South Korean music sensations BTS miss their fans and touring — we know this because they repeatedly mention it every chance they get. From acceptance speeches as they sweep year-end music award shows in Korea to their quiet, introspective conversations with fans over livestreams, the seven members have been open about how 2020 has cast a shadow over their goals and achievements this year.
RM, Jin, Suga — who has been recovering from shoulder surgery — J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook have, however, powered through and hit new milestones, seven years into their career. Here’s a look at seven of their biggest moments this year:
Grammy performance: The septet started the year off strong — they performed live at ‘Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest’ and days later announced the release date of their next album ‘Map of the Soul: 7’. They then made history by being the first South Korean artists to perform at the Grammy Awards. (In 2019, they were the first K-Pop artists to present an award at the Grammys.) They took the stage alongside rapper Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo and Mason Ramsey to perform remixes of chart-topper ‘Old Town Road’ — one of which, ‘Seoul Town Road’, features BTS’ leader RM.
Global art initiative: Ahead of the release of ‘Map of the Soul: 7’, the group announced a unique complement to the album — a global art project called 'Connect, BTS' that spanned five cities and involved 22 artists. “The project is especially meaningful for us because it truly represents diversity and creates a collective, positive message for the world that we value,” RM, an art aficionado himself, was quoted as saying at a press event for 'Connect, BTS'. The initiative showcased a side of BTS that might have surprised those who see them as just another boy group and reiterated the group’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of what it means to be musicians.
‘Map of the Soul: 7’: The release of the group’s fourth studio album on February 21 was one of their biggest and boldest. The 19-track album topped the charts in more than 20 countries and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. A record-breaking 3.37 million copies were sold in its first week in Korea, which surpassed their own record of 2.13 million copies sold for ‘Map of the Soul: Persona’. The songs were deeply personal and featured themes of self-doubt, struggle and perseverance.
‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’: BTS was supposed to begin a worldwide tour in April, but some dates were cancelled and others postponed due to COVID-19. However, the group decided on a different way to give fans a show to remember. Virtual paid concert ‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’ was held on June 14 and according to reports, 756,000 concurrent viewers tuned in from 107 countries and territories to watch the boys perform from a studio in Seoul. It won the Guinness World Records title for most viewers for a music concert live stream.
MOTS: One: Following the success of ‘Bang Bang Con: The Live’, BTS returned with the two-day online event ‘Map of the Soul: One’ in October. The group was due to perform one of the days for a live audience, but as coronavirus cases surged in Seoul at the time, their management decided to scrap the offline portion. More than 990,000 viewers watched the concert over two days, according to Big Hit.
Billboard Hot 100: Despite being arguably the biggest music group on the planet, one thing that had evaded BTS was a number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This is not a definitive marker of popularity or success — there are many huge artists who haven’t had a Hot 100 song — but it was something the members have said they wanted. And they got it this year, not once but three times. ‘Dynamite’, the ‘Savage Love’ remix with Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo, and ‘Life Goes On’, from their latest album ‘Be’, topped the chart. ‘Life Goes On’, sung mostly in Korean, is the first foreign language track to achieve this in its debut week.
Grammy nomination: BTS and their fans — ARMY, as they are affectionately called — had one thing on their minds on November 24; the Grammy nominations announcement. So, it was a joyous moment when the South Korean group saw their name appear on the list of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance nominees. You don’t have to take my word for it — a video of RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook cheering was posted on their Twitter, along with a caption: “Ohmmmmmmyyyyyyyyggghghhhhhhhgggggggggdhdhsjsixudbslsogbdsisgshdbxidjdbdidhdifjfiri.” This made them the first South Korean act to earn a major Grammy nomination.