to friends via Apple’s iTunes Store in order to spread the word. However, sales of any specific album purchased on iTunes and gifted to another are not reported to Nielsen Music by Apple, and thus, do not count on Billboard‘s charts.)
BTS further its lead as the K-pop act with the most entries on the Billboard 200, growing to five entries following 2017’s You Never Walk Alone (a deluxe repackaged version of Wings that peaked at No. 76), 2016’s Wings (No. 26) and The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (a compilation album that peaked at No. 107), plus 2015’s The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2 (No. 171). The only other K-pop acts to have multiple entries on the Billboard 200 are solo star G-Dragon (who has three), along with male acts BIGBANG and EXO (with two each).
The album itself puts BTS in a position for a larger global domination while still remaining true to the band’s original messages. Of course, the guys deliver the emotionally driven electro-pop/hip-hop hybrids they’re famous for with single “DNA” (featuring the most seismic synthesizers of the band’s career mixed with an powerfully addictive whistle hook) along with the tender melancholy dripping from “Best of Me” (featuring production from The Chainsmokers‘ Andrew Taggart for the band’s most attractive appeal to Western audiences to date). Yet the record gets even more complex and has larger messages that honor the band’s dedication larger, social issues. The theme is set from the beginning with the use of gender-neutral pronouns in opening track “Intro: Serendipity” to a discussion of youth hopelessness in “Go Go,” along with a playful-yet-eye-opening examination of the very fan culture that have made them such international sensations in “Pied Piper.” If the accessible sounds alongside vocal and rap deliveries initially hook listeners, the thought-provoking messages in the lyrics and themes will keep fans thinking and listening over and over.
While BTS landing in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 is an accomplishment in and of itself, if the band can simultaneously score an entry on the Hot 100, it will make them only the second K-pop act to land a Korean-language song on the singles chart. To date, only PSY, Wonder Girls and CL have landed songs on the ranking, with the latter two’s entries in English. BTS’ “Spring Day” debuted at No. 15 on Billboard‘s Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart earlier this year, the closest Korean-language song to make it onto the Hot 100 until Blackpink‘s “As If It’s Your Last” hit No. 13 this summer.