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The 100 Best BTS Songs

From “Butter” to “Butterfly” and beyond, we count down the boundary-smashing Seoul septet’s finest moments so far

Big Hit Entertainment*

Nearly a decade ago, a seven-member group from a virtually unknown label in South Korea dreamed of a “big house, big car, and big rings.” But thanks to a lethal mix of undeniable talent, remarkable lyricism, a relentless work ethic, magnetic personalities, and a few arresting dimples, BTS are now the biggest band on the planet (and likely even beyond that). Members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook ultimately got their wish, but because they actually had something to say, they gained something much more valuable — the ability to break down walls and build bridges around the globe. 

Listing all of the band’s accolades would take longer than it would to learn all of their fan chants at once, so here are a few: BTS have five Number One albums to date and a handful of chart-topping songs, two Grammy nominations, are highly regarded ambassadors to the U.N., and bring in an estimated $5 billion to the South Korean economy annually. But at the core of BTS’ success is the unmatched relationship they have with their fan base, ARMY (“Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth”), fueled by a rich discography that transcends language and culture. Here, we highlight the songs that make up the kaleidoscope that is BTS’ message — of love for yourself and others, of introspection, of connection, and, of course, even a healthy bit of anarchy. From “Danger” and “Sea,” to “Run” and “Ugh!,” we’ve ranked the 100 best BTS songs.

From Rolling Stone US

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‘Run’ (2015)

Following the EDM-pop cloudburst of “I Need U” (BTS’ first Korean Top 10), “Run” roiled with bittersweet, frenzied emotions. A city-slick jazz-blues flourish gives way to RM and Suga matter-of-factly rapping about the burning pangs of a first real soulmate. But the song whooshes forward when V, Jung Kook, and Jimin join; their voices are both breathless and accepting (“Curse me, silly fate!”), and that empathetic surge never fades. Being young and lost in love is like running with cuts and bruises on your feet. You fall down and cry. It may be reckless or a foolish illusion. But don’t stop; always keep running. —C.A.

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Hu wencheng/AP Images


‘Boyz With Fun’ (2015)

It’s with this rollicking 2015 track that BTS (a.k.a. Bangtan Sonyeondan) introduce us to 흥탄소년단 (heungtansonyeondan), their groovy, upbeat alter egos. “Yeah, we’re here, ah boys with fun,” they shout in a rhythmic a cappella. Peppered with call and response, nimble wordplay, and a quasi-improvised bridge, the funky track is a full-blown party. And released at a time when the septet were moving away from their freewheeling hip-hop roots and leaning more into earnest pop, “Boyz With Fun” served as a reminder that BTS would always retain a shimmer of their unfettered youth. —N.M.

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‘Dope’ (2015)

The irresistibly kinetic video for “Dope” was an early revelation for Western eyes. Positioned as hardworking, well-costumed youth who eschewed clubbing and just happened to be unthinkably adorable, fabulously expressive singers and rappers, BTS moved like B-boy artificial intelligence to Pdogg’s infectious, strangled sax (clearly inspired by Flo Rida’s choked sax on “GDFR” via Lookas’ remix of War’s “Low Rider”). The clip still kills. —C.A.

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‘I Need U’ (2015)

That soft, playful woodwind-synth repeats as Suga’s love rap edges from whiny to hateful, and an EDM wave of energy starts to rise. Suddenly, V swoons in, wailing “Everything/Everything” like it’s his last word. Rolling snares unleash a dubstep-for-all-ages chorus, while Jimin and Jung Kook trade the epically emo plea, “I need you, girl!” But ultimately, “I Need U” sounds powerful now because it’s the song where BTS cracked the code, branded their sound, had a big hit at home, and welcomed all of us to the Bangtan Universe. —C.A.

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‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ (2016)

BTS’ worldwide moonshot started with this archetypal glitter bomb, which is simultaneously earnest and come-hither. Showcasing the gorgeously fluid falsettos of Jimin, V, and Jung Kook, the track’s producers float tropical-house breezes over a twitchy reggaeton beat with flirty synths that practically ask for your number. The synthesized vocal hook is a bouncy flurry of energy, and the bits of glockenspiel, chimes, cascading guitar, and hand claps are so enticing that you don’t even need an EDM dumb-down. Plus, RM raps about “peaches and cream” like he’s in a deck chair, and J-Hope wants to drink you like whiskey. —C.A.

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‘Black Swan’ (2020)

Back in 2015, BTS were already revealing their alienation from pop stardom, with Suga spitting: “OK, we’re dope from head to toe/Over half of the day, we drown in work/Even if our youth rots in the studio.” “Dionysus” upped the anguish; and here, they fear that their artistic passion has faded. Surrounded by pensive, synthetic strings and a cavernous 808 clap, the group’s strangely Auto-Tuned cries are absorbed by the narcotic, cloud-rap ooze. As if trapped in the video’s glistening void, seven barefoot figures in black bespoke suits bend, snap, and twist. —C.A.

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‘Dimple’ (2017)

The melody flirts with you first, echoing like a siren call. Then the vocalists lay it on thick: “Was it a mistake made by an angel? Or a deep kiss? That dimple is illegal,” Jimin, V, Jin, and Jung Kook sing on the chorus of “Dimple” — so illegal, in fact, they’ll call you “ille-girl.” Sung by anyone else, the Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’ B side would likely sound like a string of tooth-achingly saccharine pickup lines. But when BTS, here at their most boy-band–y, imbue the lyrics with this kind of delightful, undeniable charm, you’d be hard-pressed not to crack a smile. —N.M.

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‘Silver Spoon (Baepsae)’ (2015)

The group’s singers-plus-rappers configuration is particularly powerful on this millennial fuck-you to patronizing, age-old stereotypes. To appreciate the various levels of the rhymes, it definitely takes internet translation and a general knowledge of Korean society, but the supercharged trap beat slaps you right in the face when Jung Kook chants “BANG BANG” or “You must be kiddin’ me!” And it’s no surprise to learn that he’s exclaiming in reaction to a familiar situation — professional classes expecting kids from challenging backgrounds to always try harder and succeed in deadening jobs that pay with “experience.” The Korean title, “Baepsae,” translates as “small bird” or “crow tit,” derived from a Korean idiom that says, more or less, stay in your lane if you’re born into a certain class. Both a rap flex and a generational anthem, “Silver Spoon (Baepsae)” hits hard. —C.A.

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‘Burning Up (Fire)’ (2016)

Suga sets it off, intoning plainly, “It’s burning up.” Then, a runway of stuttering house-music snares, horn stabs, and wildly razoring, pinging synths send the boys into an irresistible group chant of the title: “Fiyah, oh-aye-oh!“ But it’s the bold, almost sneering, Beastie Boys–ish spirit of J-Hope and Suga that establishes a tone (though the lyrics themselves express pained frustration). The rappers’ energy only escalates with the candy-flipped dubstep beat yo-yoing and kick drums thumping. The language (a mix of Korean and English) is no barrier to the content; “Fire” is clearly a call-out to kids, no matter their country, economic background, or depressed situation, to get hyped and set fire to class restrictions, dismissive haters, or their own inhibitions. —C.A.

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‘Ddaeng’ (2018)

BTS are often lauded for their masterful performances, but since the very beginning, their most powerful weapon has always been their words. Case in point: “Ddaeng,” a slick diss track addressing the criticisms the group has frequently faced about their rapping from South Korea’s hip-hop scene. Made especially for BTS’ fifth anniversary in 2018, the SoundCloud track sees RM, Suga, and J-Hope artfully toy with six different meanings of the word “ddaeng” — namely, “wrong” and (you’re) “finished” — over a plucky beat made of traditional Korean instrumentals. “We’re being ruined, so thanks/For ignoring us until now, thanks/Thanks to you: stadiums, domes, Billboard,” Suga spits. It’s as scathing as it is refreshing, and leaves little room for doubt that BTS have earned the right to have the final word. —N.M.

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‘Save Me’ (2016)

Here’s where everybody should fall for BTS, and where every geeky music-head should appreciate their perfectionist pop ingenuity (or “400 IQ production,” as one producer put it on YouTube). Jimin’s first verse alone is an airily crooned dramatic turn, and the breathtaking four-man-weave throughout, by all the vocalists, is a marvel of nuanced technical facility. The meticulously eccentric instrumentation — ticking-clock percussion; trickling marimba sound; the distant, yearning quality of the EDM snares! — creates a sense of falling so that the chorus feels like it literally saves you. Plus, the boisterous precise flow of the rappers could make Migos crack a smile. —C.A.

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‘Spring Day’ (2017)

Sometimes, the most complex emotions can take root in the simplest of phrases, and in “Spring Day,” that’s “보고 싶다” — “I miss you.” In this power ballad, BTS are stuck in a perpetual winter, lost in grief and longing that manifest in a mix of almost-spoken-word musings and sweeping melody lines. “I wish to end this winter/How much longings must fall like snow/Before that spring day arrives,” RM raps. While the lyrics are widely understood to be originally about the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, the perennial sentiment packs an emotional punch that’s universal, transcending country, culture, and language. And the bud of hope BTS offer at the end — “The morning will come again/Because no darkness or no season can last forever,” they sing — is the reason they’ve cultivated a garden of blossoms. —N.M.