Your Seven Song Guide To BTS, The Biggest Band In The World
You'll be a BTS fan in no time.
There is no bigger band in the world right now than BTS.
For all these endless complaints that the music industry is dying, there’s BTS — selling out global tours time and time again; breaking international records for album sales; and inspiring a legion of the most committed and involved fans on the internet.
The group are proof, if any was needed, that the advent of streaming hasn’t broken anything. It’s just changed it, ever so slightly. Rockstars still exist. And right now there are no bigger rockstars than BTS.
Despite that, the band haven’t always been treated fairly in the media. Journalists tend to fixate on surface-level elements of the act: their large fanbase, their surprising success in the West. That means those who are looking to get into the band often have a hard time cracking below the surface of misleading and shallow press.
Which is a shame. Because aside from everything else, BTS are currently making some of the boundary-pushing and fascinating pop in the world. It’s just hard to know where to start if you’re a newcomer.
To that end, here are seven BTS hits that’ll turn you into a megafan in no time.
‘I Need U’
BTS first formed in 2010, but it wasn’t until the middle of the decade that the band began their truly meteoric ascent. The start of that global takeover? ‘I Need U’, the single from their third EP, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1.
Upbeat and glittering, the song bursts with all of the things that makes the band special — a sense of joy, invention, and life. It starts big and only gets bigger. It’ll overwhelm you.
‘Fire’ sometimes gets overlooked by the mainstream, and it’s not hard to see why — the track was recorded as part of a compilation album dropped in 2016, designed to cement the band’s nascent successes.
But just because it’s under-discussed, doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant. Probably the most antic track of their career’s first half, the bristling single combines electro and hip hop stylings into a glittering soup. It’s unbelievable.
‘Blood Sweat & Tears’
You can’t tell the story of BTS without discussing ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’, the group’s first number one domestic single. In many ways, it established the BTS formula — it’s big and bombastic, but it’s also full of beauty and heart. No other single has so clearly and obviously announced the arrival of a major talent.
‘MIC Drop’ (Feat. Desiigner) [Steve Aoki Remix]
By 2017, BTS were beginning to consolidate their position internationally. It had been clear to the band’s global fanbase that BTS weren’t just a South Korean phenomenon for some time, but it was really with ‘MIC Drop’ and its Steve Aoki remix that the mainstream were forced to sit up and pay attention.
Not that the band ‘sold out’ — far from it. In fact, they never have. No matter what audience they’re performing to, BTS have always remained true to their trademark baroque flourishes. ‘MIC Drop’ is proof of that.
Love Yourself: Tear is the third Korean studio album from BTS, but probably the best full-length to start with for new listeners. It’s just so cohesive, a fully-fledged work of pop auterism that’s as bright as a handful of diamonds and as sweet as a metric-tonne of honey.
The whole thing’s a masterpiece, but ‘Fake Love’ might be the best thing on it. Probably the darkest song in the BTS back-catalogue, it’s this swirling, arch work of despair. Heartbreak’s never sounded quite like this.
‘Boy With Luv’ (Feat. Halsey)
Halsey and BTS joining forces always felt like something of an eventuality. After all, the Manic-singer owes her career to her love of boybands, and she shares the sense of colour and experimentation with the South Korean group.
‘Boy With Luv’, their collaboration, is all about that unity. An impossibly streamlined pop mosaic, it sees the two acts trading verses with the skill you’d expect from the end of a decades-long partnership, not their very first song together.
‘Make It Right’
‘Make It Right’ is something of a throwback — not only does its title appear to refer to a monologue from the band’s ‘Love Yourself’ era, but it also draws heavily from the R&B tradition of the early two thousands.
Not that this is a band doubling back on itself, mind you. It’s retro, but it’s not reductive. Instead, it proves BTS’ uncanny knack for regeneration — their ability to trawl over their past and make it new again.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee. Follow him on Twitter.
Lead image credit: Wikimedia Commons.