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[BTS' 10th] 2013-2023: A walk through 10 years of BTS

The decadelong story of how the 'Bulletproof Boys' became the world's most beloved boy band

By Choi Ji-won

Published : June 11, 2023 - 18:43

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A wall near Hybe's headquarters in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, is decorated with pictures of BTS members and a message celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on Monday. (Yonhap) A wall near Hybe's headquarters in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, is decorated with pictures of BTS members and a message celebrating the group's 10th anniversary on Monday. (Yonhap)

BTS started off as a hip-hop group on a small label in 2013. In the decade since, the group has grown into a global sensation, not just as musicians, but as speakers for youth.

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

2013: Bulletproof Boys

In 2013, BTS debuted with Big Hit Entertainment with their first single, "2 Cool 4 Skool." Their name was short for "Bulletproof Boys," referring to the band's aspiration to "shield themselves from the prejudices and oppression of the world." Members Jin, RM, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook were put together by producer Bang Si-hyuk, a JYP Entertainment producer who left to found Big Hit.

BTS' debut single BTS' debut single

2014: Into the world

The first year was not an easy one, as BTS took on mainstream K-pop with old school hip-hop. Even so, it bagged three rookie of the year awards.

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 that year, BTS entered Japan with the "No More Dream" Japanese edition, which peaked at No. 3 on the Oricon singles chart.

Still outside of the K-pop mainstream, the group focused on building close relationships with fans through social media and special 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.

2015: The most beautiful moment begins

The group’s fortunes turned 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 kicked off the group’s global success, with "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2," reaching No. 171 on Billboard’s albums chart.

BTS' BTS'

2016: 'Wings' drops with splash

After closing the “youth” trilogy with "The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Young Forever," BTS’ career really took off, with its second LP, "Wings," sweeping local and international music charts.

"Wings" entered the UK Official Charts as the first K-pop album to do so and was later named among the 25 Best K-pop Albums of the 2010s by Billboard.

2017: Entering the American mainstream

The year 2017 saw BTS win its first trophy at the Billboard Music Awards, beating six-time winner Justin Bieber to snag the top social artist award and dominating the prize for the next five years. BTS was the first Korean act to win 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 breakthroughs with its music as well. Another album series, "Love Yourself," began. Opening the series was "Love Yourself: Her," which debuted at No. 7 on the 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" became the band’s first million-seller title. It was the first K-pop album to sell over a million copies since 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)

2018: Conquering Billboard

In May, the band's third LP, "Love Yourself: Tear," took BTS straight to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It was the first Korean 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 follow-up to "Love Yourself: Answer," also topped the Billboard 200, becoming the first K-pop album to win gold from American recording academy in November and platinum later in 2020.

The band also won at the AMAs for the first time.

In September, BTS 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 up for yourself.

2019: Grammys debut

In February 2019, BTS became the first Korean act to present an award at the Grammys. The next year, it attended as a performer.

The global superstars also extended a narrative of self-love through a new series, "Map of the Soul." With the first of the series, "Map of the Soul: Persona," it 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.

On the accompanying 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.

BTS poses for picture at BTS poses for picture at

2020: Thwarting the pandemic with 'Dynamite'

BTS started the year off with a bang with its fourth LP, "Map of the Soul: 7," which topped music charts around the world, and was named the top-selling album of 2020 globally. Until this April, it was the most-sold album in South Korea.

BTS yet again made history with its first English song "Dynamite" hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- a first for a K-pop song.

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 the top of the Billboard Hot 100.

With the song's message, the boys addressed youth virtually at the UN through a video.

2021: BTS vs. BTS

The band shone brightest in 2021, gaining its first Grammy nomination – the first ever for a K-pop act. It was named the artist of the year at the AMAs, becoming the first Asian boy band to win a top prize at an American music awards.

In May, the video for its single "Butter" garnered 20 million views in under an hour, with the song debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

By this point, BTS was its own competition. Its new song "Permission to Dance" knocked "Butter" off the top spot with release, the second time in Billboard’s history of such an instance. “Butter” reclaimed the top spot the next week, and topped the chart for a record-setting 10 nonconsecutive weeks.

In September, BTS made its second visit to the United Nations headquarters in New York as special presidential envoys. Accompanying the South Korean president to the UN General Assembly, the group gave a speech on overcoming the challenges of the pandemic.

In October, it held its first in-person concert in two years at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles. Over 200,000 fans showed up to the four sold-out shows.

BTS members pose at the 64th Grammy Awards held in Las Vegas in April 2022. (Big Hit Music) BTS members pose at the 64th Grammy Awards held in Las Vegas in April 2022. (Big Hit Music)

2022: BTS' 'Proof,' and second chapter

BTS' continued efforts to give voice to social issues and embrace minorities took the band to the White House in May. At the invitation of US President Joe Biden, the seven members visited Washington and gave a speech on the issue of hate crimes and racism against Asians.

In June, the band pressed pause on its restless journey. After releasing the anthology album "Proof," the members officially announced a hiatus for group activities to focus on their individual careers and lives for some time.

J-Hope marked the start of BTS' second chapter with his first solo album, "Jack in the Box," in July. He was followed by Jin's first solo single, "The Astronaut," in October and RM's album, "Indigo," in December.

The prolonged discussion of BTS members' military enlistment also came to an end in 2022. The group’s agency officially announced in October that the seven members would enlist in order. The eldest member Jin enlisted first from BTS in December.

In October, BTS came together onstage for the last time at a free concert to promote Busan’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo. Their next reunion is expected to come after 2025, when all members are done their military service.

BTS (Big Hit Music) BTS (Big Hit Music)

2023: Solo journeys continue

In 2023, the members have continued on their individual paths as promised.

Jimin's first solo album "Face" came out in March, and its lead track "Like Crazy" won him a No. 1 spot on the Billboard singles chart, the first for a Korean solo artist.

Suga followed with “D-Day" in April and a world tour that began in May.

Jungkook, who became a global sensation with his World Cup song "Dreamers" in November 2022, is expected to drop his first solo album in July.

J-Hope enlisted for military service in April.

On June 9, the band dropped a new digital single, "Take Two," releasing the first official song under its name in around a year. The song is a gift for fans in celebration of the band's 10th anniversary, the agency explained.

In celebration of its decadelong career, the group turned "BTS Festa" into a citywide festival in Seoul under the slogan, "BTS Presents Everywhere."