Despite being the group that essentially got me into K-pop, I feel like I don’t talk about BTS enough on this blog. Well, at least not in a positive light. And that’s honestly a shame because their discography is filled with so many incredible songs. Both singles and B-sides alike. And while their recent work has teetered heavily towards western audiences, resulting in a pretty egregious drop in quality and consistency, it’s not something that has tainted my love towards their past efforts. Though it has made me procrastinate writing this post for months now.
But with the announcement of a new anthology album, what better time would It be to do a post like this? But instead of ranking all of their singles (that’s waaaay too many), I chosen to distill it down to only my 25 favourite. The only rule? It must have a music video. Meaning that solo ventures that are apart of group albums are also eligible!
25. No More Dream (2013)
Before they took over the world, BTS were nothing more than a couple of upstart ruffians looking to harness the power of hip hop to inspire the down trodden Korean youth. A sentiment that debut single No More Dream fulfilled with an equally rambunctious hook to suit.
24. MIC Drop Remix (feat. Steve Aoki) (2017)
Though may would consider the MIC Drop Remix to be the start of BTS’ ‘westernisation’, it’s punchy hook and addictive production make sure to keep this remix of a rather boring b-side an endlessly exciting listen. The fact that it contains so many of my personal pet peeves but still succeeds is incredible.
23. N.O (2013)
Though the groups debut year was full of hard hitting hip hop tracks targeted towards social issues, N.O felt like the most assured of the bunch, pulsing forward on a dramatic percussion and orchestral beat that opens into a potent, punchy chorus.
22. ON (2020) (review)
A song that’s only gotten more impressive since its release, ON pulses with a real sense of ambition that comes to a head during its driving, triumphant chorus. Sure its verses are a little all over the place but the pre-chorus and chorus are always around the corner to reel you back with their swirling majesty. Really underrated this one on release.
21. Euphoria (Jungkook solo) (2018)
A shimmering piece of melancholic EDM that feels as though it’s been ripped right out of The Chainsmokers playbook, Euphoria succeeds thanks to Jungkook’s emotive vocals and a melody that’s simple but incredibly effective.
20. Intro: Persona (RM Solo) (2019)
The intro track to an incredible album, Intro: Persona saw RM at his most charismatic. Perched over a driving guitar and trap assisted beat, the track goes from one addictive hook to another without missing a beat. Almost every song from this album is excellent but there’s just something so charming about this track in particular.
19. Dynamite (2020) (review)
Though easily one of the groups most unoriginal efforts, there’s no denying the sheer replay-ability and infectious energy of the groups first English single. The disco laced groove is undoubtedly enjoyable and the climactic key change is enough to really get this one over the line. Sometimes you just gotta be *shinin through the city with a little funk and soul*.
18. Epiphany (Jin solo) (2018)
A gorgeous rock ballad that shines light on one of the groups most underrated vocals, Epiphany’s snowballing structure results in an emotive standout within the groups discography. It’s aged like fine wine.
17. Not Today (2017)
A rallying battle cry that managed to echo past hits while still carving out an identity of its own, Not Today is one of the groups biggest sounding tracks. From verse to chorus it maintains an admirable sense of energy that comes to a head during its all hands on deck climax that just pulses with an utterly commanding do or die energy. It’s a little too much to warrant repeated listens but that doesn’t take away from its immense charms.
16. IDOL (2018)
A dynamic hype track that suffers from the same replayability issues as Not Today but outshines it in dynamics, IDOL takes influence from the groups cultural roots to create one of the groups most buoyant party tracks. And though ti may feel like there’s just way too much going on, there’s just so many iconic moments that it quickly becomes hard to resist IDOL’s infectious energy.
15. Butter (2021) (review)
As the juicy meat patty between the nice top bun and soggy bottom bun, Butter is the strongest and most assured of BTS’ three English singles, pulsing forward on a crunchy electronic beat and an instantly addictive hook that outshines its generic pop jingle roots to be something much more. I would probably put this higher up based on pure musical merit but unfortunately its generic roots prevent it form being as memorable as some of the groups more interesting work.
14. DNA (2017)
My first BTS song and a total jam, DNA overcomes its lurching electronic hook with excellent verses, a performance bursting with personality and a whistle sample that’s nearly impossible to dislodge from your head. It’s not perfect but boy is it an enjoyable listen.
13. War of Hormone (2014)
One of the first glimpses of the sheer amount potential the group had, War of Hormone gave the group a blistering rock makeover with a freewheeling melody and a series incredibly catchy riffs. Its problematic lyrics have tarnished its reputation in recent years but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a damn good listen.
12. Dope (2015)
A breathless dance track that effectively started the trend of brassy instrumental hooks, Dope is the group at their freewheeling best, playing off each other and the production with a sense of unrivalled charm and charisma that is so incredibly additive. It’s the perfect mix of their hip hop routes and pop infused future and one of the best examples of how to get away with a beat drop hook.
11. Epilogue: Young Forever (2016)
Though it’s not technically even a single, Young Forever is a perfect distillation of what made BTS such a force during the 2015/16 era. It’s got such an instantly recognisable soundscape and one that never fails to give me chills, harnessing a widescreen melodic approach that manages to tug at the heartstrings whilst still reaching some stirring peaks that feel utterly transcendent. The extended handclap assisted singalong finale is just the icing on the cake.
10. Fake Love (2018)
A dramatic shift in sound from their last single DNA, Fake Love‘s alt rock soundscape initially perplexed but grew into something incredible with further listens. Its chorus remains amongst the groups best, stitching together a number of initially unrelated melodic lines to create an instantly iconic centrepiece that pulses with a rich sense of emotion and drama. I only wish the serpentine hook that opens the track was more prominently featured.
9. Save Me (2016)
A track that harnesses the kind of ever-present melancholic EDM soundscape and twists it incredibly interesting directions, Save Me is as catchy as it is emotive, shifting and swerving in directions that seem completely unexpected on first listen but feel utterly vital and assured. It’s clausterphobic verses are expertly structured, building enough tension to make every chorus feel like an assured release of pop magic.
8. Fire (2016)
The strongest and most assured of BTS’ hype tracks, Fire‘s unrelenting energy and immense production reach stirring heights that catapult it ahead of many of its peers. Its instrumental centrepiece hits like a tonne of bricks on each repetition, growing louder and more dramatic on each repetition before coming to thrilling head during the tracks immense double time finale. There’s a reason why it’s become a staple of the Korean music scene.
7. Boy in Luv (2014)
Signalling a massive sonic shift from the noisy hip hop of their debut year, Boy in Luv saw the boys venture down the pop rock route with one of their most enjoyable blasts of dynamic pop. It retains the grit and energy that made them such exciting prospects in the first place but injects a healthy dose of melody that makes every single moment of Boy in Luv feel like a mini rock opera. It’s the perfect mix of playful and dramatic and a surprisingly underrated track in the groups discography.
6. Run (2015)
Catharsis has always been a sentiment that I’ve associated with BTS’ incredible ‘The Most Beautiful Moments in Life’ series and most of that can probably be tied down to my love for Run. It’s the very definition of the word, building from its addictive yet hyper melancholic verses to a rousing chorus that opens the entire track up in stunning fashion. An anthem for the ages.
5. Danger (2014)
Far and away the strongest song from the groups early years, Danger took the best aspects of everything that came before it and distilled it into an impossibly addictive production that harnessed a surprisingly sinister atmosphere and raw performance to stunning effect. Its chorus works in perfect symbiosis with the hook, riffing off the melody in surprising ways with a series of disparate hooks that come together incredibly well. It’s punchy, addictive and a total jam 8 years on.
4. I Need U (2015)
Officially the groups breakout moment, I Need U catapulted the boys into new territory both commercially and musically. This is an absolutely stunning single, slowing down the pace from their previous efforts to instead shine full light on gorgeous melodies, stunning harmonies and some of the most claustrophobic builds of their career. It’s one of the groups most raw and emotive singles, harbouring a sense of emotional weight that it expertly balances with the aforementioned sense of release that the tracks overarching series does so well to convey.
3. Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey) (2019)
Sometimes all you need is the perfect melody to cement a song as an instant classic. It can have generic leanings or even moments that don’t fully land but if you have a perfect through line, it can revolutionise a listening experience. And that’s exactly why the glossy pop of 2019’s Boy With Luv is so special. Its production is immaculate, pulsing with an incredible sense of buoyancy that somehow still manages to harbour an underlying sense of yearning that works so damn well within the context of the song. The chorus follows suit, consisting of a deceptively simple set of hooks that latch onto your psyche and drag you into this rhythm guitar fuelled wonderland before you even realise.
2. Blood Sweat & Tears (2016)
The crown jewel of the groups ambitious conceptual endeavours and a legendary musical moment that instantly cemented BTS as one of the industry’s leading acts, Blood Sweat & Tears is the definition of pop perfection, taking potentially dated and/or generic trends and transforming them into a hypnotic blast of greatness. It’s a track bursting with character, taking its ambitious concept and lending it an equally fulfilling musically experience that radiates a sense of uncertainty and drama that seems almost impossible to replicate in musical form. Most importantly, the track has depth. The vocals and swirling instrumental fuse to create an almost sensual atmosphere. One that Blood Sweat & Tears plays off so damn well. It was the first K-pop song that I truely loved, and while it’s no longer my top pick, it must be said that few songs are as captivating or thrilling as Blood Sweat & Tears.
1. Spring Day (2017)
A gorgeous musical masterpiece and one of my favourite pieces of music ever, Spring Day is the rare song that hits me in a way that fundamentally changes how i view and remember some moments in life. It’s an almost magical piece of music, perfectly calibrated from all angles to deliver the perfect mix of yearning, melancholy and most importantly, hope. It’s the culmination of years of musical growth, leaning fully into the kind of anthemic melodies that made past projects soar, built around an equally stirring rock ballad frame that turns a great song into something utterly transcendent. The extended chorus is gorgeous, mirroring the rise and fall of the ocean waves as it weaves its way through the dramatic arrangement to shine light on a centrepiece that revels in its majesty without feeling as though it’s trying too hard. I could honestly go on and on about this song but that’s a story for another post. But when the song is this great, could you even blame me?