After teasing it since mid-summer, on August 21, seven-member South Korean pop group BTS (방탄소년단) kicked off their third comeback of 2020 with a new single.
“Dynamite” is an upbeat disco-pop song, full of “positive vibes, energy, hope, love, the purity, everything,” as leader and main rapper RM said in an interview for Apple Music.
It’s all tied together with a retro concept for their music videos (yes, videos plural) and performances; full suits with flared pants, tinted sunglasses, and a Tune Squad basketball jersey from Space Jam were just some of the outfit choices.
Their new release is unlike anything they’ve done before, even with at least one release a year since their 2013 debut; for the first time in BTS history, their song is entirely in English.
Jimin, vocalist and dancer, stated that making the song in English, a language they’re all working on but only RM can speak fluently, was an enjoyable challenge for them. Main vocalist and dancer Jungkook agreed, saying it was “an unfamiliar experience” to sing a whole song in English.
“We had to practice the pronunciation a lot to try and make sure that the feel and emotions of the lyrics were really reflected when we sang it,” said Jungkook. “We translated the lyrics into Korean and read them very carefully. We thought about what they meant in Korean as we recorded them into English.”
Their first performance of “Dynamite” was on August 30 at the MTV VMAs, where they won all four of their nominated categories and capped it off with a smooth, pre-recorded, fresh-from-South-Korea quarantine performance. It wasn’t as dramatic or theatrical as the half-hour long spectacles they’re known to put on for Asian awards shows, but it fit the song well, every member’s flared pants showing off the quick kicks in their choreography as they danced their hearts out across sprawling green screen cityscapes.
They’ve done several performances of “Dynamite” after that, some being the iHeartRadio Music Festival, an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where they spent the whole week (September 28 to October 2) doing performances and interviews remotely. Most recently, on October 14, they performed at the Billboard Music Awards from the Incheon Airport.
With the poppy sound and bright colors, “Dynamite” is reminiscent of their popular 2019 title track “Boy With Luv” from Map of the Soul: Persona. However, as far back as the drop of the teaser trailer on August 18–or perhaps even earlier–ARMY, BTS’s fanbase, realized that this new comeback would be so much bigger than the one for “Boy With Luv.”
The April 2019 single and music video had massive releases, the two teaser trailers reaching around 33 million and 41 million views respectively, as of today. However, after only four weeks, the “Dynamite” teaser defeated both previous teasers with a whopping 64 million views. Map of the Soul: Persona had a notoriously massive comeback, but this one’s still bigger.
Maybe it took rapper and dancer J-Hope’s now famously good-looking teaser photo to be dropped, dragging in new fans from all over Twitter, for ARMY to realize that this comeback would be different. (J-Hope is thankful for the compliments, by the way.)
BTS didn’t only break “Boy With Luv”’s views, they broke it’s records. They broke everyone’s records.
The group performed for the GRAMMYs Recording Academy on September 3, a performance in a glowing purple room that helpfully listed fun facts about “Dynamite” and some of its achievements in the corner. The sidebar on Genius has even more bullet points.
Among them is 101.1 million views on YouTube in 24 hours. Nobody has ever gotten 100 million views on the first day, so aiming for that was an ambitious goal, to say the least. Still, through careful, determined streaming, anything is possible, so with each ARMY watching the music video maybe around 10 times, sometimes more, the goal was reached and the record triumphantly broken. (It almost wasn’t broken, actually, but the intricacies of how YouTube deletes and recounts views aren’t important right now. What matters is that the final score spells a win.)
One complex achievement usually unknown to western artists and music fans is the Perfect All-Kill (PAK), which happens when a song is “No. 1 on the daily and 24Hits chart of Melon, daily and realtime charts of Genie and Bugs; Vibe’s daily chart; and the realtime charts of Flo and iChart. A perfect all-kill means that the song has also topped iChart’s weekly chart,” according to Soompi.
Kpopmap says that a PAK can only happen when the song is “placed the first in all categories across all the Korean music streaming sites.” It’s a tough achievement, to say the least.
BTS is no stranger to PAKs. “Boy with Luv” got them the first PAK from a K-pop group for 2019, and they also achieved one with “Fake Love” in 2018. “Dynamite” has won them another. Not only did BTS grab one PAK, they broke Korean rapper Zico’s early 2020 record for most PAKs for one song in history. As of the morning of September 14, “Dynamite” had spent 331 hours in the PAK position in iChart’s system.
But among all these achievements, the one that rocked BTS the most has to be their first number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Having a song that debuts at the top of the Hot 100 is an impressive feat for any artist. Even getting a number 1 at all is difficult. It’s something lead rapper Suga mentioned as a goal two years ago that his friends laughed over, RM calling it “far-fetched.”
Which is exactly why debuting at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, announced on September 1 (in Korean time), Jungkook’s 23rd birthday, was so magical for them.
Several members made emotional posts on Korean social media platform Weverse when they got the news. Vocalist and dancer V said “This is… reality?” (the app’s translation of “이게… 연실이냐”). Suga posted countless “ㅠ”s, a character that symbolizes crying.
On Twitter, they got even more emotional, replying to each other’s messages using their group Twitter account (@방탄소년단). Jimin said “I’m still crying,” to which another member replied “Me too,,,,,,” and then Jimin again: “I’m really sorry…I keep crying” interspersed with more “ㅠ”s. Members said they couldn’t sleep and stayed up all night crying and celebrating their massive victory.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes looking at the chart,” Suga said in their September 30 interview on The Tonight Show. “It feels like a dream.”
On a birthday livestream for Jungkook on V Live the next morning, they had two cakes in front of them, one for their maknae’s (youngest’s) birthday, the other for their chart-topping single. After staying up all night sobbing, the members were tired and their voices were hoarse, but they still laughed and celebrated with each other and their fans.
Vocalist Jin, along with J-Hope and Suga, expressed his good-natured jealousy over Jungkook’s magical birthday timing.
“Why did my mom have me in December?” Jin lamented.
When they kept their number one for a second week on the September 12 chart, this time on RM’s 26th birthday, their response was similarly energetic, just with fewer tears. They posted a video on Twitter showing them all in a car together, screaming at the camera, shaking their fists, waving hearts and the number two, even slapping themselves, captioned, “This is just….”
They are the first Asian group in 57 years, according to Billboard, and the first South Korean group ever to achieve a number one on the Hot 100. BTS is, apparently, prepared and thrilled to bear the weight of these achievements.
After two consecutive weeks at number one and then a quick couple of stints at number two, “Dynamite” returned with a vengeance to the top spot on the October 3 chart. It then slipped back down to number two to make way for their “Savage Love” remix with Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo, the then number one (meaning BTS held the top two spots on Jimin’s birthday, October 13).
It has only just dropped out of the top ten, now sitting pretty at number 12 on the November 7 chart. It’s taken nine weeks for it to get pushed down even that far. Regardless of current position, no one can deny that “Dynamite” is, by definition, a steady hit.
It is important to note that while this Billboard chart success was reached explosively, it’s not like BTS came out of nowhere. BTS has been on the Billboard 200 charts since 2015 (some have pointed out that they may have begun even earlier), climbing higher with each comeback. In more recent years, they’ve been getting higher and higher on the Hot 100, too. But only now, in the second half of 2020, have they reached number one, debuted at number one. This kind of success was a long time coming for them, “Dynamite” just happened to get them there.
BTS will make their big, full, official comeback in November 2020 with their first fully self-produced album. BE comes out on November 22 with the concept and title track “Life Goes On.” So if more BTS-themed therapy sessions are in order, just wait a few weeks and you’ll get it in droves.
While BTS has said for fans not to hold their breath waiting for more all-English tracks (e.g. telling Jimmy Fallon that if he wanted to see another one, he should write lyrics for them), it’s not like international fans won’t be getting the same comfort from the normal Korean lyrics. BTS has always been praised for uplifting, empowering songs, even when listeners don’t understand all the lyrics. In every country and in our little Carrboro High School, hangul will continue to run side by side with the more familiar lyrics of “Dynamite.”
We’ll still be “shining through the city with a little funk and soul,” as they say.
As they accepted one of their VMAs, Suga summarized BTS’s agenda in one ten-word promise.
“We will keep striving to make music to comfort you.”
“Dynamite” was BTS’s way of delivering comfort and healing and joy to everyone everywhere by priority mail. Just like they did with their iconic 2017 Korean track “Spring Day” and their Japanese track “Stay Gold” from June 2020, all seven members have taken time to reassure listeners in every language they know how to, to provide ample support to people burning out all over the world, including here, in your group chats and distanced neighborhoods and Google Meets.
Plus, equally importantly, their songs always–in colloquial terms–slap, so not only will your aching heart be soothed, but you’ll have a great overall listening experience, too.
If, by chance, you haven’t already, stream “Dynamite.” For BTS and for yourself.