BTS Lights Up the Billboard Charts Like Dynamite


K-pop sensation BTS makes history and achieves their first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with their hit single “Dynamite”; and why everyone should care about it.

Whether you love them or still don’t get what the whole fuss is about, it’s certain that BTS and their influence on the Western audience isn’t just a flame waiting to burn its course but an established force to be reckoned with. The group landed on the Billboard Hot 100 charts dated September 5, their debut week, in the most hotly-contested spot of all- number one.

The Billboard Hot 100 is labeled by Insider as the “definitive all-genre singles chart in the US” since its inception in 1958. And since then, only 44 songs have debuted in the number one spot, with BTS being the latest to join the club.

According to Billboard, “Dynamite” debuted with 265,000 first-week downloads, the biggest digital sales week since Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” in 2017 with 353,000. It also surpassed Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain” in 1984, with 282,000, and overtook One Direction’s record of 350,000 digital sales starts for a group. Considering the competition are among the biggest names in pop, it’s needless to say that the group is making a name for themselves.

The two most important achievements, though, are that the single was the first number one on the Hot 100 for the group, and that it was the first single by a fully Korean group to earn the spot.

BTS are certainly an act like no other. With an enormous fanbase hailing from all corners of the world, it’s the work of their dedicated and passionate ARMYs -the official name for their fanbase- that propelled them to the level of fame they are at. The group debuted in 2013 in a competitive industry that typically turns a blind eye to small-company groups, as Big Hit Entertainment (the group’s label) was at the time.

However, when the group won their first Billboard Award for Best Social Act in 2017, everything changed. As word spread of the K-pop group’s emergence into Western mainstream, BTS began their “Love Yourself” series, spanning two years and three albums that told a story of “falling in love, an inevitable breakup, and an epiphany about self-love”, according to Medium. 

While their earlier songs projected ideas of defiance, questioning the system, and staying true to oneself, their overall message is “to protect and to talk about the problems and worries of people in their teens and twenties” [Medium]. 

Because of their commitment to being positive and inspirational role models, fans argue that their fame is justified and earned, that they worked for it and aren’t the manufactured puppets many consider them to be.

“Dynamite” is BTS’s first song fully in English, a choice, as explained by member RM, fueled by a desire to try new things: When we first listened to the demo, we just loved it as it is…So we just kept the demo, recorded it and this became a whole new challenge for us, too” [Today]. 

The song itself is an upbeat, feel-good disco pop tune that is a perfect escape from the state of the world right now, and that effect was intentional, states RM: The goal of ‘Dynamite’ is really simple… to explore the world with positive vibes and energy…We’ve been through all the sadness and desperation but with this song and performance we just hope the world gets more positive” [USAToday].

Although K-pop has been around since the late-90’s and popular all throughout Asia, the Hallyu, or Korean, wave brought the genre to the West’s attention, with many people’s first experience with it most likely being Psy’s mega-hit “Gangnam Style”. Most regarded the song as nothing more than a catchy beat with a silly dance, but its influence was consequential, and set the stage for further Korean media influence in the west with the introduction of K-dramas, K-beauty, and of course, K-pop groups like BTS.

“Gangnam Style” peaked at number two on the Hot 100, making BTS the first Korean artists to lead the chart [Billboard]. This is a milestone in terms of Korean and Asian representation in Western entertainment, which has historically been lacking. Even if the outdated stereotypes of the smart, nerdy Asian are seldom used, only recently have Asian people been given a chance in the spotlight with hits like Train to Busan, Crazy Rich Asians, and the Best-Picture winning film Parasite.

Representation in media is vital, especially to younger audiences who are able to feel more comfortable and confident in themselves when they see someone who looks like them in mainstream media. I can only imagine how it must be to be Korean or Korean-American and see a Korean artist break through into western media, thrive, and be seen as legitimate artists. “In the American entertainment industry, a scene where Asian representation is very much needed, BTS is a shining beacon”, said Faith Choi for Milk Makeup.

At the end of the day, no matter what your opinions on BTS are even after reading this article, their positivity, good intentions, hard-working nature and force for bringing more Asian representation into the mainstream are certainly something to commend. Even so, I doubt many can deny the infectious nature of “Dynamite”; BTS will continue to “set the night alight”.