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Before BTS took over the world, they were just seven boys trying to make it through the nitty-gritty competition of South Korea’s brutal music industry, one Mnet stage at a time. Fast forward seven years to November 2020, and BTS, a.k.a. the Bangtan Boys, are back by popular demand with “BE,” an album they performed for the first time on the American Music Awards show. In honor of this latest release, take a walk down memory lane of the comebacks — a K-Pop term for album releases and their promotional cycles — that made BTS the global idols they are today.
15) “O!RUL8,2?” (2013)
2013 saw not one, but two of the most impassioned comebacks by fetus BTS, preaching about both the disillusionment and oppression of the teenage spirit. Angsty teenage Korean rap might not be your cup of tea, but the immense chaotic energy in “Attack on Bangtan” was definitely one for the books.
14) “Dark & Wild” (2014)
Their first official Korean studio album sees the Bangtan boys suffer from broken heart syndrome while they rage to a questionable synergy of punk rock and hip-hop. Sporting edgy leather and a whole lot of smoky-eye, the boys toughened up from their school days in "Danger" and "War of Hormone.”
13) “2 Cool 4 Skool” (2013)
Ah, the glorious debut. BTS came locked and loaded with what their label, BigHit Entertainment, called a “fresh take on ‘90s hip hop,” releasing hits “No More Dream” and "We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2.” An unfortunate perm and metallic muzzle masks galore made for some guaranteed faux pas. But it’s alright; there’s loads of drive and determination in those rookie eyes — along with an obscene amount of eyeliner, of course.
12) “Dynamite” (2020)
In a last attempt to bring joy to a positively dreadful year, Bangtan’s most recent English digital single “Dynamite” set off fireworks. To no one’s surprise, the track shattered all previous records with two continuous weeks atop the Billboard 100. But let’s be honest here: Seeing the boys eat ice cream in ‘70s getup made us happier than any American awards institution ever could.
11) “Love Yourself: Answer” (2018)
Only an album this ambitious could foster a whole conspiracy around band member JK’s cough. With "IDOL" serving as this compilation album’s lead single, the answer to the search for true love is finally revealed: “Loving yourself is true love.” This record, with guest appearances by Steve Aoki and Nicki Minaj, shot straight to the top of Billboard’s 200, although the netizen reception was subpar at best. One could say this one had BTS fans, otherwise known as ARMYs, “feeling just fine, fine, fine.”
10) “Map of the Soul: 7” (2020)
If the launch of global interactive art project CONNECT didn’t blow you away, worry not — MOTS: 7 includes plenty of fine artistic talent. The “Black Swan” music video attests to that, from its poetic backdrop to its accompanying “art film” choreography featuring the world-class MN dance company. Professional dancers or not, the Kinetic Manifesto “ON” had everyone drumming away in front of their mirrors all day long.
9) “Love Yourself: Tear” (2018)
2017 was a wildly successful year for the boys’ careers. It was knocked out of the ballpark, however, by the release of this record. "FAKE LOVE" smashed records abroad, and a little closer to home, the 2018 MAMAs “Anpanman” performance had lightstick ARMY Bombs glowing unapologetically bright in Japan. This album’s duality was strikingly effective; while romantic guitar riffs in “Airplane pt.2” paid homage to the global luxury lifestyle, “Magic Shop” illuminated a whole galaxy full of self-love.
8) “You Never Walk Alone” (2017)
A repackage of its predecessor, “Wings” included the addition of high-intensity bops “Not Today” and “Outro: Wings,” energizing concert performances and making this tour truly game-changing. This release also featured record-smashing track "Spring Day," which continued to chart for weeks after its release. It remains the “queen” of all BTS songs to this day, holding a special place in ARMYs’ hearts and meme pages.
7) “Map of the Soul: Persona” (2019)
“Who the hell am I?” questions RM in the “Intro: Persona” track, confronting the fame that had spread Bangtan around the world like wildfire. This mini album strives to answer that question as genuinely and authentically as possible while BTS breaches the mainstream. In the meantime, “Make It Right,” and leading single “Boy With Luv (Feat. Halsey)” open our hearts to a concept full of pink and bubbly infatuation.
6) “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt.1” (2015)
Not only did it offer heavenly visuals, this mini album also broke our hearts with the ugly beauty of young adulthood. Sure, both "DOPE" and “Boyz with Fun” had us on our feet, but "I NEED U" just hits different, as it were, with its soft vulnerability — a perfect representation of the dramatic fluidity of spontaneous youth.
5) “Love Yourself: Her” (2017)
Every career has that turning point — a clear pivotal moment that separates the before from the after. In one of their most ambitious works to date, the release of “LY: Her” turned BTS into a worldwide sensation with the hit song "DNA." Ranging from the laid-back quirky visuals in "Go Go" to the deadly Dior fits in “MIC Drop,” this EP offered a take on what being both goofy and hip looks like.
There is no doubt that this one will stay young forever in our hearts. A compilation of its prequels along with the addition of new hits like "FIRE" and "Save ME," this album closed out the final chapter on the theme of youth with timeless concepts and breathtaking video clips. Echoing the generation who rebels and propels, it offered ARMYs both young and younger a satisfying end to a beautiful storyline.
3) “Wings” (2016)
Like angels sprouting wings both dark and light, BTS tackled their second Korean studio album while battling with bliss and temptation. The featured lead single "Blood Sweat & Tears" serenaded its way to the top of Gaon Digital Chart and secured the boys their first Artist of the Year Daesang at MAMAs. “21st Century Girl” and “Am I Wrong” also wrestled with themes of unrequited love, while solos like “BTS Cypher 4” ruthlessly called us out on our “LIE”s.
2) “Skool Luv Affair” (2014)
There is a reason “Boy In Luv” was performed at the 2019 MMAs — and will continue to be performed for many years to come. The final part of the school trilogy, this mini album topped the Gaon Charts with singles like "Just One Day" and “Tomorrow.” This was also BTS’s first appearance on the Billboard World Albums chart just one year after their debut. All the hype makes sense when you recall the absolute bops “Spine Breaker” and “JUMP.” “Say what you want,” but this album will never cease to shake ARMYs’ hearts.
1) “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2” (2015)
And the 2020 Crimson ArtsRank Daesang goes to… you guessed it: the most beautiful album in BTS’s discography. With the addition of classics like “Outro : House of Cards,” "RUN," and “Butterfly,” the lyrical theme of youth extends flawlessly into a direct confrontation with new fears and insecurities. This concept blends beautifully into the music videos that would span the era of this trilogy, highlighting all of the resolve and hope in the hearts of this generation. This was also the EP that set the boys along a path of international recognition. For the first time in their careers, BTS topped the Billboard Top Heatseekers and World Albums charts for four weeks, the most by a South Korean act at the time. One look at the producing and songwriting credits on this record also shows immense personal growth by the bandmates as musicians. Not only did ARMYs get to witness the improvement of Bangtan as a group, they also saw the boys flourish as individuals, too.
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