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BTS rewrites pop history as it goes mainstream in US

By Dec 02, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

BTS' latest single Life Goes On tops Billboard Hot 100 list
BTS' latest single Life Goes On tops Billboard Hot 100 list

“One day the world stopped, without any notice … people say that the world has changed ... but thankfully our relationship is still the same…” (translated lyrics from BTS' Life Goes On)

South Korean global pop sensation BTS has topped the Billboard Hot 100 list with Life Goes On, the title track of its latest BE album  – marking the first time in Billboard history that a song sung in Korean has hit No. 1, according to Billboard on Dec. 1.

Life Goes On is sung predominantly in Korean aside from the chorus. It was written by BTS members RM, J-Hope and Suga, who aimed to deliver a message of comfort and hope amid the global pandemic crisis.


The latest No. 1 is a historic milestone for BTS, who have been on a record-breaking streak. The group has already topped Billboard's Hot 100 list three times in the past three months.

The group is the first to achieve three No. 1s in such a short period of time or in the span of three months since the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever soundtrack album in 1977-1978 – over 42 years ago.

The Billboard Hot 100 ranks the top 100 songs based on radio play, online streaming, and sales in the US market. According to Nielsen Music data, Life Goes On streamed 14.9 million times, sold more than 150,000 copies, and drew in 410,000 listeners via radio play in late November. 

Life Goes On and Dynamite come in at No. 1 and No. 3 on Hot 100 list (Dec. 5 chart)
Life Goes On and Dynamite come in at No. 1 and No. 3 on Hot 100 list (Dec. 5 chart)


BTS became the first South Korean band to claim No. 1 on the  Billboard Hot 100 with its single Dynamite in August. The group then reclaimed the top spot in October with a remix version of Savage Love, a song by New Zealand music producer Jawsh 685 and US singer Jason Derulo.

This week, the group's earlier single Dynamite bounced back from 14th place to No. 3, putting two BTS songs in the top five on the Hot 100. The group's BE album also rose to the top spot on Billboard 200, setting a record for debuting both a single and album at No. 1.

“We are truly grateful, just so grateful. Having a No. 1 title is already amazing but to have two of our songs ranked in the top three … we want to sincerely thank ARMY for loving us,” said BTS member Jimin.

According to Billboard, Life Goes On is the “first No. 1 sung mostly in a language other than English since Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s predominantly Spanish-language Despacito" as well as being the first group to boast two No. 1 debuts in Hot 100 history.

“The fact that a Korean song soared to No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 indicates that K-pop has broken down language barriers making its way into the mainstream market,” said Lee Jang-woo, a professor at Kyungpook National University and author of the book Kpop Innovation.


BTS’ continued success in the US mainstream market is expected to have a ripple effect on the K-pop industry. Industry watchers say that a number one track on Billboard Hot 100 will have an economic impact worth at least 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion).

The Korea Culture & Tourism Institute (KCTI) estimated that BTS’ single Dynamite led to 1.2 trillion won ($1.1 billion) worth of industrial production alongside 480 billion won in added value, totaling to 1.7 trillion won.

BTS rewrites pop history as it goes mainstream in US

The group's latest track is also expected to have a huge economic effect, on par with or even beyond Dynamite's. In particular, Life Goes On is expected "to have a stronger and far-reaching impact in the domestic industry" since the song is predominantly in Korean, said Park Chan-wook, head of the culture research center at KCTI.

Write to Jae-hyuck Yoo at

Danbee Lee edited this article.
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