100 Greatest BTS Songs
From “Dynamite” to “I Need U,” “Black Swan” to “Paldogangsan,” “Hip Hop Phile” to the Cypher series, here are the best tracks from the South Korean group’s powerful, immersive discography
Whether you’re a new fan or a seasoned ARMY, you’ll know BTS has one of the most diverse discographies on the planet. The septet have explored hip-hop, Neo-soul, jazz, rock, R&B and more in their work, refusing to be defined by a single genre and cementing themselves as one of the most artistically adventurous artists in the world. Here’s our list of their 100 Greatest Songs, ranked based on lyrics, composition, arrangement and impact on global pop culture. This list was compiled by a panel of writers and editors who are also members of the BTS ARMY.
The panel: Ambika Muttoo, Anushka Dutta, Gayatri Vemuri, Ishika Rawat, Madhu Gudi, Manasi Kamthe, Nandini Iyengar, Nikita Gupta, Riddhi Chakraborty, Ru Bhat and Ruchi Sawardekar.
(This list was created before November 2020 and therefore does not feature any tracks from BTS’ latest record BE.)
100. “War of Hormone” – 2014
A high-spirited, punk-laced track that displays the lively, youthful side of BTS; they’re waging a war of hormones in a playful yet vulnerable way. Viewed as controversial by some, the track is a realistic portrayal of teenage boys each attempting to be ‘the cool kid’ and win the girl over with their overconfident and comical swagger. The track features cocky lyrics like “Come here baby, we will do good,” followed by self-effacing ones, stating, “I want to get close to you but you are too beautiful.” “War of Hormone” is peppered with teen-centric revelations accompanied by addictive hooks.
99. “Attack On Bangtan” – 2013
This song is from their very first comeback album O!RUL8,2?, which portrayed BTS’ confidence in the fact that they would grow and rise up, together. It starts off with the line, “But what will happen if BTS rises?” and with the mostly rap-based verses that follow, they tell the listeners how they boldly strive for popularity. The aim for them, as a band, is to move forward and to not look back. Right now in 2020, this track definitely hits differently, seeing just how far the group has come.
98. “Jump” – 2014
“Jump” is a song which reminds you to embrace your ambition and to fly high towards your goals. The hip-hop arrangement and the catchy rap verses combine to give the listeners an inspiring jolt. When V sings, “You’re becoming an adult but I wanna rewind/ To the times when the 10-year-old boy sang the theme song to his favorite superhero comic,” he is reflecting on the reality of today’s youth who have forgotten their childhood, as opposed to keeping that time alive in their hearts. The song is about the listeners as much as it is about BTS.
97. “Make It Right” (Feat. Lauv) – 2019
BTS may have reached the summit, but they will never forget the people that propelled them to the top, reiterating, “My hand, trophy and a gold microphone/ All day, everywhere; But all of this is about reaching you”. This metaphorical wonder of a song stands testimony to that statement. Penned in part by Ed Sheeran and performed in collaboration with Lauv, this falsetto-laced R&B track paired with light instrumentals encapsulates emotional intimacy at its rawest. The song was widely promoted in the US on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, iHeart Radio’s Jingle Ball and in New York City’s Times Square on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest.
96. “Converse High” – 2015
The track could simply be summed up as the band fighting for the affections of one girl. Except, it packs so much more. As the sole writer of the song, RM was teased during promotions for describing his ideal girl through the lyrics. While every single member brought something significant to the table — from V’s newfound deep voice, Jung Kook and Jimin’s high-pitched harmonies to the rap line’s naughty rhymes — fans agree that Jin stole the show with the bridge. The upbeat boy-band pop axial instrumentals are addictive and complement the lyrics. The Jackson-esque choreography, performed on the M-Countdown stage, stole hearts — especially when paired with their innocent visuals.
95. “2nd Grade” – 2014
In this conversational neo-hip hop track, the group compare their second year as idols with that of being in the second grade. They’re metaphorically aligning ‘graduation exams’ to award shows, upperclassmen to senior idols and more. The tone of the song is almost rebellious, but honest; a quality that is a key factor in BTS’ initial work.
94. “Danger” – 2014
One of BTS’ more alternative hip-hop-influenced tracks, “Danger” builds up an intensity as it addresses a teenager’s angst in being the only one invested in a relationship that is on the rocks. The music video is particularly famous for featuring the powerful, alluring dance moves that BTS are known for.
93. “Reflection”- 2017
One of the most underrated RM solos, the BTS leader bares it all here, comparing life to a staged movie. The track chronicles the anxiety, depression, ambiguity and loneliness felt by everyone at some point in life, regardless of external trappings. The sombre melody lends support to RM’s subdued rap, ending on an endearingly hopeful note. The track is symbolic for fans and RM as he revealed during the ‘Love Yourself: Speak Yourself’ final show, “If I think about it, it’s the last verse of ‘Reflection’ which I released in 2016 — ‘I wish I could love myself’ — I had thought about it continuously since then. To ‘love myself’; what on earth does it mean to love myself? And so I thought because I don’t know either, wouldn’t it be good to search for it together?”
92. “Boyz With Fun” – 2015
Taking a retro approach with a modern twist, this track entails the story of, as the name suggests, youth who love to have fun. The song incorporates a boyish charm and pleasing elements like smooth, free-flowing transitions between rap and vocal parts. Displaying bright instrumentals, a catchy chant-along hook, nostalgia for Eighties funk hip-hop and a charming dance performance, the tune is bound to get you grooving.
91. “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone” – 2017
In this slow-paced R&B track, BTS proclaim their love for the fans that have stayed by their side, all these years. j-hope’s lines, “Your hands become my wings/ I want to forget the dark and lonely things/ together with you,” right before his powerful verse, confirms just that.
90. “Outro: Her” – 2017
Written by RM, SUGA, j-hope and Slow Rabbit (a writer, producer and composer who has been with BTS since their debut,) “Her” provides raw insight into the changing visages of a person who is in the throes of love. The rappers taking on vocals and whispery adlibs give the song a unique sound in comparison to BTS’ spit-fire hip-hop approach, and enhances the jazzy soundtrack.
89. “So What” – 2018
This EDM track is all about shedding worries and following your heart. With lyrics that go like, “Somebody call me right one/ Somebody call me wrong, I’m not gonna care about it/ Why don’t you do so as well?” the members speak of ignoring people who constantly judge you on your actions. RM also throws in a lyrical reference to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s 1988 hip-hop classic “It Takes Two,” bonus points if you catch it!
88. “Intro: Skool Luv Affair” – 2014
“Intro: Skool Luv Affair” serves as an introduction to what unfolds in the album. Performed by SUGA, j-hope and RM, the rap song is a journey that begins at first love, moves to the hopeful notions of finding true love and finally, ends at being vulnerable or hurt by passionate love. The beats move from smooth to fast-paced, mirroring the progression of the lyrics. There’s conversation, old school jazzy hip-hop and a whole lot of confidence.
87. “Best Of Me” – 2017
Featured in Love Yourself: Her, “Best Of Me” was co-written by Andrew Taggart of The Chainsmokers and BTS’ rap line. It’s an energetic dance track that combines the approaches of both artists. This being the first collaboration for the band with an American artist on an album track also makes it an integral career point for both BTS and The Chainsmokers.
86. “2!3!” – 2016
“Wishing for better days,” the group sing in the emotionally charged chorus of this melodic fan song. An overview of the ‘BTS and ARMY’ life, this track not only bears a message of hope but relishes the pain and struggles the group went through to get this far. The Big Hit team of Pdogg, Slow Rabbit and Hitman Bang have contributed to writing the lyrics of this song along with BTS’ rap line.
85. “Outro: Circle Room Cypher” – 2014
The candor on this track takes us behind the veil of BTS’ idol careers. The core lies in the after school banter of seven close friends. While SUGA, RM and j-hope show off their prodigious wordplay, the vocal line does an equally impressive job, with Jimin concluding on a very comically endearing, memorable note. The emotions are organic and the inherent personalities of BTS come through beautifully on this, especially in the conversation in the first few seconds
84. “Could You Turn off Your Cell Phone.” – 2014
“Everyone says it’s smart, but we’re all getting dumber.” These intriguing, insightful lines are only a short peek into this diss-tinged track regarding the generational issues of social media. Written by Big Hit producer Pdogg along with the rap line, this hip-hop track has a chipper rhythm that resonates with its colloquial style.
83. “Euphoria” – 2018
With an almost soul-cleansing effect, Jung Kook sings of an overwhelming feeling of happiness and of a utopian world that we all seem to yearn for in our lives. The track is deceptively cheerful thanks to the breezy pop instrumentals, but there is an underlying desperation and sadness hidden in the lyrics, “Even if the earth crumbles/ No matter who shakes this world/ Don’t let go of my hand/ Please don’t wake me up from this dream.”
82. “Ma City” – 2015
Everyone who has shifted to a different city, always reminisces on where they came from. In “Ma City” BTS pay tribute to their hometowns and are grateful for their upbringing. “Even if you give me a hundred thousand dollars to live somewhere else/ Ah, no thanks.” This line embodies the emotions and the irreplaceable memories from their early days. With lyrics like “I’m Daegu’s pride, a new generation, a new wind/ Daegu’s past, present, and future,” the song also signifies how the success of one individual is the success of the whole town. The instrumentals jump between complex Neo funk to bouncy hip-hop.
81. “Serendipity (Full Length Edition)” – 2018
A shorter version of this song ushered in the group’s Love Yourself era and, following its popularity, this full-length edition was released in the last part of the trilogy. It has the most beautiful blend of Jimin’s velvety vocals with lyrics projecting the innocence of falling in love. The original music video featuring Jimin complements the track, unfolding like a dream that nobody wants to wake up from. The live version is equally dreamy as Jimin transports the audience into a magical world.
80. “Jamais Vu” – 2019
‘Jamais vu’ is a French phrase that means ‘never seen’ and is used to describe a scenario that seems unfamiliar even though you have been through it before. It is essentially the opposite of ‘déjà vu.’ The three-member unit comprising Jin, Jung Kook and j-hope sing about wishing their lives were a game. They blame themselves for the pain that they’re going through. Through the verses, they relate a story of how the path to success is ‘attacking’ them and they’re trying their best to fight off the negativity to get another chance at being perfect.
79. “Like (Slow Jam Remix)” – 2014
Not many know about this version of “Like” which plays like an ode to the original pop song from the album Skool Luv Affair (Special Edition.) Written by SUGA, it’s about the unfulfilled love that exists when one person has moved on and the other hasn’t. “So why am I still stuck in those times?/ Do you think of me, do you?” The slow jam version elevates the emotions of the lyrics, transforming it from a pop number to a smooth and elegant R&B classic. The fandom often considers j-hope’s breezy vocal verse an iconic moment from the rapper’s live performance discography.
78. “Moving On” – 2014
“Let’s write about moving, because we’re moving,” SUGA stated in a Vlive about this track. The simple yet personal lyrics of the song provide insight into their early dorm and trainee life. Elementary as it may seem, this track metaphorically covers the trope of ‘moving on’ to better things in life.
77. “Whalien 52” – 2015
“Whalien 52” is inspired by the 52-Hertz Whale, which is dubbed as the loneliest whale in the world because its call frequency cannot be heard by its kind. Just like the whale, who is alone despite being surrounded by other sea creatures, BTS expresses the state of a person who is isolated despite being around people. They also speak of yearning to be heard and to be noticed. Just like the whale who continues to call out, BTS express their will to sing until they are heard by everyone.
76. “Trivia: Just Dance” – 2018
This electro-pop track is one of the songs from the Love Yourself: Answer album repackage and features j-hope, who is the dance leader of the group. The song compares budding emotions of affection to dance. He raps, “In my muddy life, you were like a single stem flower,” which essentially depicts his love as a lotus that blooms even when its surroundings are murky. The live performances allow j-hope to unleash his powerful dance moves and magnetic stage presence.
75. “Go Go” – 2017
“Go Go” and it’s heavy wordplay act as a social commentary on older generations who frown upon the frivolity of young people, while being ignorant of rising inflation and unemployment that they have to combat. Interestingly, this youth anthem was written by Big Hit CEO Bang Si-Hyuk aka producer “Hitman” Bang. One might even say this bold take on society was one of the key factors in the band’s unprecedented growth. On the outset, this upbeat and fun track might seem to promote materialism, but lyrics like, “Our future is mortgaged anyway,” are a melancholic hint at the future of millennials and Gen Zs being compromised. The wordplay on the repetitive “Dallyeo” translates to, “Money, running after money and burning the midnight oil.” It encapsulates the song’s message, summed up with, “we earn the money we spend.”
74. “Respect” – 2020
The lyrics run like a dialogue between two brothers, RM and SUGA, pondering the vagueness of the concept of ‘respect.’ That, in combination with the nonchalant tone of the verses, makes this song a delight to listen to. “Respect” evokes a sense of nostalgia through its vocal arrangement and Nineties-style funk instrumentals. The track also contains clever references to BTS’ iconic 2015 track “Epilogue: Young Forever” and Agust D’s “Give It To Me”; On SUGA’s verse as he says, “money, honor, forward, forward,” it’s a callback to the “Epilogue: Young Forever” lyric “dream, hope, forward, forward” as well as the “money, honor, whatever it may bring to me,” phrase on “Give It To Me.”
73. “Stigma” – 2016
In this self-written solo neo-soul track, V expresses guilt and sings of a plea to end his suffering, with lyrics like, “Please let me be punished. Please forgive me for my sins.” His deep baritone and falsettos render a gothic feel to the song. The video narrates the story of a son (played by V) who kills his abusive father but goes through intense guilt for not being able to protect his sister. It speaks about the pain of hiding your true self and your scars from society. He also highlights stigma through lines like, “Are you calling me a sinner? What more do I have to say?”
72. “BTS Cypher Pt.2: Triptych” – 2014
One of the early showcases of the BTS rap line’s fondness for hip-hop technique. RM, SUGA and j-hope take turns ‘follow the leader’-style on a beat that jumps back and forth from old school hip-hop to more modern blends of trap and dubstep. Aside from being the first glimpse of SUGA’s infamous ‘tongue-technology,’ the nearly five-minute track is also BTS’ proclamation of standing their ground in the face of criticism, “We beat the prejudice and just doin’ my thing.”
71. “Outro: Love is Not Over” – 2016
A sweet and rich piano intro drives this track into an electro-pop chorus. It’s a song that reflects the tragic end of a sweet relationship. “Love is so painful/ Goodbyes are even more painful,” BTS sing, expressing the hurt through their vocals. It stands out from the earlier ballads by the group due to its electro bassline. This was co-written and co-composed by members Jin and Jung Kook along with other Big Hit producers.
70. “Airplane Pt.2” – 2018
“Airplane Pt.2” is considered an extension of “Airplane” from j-hope’s 2018 mixtape, Hope World. The phrase ‘El Mariachi’ is a Mexican term referring to a band of members who travel from town to town singing songs. Through this Latin-pop inspired song, the septet expresses their joy at their success and that they can sing in different parts of the world by travelling through on an airplane. Ali Tamposi, the composer of Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” co-wrote this song.
69. “Look Here” – 2014
“Look Here” is one of the most underrated tracks by BTS. It encompasses themes of jealousy, love, obsession and anger, set to funky R&B music that instantly makes you groove. With lyrics like “At first, you answered once when I texted ten times/ But later, you call me first and look for me all day,” the song moves from the nuances of a crush to a dangerous obsession when the object of the narrator’s affection does not reciprocate their feelings.
68. “Mikrokosmos” – 2019
Penned down years ago by then-14-year-old British artist Ryan Lawrie, BTS breathed life into this dreamy jingle and turned it into a love letter to the world. The group compare every human to a star, denoting great significance through, “Stars that shine brighter on darker nights.” Humanity are the stars that they look up to in search of hope.
67. “Autumn Leaves” – 2015
Produced by SUGA and Slow Rabbit, the lyrics speak of a youth that is bidding farewell. Youth is contrasted to a falling leaf and time, to autumn. SUGA in a verse says, “Those fallen leaves that look so insecure are looking at us/ If I touch your hand, even if it’s all at once it seems like it’ll all become crumbs.” He muses on time that has passed and the fact that if he tries to hold onto his youth, everything will turn to dust. It’s a grand metaphor for our time on this planet, which when gone, nothing can reverse.
66. “I’m Fine” – 2018
A declaration of self-reliance, “I’m Fine” is an EDM-driven track that displays the members’ resolve to not feel sad anymore. It’s a mirror to the group’s 2016 track “Save Me,” where they’re pleading to be saved by someone else. The track is quite fast-paced which lends a rush of euphoria. It inspires its listeners to learn to be their own saviour, right down till the very last line which ends with a hopeful reassertion of the message saying, “Even if I fall down again, I’m fine.”
65. “Hold Me Tight” – 2015
The light piano lends this song a mid-tempo drive. With its contemporary R&B and hip-hop influences, “Hold Me Tight” also has mellifluous, almost vulnerable vocals that provide an emotional space for the listener to be drawn into. However, the time-and-again appearance of the rhythmic rap verses in between is what helps the track break away from the metronome tempo, and add depth and texture. The track is an emotional plea for the listener to trust the narrator and stay together.
64. “Mama” – 2016
This track finds its roots in gospel music. Written and performed by j-hope, it’s a thank you letter to his mother for supporting his dreams of being a dancer. The rapper has always mentioned his interest in writing a song about his mother’s hardships. He also incorporated his own vivid personality into the melody, which when paired with the orchestral background instrumental, has a stunning effect—especially live.
63. “BTS Cypher 4” – 2016
The BTS rap-line has a uniquely advanced technical and lyrical skill when it comes to hip-hop. This poetic satire, dressed up as a cypher, highlights those qualities. The message is poignant and concise, “You can’t please everybody.” RM calls himself ‘samul nori’ — a Korean music genre performed by percussion instruments and gongs representing four elements of weather which need to be conquered— showcasing how he’s built to overthrow hate. Interestingly, samul nori is also performed at harvest celebrations, thus adding the connotations of becoming a stronger person who contributes to society. BTS’ message of self-love and acceptance even includes their haters with affirmations like, “I love myself/ Ya playa haters you should love yourself.” Instead of dissing their enemies, they playfully refer to them as “bae.” The savage rap line ‘thanks’ their antagonists for feeding their popularity with digs like, “I like hate comments more than no comments.” “Cypher 4” gives the rap line a platform to display their individualistic artistry, and when the three descend on stage in robes and sunglasses, you know you’re in for something spectacular.
62. “Friends” – 2020
This song is about the beauty of friendships and has meaningful lines like, “We are each other’s mystery, is that why it’s even more special?” That is just one example that embodies the deep friendship that members Jimin and V have developed over the years. As the only members of the group born in 1995, they share a special bond with each other and weren’t shy to sing about how their relationship evolved over the years, using apt metaphors such as, “Me from the moon, you from the stars.” The duet undoubtedly worked out well as Jimin’s high vocals complemented V’s baritone perfectly in this relatable and highly personal self-composed track.
61. “Idol” – 2018
This anthemic track draws its musical appeal not only from the South African musical genre Kwaito, but also from the inclusion of traditional Korean instrumentation. The message of loving oneself, the ultra-vibrant music video and highly charged dance routine only add to the elevation of this standout BTS song.
60. “Am I Wrong” -2016
This prophetic track has samples from “Am I Wrong” by American blues artist Keb’ Mo’. Here, RM questions how people don’t react strongly to the state of news and media in this day and age. His verse, “Have eyes but don’t see/ Have ears but don’t listen,” depicts the lax attitude of society. This track, with its strategic and metaphoric lyrics, also touches upon political issues in Korean society.
59. “Sea” – 2017
A hip-hop track which is composed by the leader of the septet, RM, the lyrics depict the hardship and struggle the group faced during their debut, competing with groups from larger agencies. SUGA in the track says, ”With foolish hope that tomorrow will be different before, we fell asleep/ we saw the mirage in the desert but we couldn’t grasp it.” He’s talking about the fear of global fame, as the seven members from a small agency began receiving popularity from audiences all over the world.
58. “134340” -2018
Ever since Pluto became a dwarf planet, it was given the new name ‘134340’ to represent its new status. This iconic song uses the story of Pluto losing its title as a planet as a metaphor for a relationship that has lost its spark and is now over. The lyrics, co-written by RM, SUGA and j-hope, are a stroke of genius with lines such as, “Without a name, I’m still lingering around you,” “My cold heart was -248 degrees” and “you erased me, you forgot me.” The words revolve around both scenarios perfectly while playing with personification and hyperbole. Another part of the song says that their goodbye was colorless, indicating that no clear reason was given as to why they broke ties with each other. ‘Pluto,’ the lonely half, is still looking for answers. Pluto (now 134340) is still revolving around the sun who was very dear to them, and can’t ever move out of the solar system. The instrumentals on this track are absolutely superb — a unique experimentation with Sixties-flavored neo-jazz — and complement the vocal line’s soaring high-notes impeccably.
57. “24/7=Heaven” – 2014
Once known solely for high-tempo, fast-paced explosive hip-hop, BTS gave their audience and critics a pleasant shock with “24/7” (also titled “Heaven.”) The boys unveil the hopeless romantics within themselves in this softer, more pop-centric track. “24/7” signifies the excruciating waiting and rising passions between the official start of a relationship, till the first date. The guitar-driven beat wastes no time in latching on to the sweet lyrics as the members ponder over the bliss of courtship, nervousness and impatience.
56. “Spine Breaker” – 2014
“Spine Breaker” is a song which criticizes both youth and the media. Teenagers are labelled as ‘spine breakers’ because their low-income parents have to break their spine (toil very hard) to earn the money for the expensive, trendy items which children demand. “You are a spine breaker/ Your parent’s spine breaker/ Someday, you’ll regret it,” the song warns about the economic greed prevalent in society. Through this song, RM says that if you want to indulge in expensive items; you should buy them yourself. “What happened? Are you falling behind on the trend/ You whined so hard to have it given to you/ Did I hit a nerve? Just like the padding, it’s filling up with greed.” This song, although almost six years old, still applies to a materialistic society fueled by the competitive fire of social media fads.
55. “21st Century Girl” – 2016
RM participated in writing the lyrics of this track and said that encouraging women was his goal, with lyrics like “You worth it, you perfect/ Deserve it, just work it”, “Live your life, live your life”, “Don’t worry/ Baby you’re beautiful.” BTS delivers this essential message accompanied with fun-filled choreography and high-octane energy that hypes up the listeners and boosts their spirits, while also conveying the lyrics in an endearing and inspiring way.
54. “Coffee”- 2013
“The first date was sweet like Caramel Macchiato/ breaking up was like a bitter Americano.” This playful song follows the boys as they explore the aftermath of a momentous, blooming relationship by comparing it with different flavors of coffee (a beverage synonymous with a date in Korea.) With its soft vocals, piano, and jazzy pop-centric instrumentals, it comes as a sweet surprise that it was penned down by the fierce rap line.
53. “Rain” – 2014
Jazzy and sultry, this track is sprinkled with the sound of light rain. It’s a melancholic reflection of monotony and the rain is a metaphor for the emotions that surround depression. There’s a listlessness but also a strange sense of comfort in connecting with the rain itself: “I get up and when I feel sore, I look out the window/ As if it knows how my body feels, the rain is falling/ As I look at the raindrops welling up in the window, I felt it/ The tears that were flowing down my heart/ With that strange feeling, I look outside and it looks like my situation.” It’s also another track that allows a glimpse of rapper j-hope’s hidden prowess as a vocalist. The vocal line fill the spaces of “Rain” with breathy falsettos and hair-raising harmonies. It’s a complex track, way beyond BTS’ years.
52. “Outro: Wings” – 2016
This track tells a tale of how you may just start out with one feather, but will eventually grow till you have full-fledged wings supporting you. BTS have always encouraged their ARMY to believe in themselves and take the unconventional path no matter what people think. “Outro: Wings” personifies those motivating thoughts brilliantly.
51. Hip Hop Phile – 2014
Introduced initially by Big Hit as a hip-hop group, BTS’ rappers openly serenade their first love here. That would be hip-hop culture as they pay homage to all the artists who inspired them. They grew up in a society where this genre was eschewed and branded as undesirable, but the boys muzzle various misanthropists by asserting how it was that very culture that propelled them through their hardships and bestowed a life full of possibilities upon them. The rappers laud multiple hip-hop legends like Nas, Eminem,Kanye, Epik- High, Jay- Z, to a powered beat. While the rap line engages in a truculent recital of their passions, the vocal line makes an appearance in the chorus, with honeyed articulations which give this devotion a romantic touch. RM explains how hip-hop gave his poetic expositions an outlet with, “I had so much to say that it wasn’t enough with what other people told me/ First, I forced it layer after layer, calling it lyrics and that was it!/ That was it when I became me.” j-hope credits hip-hop for baptizing him and giving his body sensational movement via dance. SUGA celebrates the integration of hip-hop in his life with, “Hip-hop has found me, just like a child looks for his mother.”
50. “Lost” -2017
This neo-soul track is co-composed by Pdogg and RM and sung by the vocal line of BTS. It’s essence lies in the verse of Jimin and Jung Kook, which states, “I’m still standing here with my eyes closed/ Lost between the deserts and oceans.” It signifies them wandering to find the right path, but instead find themselves elsewhere, in a place where they are overwhelmed by expectations.
49. “Awake” – 2016
Jin’s first co-composed solo from Wings is all about fighting for one’s destiny and trying to reach your goals, even though the reality may seem bleak — “It’s my fate/ Still, I want to struggle and fight.” The tremolo on the violin followed by the piano creates a sad atmosphere, matching the raw emotions of the lyrics. Jin’s vocal capabilities were unleashed on a new level with this track as he cruised through effortless high notes during live renditions.
48. “Filter” – 2020
Jimin refuses to confine himself in this self-produced Latin-pop serenade, pushing his honeyed tenor into sexier territory. The vocalist asks his lover to explore his transcendental identities, to get adventurous with him and mold him as they so desire. A gem from the Map Of The Soul:7 album, this solo broke multiple iTunes records and Jimin’s sensual performance on the ‘Map of The Soul ON:E’ virtual show in October 2020 etched itself as an unforgettable BTS concert moment.
47. “Louder Than Bombs” – 2020
This powerful song is the collaborative brainchild of several artists, including Australian pop singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, with RM, SUGA and j-hope. “Louder Than Bombs” starts off with a heavy bassline threaded with the vocalists’ distinctive falsettos, and then proceeds to an explosive and impactful chorus. The members sing about the bittersweet feeling of success. It’s one of the more haunting artistic moments in BTS’ career, diving into Sivan’s world of dark-pop and longing. The rappers’ adlibs are faded chants that echo into the background of the song and simmer with intensity, acting as an undercurrent to compliment the vocalists’ mournful harmonies. A staggering reminder of BTS’ ability to adapt to any genre.
46. Paldogangsan – 2013
Although “Paldogangsan” (also known as “Satoori Rap”) was included in BTS’ first EP O!RUL8,2? in 2013, it was officially released with the rap line back in 2011, two years before the group debuted. ‘Satoori’ is a Korean word that means ‘regional dialect.’ This song portrays a fight between the Jeolla and Kyeongsang provinces which are known to be rivals, so the lyrics and choreography revolve around the two ‘teams.’ Kyeongsang are SUGA, Jimin, V and Jung Kook, and Jeolla comprises Jin, j-hope, RM. They’re battling for supremacy, and it all unfolds in regional dialect (three dialects to be exact.) There is very little difference between the 2011 and 2013 versions, as they both have the same flow of lyrics and hip-hop backing.
45. “Fake Love” – 2018
The song has strong rock elements paired with heartfelt lyrics about a love that seemed like destiny but was fake all along. It was the lead single of BTS’ album Love Yourself: Tear and is undeniably one of the group’s hardest songs to perform because of its wide vocal range and powerful choreography. There are two versions of its music video — one longer than the other — but both have the same dark, emotional themes showcasing the boys suffering and losing their true selves because of that former significant other. There are a lot of elements in the music video that build BTS’ intricate cinematic universe, references to past tracks and music videos and character plot lines that make “Fake Love” a fantastic, immersive experience.
44. “Anpanman” – 2018
Titled after the Japanese children’s superhero who has a face made of red bean bread, this song intends to give strength to underdogs. “I’m a new generation, Anpanman/ I’m a new superhero, Anpanman,” proclaim BTS, who aspire to be the voice for the unheard. Some live performances include outfits that are a tribute to real-life superheroes such as fire fighters.
43. “Outro: Ego” – 2020
This Afro-rhythmic pop track is an energetic outro by j-hope on BTS’ fourth studio album, Map of the Soul: 7. It’s a conclusion to the three-part Jungian map of the soul concept, after “Intro: Persona” by RM and “Interlude: Shadow” by SUGA. The rhythm of the song combined with the lyrics makes this song a herald of the future and to the path to happiness that lies in the ‘trust’ within oneself. The music video also uses colorful typography and j-hope driving a bright red car on what seems to be the road to the future.
42. “Pied Piper” – 2017
This hypnotic, nu-disco track is a poetic and clever warning to fans about the dangers of falling into obsessions with their favorite celebrities. BTS gently chide their ARMY for devoting too much of their time and energy on them instead of contributing to society. “Stop/ Now stop watching and study for your test/ Your parents and boss hate me/ Video clips, pictures, tweets…/ It’s not just one hour, it’s a whole year that’ll disappear,” raps RM. There’s a note of understanding to it all where BTS assure their fans that they’ll always be there for them, but real life must take priority. The absolute brilliance in the track’s structure and composition lies in the fact that the rap line act as a voice of reality, while the vocal line sing sweet, hypnotic, breathy verses that tempt the listener further towards the forbidden fruit: “Follow the sound of the pipe, follow this song/ It’s a bit dangerous but I’m so sweet/ I’m here to save you, I’m here to ruin you/ You called me, see? I’m so sweet/ Follow the sound of the pipe/ I’m takin’ over you.”
41. “Trivia: Love” – 2018
‘Trivia: Love” is one of the best examples of RM as a lyricist. He plays with the Korean words ‘saram’ (person) and ‘sarang’ (love) which, when spoken in rapid succession, sound similar. The love he has received from others has shaped him into a warm, affectionate person. He plays with Rene Descartes’ theory of “I think, therefore I am,” when he sings, “I live, so I love.”
40. “Dimple” – 2017
A romantic vocal-line pop track describing almost illegal dimples that make hearts flutter, this song appears on BTS’ fifth EP Love Yourself: Her (the first of the Love Yourself trilogy). Written by RM, with lyrical wordplay, “illegal (illegal) oh yes,/ So I call you illegirl,” we are serenaded by Jin, Jimin, V and Jung Kook over a melodic rhythm that is flirtatiously captivating. The quartet’s live performance of this track is another unforgettable moment in BTS’ onstage arsenal; they flirt playfully with the audience throughout, giving out generous doses of winks, eye-contact with the cameras, and sexy choreography.
39. “Intro: Singularity” – 2018
With lyrics like, “Did I lose myself, or did I gain you?” V questions his true self in his solo from the album Love Yourself: Tear. The neo-soul, urban R&B track— written by RM and Charlie J. Perry— is accompanied by a stunning, symbolic video featuring V which matches the tone of the song and is packed with references to history, literature and BTS’ past works. The white masks and the ‘Smeraldo’ flower in V’s hands symbolize a hidden truth or a facade.
38. “Boy in Love” – 2014
One of BTS’ earliest title tracks displaying their school era, “Boy in Luv” is the typical story of a high school boy who has developed a crush on a girl. It’s told through an addictive pop-rock beat and the group’s rarely-unleashed raspy vocals. The music video is placed in an ordinary school and features scenes of the members trying to woo the girl they are longing for. The lyrics portray different emotions that the boy in love is going through, such as trying to seem tough and mature (even though they may feel the opposite) in front of the girl.
37. “Trivia: Seesaw” – 2018
SUGA’s self-written solo Seventies-influenced funk-pop track from Love Yourself: Answer outlines the excitement at the beginning of a relationship and its eventual fading, causing ups and downs in the relationship which he compares to a seesaw. It all gets mundane after the repetitive actions, as he says, “Alright, I’m trying to end this repeated seesaw game now.” There’s a frankness to it that implies relief can only be found by moving on. Through this track SUGA proved that he can not only rap, but also sing. Adora, one of the music producers at Big Hit Entertainment, provides breathy background vocals to the song. “Seesaw” wraps up the album’s “Trivia” series and follows “Trivia: Just Dance” and “Trivia: Love.”
36. “Let Me Know” – 2014
A dark, heady ballad primarily written and produced by SUGA, “Let Me Know” shows off the true power of BTS’ vocals and delivery. The singers each take on notes that suit their individual strengths, while the rappers cruise through a series of emotions in each of their verses: SUGA, devastation, j-hope, anger and RM, acceptance. Jimin, in particular, stuns listeners with his impossibly high falsetto at the end to wrap up the track. BTS do outstandingly with a live band on “Let Me Know,” hitting every single note, adlib and harmony to deliver the pain that builds the bones of this track.
35. “N.O.” – 2014
BTS set their music video in a dystopian world where they rebel against strident authorities and say “N.O.” to the rules and regulations set in place by them. This track sees the boys maintain their hip-hop personas as they vocalize the thoughts and struggles common to all youth around the world, due to the highly competitive academic schooling of the 21st century. Aside from the relatable lyrics, the catchy background instrumental also packs a punch.
34. “DNA” – 2017
Unlike most of the group’s previous releases, “DNA” shares a story of a young love that was meant to be. It’s backed by a peppy EDM beat and the most attractive color palette that connects every element: whether it’s their outfits, their hair or the music video itself. The lyrics portray the excitement and feelings of falling in love for the first time, as if the universe had planned this in your destiny all along. Along with several music show wins, “DNA” marked BTS’ U.S. television debut when they performed it at the 2017 American Music Awards. Two of the key points in the choreography are when they tap their wrist to indicate DNA before the chorus, and when they come together in the second chorus to form an infinity symbol, also a physical representation of DNA strands. “DNA” also got them ranking onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts for the first time. The music video also was the band’s first to reach one billion views on YouTube.
33. “The Truth Untold” – 2018
Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s novel The Emerald City of Oz, this ballad was produced by American DJ Steve Aoki who showed off a brand new side of his artistry outside of EDM. The song alludes to the struggle of showing one’s true feelings to the one they love. It’s a description of sincere feelings that went unheard, soulfully rendered by Jin, Jimin, V and Jung Kook, who perfectly express the tragedy of the story. An absolute delight to watch live.
32. “UGH!” – 2020
BTS’ rap line have a penchant for ferocious wordplay and the trio live up to that reputation as they romanticize anger and frustration as important driving forces of life—when applied in the right situations—in this aggressive high-tempo track. j-hope shines through with his diverse and almost playful vocal modulation. The track accentuates the negatives of destructive rage, advising listeners to use their anger for positive change. It’s a massive dig at all online keyboard ‘warriors’ and trolls who spend their days typing hateful comments instead of paying attention to bigger, societal issues.
31. “Intro: Boy Meets Evil” – 2016
A reverse play on “Boy in Love,” this comeback trailer track for the LP Wings interprets love as evil. j-hope aggressively laments his agonizing, yet irresistible relationship, touching upon themes of sin, lust and greed. The artistic music video also features the main dancer cementing his title with a mesmerizing and gut-wrenching performance.
30. “Epiphany” – 2019
If there’s anyone who can seed an epiphany for millions, it’s BTS. In this case it’s the raw emotion and truth behind the line, “I’m the one I should love in this world.” It is no surprise that this soulful ballad, vocalized by Jin’s characteristic chest voice, serves as the trailer for the Love Yourself: Her album. During the concert performances of the song, the audience is often seen fawning over Jin as he loses himself in the piano set. Complete with ad-libs and enchanting music, this piece compels the listener into recognizing and accepting the beauty within their own imperfections. “Self-acceptance and insecurity are topics that I honestly didn’t want to address,” Jin told Rolling Stone India about the track’s theme. “I didn’t want to reveal my dark side, but talking to our Chairman and producer Mr. Bang helped me open up.”
29. “BTS Cypher Pt.3: Killer” – 2014
In perhaps the most scathing cypher of all time, the rap line manifests the ‘dark and wild’ theme of their 2014 LP, brutally setting fire to all those who dare sneer at them. The track was written to effectively gag everyone who ridiculed RM, Suga and j-hope with the term “idol rappers.” The feral track is produced, written and performed by the trio in collaboration with Big Hit producer Supreme Boi. RM calls out the glorified lifestyles of mediocre rappers with, “When someone is smoking and someone is cheating/ I smoke beat, this beat is a smoke.” SUGA’s alter ego Agust D is also teased for the first time here: “Yeah I’m from Korea so all you bitches who rap in English/ Look who’s on top of you now.” j-hope blitzes local rappers who trade in their authentic personalities to fit into the rap scene, while SUGA finishes by employing clever puns and metaphors to send their average, unskilled critics packing. The rap line doesn’t hold back in this fluid, unfiltered and combative delivery, replete with unfaltering technical skill.
28. “Boy With Luv” – 2019
In this follow-up to “Boy in Luv,” which was a track with a dark theme, BTS chose to go in the complete opposite direction; washed with a soft pink pastel aesthetic, the light and breezy pop track features American pop singer Halsey. The track’s Korean title translates to “A Poem For The Small Things” and is apt as the boys sing about the intricate joys of the smallest things in a mature, long-term relationship. “Boy With Luv” was also the second BTS music video to hit one billion views on YouTube.
27. “We Are Bulletproof : The Eternal” – 2020
A ballad flushed with synth-pop, “WAB: The Eternal” addresses the hardship and pain that the group has faced over the past seven years. It sends a message of gratitude for fans who have been with them through thick and thin. The ‘Bulletproof’ series could not be more fitting in honoring this relationship, tying into the singles “We Are Bulletproof Pt.1” (originally released in 2010 by BTS’ first lineup which comprised then-trainees RM, IRON and Supreme Boi, later re-recorded and released by the current members in 2015) and “We Are Bulletproof Pt.2” from their debut single album 2 Cool 4 Skool.
26. “My Time” – 2020
An autobiographical piece, “My Time” witnesses the youngest member of the group, Jung Kook, lamenting his lost youth. Written by the vocalist in collaboration with multiple writers including RM, he tells his story from the viewpoint of his ambiguous relationship with fame. With lyrics like “My life has been a movie, all the time,” “Keep on runnin’ errday, mic pic it up/ Friends ridin’ subway, I’ll be in the airplane mode,” he conveys his struggles of being in the spotlight and the resultant contrast with the average man of his age. He concludes on a grateful note, by changing his previous “I can’t,” to “I will,” and the hopeful, “I don’t gotta know where I go/ Even if it’s opposite of sun”, stating he’s grateful for his team as he says he’s, “happy that we met each other.” “My Time” uses a mid-tempo trap beat infused with seductive R&B to highlight Jung Kook’s ad libs and falsettos. The song became the highest selling solo song in the U.S. within 24 hours of release. The live performance of this track, unveiled at the online concert ‘Map of the Soul ON:E’ in October, is sexy, elegant and confident, intended to showcase Jung Kook’s lost childhood. Through the performance he indicates the spotlight molded him to mature way before others his own age, but over time he has come to embrace the person he has grown into.
25. “ Interlude: Shadow” – 2020
“Interlude: Shadow” is BTS making a full circle of sorts, with lead rapper and songwriter SUGA taking the reins again for the first time on a solo intro, since 2015’s “Never Mind.” That was the first track on the group’s multi-award winning the LP, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (the record which marked the start of their journey to becoming household names.) On “Interlude: Shadow,” SUGA ponders this journey to the top, the dreams and wishes he had when he was younger, which eventually led him to becoming a global star. He repeatedly questions the price of fame, spitting raw, melancholic verses that compare stardom to a shadow or a burden that hangs above his head: “I’m afraid, flying high is terrifying/ No one told me/ How lonely it is up here.” He realizes how shallow and fleeting fame is, how a single mistake can mean a painful fall from a pedestal as he says, “I can leap in the air but also plunge… People say there’s a splendor in that bright light/ But my growing shadow swallows me and becomes a monster.” The emotions embedded in “Interlude: Shadow” are somewhat reminiscent of “The Last,” a powerful track about depression from SUGA’s 2016 soul-baring solo mixtape Agust D. The music video is dark and harrowing, creating a comparison between the ‘idol’ SUGA onstage who raps, “I wanna be a rap star/ I wanna be the top/ I wanna be a rock star” and a second SUGA in the audience, observing his ‘idol’ self onstage. This version of SUGA is more subdued, free of the dyed-hair ‘K-pop star’ look, and clad in the same black clothes as the figures around him. The beat on “Interlude: Shadow” changes, getting more agitated with increased bass and up-tempo percussion. The second SUGA takes over the verse, facing his idol self and admitting that no matter how frustrated he gets, there is no undoing this journey to the top and what he has become. He is eventually swallowed by the flashes of cameras.
24. “Baepsae” – 2015
Under the facade of a clamoring beat and many hip thrusts, this song is a reminder of the band’s unequalled narrative of social critique in their music. Co-written by RM, the lyrics are a breakdown of the hierarchical workplace systems in South Korea and make satirical use of Korean traditional proverbs to diss the idea of, “effort will get you where you deserve.” The song is also titled “Silver Spoon” in English, brazenly calling out the unethical ways of the system designed to reward the rich while the poor remain at the bottom.
23. “First Love” – 2016
SUGA hits hard with his solo song in the album Wings. Upon hearing the words ‘first love,’ we usually think of a person or the relationship shared between two people. But this song breaks that stereotype and is actually about the rapper’s emotional journey with his very first love: a piano. The track outlines how SUGA grew up with a piano by his side and even though he had neglected it during elementary school, he found a way back to his favorite instrument. It has contributed to who he is as an artist today. The piano-led beat is subtle, almost non-existent, so SUGA’s delivery of the lyrics is the true hero as he uses speed and breathy interludes to build to a powerful and emotional crescendo.
22. “Dionysus” – 2019
The song is a mix of rap-rock, synth-pop and hip-hop with a dash of a trap breakdown. The song is inspired by the Greek god Dionysius – the god of wine and excess. The lyrics depict the state of being drunk in passion. The song is much more than just a party track about being trashed; looking deeper, one finds that it’s pure poetry about self-reflection and artistic integrity. Members j-hope, RM and SUGA co-wrote the song with production by Pdogg. In the live performance RM holds a fennel stick with a pine-cone similar to Dionysus’s staff, marking his position as the leader of BTS. Jin’s adlibs in the song are an outstanding feat as he changes key to build to a massive high note which floods the final chorus. The track also features some of BTS’ most challenging choreography yet.
21. “Home” – 2019
An easy-on-the-ears R&B track that describes an emptiness that no amount of luxuries the group’s success or fame can fill. “Home” progresses from the search for validation to a home which they find in the unconditional love of family, friends, fans and significant others. It is the perfect show of how BTS isn’t just a group of ‘idols’ but is actually made up of people just as human as any other, on a search for fulfilment like the rest of us.
20. “Ddaeng” – 2018
This number is the ultimate diss track and was written by the rappers RM, SUGA and j-hope to be released on Soundcloud for free as a part of BTS Festa (an annual event celebrating the group’s anniversary.) The song’s beat incorporates traditional Korean instruments with a gritty trap beat and the lyrics again display BTS’ love for wordplay with several puns and cultural references. For example, the song starts with, ‘ilpal, ilsam, sampal,’ (numbers 18, 13, 38) which is the strongest combination in Korean card games, implying that the hand BTS currently holds is unbeatable. The title “Ddaeng” itself alludes to multiple symbolic references, such as the sound of a buzzer to indicate a wrong answer, a school bell, or even a winning hand of bingo. RM uses nearly six different meanings of the word to deliver a scorching, calculated diss to haters. The track is completely profanity-free, but the confidence, swagger and overall message is very clear: nobody should ever belittle the power of BTS.
19. “House of Cards” – 2015
Composed by Slow Rabbit, “House of Cards” is a jazz and blues song that reflects the denial stage of a broken relationship. The vocals are delicate and breathy, emphasizing the fragility of a metaphorical ‘house of cards.’ The track was written by Slow Rabbit, Brother Su and Big Hit founder “Hitman” Bang. With the dark and gloomy sound of rain in the background along with those whispery vocals, it truly encapsulates the urge to bury yourself deeper and cling to a relationship, even if it may be on dangerous ground. “A house made of cards, we’re like idiots/ Even if it’s a vain dream, stay like this a little more.” Performed by the vocal line (Jin, Jimin, V and Jung Kook), “House of Cards” is an outstanding exhibition of the varied colors of BTS’ abilities and early experimentation with blues.
18. “Intro: Never Mind” – 2015
SUGA spits absolute fire on the rock-rap intro track of The Most Beautiful Moment In Life Pt.2, pushing forth BTS’ straightforward message of, ‘keep going, be confident, and never turn back.’ “If you feel like you’re going to crash then accelerate more,” is constantly repeated, igniting the fuel to hustle hard and succeed in your endeavors. The animated music video portrays a male figure running recklessly to break free of a haze of color, as he chases a butterfly that represents his dreams and goals.
17. “Mic Drop” – 2017
In 2017, an ensemble of seven Korean boys landed in L.A to collect an award and turned heads with what Western publications called, “a Beatles-mania level” airport crowd. Who were they and what did they do to garner this attention? “MIC Drop” was the answer. Born from multiple collaborations with artists like Desiigner and Steve Aoki and released with over four versions, this track is quintessential neo-hip-hop at its finest. It is replete with dark percussion, trap beats, drums and the band’s refraining chant of the group’s many achievements. BTS roll-call their wins with a confidence that commandeered global respect. The track, with the ostentatious line, “Did you see my bag? It’s hella trophies and it’s hella thick,” brought the band a number of new ‘trophies’ on global charts. The song also built the foundation of the band’s strong ties with Aoki and rapper Desiigner, who considers this a breakthrough track in his own career.
16. “Outro: Tear” – 2018
“When I played the song for the members we all cried together,” SUGA said of “Outro: Tear” during an emotional episode of their behind the scenes 2019 documentary, Break The Silence. The group, who are close as brothers, sat down for a meal and candidly discussed their past contemplation of disbandment, revealing that “Outro: Tear” was born of the anger and frustration they felt towards one another during discussions about parting. The rap-heavy number is a combination of BTS’ older hip-hop roots from albums such as Dark & Wild and O!RUL8,2?, with the more narrative style of The Most Beautiful Moment In Life and Wings. It uses orchestral music in combination with trap and was co-written and performed by the rap line. Impactful lyrics such as, “Although we thought that we dreamed the same dream/ That dream has finally become a dream,” said with ferocity brings chills down the listener’s spine. This functions as the culmination to the Love Yourself: Tear album and leaves the listener with heightened emotions and a reminder that BTS could have ceased to exist. j-hope’s dynamic last verse is the killing point, raw and tear-jerking in the way he delivers his lines with a combination of anger, sadness and heartbreak: “You’re my beginning and my end/ That is all/ My meeting and my farewell/ You were everything, step forward fear/ It will be repeated, caused by you/ Tear.” “Outro: Tear” is monumental as it is hands-down the biggest glimpse the band have ever given us of their inner turmoils as a group.
15. “Intro: Persona” – 2019
The intro to their sixth EP Map of the Soul: Persona, “Intro: Persona” begins the journey into an examination of BTS’ past by sampling “Intro: Skool Luv Affair” from 2014 and brings back their rock-tinged hip-hop sound. The deceptively upbeat song dwells into the Jungian theory of the ‘self’ and is written and performed by leader RM. “Who the hell am I?” he aggressively questions, describing the ‘me’ (Kim Namjoon) in his own eyes versus the ‘me’ (RM, leader of BTS) who is in the public eye. It’s a fascinating examination of the effect of fame on a person’s evolution and allows RM to dive into the theory of what his purpose is in this world and what he contributes to society.
14. “Butterfly” – 2015
This soft ballad expresses the fear of losing someone dear to you. “You’re just like a Butterfly/ From afar, I steal glances; if we touch hands, will I lose you?/ You shine in this pitch darkness, that is the butterfly effect.” BTS use the metaphor of a butterfly — delicate, moving with the wind, signifying transience — to express their ideas around existence and relationships in this delicate, emotional song which touched the hearts of the Korean public during its release in 2015.
13. “Save Me” – 2017
This tropical house-meets-pop track is a call for help for when one is in a state of despair—especially right before the ‘fall’ or the point of losing oneself. “I knew that your salvation is a part of my life/ and the only helping hand that will embrace my pain.” Jimin’s breathy, opening vocals are a key highlight of “Save Me,” and set the tone for the entire track that centres around the suffocation and helplessness faced by an individual who is facing the end of a certain arc in their life. Accentuated by muted, pastel shades, the music video was a one-shot take, focusing on the group’s powerful choreography and facial expressions.
12. “Tomorrow” – 2014
“Tomorrow” takes the form of a comforting hug and gives compassionate assurance to young people struggling to build their dreams. The audience is defined when SUGA says, “Jobless twenty-somethings are afraid of tomorrow.” The track sums up the impact of the then-unstable Korean economy through a hip-hop track tinged with R&B, and is a perfect example of how BTS are emblematic of their generation. The title “Tomorrow” elucidates the eventual end of these hardships to give rise to a brighter future. Having built themselves up from nothing, the members authenticate what they’ve overcome, to inspire hope in the listener. “No matter where you are right now, it’s just a short break/ Don’t give up, understand?”
11. “Dynamite” – 2020
A monumental track, “Dynamite” stayed true to its name and blew up the global music industry. The single made history by debuting at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making BTS the first all-South Korean group to top the Billboard charts. “Dynamite” held fort on top for three weeks and also hit Number One in the music charts of over 100 countries for considerable durations. Their first all-English track saw the septet going out of their own comfort zone in a bid to provide comfort for millions. The song was born from a sincere wish to send out a healing message amidst the dark struggles of the Covid-19 pandemic. “We had no idea “Dynamite” would become such a success,” V told Rolling Stone India about the bright number. “We just wanted to share a burst of energy and deliver a message of hope in these difficult times.”
Set to upbeat disco-pop and written by David Stewart and Jessica Agombar, it is heavily inspired by Seventies bubblegum retro. Describing the simple pleasures in life like,“ice tea and a game of ping pong” or a “sing song when I’m walking home,” “Dynamite” attempts to find joy in the smallest of things. Complete with summery energetic claps, singalong lyrics and serotonin-boosting beats, it induces a feeling of cheer. The music video is a burst of pastel and Seventies retro-glam with choreography that channels a lot of Michael Jackson’s moves as a tribute (something that was appreciated by the Jackson family.) The music video currently holds three Guinness World Records for the most viewed video in 24 hours, most viewed music video in 24 hours and most viewed music video by a K-pop group in 24 hours, on YouTube. “Dynamite” also did remarkably well in Korea as it became the only track in decades of K-pop history to achieve 400 Perfect All-Kills. The track’s Billboard accomplishment was also commended by the South Korean President on Twitter. In November 2020, “Dynamite” earned BTS their first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
10. “Run” – 2015
Considered a key foundation of BTS’ cinematic and lyrical universe, “Run” is a great blend of refreshing vocals and edgy rap flows which played a massive role in the group’s rise to fame. It portrays teenage rebellion and the dreams and hopes of youth, switching between fast and slow-paced sonic scapes, giving the track an almost dreamlike quality. As proof of the diamond-in-the-rough potential of BTS in 2015, the track is a crown jewel in the group’s discography today. “Run” urges the listener to keep going and never give up no matter how devastating life gets. The relatablity of the lyrics as well as the stories of the characters in its music video established BTS’ image as a mirror for the youth to see themselves in.
9. “Dope” – 2015
“Dope” hurtled BTS from being moderately known to a rising force in the K-pop industry back in 2015. Also widely-recognized in pop culture by RM’s “Welcome, first time to BTS?” opening line, it’s almost as if the leader predicted an influx of thousands of new fans with the release. The track has a mellow build up that leads to a powerful chorus featuring instruments like saxophones and trumpet squeals, which give the track its characteristic melody. Don’t let the party beat mislead you, because the lyrics narrate a different story. Defined as ‘jungle-exotic’ lyrics by music critics, the boys describe their tireless work as their biggest weapon. In a time where ‘being dope’ meant clubbing and waning away productive youth, the BTS definition of ‘being dope’ is committing to hard work, sacrifice, talent and progression. The gleaming music video, with over 500 million views (the first of theirs to hit 100 million views) features the boys dressed as professionals in various fields, such as a doctor, car racer, office-worker, policeman, etc, keeping the message clear: no matter what the job is, hard work is the key to success.
8. “No More Dream” – 2013
This is where it all began. The band’s debut single announced their arrival and striking difference from mainstream K-pop of the time with its aggressive hip-hop influence. BTS ridiculed South Korean society’s emphasis on expectations and higher education, daring to slam systems that had been in place for decades to establish themselves as a voice that represented the youth’s true emotions. “No More Dream” uses sarcasm and wordplay to critique society, which would become a defining characteristic of BTS’ artistry. They diss the idea of a mundane and predictable life that results from the sacrifice of purpose. They instigate the listener into introspecting and push them towards realizing their dreams with encouragement like, “What is the you that you dreamed of?/ Who do you see in your mirror?…/ Go your own way, even if you live a day/ Do something, put weakness away.” The track also kicked off the group’s School Trilogy arc, discussing themes of education and the burden put on young people to succeed and make their elders proud. Although it won them several awards for ‘Best Debut,’ “No More Dream” was way ahead of its time and would not be given its due by critics until much later in the band’s career.
7. “Epilogue: Young Forever” – 2016
The earnest words about fame, success or youth not lasting forever resonates with all of us on a personal level, but just like BTS, we have to keep running through the maze that is our lives. “Young Forever” shares lines of coming to terms with the fact that this world is fleeting and imperfect. The chorus that declares, “Forever we are young,” shows hesitance around wanting to grow up or shift away from a happy moment. There is a fear of the future and the unknown, the loss and pain it might hold; “Trying to comfort myself/ I tell myself the world can’t be perfect/ I start to let myself go/ The thundering applause, I can’t own it forever/ I tell myself, so shameless/ Raise your voice higher/ Even if the attention isn’t forever, I’ll keep singing/ As today’s me, I want eternity/ Forever, I want to be young.”
The music video has a very nostalgic vibe with scenes showcasing the members being trapped in a maze — a symbol for life and all its challenges. At the end they’re seen breaking free of this maze and running together, highlighting the brotherhood and support that BTS share with each other. Although it was the shortest BTS music video to be released at the time, it had an immensely powerful impact as it tackled themes of life, death and what comes after. We hear the words “dreams, hopes, forward, forward,” and that works as the driving force to remind the listener to keep going and not lose themselves in the past, because the only way is forward.
6. “Fire” – 2016
An iconic dance break dubbed ‘the 333’ and an eccentric electro-pop beat made “Fire” an instant hit in 2016. The music video and energetic choreography are a precise translation of the lyrics that convey the message of living your life fearlessly and joyously. “Fire” was written by ‘Hitman’ Bang, along with Pdogg, RM, SUGA and Devine Channel. The track presents the advice to “Live however you want, it’s your life anyway.” The music video also signifies the band’s rise from the bottom, done artfully through the men in black hoodies that represent both BTS’ past anonymity and their haters. It’s a fun and confident declaration that the group are ready to embrace the limelight they deserve. The choreography for “Fire” is still considered to be one of the most complex in K-pop but also one of BTS’ personal favorites.
5. “ON”- 2020
“BTS blends live instruments and technology, just like they bring people together. One should never replace the other,” says Duane Benjamin, music director and composer of the UCLA School Of Music, in the opening scene of the short film telescoping the large-scale production involved in BTS’ “ON.” The anthemic, driven track is a follow-up to their 2013 song “N.O”, functioning as its thematic partner with the witty, reversed title. While the vocalists and rappers show off their diverse pitches and wordplay, it’s Jung Kook’s bridge with notes impossibly high that cement this as one of BTS most outstanding performances. Written primarily by RM in collaboration with SUGA, j-hope and other writers, lyrics like, “The shadow resembles me”, “Bring the pain/ It’ll become my blood and flesh/ Even if I fall, I come right up, scream/ That’s how we’ve always been,” point to the fact that they aren’t afraid of pain and struggles anymore. As the lead single of Map of the Soul: 7, “ON” introduces the album’s in-depth study of Jungian philosophy.
There were two cinematic expositions for the track—the “ON Official MV’ and the “ON Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima.” The first draws Biblical and dystopian references from films and literature that include The Maze Runner, The Lion King, Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland, Bird Box, Divergent and more, combining the significant elements from them all into each member’s character and overarching plot of the video. Jung Kook is said to have even developed his own character storyline. The beginning of the clip shows the members struggling and in painful situations and ends with them overcoming all the hardships and gathering at what looks like the ‘Pride Rock’ from The Lion King (synonymous with the “Circle of Life.”) The video also ties in references from their old music videos and earned 46.5 million views in its first 24 hours. It had the largest known concurrent live viewers, which made it the fifth biggest music debut in YouTube history at the time. The choreography-based video of the track titled ‘Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima’ is a massive all-out production with a choir, a marching band and dancers from the renowned Los Angeles-based dance crew The Lab. Set in the vastness of the Sepulveda Dam, the music video used drones to capture BTS performing the dizzyingly complex moves created by award-winning dancer and choreographer Sienna Lalau.
4. “I Need U” – 2015
Breaking away from the hip-hop personas of earlier albums, BTS struck a chord with listeners and bagged their first win since debut with this powerful track. The production of this monumental milestone in BTS’ career blends R&B riffs, airy synths and the members’ harmonies to deliver a ballad about loss and desperation. “I Need U” is heartache at its core, narrating different stories of pain and hardship of seven young men in a parallel universe. Lyrically, the track talks of an already dead relationship and how— despite knowing this—one can’t do anything but hold on: “I need you girl/ Why am I in love alone, why am I hurting alone?/ I need you girl/ Why do I keep needing you when I know I’ll get hurt?”
“I Need U” is also considered an absolute turning point in BTS’ discography because of its intense music video. The bittersweet, emotional, coming-of-age storyline (said to be inspired by the book The Owl Service) struck a chord with Korean and international audiences upon its release, and is seen as the official starting point of the group’s cinematic universe. Unlike most K-pop music videos, “I Need U” stepped away from romance and choreography to portray themes of friendship, loss, addiction, depression, violence, abuse and other issues faced by youth around the world. It was a beacon that signalled to those going through similar experiences that they were not alone and BTS was a band that understood pain in all its various levels. Problems don’t always stem from romantic love, and there are more bitter situations that young people need help facing—a mission that “I Need U” accomplished with its gritty reality.
3. “Black Swan” – 2020
From the moment it begins, you know “Black Swan” is different from anything BTS have done before. The track, which was a lead single off the group’s 2020 LP Map of the Soul: 7, has two versions. The first, a haunting orchestral version with BTS’ a capella vocals, and the second being the studio version with piano and a rolling trap beat which appears on the LP. The former makes more of an impact because it’s a direction BTS have not explored before. There’s a vulnerability and pain added by the string section that settles into the listener’s bones. Lyrically, “Black Swan” is a gut-wrenching examination of how the passage of time affects an artist, expressing fear of not being able to create music that resonates with the world and losing the ability to express oneself. This artistic death is gargantuan in scale and one that every creator fears. “Oh that would be my first death/ I’ve been always afraid of/ If this can no longer resonate/ No longer make my heart vibrate/ Then like this may be how I die my first death,” raps SUGA as he opens the track.
“Black Swan” is also an ode to self-discovery via art, and the self’s identity that art can create and establish. It seems to be an extremely personal outline of BTS’ relationship with music. “I used to have fears that my pure intentions towards my work might deteriorate and that I might look at what I do strictly as a ‘job’ when I become too exhausted from tight schedules and commitments,” vocalist Jimin told Rolling Stone India about what inspired the band to write the track. There are callbacks to the group’s own Wings album from 2016, as well as motifs that build on BTS’ exploration of the human psyche via psychologist Carl Jung’s works (The Red Book, Visions Seminar, Memories, Dreams, Reflections) and references to the 2010 film Black Swan. The music video features stunning shots of the group performing the track’s choreography in the ornate, gilded Los Angeles Theatre. Trained in contemporary dance and ballet, Jimin takes the lead as the ‘black swan,’ leaping gracefully from one smooth dance move to another. At first, the group are dressed in white but within moments are clad in black as they transform from sweet and demure white swans into bold, confident and dangerous black swans. This track is a careful tableau of the sacrifices it takes to become an artist and what parts of yourself you lose in the process. Light cannot exist without darkness.
2. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” – 2016
The title track from Wings is a hybrid of moombahton, trap and tropical house. The music video is heavy with symbolism and is inspired by Herman Hesse’s bildungsroman Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth. Just like the novel, the music video takes place in a space between life and death. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” and its accompanying music video explore the story of youth who lose their innocence and fall into temptation. The song is a deviation from BTS’ usual music style, pivotal in making the group’s presence felt in the Western music industry for the first time. The inner struggle between good and evil is aptly presented in the lyrics, “I cannot worship anyone but you/ and I knew the grail was poisoned but I drank it anyway.”
The music video is rife with Biblical art references such as ‘The Last Supper’ and the ‘Forbidden Fruit.’ At one point Jin looks up to German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche’s quote, “Man muss noch Chaos in sich haben um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können,” translating to, “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” There are too many references to history, art, religion and culture to list here, making “Blood, Sweat & Tears” an absolute joy to unpack if you have a love for legend. In one common fan interpretation, for example, j-hope is said to be Archangel Micheal shooting down V, who is said to portray Lucifer. It also continues the story from The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, diving full-force into the ‘afterlife’ and ‘parallel universe’ themes the previous era had touched upon. The often-overlooked music video for the Japanese version of the track boasts an even clearer connection to the previous era, featuring plenty of clues and missing links that bridge The Most Beautiful Moment in Life to Wings, extending the group’s cinematic universe. The music video is a monumental career moment that shifted BTS into being seen as an artist like no other.
Upon release, “Blood, Sweat & Tears” broke the record of fastest K-pop music video to reach ten million views and garnered 6.5 million views within its first 24 hours on YouTube.
1. “Spring Day” – 2017
There is a reason why this 2017 BTS single keeps making appearances on Korean and global charts even today. Based on its subject matter, symbolism and impact on global pop culture, “Spring Day” is not only deeply personal, but resonates on levels that an entire nation found comfort in.
Rumored to be a tribute to the victims of Korea’s 2014 Sewol Ferry Tragedy, “Spring Day” explores themes of lost friendships, the passage of time and how we lose parts of ourselves as we approach adulthood. There are layers of complex emotions and a sense of emptiness conveyed through the bittersweet melancholy that speaks of separation beyond the physical realm, “Passing by the edge of the cold winter/ Until the days of spring/ Until the days of flower blossoms/ Please stay, please stay there a little longer.” On a livestream, RM explained about being inspired by a fallen leaf to write the song, how finding a leaf you might have saved from a special moment in your life triggers old memories, emotions and nostalgia. It’s a remnant of a moment that is lost forever to tangible reality but lives on because we give it that power in our thoughts. The dreamy ballad’s instrumentals are slow and lingering, with delicate piano notes adding a mournful touch. The harmonies from the vocal line are soaring and hazy and Jung Kook, Jin, V and Jimin shine with their effortless high notes and falsettos.
The music video features references to Ursula K. Le Guin’s novella The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas and Parasite director Bong Joonho’s 2013 film Snowpiercer. The symbolism explores concepts of youth, death, lost friendships, the afterlife and finding closure after a loss, and there are several meanings that each viewer can draw from it all, making “Spring Day” a truly personal listening and watching experience. In the music video, BTS can also be compared to the Lost Boys of Neverland; their boyish styling and the bond with each other as they traverse a magical landscape beyond the reach of time and humanity. Their characters step beyond death into an afterlife of eternal youth thanks to the power of memory.
BTS have performed this iconic single a number of times in 2020, hoping to give their audiences a sense of peace and hope in the wake of the pandemic with the song’s message of looking forward to a brighter, better and happier future. “Spring Day” is also the longest-charting song on Melon’s digital chart to date, climbing up in position whenever BTS promote a new track.
This feature is part of the November 2020 Collectors Edition of Rolling Stone India: The Ultimate Guide To BTS. Click here to purchase your copy.