Every few days or so I exchange emails with a friend and all we message back and forth about is BTS and how it seems impossible to keep up. I wake up Monday to Friday at around 5am. I check my texts, my email, and then I hit Twitter while still in bed. The reason I’m checking Twitter is for BTS – I have to see what new developments are happening. Because there are always new developments! These people DO NOT STOP!
While everyone else seems to have been paralysed during the first few weeks of COVID-19 lockdown, BTS took about five minutes to recalibrate and then just picked up and kept working. The work this week has been the release of the album Map of the Soul: Journey, with Japanese versions of songs from their albums Love Yourself: Answer, Map of the Soul: Persona, and the most recent Map of the Soul: 7 and four new songs including “Stay Gold” and “Your Eyes Tell”, which was produced and co-composed by Jungkook as the title song for the upcoming Japanese film of the same name. The band has been promoting the album in Japan (virtually) all week and will continue the marketing push over the next few days.
As expected, as is the case whenever BTS releases new music, records fall:
Surpassing 90 #1 on iTunes in less than a day of its release, Your Eyes Tell, composed by Jungkook is the highest debut for any bside track on iTunes Worldwideâ€™s history. @BTS_twt #YourEyesTell #Jungkook pic.twitter.com/xYKuql8oOs— ð™‚ð™¤ð™¡ð™™ð™šð™£ ð™…ð™ªð™£ð™œð™ ð™¤ð™¤ð™ ð™ð™£ð™žð™¤ð™£ (@GoldenJKUnion) July 15, 2020
Speaking of records, in terms of album performance so far this year:
How did they do it? Well it’s not like the western music industry gave them much help even though, as you can see from that chart, all the other artists on that list are English-speaking performers. BTS does not get the western radio play that they get. But this is what I’ve been telling you about how the west skews benchmarks for success. The way success is represented in western mainstream news, the only audience that counts is the audience that exclusively pays attention to western artists. It doesn’t take into account that there is a global audience – and that obviously includes a western audience – that is clearly paying attention to BTS and spending money on their music.
But the music itself is often misunderstood. Specifically what people think is marketing over music which is the myth that’s often perpetuated about BTS – that they are style over substance. An interesting update in the music industry, however, is undermining that fallacy.
Billboard announced major rule changes to its charting system on Monday, “changing the rules to its Billboard 200, Hot 100 and other album and song charts” which is, by their own description, “a blow to the industry’s controversial practice of “bundling” albums with concert tickets and merchandise to drive market share and music sales”. Read more about these changes here. And here’s a good summary in The New York Times about why “bundling” has been such a problem.
So what impact will this have on artists and album sales? Per Bryan Rolli for Forbes:
“Had Billboard implemented these rules at the beginning of 2020, the charts would probably look a lot different through the first half of the year. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of artists who have scored No. 1 albums or singles with major assistance from bundles in 2020 alone: Lady Gaga, Kenny Chesney, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, 6ix9ine, Nicki Minaj and the Weeknd. The latter currently holds the biggest album debut of 2020 (at least for a few more days) with After Hours, which moved 444,000 album-equivalents in its first week, bolstered by a ticket bundle and over 80—eighty!—different merchandise bundles.”
There’s are seven artists missing from that list though. Let’s practise the BTS fan chant together.
Kim Namjoon! Kim Seokjin! Min Yoongi! Jung Hoseok! Park Jimin! Kim Taehyung! Jeon Jungkook! BTS!
“The Korean pop septet’s latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, topped the Billboard 200 in February with a whopping 422,000 album-equivalent units. To date, BTS claims the second-biggest debut of 2020, and they did it without any ticket or merchandise bundles. They also derived 82% of their first-week sum from traditional sales, a nearly unprecedented figure in an era when streaming is king. If Billboard’s new bundling rules had applied in January, BTS would almost certainly claim the biggest album debut of 2020 right now.”
As Rolli notes in his piece, BTS’s critics point to the fact that the band puts out collectible versions of their albums but that’s not the same as “hiding their music behind a pair of overpriced sweatpants” because “the key distinction between BTS selling different CD versions of Map of the Soul: 7 and other artists exploiting ticket/merch bundles to sell albums is that BTS is explicitly turning their music into a collector’s item—not detracting from the value of it by packaging it with a bunch of souvenirs”.
Music purists, after all, are all about the MUSIC. And it turns out, BTS is the act that prioritises the music in their marketing even though they’re so often accused of being more about marketing than the music. Which is why, as Rolli points out, they’re “immune to Billboard’s policy changes”. How ‘bout them apples?
Despite all the misconceptions, the music has always been BTS’s focus. It is the focus this week with their new album. There are rumours that they may have ANOTHER album out before the end of the year, maybe even before the end of the summer if you believe fan speculation, reading into some of the online hints that the band may or may not be dropping. BTS members already confirmed a few weeks ago that they’ve been in the studio composing and producing and they also shared on social media that they’ve been looking at album jacket ideas. The ten months between the releases of Map of the Soul: Persona (April 2019) and Map of the Soul: 7 (February 2020) was considered a long stretch by their standards and their Japanese album releases don’t usually count in terms of a true “comeback” so it really wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for them to drop new music some time in the third quarter of the year…except that… you know…WE’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC. And they still seem to have found a gear that almost no one else has.
About the music then, I’ve been getting emails from people asking about a BTS playlist which isn’t as easy as you think because they have so many really, really good songs. And you know how personal a playlist is. Now I’ve put all this pressure on myself to come up with this playlist because I’m scared of ARMY reaction all like, WHY ISN’T XYZ SONG ON HERE?! Until then, let me leave you with this …
A song that I probably count in my Top 5 of all BTS songs. It’s a b-side track, there’s no official video, although there’s a live version of it and their performance is so cute, I can’t watch it too often because it makes me silly. But for the uninitiated, I’m not showing you that until you know the original. It’s called “Home”, to me it’s one of their very, very best – a f-cking PERFECT summer jam. Get ready to hit repeat.