The members of BTS are no strangers to record-breaking chart feats, but even they and their loyal ARMY might have been overwhelmed by just how many ways they made history when they debuted their new song “Life Goes On” at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Korean pop septet racked up its third consecutive No. 1 debut on the Hot 100 in just three months, following the Grammy-nominated disco-pop smash “Dynamite” and a remix of Jawsh685 and Jason Derulo’s “Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat).” Despite receiving virtually no radio play, “Life Goes On” still topped the singles chart largely thanks to its robust sales. The track sold 129,000 digital downloads and 20,000 physical copies derived from limited edition cassette and vinyl singles, per Billboard. It marks the second-biggest debut digital sales week of 2020 behind BTS’s own “Dynamite,” which skyrocketed to the top of the chart with 265,000 first-week downloads.
“Life Goes On” marks the first song performed primarily in Korean to top the Hot 100 in the chart’s 62-year history, and the first non-English song in any language to debut atop the chart. The song’s accompanying album, BE, also bows atop the Billboard 200 this week, making BTS just the second artist in history behind Taylor Swift to simultaneously debut atop the Hot 100 and Billboard 200. (Swift did it earlier this year with Folklore and its single “Cardigan.”) The rest of BE’s tracks also sold extraordinarily well, making BTS the first act in U.S. history to claim the top six spots on the Digital Song Sales chart.
BTS are now in a league of their own as the only group in history to debut multiple songs at No. 1 on the Hot 100. With the stratospheric launch of “Life Goes On,” they also join Ariana Grande as the only two acts to collect three No. 1 hits in 2020.
The superstar boy band has also notched three No. 1 hits faster than any group since the Bee Gees in 1978, who performed a chart-topping hat-trick with Saturday Night Fever singles “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever” over the course of two months and three weeks. The last group to score its first three No. 1 singles faster than BTS was the Beatles back in 1964, rocketing to the top of the Hot 100 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” within two months and three days.
Oh, and just to put icing on the cake, “Dynamite” rebounds to No. 3 on the Hot 100 this week, making BTS the first group to occupy two spots in the Hot 100’s Top 5 since the Black Eyed Peas in 2009 with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
Each achievement on this non-exhaustive list is remarkable in its own right, but the true marvel of “Life Goes On” is this: A largely Korean-language song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with virtually no radio play, no remixes and no bundles. The song’s stratospheric debut offers unimpeachable proof of BTS’s popularity and the dedication of their fans. Together, they have subverted a Western music industry whose archaic practices are often rooted in racism and xenophobia and redefined what a Korean pop act can achieve on the U.S. charts.
The success of “Life Goes On” is also a delicious rebuke to those who tried to negate the success of BTS’s first No. 1 hit, “Dynamite.” Some naysayers argued that “Dynamite” only topped the Hot 100 because it came with a slew of remixes. “Life Goes On” had none. Then they argued that BTS were only capable of scoring a No. 1 hit by ditching their native Korean and performing a song entirely in English. “Life Goes On” features predominantly Korean lyrics. Some even argued that “Dynamite’s” strong radio presence cheapened its chart-topping debut (an incredible stretch and bizarre argument, considering radio has always factored into a song’s Hot 100 ranking). “Life Goes On” topped the Hot 100 with a paltry 410,000 first-week radio impressions (versus “Dynamite’s” 11.6 million), with only one station reporting double-digit spins, per Billboard.
And, lest anybody forget, “Life Goes On” came with none of the merchandise bundles that were a fixture of many Hot 100-topping singles until Billboard updated its merch and ticket bundle rules last month.
With “Life Goes On,” BTS have once again proven themselves a commercial juggernaut in the United States and the rest of the world. Chart-topping hits have become the new norm for the septet, and with the help of their massive fan base, they have rewritten the playbook for a foreign act making inroads on the Billboard charts. As BTS continue to grow their audience and shatter commercial expectations, their latest historic achievement is not likely to be replicated anytime soon—at least not until they release more music.