Last decade was monumental for the music industry in so many ways. Not only did we see the change in consumption pattern as the influence of digital streaming grew but we also saw the blurring of boundaries across continents. The “fan” became a central point of the discourse as the decade saw the assessment of their loyalty to their favorites and the extent to which this loyalty can be turned into actionable measures and numbers.
To say that BTS had yet another successful year would be an understatement and devaluation of their influence in the industry. The last decade did not just witness the birth of the South Korean group (2013) but also their stratospheric rise, both within and outside their home country. 2019 brought a series of historic firsts for the septet that helped the narrative rightfully shift from viewing BTS as mere social media phenomenon to artists who are here to make a mark for a long time.
Launch of ARMYPEDIA
Launched as an archive for BTS and ARMYs ahead of the release of a new mini-album, ARMYPEDIA was an engagement campaign that helped the participants create a digital record of 2080 days. The project started on February 22 and concluded on 24th March. Upon its conclusion, Forbes reported the participation of a total of 540,000 fans.
While the memories were recorded online, the engagement was created across digital and offline channels. With the release of QR codes at carts, hoardings, Twitter handles and the event hosting at physical locations, Big Hit managed to create an O2O communication path. The conclusion allowed fans to witness a live talk show by the group who also performed the unplugged version of their old songs.
Appearance at the Grammys
The news of BTS’ appearance at the Grammys sent everyone into frenzy. On 10th Feb, the group attended the show, walking the red carpet and then presenting an award for Best R&B Album 2019 which was won by H.E.R. The group was exclusively invited to the Grammy Backstage Studio to have their portraits taken by Danny Clinch. It was a rarity as the event is usually winners-only but the significance of BTS attendance prompted the academy and the famous photographer to record the moment.
Release of Map of the Soul: Persona
Released worldwide on April 12th, Map of the Soul: Persona is the sixth extended play by the group. The release was accompanied with the music video for the lead single “Boy With Luv” for which the group collaborated with Halsey. The EP was made available for pre-order on March 13 and recorded a total of 3.07 million copies during the period. Post-release, the mini-album became the best-selling EP of all time in South Korea. With 3.69 million copies sold, not only did Map of the Soul: Persona dominated in its home country but went on to outsell top 5 best-selling albums combined. Debuting at number 1 at US Billboard 200, the EP made BTS the only group after The Beatles to have three number one albums in less than a year. The septet also became the first Korean act to top official charts from several countries.
Contextually, the EP is based on Carl Jung’s theory of persona (Jung’s Map of the Soul). Delving deeper into the question of identity as a human being and as an artist, self-love, and compassion, the mini-album re-traced previous eras and shared a new perspective towards these topics. It also talked comprehensively about the group’s relationship with their fans. Check out our detailed track-by-track review here.
Appearance on Saturday Night Live
Right after the release of the mini-album, the world got a chance to see BTS perform their new songs live. On 13th April, the group took up the stage on Saturday Night Live to perform Boy With Luv and MIC Drop, allowing the public to see different facets of their musicality.
The performances received a highly positive response from fans and others alike. BTS’ appearance was both historic as they became the first South Korean group to achieve this feat but also highly important for the Asian community who found their due representation on the show. SNL is known to hold up a mirror to the society and BTS’ reputation as a socially conscious musicians further validated the latter’s influence.
Re-enactment of Fab Four Historic Appearance with Stephen Colbert
The appearance of The Beatles, also known as the Fab Four on The Ed Sullivan Show marked a turning point in the US Pop culture with the invasion of British in the mainstream music industry. As BTS became the only group after The Beatles to have three number one albums within a single year, it was only right to recall that historic moment. Re-enacting the Fab Four appearance on the show, Stephen Colbert and BTS took up the stage on 16th May to remember the moment as the former adorned the tense persona of Ed Sullivan while the latter performed “Boy With Luv” in the black and white set up.
In one of its rare moments, fans got a chance to watch BTS again as they graced the stage on 17th May to perform “Make It Right”. The performances were riveting and garnered a positive response from the audience.
Winning a Non-Voting Category at the BBMAs
On 1st May, BTS returned to the BBMAs as nominees for the third time but in 2019, they were finally voted in a non-fan voting category “Top Duo/Group”. Quite contrary to fans’ expectations, who were happy to just receive the nomination, the septet did not just win the Top Social Artist award but also the Top Duo/Group award, cementing their position as a top artist in the industry. The group also performed their lead single with Halsey, leaving the audiences mesmerized.
End of Love Yourself and Love Yourself: Speak Yourself Tour
Love Yourself and Love Yourself: Speak Yourself era saw its culmination with the end of tours. The former ended on 7th April as BTS performed their last show at Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok but this tour also brought the announcement of the stadium tours. Performing across different countries, BTS began their stadium tour on 4th May at the Rose Bowl Stadium and concluded in Seoul where the septet held their show for three consecutive days, from 26th October till 29th. The group filled up the stadiums with a total attendance of 815,116 people (excluding the finale in Seoul). Excluding Saudi Arabia and South Korea, the stadium tour helped BTS gross over $99.26 million and they also became the first-ever foreign artist in Saudi Arabia to hold a concert alone.
Release of the Webtoon – “Save Me”
Big Hit Entertainment collaborated with NAVER’s webtoon subsidiary LICO to produce the webtoon “Save Me”, a name that coincides with one of the group’s singles. It ran from January 17th to April 11, 2019 and amassed 50 million accumulated views at its closing. “Save Me” went on to win “Most Subscribers for a New Comer” award at Webtoon. A part of Bangtan Universe, the webtoon showcased the story depicted in The Most Beautiful Moment in Life era wherein the character Seokjin gets trapped in the time loop and has to navigate through different events to save his friends from their destined end.
The release of “Bring The Soul” and “Love Yourself in Seoul”
2019 saw the release of a documentary and a concert movie by the group. On 26th Jan, Big Hit released “Love Yourself in Seoul”, a concert movie showcasing BTS’ show in their home country at Seoul Olympic Stadium and on August 7, fans got a chance to indulge in a new documentary titled “Bring the Soul” that showcased behind-the-scenes events during the Love Yourself concerts. The concert movie was released for one day only across 102 countries and re-entered some of the theatres on popular demand. It grossed over eleven million dollars worldwide while grossing over two million US dollars in South Korea.
The documentary was released in 110 countries around the world claiming the “widest-ever event cinema debut” in history. Grossing over twenty million dollars worldwide, “Bring The Soul” broke the box office record for an event drama.
Experimentation with Live Streaming Concert
Big Hit Entertainment has time and again showcased its zeal to experiment with the digital platforms. When the tickets for Wembley Stadium sold out in mere 90 minutes, the company might have seen the opportunity to leverage the fans’ excitement for the tour. Taking up the challenge of maximizing the participation and materializing the enthusiasm on a single platform, Big Hit saw the scope of growth on VLive, a broadcasting channel that already had over 13 million BTS’ fans. By allowing the fans who could not attend the historic show to participate through the live streaming, Big Hit successfully executed its omni-channel strategy. Accessible through purchase, the live streaming showed how artists can leverage the digital age in “real time” to communicate and engage with their fans from across nations.
Collaborations and Other Solo Projects
In a single year, we saw a number of collaborations between BTS and other major artists in the industry. The group collaborated with Halsey who offered her vocals in Boy With Luv. The mini-album also saw participation from music mogul Ed Sheeran who had writing credits on Make It Right. For the remix version of the same track, the septet teamed up with Lauv who replaced some of the Korean lyrics with his English verse.
Apart from the mini-album, the members collaborated for other solo and team projects. Suga participated as a producer for “Eternal Sunshine”, a single from Epik High’s EP ” Sleepless In____” and for “We Don’t Talk Together”, he collaborated with Heize and Giriboy. The rapper also featured on Lee Sora’s single ” Song Request” and Halsey’s track “Interlude“.
BTS world, a situational game released through Netmarble accompanied an album which was released on 28th June, two days after the game launch. For this album, Suga and RM collaborated with the late Juice WRLD and released “All Night”. J-Hope and V formed the second sub-unit and teamed up with Zara Larsson to release “Brand New Day” while Jungkook, Jimin, and Jin came together with Charlie XCX for “Dream Glow”. The title song “Heartbeat” accompanied a music video, summarizing Bangtan Universe.
RM was also invited to collaborate with Lil Nas X for the latter’s chart topping single “Old Town Road”. RM changed the lyrics and renamed the track as Seoul Town Road. J-Hope invited Becky G to collaborate for their trilingual song “Chicken Noodle Soup” which went on to perform well on charts topping US Billboard World Digital Songs Chart. Lastly, Taehyung released “Winter Bear” on SoundCloud, accompanied with a music video.
Release of “Lights”
On 3rd July, BTS released the official music video for their Japanese single “Lights“. The track was released alongside the Japanese version of “Idol” and “Boy With Luv”. The pre-orders surpassed one million copies making BTS the only Korean artist to cross a million shipment for a single in Japan. Upon its release, “Lights” entered Oricon Daily Chart and became the song with the highest sales in a single day by a foreign act.
- Goal Certification by Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for DNA, Fake Love, MIC Drop (Steve Aoki Remix), and Boy With Luv
- Silver Certification by British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for Love Yourself: Answer and Map of the Soul: Persona
- Platinum Certification by Gaon Music Chart (KMCA) for Fake Love, Idol, and Boy With Luv.
- Platinum Certification by Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for Boy With Luv and Gold Certification for Map of the Soul: Persona.
- Million Certification by Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for Lights.
Records that Demand Special Mention
While the South Korean septet achieved a lot of things in 2019, there are some accomplishments that need special mention. Spring Day, a song from their repackaged album “You Never Walk Alone” surpassed the bounds of longevity and became the most charting song on Melon’s Weekly Chart, spending over 130 weeks. The song was released in 2017 and since then, has never once left the chart. Another achievement that must be highlighted is the group’s “all kill” during MMA 2019. Sweeping all the major awards, BTS attended the event on 30th November and took home the prizes for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year along with several other awards.
Opening of the Pop-Up Store: House of BTS
In continuation with its attempts to broaden the scope of fan-artist interaction, 2019 saw the opening of Pop Up Store: House of BTS by Big Hit Entertainment. Experimenting with the pop up economy and digging deeper into experiential marketing, the new pop-up store brought together the concept of merchandise sale and music exhibition. The opening of the store was accompanied with the launch of mini-figurines of the group from IDOl era, in collaboration with Mattel.
Appearances at iHeart Radio Jingle Ball and Dick Clark’s New Year Rockin Eve
On 6th December, BTS joined Lizzo, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Billie Eilish, and Normani in LA to perform at Jingle Ball organised by iHeartRadio. The septet surprised fans when they brought Halsey on stage to perform Boy With Luv. While the group returned to South Korea after the event, they returned to New York to perform at Dick Clark’s New Year Rockin Eve. The latter drew a crowd of over a million people on the street. Performing on the last day of the year, BTS closed 2019 with Boy With Luv and the choreographed version of Make It Right.
As BTS enter a new decade, they are already making a mark. What was your favourite BTS moment from 2019? Share it via tweet @CelebMix.