The seven members of BTS don’t simply make music; they make art. Considered one of the biggest artists of all time, BTS’s organic rise to fame is bolstered by their incredible and diverse discography covering all kinds of topics and genres appealing to all sorts of audiences. BTS pours their blood, sweat, and tears into each album, with the main crux of the music being their experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
“BTS is a genre,” a prevalent quote amongst their fans, the ARMY, perfectly describes the versatility of their music and proves that any listener out there can find their kind of music among the 250+ songs they have released. With multiple solo or sub-group projects, mixtapes, featuring in or producing songs for other artists, their Japanese albums, and projects, it takes effort to select songs for a curious listener. Therefore, to keep it more concise, the list below contains one song from each of the Korean albums they have released since their debut year, 2013, till the current, 2022, for the seekers and those who wish to expand their horizons with no prejudice.
Album (Debut): 2 COOL 4 SKOOL
“Would I have been different
if I had chosen a different path
if I had paused and looked back”
Path, the last track of BTS’s debut album, is the perfect culmination of this album, taking an introspective turn on their journey from their trainee days to their eventual debut. It captures the essence of their experiences and feelings while they prepare to debut and eventually cement their dreams to become an artist but with a future full of uncertainties. This hip-hop track gives a modern twist to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” where BTS decides to take an unpredictable path to follow their passion but is still full of “what if’s” about the safer route.
“The adults tell me that the suffering lasts only momentarily now
that I should endure it a little more, that I should do what I want to do later
Everybody says NO!
The word “later” can’t do anything anymore
Don’t live your life by being trapped in someone else’s dream”
NO, the title track of the album conveys a solid message to the youngsters in school while criticizing the government, adults, and the education system for converting these youngsters full of “life” into study bots. This song was released when a few band members were still in school while others were recent graduates, making the song’s message even more sincere. Here they encourage the students not to live off the dreams of others and think/decide for themselves before it’s too late. In the end, however things turn out, there will at least be no “what if” regrets.
Album: Skool Luv Affair
“Because the dawn right before the sunrise is the darkest
You, in the future, should never forget yourself of now
Wherever you’re standing right now, you’re just taking a short break”
Considered to be one of the most classic tracks by ARMYs, this song is full of assurance to keep following your dream and not give up. It builds upon a feeling of being stuck in a time, living each day as a copy and paste of yesterday while time around you flows naturally. The song encourages those filled with frustration while their screams dissipate into soundless echoes not to lose hope and keep living for tomorrow. The band compares this frozen time spent in a repetitive maze to just a pause in a game and encourages us to keep trying our best to press that play button, eventually promising a better tomorrow. As the lyrics go, “the dawn right before the sun rises is the darkest.” Similarly, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Album: Dark and Wild
“As I walk, the moment I heard the Rain
I wondered who this Rain was falling for
A sound that hits against the lonely gray cement”
The album’s sixth track, Rain, sets up a gloomy atmosphere with a monochromatic surrounding of a monotonous day with the sound of the Rain falling. It is one of those rainy days where you get lost in your thoughts, feeling empty and lacking the motivation to do something. A day like this feels much longer and emptier, and the members wonder about their state where they can’t stand looking at their reflection because a miserable person will be looking right back at them. This song emphasizes the monotony and loneliness in their lives, the total effect they feel on a rainy day as they get so much jumbled up in their thoughts that they forget where it begins and loses sight of where it ends.
5. Baepsae/Silver Spoon
Album: The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 1
“They call me a crow-tit
This generation has suffered
Hurry and chase ’em
Thanks to the storks, my legs are all swollen”
Yet another classic in BTS discography, this song makes it to the top 5 list of every ARMY out there. This song heavily criticizes Korea’s socio-economic disparity, injustice, and generational struggles. The song compares the disadvantaged to a crow-tit (parrot bill) who have to split their legs, ruining themselves to emulate a stork with long legs, that is, those in a position of power. These storks maintain their status and power giving others no chances while insisting that the current generation puts in no effort and lacks passion. The song rails against those born into an excellent socio-economic situation nagging at those not born with the same benefits about ‘effort,’ making everyone cringe as there was no hope from the beginning to catch up to these storks. Eventually, these storks keep sitting on their thrones looking down their noses at the younger generation and those from poor socio-economic backgrounds dealing with rising unemployment, affordable housing scarcity, increased cost of living, and giving up on marriage and having kids as they can barely fend for themselves.
6. Whalien 52
Album: The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2
“In the middle of the vast ocean
One whale speaks softly and lonelily
The fact that no matter how much they shout, it won’t reach
Makes them so gravely lonely that they quietly shut their mouths”
This song tugs at the heartstrings with its depiction of the loneliness of a person who cannot be understood by the surrounding masses no matter how much they try to fit in. The song compares this forlornness to a 52- Hertz whale described as the loneliest living creature in the world emitting an unusual frequency of 52 Hertz for communication, unlike other whale species that emit a frequency between 10-40 Hertz. Therefore, despite being surrounded by so many, the cries fall on deaf ears making one feel unheard and ignored. However, the song strongly advocates to keep speaking your Hertz and believing in yourself because just as the whale rises to the surface, you will rise too, finding those who will lend you a listening ear.
7. Epilogue: Young Forever
Album: The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever
“Forever we are young
In the fluttering flower petal rain,
I wander and run in this maze
Forever we are young
Even if I fall, get wounded, and it aches,
I run endlessly to my dream”
This song closes an important chapter in BTS’s life as the members mature and move into a coming-off age time of their life now that all the members are finally adults. Before moving off to start a new chapter, the members look at their present full of happiness, hope, and support from their fans and wonder whether it will be the same tomorrow. However, this feeling of youth is not about age but rather about their outlook. As long as one is full of dreams and hope, they are young, and with this, BTS will continue to remain in their youth as they will keep running towards their dreams even if they fall, get hurt, or get lost.
8. Blood Sweat, and Tears
“My blood, sweat, tears, and my last dance
Take them all away
My blood, sweat, tears, and my cold breath
Take them all away”
When talking about BTS discography, Blood Sweat and Tears is one of those songs which cannot be excluded from any playlist, as one of their most intense songs that vividly captures the depths of human desire. This title track of the album starts the new coming off age chapter of BTS that also catapulted them to international stardom. This song reflects the corruption of innocence of youth when coming off age with various obsessions and the length one readily goes through bargaining with their blood, sweat, and tears to fulfill these obsessions. This song explores the clash of good and evil with multiple biblical and Greek themes. They accept the bad in them by giving in to worldly temptations and hence committing the irresistible seven deadly sins. However, this song is about growing and figuring out their way into adulthood and using our wings to go far no matter what temptations are.
9. Spring Day
Album: You never walk alone
“How much longer should I wait
and how many sleepless nights should I spend
before I get to see you
before I get to meet you”
Lovingly known as ‘Queen Spring Day,’ this sentimental song is the all-time tear-jerking song for ARMYs and remains one of the all-time favorites amongst the Korean public. The song speaks about long-lasting separation from their loved ones and the slow passage of time, which makes the waiting period even crueler to reunite with their loved ones. Unfortunately, this reunion is challenging as the song was released in the wake of the Sewol Ferry disaster in 2014, in which 304 individuals drowned in a capsized ferry, 250 of them being high schoolers. This disaster was caused by corruption and greed at the highest level of government offices, with no justice given to the bereaved families. The song captures the grief and mourning of the tragedy-struck family and friends longing to reunite with the ones they lost.
10. Pied Piper
Album: Love Yourself: Her
“I’m your guilty pleasure
You can’t escape
It’s no shocker that ARMY is considered the world’s biggest and most powerful fandom. And ARMY is loyal to only one artist, BTS, dancing only to their tune. This is a fun satirical song where BTS lovingly scolds their fans for being so controlled by them while skipping out on important duties and dedicating all their time and attention to them. Like the Pied Paper from the folklore who lures all the children from a village away by playing his pipes, BTS uses this as a metaphor for the trance they have put ARMY’s in. Eventually, through the song, BTS conveys that it’s okay if the group can lure away any negative thoughts and feelings from their fans. Still, the fans should be aware of the limits of self-indulgence and not be lured to the point they give up on their responsibilities.
Album: Love Yourself: Tear
“It’s okay to pause
There’s no need to run without knowing the reason
It’s okay not to have a dream
as long as there are your moments to briefly feel happiness”
Paradise is that one song ARMYs thirst over the most to see a live performance of, unfortunately, it is yet to happen (never say never), but maybe one day BTS will finally give in and eventually perform this song. Min Yoongi, aka Suga from BTS via LOVE YOURSELF ‘Tear’ press conference perfectly described the sentiments of the song –
“We always include a song about a social phenomenon in our albums. And this time, it is called “Paradise.” Last year, when I gave the fans my new year’s greetings, I told them that dreams aren’t necessary and that being happy is enough. That’s how this song was born. The world never teaches you how to dream but always promotes competition. I’d like many of those who are tired from the competition to listen to this song. I’d like those tired souls to find rest through “Paradise.”
12. Answer: Love Myself
Album: Love Yourself: Answer
“Yesterday’s me, today’s me, tomorrow’s me
(I’m learning how to love myself)
Without exception, all together, they are all me”
As the ending song of the Love Yourself series, there could be no better message than this song which talks about coming to terms with ourselves and accepting what we are and how we are. The Love yourself series goes through the ups and downs of being in love, including hiding behind a mask to be accepted and loved by others but ultimately making us stray away from our true selves. BTS finally, after all these trials and tribulations conclude, with Love Myself: Answer describing the importance of loving and treating yourself preciously. To love others, you must first love yourself!
Album: Map of the Soul: Persona
“In one person, there is one history
In one person, there is one star
Shining with 7 billion lights,
7 billion worlds”
In reference to the ancient Greek philosophy of microcosm, where every individual is their mini-universe, this song refers to each person as a star shining brightly in the cosmos. The 7 billion lives existing are 7 billion stars shining bright, and even if the night sky is dark, signifying our struggles, our lights pervade through this darkness brighter than before without losing their shine. We are different people, living other lives with different ambitions, yet each one of us has a story to tell, has a history of our own, and hence each one of us shines in our way.
14. Black Swan
Album: Map of the Soul: 7
“If this can no longer resonate with me”
If this can no longer make my heart flutter
Perhaps, this will be how I die once”
“A dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.” – Martha Graham. The essence of Black Swan lies in this quote by Martha Graham, where BTS fear the moment when they will be unable to perform as artists or lose their passion and love for music, citing it as their first and excruciating death, leaving them as a shadow of themselves. However, the song also expresses that even if engulfed by these shadows, by realizing their depth of love for music, they will use it to create their wings like a black swan and keep flying forward.
“Every day, I comfort myself
We’re all just same humans; ain’t so special
Ay man keep one, two step
Let’s all keep calm and treat the diseases”
This enigmatic song runs between two parallels with wordplay on the title itself, one of it being disease and the other being dis-ease, the prefix ‘dis’ being used in a manner to describe the opposite of being at ‘ease’, that is, being uncomfortable. BE, was an album released during the pandemic and this song describes the feeling of forceful rest that came upon BTS during these times, like awkward happiness being thrust upon them. This unwarranted pause in their lives (canceling all their plans of concerts, touring, and meeting fans) felt like a disease affecting their mental health and giving them impostor syndrome, where they felt like they have to keep working even harder. However, the song leaves a hopeful message about overcoming this disease as “Life goes on.” Life goes on also is the name of the title track of this album, full of comforting and consoling messages in the face of the pandemic.
16. For Youth
Anthology Album: PROOF
“You’re my best friend
For the rest of my life”
With nine years into their career, as BTS looks forward to what is next to come into their lives, via this song, they reminisce their time from debut to now and how their fans have seen them from their teens fully blossoming into adults and artists that they currently are. This song is dedicated to ARMYs for being there for them while they grew, showering them with love, and remaining their best friends through all these years.
17. Run BTS
Anthology Album: PROOF
“The two bare feet are our gasoline
Now let’s go, are you ready?”
While “For Youth” from this anthology of BTS is dedicated to ARMYs, Run BTS from the same anthology album once again reminisces the time from their debut to now, as they kept running forward without breaks. The song talks about the seven being together and starting from the bottom with their legs as their gasoline to reach where they are now without being toppled. In the end, the members encourage each other to keep running while also thanking them for all their hard work done till now together as a team.
Special Song: Born Singer
“I’m a born singer, a bit belated confession (I swear)
A mirage that used be ever so far away is in front of my eyes (It’s here)
I’m a born singer, perhaps a bit early confession
But, I’m so happy, I’m good”
Written to the instrumental of J. Cole’s song “Born Singer” this BTS rendition promises teary eyes from ARMY’s as soon as the first note begins. This track was released within three years into their career, and the latest rendition nine years into their career, following through their journey of sleepless nights, pushback from naysayers, working tirelessly till their bodies collapsed and drenched in their blood, sweat, and tears to where they are now. In the end, they were born to be on stage, born to be musicians, and born to achieve what they have achieved.
As of 2022, the members of BTS have set out to find their own identities apart from their work as part of BTS, thus promising even more beautiful works of art to see the light before the members reconvene in 2025 after finishing their mandatory military enlistment.