2013-2023: Looking back at the years of BTS | Inquirer Entertainment

2013-2023: Looking back at the years of BTS

/ 01:00 AM June 12, 2023

A photo of BTS for its debut single, "2 Cool 4 Skool" (Big Hit Music)

A photo of BTS for its debut single, “2 Cool 4 Skool” (Big Hit Music)

BTS started off as a hip-hop group on a small label in 2013. Over the past 10 years, the group has grown into a global sensation, not just as musicians, but as speakers for youth in general and for young dreamers pursuing their passions in particular.

Here, we take a brief look into the years since their debut.


2013: Bulletproof Boys

In 2013, BTS debuted under small local label Big Hit Entertainment with their first single, “2 Cool 4 Skool.” Their name stood for “Bulletproof Boys,” referring to the band’s aspiration to “shield themselves from the prejudices and oppression of the world.” Their philosophy of self-love lies here at their very core.


Members Jin, RM, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook were put together by producer Bang Si-hyuk, formerly affiliated with JYP Entertainment, but who dropped out to establish his own label, Big Hit Entertainment. The group started centered around RM, initially going by the name, Rap Monster. Since then, RM has stayed at the group’s core as its leader, producing member and on stages globally, translator.

2014: Into the world

The first year was not an easy one as BTS braved the hurdles of mainstream K-pop with its minor genre of old school hip-hop. Even so, the septet bagged three rookie of the year awards, winning their fair share of acknowledgement locally.

The band officially kicked off its overseas activities in 2014. Its first foray into the US was at the 2014 KCON festival in Los Angeles. In September of that year, BTS entered Japan with the “No More Dream” Japanese edition, which peaked at No. 3 on the local Oricon singles chart.

Still outside of K-pop’s mainstream, the seven boys from the small, unknown label focused on building close relationships with fans through social media interactions and self-prepared events. The official fan meeting, “Muster,” and “BTS Festa,” now held globally every year with millions of fans to celebrate the band’s debut, started then.

BTS' "Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa Part 2" (Big Hit Muisc)

BTS’ “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa Part 2” (Big Hit Muisc)

2015: The most beautiful moment begins

The group took a turn in its career in 2015 with the start of its iconic “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life)” album trilogy. Taking the message of self-love to a deeper level, all seven members were more involved in music production by then.

The album series also raised the group’s recognition globally. BTS’ Billboard history started in November with “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2,” which reached No. 171 on the albums chart.


2016: ‘Wings’ drops with splash

In 2016, it dropped its legendary album, “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Young Forever,” which closed the “youth” trilogy and later came to be named among the 25 Best K-pop Albums of the 2010s by Billboard.

The septet’s career really took off here, with its second LP, “Wings,” sweeping local and international music charts. “Wings” topped iTunes’ album chart in 97 countries with its release and entered the UK Official Charts as the first K-pop album in history to do so.

BTS members pose on the red carpet for the American Music Awards 2021. (Big Hit Music)

BTS members pose on the red carpet for the American Music Awards 2021. (Big Hit Music)

2017: Entering the American mainstream

Year 2017 saw BTS expand K-pop’s boundaries in the global music scene and enter the mainstream. Not only a regular on the US music charts, BTS forayed into major American music shows in 2017.

It won its historic first trophy, the Top Social Artist award, at the Billboard Music Awards, overtaking six-time winner Justin Bieber and dominating the prize for the next five years. BTS was the first South Korean winner at the BBMAs.

It also took the main stage at the American Music Awards in 2017 as the first Korean artist to perform there.

The septet continued to make a breakthrough with its music as well. Another album series, “Love Yourself,” began. Opening the series was “Love Yourself: Her,” which debuted at No. 7 on Billboard 200 — the highest reached by an album by an Asian singer — with title song “DNA” making No. 85 on the Hot 100 singles chart, becoming the first K-pop album to enter both charts at once.

BTS continued to write new history locally as well. “Love Yourself: Her” racked up a million copies in sales, winning the band its first million-seller title. The album was the first time in 16 years that a single K-pop album had sold over a million copies since boy band g.o.d’s “Chapter 4” in 2001.

The group partnered with UNICEF to spread its message of self-love at a greater level. Joining hands with the non-profit organization, the group began the #ENDviolence and #Lovemyself campaigns, which continued until 2021.

BTS speaks at the United Nations in New York in August 2018. (Yonhap)

BTS speaks at the United Nations in New York in August 2018. (Yonhap via The Korea Herald / ANN)

2018: Conquering Billboard

In May, the band’s third LP, “Love Yourself: Tear,” took BTS straight to No. 1 on Billboard 200. It was the first Korean album and the first non-English Asian album to land atop the American albums chart. In celebration of the feat, then President Moon Jae-in released an official statement commending BTS’ achievement.

The next album, “Love Yourself: Answer,” also topped Billboard 200, making BTS the 19th musician to place two albums atop the chart in the same year. The album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America — the first time a Korean artist’s album won such recognition from the RIAA.

The band went on to win at the BBMAs for its second time and at the AMAs for its first.

In September, the band took its message of self-love to the United Nations. As the first South Korean group to address a UN session, the band, represented by RM, spoke to youths worldwide about embracing diversity and speaking for oneself.

2019: Grammys debut

BTS continued to blaze trails through the American music scene in 2019, bagging numerous trophies.

In February, it joined the Grammy Awards as an award presenter, becoming the first Korean singer to attend the ceremony as an award presenter. The next year, they attended as a performer.

The global superstars also extended the narrative of self-love through a new series, “Map of the Soul.” With the first of the series, “Map of the Soul: Persona,” the band topped UK’s Official Chart as the first South Korean singer and became the first group since the Beatles to top the Billboard 200 three times in less than a year.

With its world tour, “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself,” the band held shows in some of the world’s most high-profile venues, including London’s Wembley Stadium and New York’s Citi Field, while breaking cultural barriers to hold a gig in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

2020: Thwarting the pandemic with ‘Dynamite’

BTS started the year big with its fourth LP, “Map of the Soul: 7.” It topped the biggest music charts around the world, including those in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan, and eventually came to be named the top-selling album of 2020 by the IFPI. Until this April, it was the most-sold album in South Korea.

Despite the limitations set by the COVID-19 pandemic, BTS again renewed its record with its first English song, “Dynamite,” hitting No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart — another first for a K-pop song.

It was now BTS against BTS. With its next album, “Be,” and its lead track, “Life Goes On,” the band wrote history again as the first Korean artist to top Billboard’s albums and singles chart at once. The feat was more symbolic as “Life Goes On” was the first non-English song to debut at Hot 100’s top in Billboard history.

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