BTS are a phenomenon, there's no doubting that.
The K-Pop icons have risen to each challenge, shattered each barrier to build a chart-scaling International reputation.
The hits are almost too many to mention. Combining hip-hop with pop and hyper-modern electronic production, BTS have built a singular catalogue, one adored by fans on each continent.
This weekend BTS celebrate their eighth anniversary with a special live stream event, taking place on June 13th and 14th.
It's an apt moment, then, to look back - so we've decided to piece together our favourite BTS songs, encompassing each era of this multi-faceted group.
A primer for newcomers and a walk down memory lane for ARMY, you can dive in below.
'Blood Sweat & Tears'
Spearheading a pivotal era for the group, 2016’s 'Blood Sweat & Tears' is BTS’s unique spin on tropical house and moombahton. Hauntingly epic, yet effortlessly bright, it’s a song that withstands the test of time and sounds like nothing else until today.
A meticulous production highlights both BTS’s skilled rappers and vocalists, allowing them a spacious, spicy soundscape to thrive. As they tell a tale of innocence lost and temptation, Jimin’s delivery is particularly poignant, as well as Suga’s resignation spilling over his verses. The MV contributes another layer of meaning to the song, and it’s worth a watch for its sumptuous sets and plentiful symbolism.
Inspired by Herman Hesse’s coming of age novel, Demian, it also features references to art, literature, philosophy, religion, and BTS’s own intricate lore. 'Blood Sweat & Tears' is a magnificent piece that stretches the limits of pop music, and then some.
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Don’t be fooled by the happy, stroll-in-the-park instrumental — 'Pied Piper' has one of BTS’s most incendiary messages. This song is a warning to ARMY who lose sight of reality and spend too much time on BTS, rather than focusing on their own lives first. It’s a rare occasion of a group calling out their passionate fans, but highly relevant given how easy it is to go from health support to brainwashed behavior towards a band.
Alluding to the German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, BTS’s rap line acts as the voice of reason (“You have so many pictures of me in your room anyway / It's not just one hour, it's a whole year that'll disappear”), while the vocal line doubles down on airy falsettos that bait the listener further into temptation (“I'm here to save you, I'm here to ruin you / You called me, see? I'm so sweet”).
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'House of Cards (Full Length Edition)'
Originally the outro track to 2015’s EP 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt.2', 'House Of Cards' earned a full version in the following year’s compilation album, 'The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever'. A dark, jazzy instrumental sets the tone to this vocal line (Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, and V) ballad about a relationship that will crumble sooner than later — just like a house of cards.
Sadness, despair, resignation, and a flimsy flick of hope wash over their voices as they beg for a lover to “slow down the time” and “stay for a little more.” The stabbing bassline and the orchestral highs and lows of this song paint a picture that is as aching as unforgettable.
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'I Need U'
The track that gave BTS their first music show win in South Korea, it marked the group’s evolution towards a more diverse, pop sound and the introduction of BTS’s cinematic narrative, known as Bangtan Universe (BU). In the MV, the members enact a coming of age story allegedly inspired by Alan Garner’s novel The Owl Service, and depict experiences of love, friendship, loss, violence, and more.
Released in 2015, this vital BTS track thrives on a wistful atmosphere of electronic synths and emotional hooks. They yearn for a doomed relationship — “I need you, girl / Why do you love me and leave me all by yourself? / I need you, girl / Why do I need you when I know it hurts me?” goes the chorus — and take the listener on a journey that is both exhilarating and moving.
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In 2016, BTS completed their youth-focused HYYH era with 'The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever' and of its three singles 'Fire' is simultaneously heartfelt, comforting and explosive, capturing the frustration of a young life not yet fulfilled where others seem to be succeeding.
“Throw your hands up, scream, burn it up,” Jimin sings in Korean, as synths and bass shudder faster behind him into a balled fist of sound. Suga speaks his deadpan '불타오르네 (burning up)' into the brief silence before you’re plunged into one of the noisiest, hands-in-the-air choruses of BTS’s career.
Sonic trends have come and gone since, but the EDM throwdown of 'Fire' hasn’t lost an iota of its ability to make the pulse race.
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'Let Me Know'
With space to muse, rappers j-hope, Suga and RM meticulously unpack a broken romance, struggling between cool rationale (“If there are hellos, then there's bound to be goodbyes,” reasons j-hope) and the emotional confusion of their loss.
Amongst the bittersweet choruses and ebbing instrumental, BTS seek closure - “My lingering feelings are trying to withstand the end, so please tell me something. Girl, let me know,” begs Jungkook. Sans answers, their brittle pain winds unresolved through the song like a reddened line but 'Let Me Know' is all the better for it, a razor-sharp yet vulnerable take on a familiar subject matter.
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'Singularity', V’s (Kim Taehyung) solo on 'Love Yourself: Tear', is that moment of finding harsh clarity within a relationship, when the rose-tinted glasses are dashed to the floor. He’s accompanied by subtle, bluesy keys and guitar, whose intermittent appearances underscore the lyrics like canny inner voices, but most striking are Taehyung’s tonal shifts (from resigned to arch, breathy to full-bodied), the dark sophistication of his timbre, and own backing vocals, which shiver with vibrato.
In keeping with its title, this sultry, seductive neo-soul sound is one they haven’t replicated since, making 'Singularity' a rare jewel in BTS’ gem-studded crown.
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For non-Korean speakers, this is one of BTS’s finest Trojan horses, drawing fans to its sensual choreography, languorous electric guitar, and a pulsing, layered chorus only to uncover a lyrical ode to raw ambition.
From the outset BTS have vocalised the fears and anger of young people faced with daunting academic pressure, who are told to strive for goals set for them at the expense of their own dreams. 'Tomorrow' acknowledges the setbacks of breaking free to pursue what you love, encourages the tired to rest but never give up and, perhaps more importantly, never forget your roots, a life motto that’s helped BTS become the superstars they are today.
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'Dynamite' is the track that made BTS rise to an even higher level of fame, as their most popular English song. It helped attract an even larger audience, including people outside the BTS ARMY (their fandom), partially due to the song being used on Samsung adverts.
The track is one of those catchy, feel-good songs that scream summer, from the toe-tapping bass to the earworm of a chorus. It really shows the groups talent to be able to perform an entire song that’s not in their native language, whilst still providing outstanding vocals and choreography. 'Dynamite' exposes yet another layer to BTS and what they can do with their music, with obvious 70s disco inspiration that comes through both the sound and the styling of the music video.
The 70s-esque vibe perfectly complements the K-Pop sound that has become synonymous with the group, creating something that’s fresh and exciting but still BTS, just in a new era of their career.
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A love song with a difference, 'Save Me' is a mix of longing, rap, and iconic EDM breaks. The track is multifaceted, on one hand you have Jimin kicking off the song with melancholic vocals, then rap segments by RM, J-Hope, and Suga, all spliced with an electronic dance beat that was peak 2016.
What stands out the most on this track is not only that again it highlights how diverse in sound and style BTS as a collective are, but also the insane choreography they do. 'Save Me' is a track that puts all of BTS’ strengths on a platter, whilst also conveying the heartache that is carried out in the lyrics. There are not many songs that can have such a contrast of making you feel forlorn, whilst also wanting to get up and dance.
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'Trivia 承: Love'
Showing the sensitive and romantic side of BTS’ sound is 'Trivia 承: Love', a track by solely RM on compilation album 'Love Yourself: Answer'.
The production of this track is nothing less than stunning, with the brass instruments in the outro especially adding extra drops of soul and passion. The combination of the piano and harmonised vocals at the start triggers nostalgia of a new romance, something that will bring back bright and hopeful memories for most. 'Trivia 承: Love' allows space for RM to showcase his individual talents, that are a staple within the group.
As RM is known predominately for his rapping it’s special to hear the smooth and buttery harmonies that are in "Trivia 承: Love". The production and layering of the vocals are out of this world, especially when you remember that it’s just RM not the whole group. In general, the track so perfectly embodies the feeling of being in love, the excitement, the pondering, and the butterflies in your stomach.
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The fun, upbeat soundscape of 'Anpanman' from 2018’s 'Love Yourself: Tear' belies a deeply empowering message that reminds people that there is more than one kind of strength. Inspired a popular Japanese cartoon character and red bean bread hero of the same name.
Anpanman is a red bean bread man and the world’s weakest hero, but having no superpowers doesn’t stop Anpanman from helping those in need and feeding the hungry by giving people pieces of his face made of red bean bread. In the track, BTS compare themselves to Anpanman- encouraging people to find strength in weakness- letting it be known that what they desire most is giving people hope through their music.
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One of the band’s most emotional offerings to date, 'Spring Day' from 'You Never Walk Alone', is a poetic exploration of friendships lost to the passage of time and the longing to rekindle it. The track begins with aching nostalgia which turns hopeful reflected in the analogy of changing seasons as sadness follows happiness follows sadness in an endless loop that is life. With sentimental lyricism and wintery imagery complementing the delicate melancholy of its production, elevated by a showcase of goosebump-inducing vocals.
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BTS goes hard on 'MIC Drop' from 'Love Yourself : Her', where they lean strongly into the old-school hip-hop vibes that they debuted with.
With an explosive beat- tinged with distorted electric guitar-that provides a launch pad for their nuanced lyricism delves into their own popularity and the long fight to stand out from the rest. Looking back at everything they’ve achieved through talent and hard work; the track is self-empowering anthem that everyone needs in their moments of self-doubt.
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'Boyz With Fun'
In 2015, on the cusp of their journey to becoming the biggest band in the world, BTS was beginning to experiment with more mellow soundscapes. However, 'Boyz With Fun' was proof that they could churn out high-energy tracks without taking themselves too seriously.
One of the early career highlights, the track sees the septet trading rap and vocal melodies with ease, made even more charming by the semi- improvisational bridge which showcased the band’s ability to abandon polished musicality for a bit of fun.
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'Boy With Luv' (feat. Halsey)
A collaboration with US star Halsey, on release ‘Boy With Luv’ became BTS’ most successful song to date stateside, even temporarily holding the record for most views on a YouTube video in a twenty-four hour span
. It’s easy to tell why: the sugary instrumental sprinkled with the individual members’ versatile contributions is an easy recipe for a hit, with Halsey’s cries of ‘Oh my my my’ during the chorus acting as the icing on the cake. The music video is classic BTS as well, with the group’s dancing in a diner being a particular highlight, and a drive through a pink-purple cityscape with Halsey as another. SUGA’s and RM’s rap verses prove once again that the group is astonishingly multi-faceted, each member contributing significantly on different levels.
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BTS’ most recent hit is ‘Butter’, further proof that anything the group touches is set to succeed.
The opening drums oddly resemble those found at the beginning of ‘Closer’ by Nine Inch Nails, but ‘Butter’ diverts completely south of that course, becoming a perfect summer banger with influence from 80s pop and other synth-based pop. The track is also entirely in English, the same as previous single ‘Dynamite’, with the joint-verse from SUGA and RM acting as a highlight.
Lines like "Ain't no other/That can sweep you up like a robber" from Jin are very quotable as well, making the track an easy TikTok hit. It’s their third song to debut at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it’s hard to see what could top it given its perfection as the song of the summer.
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