BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7 asserted dominance over the global charts when it came out in late February 2020. It’s nothing new for the South Korean pop sensations, who achieved a similar feat when Map of the Soul: Persona came out in April 2019.
It’s worth revisiting those numbers, though. 7 debuted at number one on the USA’s Billboard 200 and Rolling Stone albums chart. Billboard reported that 7‘s 422,000 first week album-equivalent sales were a career high for BTS.
The record also had the strongest first-week numbers pretty much everywhere else in the West – it’s the fastest selling album of the new decade in the UK and BTS’ second consecutive number one in Australia.
We haven’t even mentioned the Republic of Korea or Japan yet, where BTS have been the biggest name in pop music for half a dozen years. That’s perhaps because it goes without saying, but 7 topped the charts in both of the band’s traditional strongholds as well.
Essentially, anywhere in the world that embraces pop music has embraced BTS. But the story doesn’t begin with 7 or even with Persona. BTS released three Korean language albums prior to 7 and three further Japanese re-imaginings.
While they mostly employ their native tongue, English lines have been scattered throughout many of BTS’ biggest hits, including ‘Fake Love’ ‘DNA’ and ‘Boy With Luv’ feat. Halsey.
The first couple of singles from 7 have followed suit. The trap-influenced ‘Black Swan’ begins with the lines “Do your thang / Do your thang with me now,” while ‘ON’ opens with “I can’t understand what people are sayin’.” The latter could be a nod to the thoughts of their international fanbase as the remainder of the lyrics are primarily in Korean.
The thing is, in BTS’ case the language barrier has proven not to be a barrier at all. Fans are just as obsessed as they would be with a pop group from their home country. So have you been there since the start?