How exactly do you want to quantify the otherworldly success of BTS’s “Dynamite”? Quarter-million first-week sales? Check. Biggest 24-hour YouTube debut of all time? Of course. Just shy of 40 million first-week Spotify streams? Easy.
Or maybe we should just go for the big one, the one you and I and every other person even remotely plugged into the music industry has been waiting for since last Friday: a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100.
The success of “Dynamite” is nothing short of a paradigm shift for the way Western listeners regard non-Western artists. Not only does it mark BTS’s first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100, but it’s the first song by an all-South Korean act to top the chart. After years of sold-out stadium shows, shattered YouTube records and four consecutive No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, BTS has crossed the final frontier of global pop superstardom. To deny their status as one of the biggest artists in the world at this point would be an act of willful ignorance.
Perhaps the best part of BTS’s Hot 100 dominance is that they beat their Western contemporaries at their own game without resorting to cheap gimmickry. The group’s decision to perform “Dynamite” entirely in English gave the song a boost on terrestrial radio, and the staggered release of multiple remixes increased the song’s first-week sales and streams. The ebullient disco-pop track has also spread like wildfire on TikTok, which has helped rocket several songs to the top of the Hot 100 this year.
What BTS didn’t do was bundle the track with a bunch of irrelevant merchandise or package the physical editions of the single with a digital download so they could wait several months to ship them. Throughout the song’s promotional campaign, the group demonstrated a transparency and commitment to their music that is often absent in the cutthroat race for Hot 100 dominance.
Those traits have earned BTS one of the biggest fan bases in the world, and those fans showed up in a big way to launch their favs to the top of the chart. People who bought or streamed “Dynamite” weren’t doing so under false pretenses; they didn’t purchase the track just so they could snag some branded sweatpants or lollipops or fireworks (although, let’s face it, that last one would have been cool). They did so because they cared about the song and the artist behind it.
For years, BTS has fought for legitimacy in the eyes of Western gatekeepers, be it radio programmers, journalists or casual music listeners. They’ve had to work twice as hard as their peers at every juncture, and they’ve continued to one-up themselves in the face of adversity. That includes charting multiple Top 10 hits on the Hot 100 despite minimal radio play and delivering stellar performances at the same awards shows that routinely snubbed them. A No. 1 debut for “Dynamite” is the culmination of years of hard work, artistic evolution and a one-of-a-kind relationship with their fans that often resembles a mutual partnership.
With a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 under their belt, BTS has cleared the final hurdle in their quest for U.S. and global superstardom. The only thing left for them to do is repeat their successes in the future—which, if their fans have anything to say about it, shouldn’t be a problem.