It’s hard to imagine that you haven’t, even in a small way, been witness to the way BTS is taking over stateside. The seven-member boy group from South Korea have rapidly become household names, and whether it’s to report a change in hair color or to dissect how a K-Pop act has finally managed to break the American market, everyone is talking about Bangtan Sonyeondan.
Debuting in 2013, the rappers and vocalists of BTS have honed their genre-hopping music and jaw-dropping choreography into million-selling releases, and the world at large is finally realizing what their devoted fandom, ARMY, has known for years — that BTS are one of a kind. 2017 has proven to be a rollercoaster ride for RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook, so we break down ten important moments that defined their full throttle ascent to U.S. pop culture domination.
The WINGS US Tour
To borrow an iconic line from Jaws… “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Except there wasn’t a bigger boat, or venue, to house the thousands of fans who missed a ticket for the sold out March/April WINGS USA dates. At this point, the group had done barely any American press yet, but still had to add dates in both New Jersey and Los Angeles. They played five shows to a total of 60,000 ARMYs, and one of the most touching moments came as RM, performing his solo, “Reflection”, came to the repeated lyrics of “I wish I could love myself”, to which entire arenas chanted back “we love you!”. On a lighter note, we hope your retinas survived the show because when BTS do glitter jackets, you better believe they have a “go big or go home” approach to the spangly stuff.
Their Mounting Social Engagement
These days it seems like Twitter’s analytics sob whenever BTS tweet because, as evidenced by Jin comparing his wonky birthday candle to his even wonkier finger, they get wild levels of engagement. This didn’t happen by chance — since starting their account on December 17, 2012, they’ve posted nearly 10,400 times, constantly reaching out to share selfies, videos, music and heartfelt messages with their fans. Of course, some members (hi, Jimin) are more active than others, but this year they’ve taken the crown as most tweeted about celebrity and broken the record for most Twitter engagements (an eye-watering 252,231 per tweet), and absolutely no one is surprised.
Congrats to @BTS_twt on a stellar performance at last night's @AMAs! 🌟#DYK? The South Korean band has succeeded in earning a spot in this year's #GWR2018 edition for having the world's most @Twitter engagements for a music group! 🎵🇰🇷 #BTSxAMAs https://t.co/8kRrByat80 pic.twitter.com/u9mXcPVWDP
— GuinnessWorldRecords (@GWR) November 20, 2017
Their Billboard Awards Appearance
Given the social power BTS wield, their landslide win for Best Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards was expected. The ceremony itself was also a propulsive career moment for BTS and one they absolutely owned, working the magenta carpet. Yet while everyone else freaked out over BTS, Suga was busy having his own fan moment as he encountered Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj on his way to the bathroom and RM, unbeknownst to the fandom at the time, sneakily revealed the name of the next album series in their acceptance speech, earning a priceless reaction out of Jungkook.
K-Pop, and BTS, is a goldmine for memes and gifs. Jin, otherwise known as Third Guy From The Left or #MrWorldwideHandsome, went viralmore than once during their BBMA and AMA red carpet walks. His weapons are flying kisses and dad jokes and if you get both, it’s RIP, baby. Of course, he’s not alone in being ultimately shareable; in the early years, Jungkook was bestowed with the title of “Jungshook” thanks to his shocked expressions. RM’s multilingual skills were rinsed in dealing with the media, so when it came time for the others to do their bit, he wasn’t letting them off easy. On the Ellen Show Taehyung became the newest tea meme, Suga and J-Hope provided the burn of long-lasting sass during an interview when RM said they weren’t great at English, while Jimin used 2017 to continue his noble crusade towards whiplash and even more heartbreaking hair flips. And yes, that’s a thing.
All Those Extra Online Shows
The boys stay permanently stay fresh in ARMY’s hearts and minds with a string of online shows, from the behind the scenes ‘Bangtan Bombs’ and ‘Episodes’, to their program Run BTS!. It’s an unending fountain of content but some older cuts remain must-sees for new fans, like J-Hope’s patience being destroyed by V and Jimin. Nevertheless, this year BTS headed for Hawaii in a second season of the adventurous “Bon Voyage” (where Jungkook’s tan spawned a photo so bad-good that even his bandmates got in on it), and chalked up 21 episodes of Run BTS!where they outwit zombies, create their own skits and compete against each other, sometimes with hysterical results, like on the Snow Park sleds where everyone got nowhere at all. Warning: once you start watching, that’s it. You’re hooked.
The Repackage of Love Yourself 承 Her
ARMY didn’t have long to wait after February’s repackaging of 2016’s WINGS album. BTS’s fifth EP, released in September, had one foot in their signature pop-hip hop sound and the other in their future. Its lead single, “DNA”, personified that forward shift best with its acoustic guitar and jerky EDM. Anyone questioning BTS’s U.S sales potential were treated to the sight of “Her” debuting at #7 on the Billboard Hot 200, while “DNA” scrambled up the Hot 100 to #67, the highest position ever achieved by a K-Pop group at that time. Following the release of second single “MIC Drop” in late November, “Her” returned to the charts, going from #198 to #50 in the space of one week, effectively silencing the cynics.
The fan chants were so loud at November’s AMAs for BTS’s triumphant first televised U.S performance of “DNA” that it pretty much rocked the entire theater. And as professional Bangtan fanboy, actor Ansel Elgort, filmed with a grin looped around each ear, America was busy smashing ‘who is BTS?’ into their phones. On the red carpet, American artists, like Khalid, professed the desire to collaborate, while Zedd has since responded to BTS’s own interest in teaming up with a resounding “Let’s do it”. Amusingly, such was the huge reaction from the AMAs, that when Charlie Puth — whom Jungkook has shouted out so many times it’s become a fan in-joke — finally came knocking, he had to publicly holler on Twitter for their attention.
When They Smashed the American Interview Circuit
With only one fluent English speaker in the group, you could see the nerves kick in during May’s all-important press run, with RM navigating most of the questions. But as the most extra fandom ever, ARMY compiled the expressions and reactions of the other members into cute videos. That said, BTS returned, far more relaxed, for press around the AMAs, but now the presenters were the jittery ones. BTS breezed through the interviews, amused themselves through other appearances ones, and slayed the big talk shows by being their usual charming selves. But even though Jimmy Kimmel, James Corden and Ellen now have being whipped for BTS in common, more importantly the group performed during those appearances. As RM says, music transcends language and, consequently, even more of America is now falling for their polished but impassioned sound and killer choreography.
When the International ARMY Banded Together
We could talk all day about RM’s patience, Jin’s warmth, Jimin’s sweetness, Jungkook’s fearlessness, J-Hope’s positivity, V’s adorable randomness and Suga’s wickedly dark sense of humor but, for a moment, we look to their oceans of fans. Well, this slot is yours, ARMY, because this year you went hard. For the all-nighters of tweeting votes and streaming videos, for the translation teams tirelessly subbing videos and retyping interviews, the fans sending flowers as thanks to radio DJs, the teams who painstakingly researched how American radio worked to ensure ARMYs in every state knew how to push for BTS, and the longtime social accounts who meticulously collate everything and rally fans towards each record-breaking accomplishment. It’s no wonder Jimin wears you around his neck.
When They Scored Several High-Profile Collaborations
Back in 2014, BTS filmed one of their Bomb videos and executed some excellent moves to The Chainsmokers’ “Let Me Take A Selfie”. If you’d told them that three years later The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart would be working with them on the exultant “Best Of Me”, they might have broken the hotel beds they were bouncing from pure excitement. The partnerships didn’t stop there; handing “MIC Drop” (a fan favorite from “Her”) over to Steve Aoki and Desiigner resulted in a take-no-prisoners version that broke victoriously into the US top 30, landing at #28 to make them the only K-Pop group to ever breach the chart’s upper echelons. The result exceeded RM’s wish for a top 50 hit but hit a home-run for the group’s ambitious youngest, Jungkook, who had half-jokingly set precedent in September. Frankly, the only records they’re breaking now are their own and that’s unlikely to change in 2018. It’s the perfect end to a perfect year for the reigning kings of boy bands, BTS.