BTS Is the First K-Pop Group to Reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here’s What It Took to Get There.

BY Lia Savillo

BTS, the insanely popular seven-member South Korean boy band, has been beating music records for years. But on August 31 they reached a milestone no other K-pop artist has achieved—debuting a single at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 via their first all-English track “Dynamite.”

According to Nielsen Music and MRC data, the single has been streamed 33.9 million times and sold 300,000 singles since its release on August 21, beating out Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallions’ controversial earworm, “WAP.”

It’s been a steady rise for the disco-inspired song, which now holds the title for biggest YouTube premiere ever, garnering over 101 million views in just 24 hours. BTS also swept this years’ VMAs on Sunday, August 30, winning four awards.

How did a band from a small (by K-pop standards) music label achieve this in less than eight years after their debut? As the group’s leader RM has said time and again, it’s all about the fans.

An ARMY of fans

To this day, BTS fans, known as ARMY, are behind much of the band’s success.

Billboard ranks singles for the Hot 100 based on a combination of all-genre United States streaming, radio airplay, and sales data. To get “Dynamite” to the top of the Billboard charts, fans from around the world reached out to their local radio stations to ensure airplay.

“BTS’s new approach [in releasing an English song] is a strategy to get them to a better place on [the Billboard] charts.”

-Kim Zak-ka, pop music critic

Aside from releasing the song in English, BTS also dropped multiple remixes to increase first week sales and a second version of the music video just a few days after the first one premiered.

“BTS’s universal sound ... gained sympathy in a time when the global music market sinks ... and people need to get comforted due to coronavirus. On top of it, BTS released their song in English so they could overcome disadvantages with radio airplay.”

-Kim Young-dae, music critic

The first time an artist of Asian descent reached #1 on the list was in June 1963, when Japan-born Kyu Sakamoto topped the charts with his song "Sukiyaki.” Hip-hop ensemble Far East Movement also topped the list in October 2010 with "Like a G6.”

One Korean artist that came close in 2012 was PSY, for the song “Gangnam Style,” but he only reached number two on the charts. Today, PSY congratulated BTS saying, "Finally, proud! I'm really proud," sharing the chart results to his Instagram Stories.

BTS and its fans are now setting their sights on the next big milestone, hoping for a Grammy win by next year, a feat no K-pop artist has been able to achieve.

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