The Best BTS Songs Part One: 30 To 16
If you’ve read my work here before, you may have realized by now that I am a bit of a BTS fangirl. What may surprise you is that I haven’t been a fan for very long. I’ve only been a member of the BTS ARMY for a few months but I must admit, they have had a significant impact on me. Their positive messages, inspirational journey to stardom, charming nature, and genuinely brilliant music have made them one of the most iconic music groups of our generation. With their new album- BE– releasing on November 20th, now seems like a good time to look back at some of the best songs from the Korean boy band since their debut back in 2013. I hardly consider myself a BTS expert, but despite my relative newcomer status to the boys and their music, I think I have listened to enough of their music to be able to create this list.
When making this list, there were several elements that I considered with each chosen song: creativity, technical prowess, highlighting each member’s strengths and talents, group dynamics, and of course, how catchy and enjoyable the song is! I also considered a somewhat more topical element when listening to their music: how they can help us get through what is an incredibly traumatic time due to the current state of the world. You’ll see more of what I mean by that when I start. Due to this list being thirty songs long, I’ll be splitting this article into two parts. I started off with a list of ten but that grew to twenty, then twenty five, then finally thirty. I know I have a problem. I tried to be as objective as possible and scoured their discography of over 100 songs to do so. Before I start, I’d also like to give a shout out to my friends and fellow BTS ARMY members Joanna and Kira. They helped me narrow down my list of songs and decide on most of the final cut. Thanks for your assistance ladies!
So without further rambling, let’s get started. These are the thirty best songs from our Bangtan Boys- RM, j-Hope, SUGA, Jin, V, Jimin, and Jungkook- otherwise known as the one and only BTS!
It was painful to cut so many great songs so let’s begin with some noteworthy mentions. These didn’t quite make the top thirty list, but I still feel that they are worth a shout out.
“Dionysus“: This is a party-hard/ drink all of the alcohol song which I’m not usually that into unless it is particularly good. I don’t drink and parties scare me (where my fellow introverted tee totals at?) so I don’t find them very relatable. However, “Dionysus” has a killer beat and great vocals that even get me interested in this party jam. This is also a great example of Jin’s underrated vocal talent. The range he shows off in this song is incredible. He goes from booming lows to crazy high notes. Stop sleeping on Jin, people. The boy has mad skills.
“Friends”: This adorable pop bop sung by Jimin and V is a cute homage to the lifelong friendship between the two of them, as they have known each other since school. They even refer to one another as soulmates and “my everything”. The cuteness is unreal.
“Cypher Part 4“: The rap line of the group- RM, SUGA and j-Hope- have a series of “Cypher” songs- named for the hip hop term for a freestyle rap circle- released under BTS. “Cypher Part 4” is a giant middle finger to those who slammed the group for various reasons. RM is the stand out here, taking his chance to confront those who not only considered him a fake hip hop rapper and mocked his lyrics and music, but also considered him unfit to be an idol due to his looks (which is insane. Have you seen his face? Are you blind??).
“Answer: Love Myself”: This song encompasses the entirety of BTS’s message to be yourself and embrace who you are, a message that can resonate with people of all ages worldwide.
“Danger”: An awesome blend of hip hop and rock with some of V’s signature deep vocalisations. What’s not to like?
“Don’t Leave Me”: This is a catchy as hell techno ballad that makes you want to both sulk and dance simultaneously.
“Run”: A coming of age track that is not only relatable, but also a hell of a bop.
“Butterfly”: The group show off their softer side with this sweet and calming tune.
“Outro: Ego”: j-Hope being an underrated and over talented king as always.
“Black Swan”: an introspective and somewhat deep and brooding track that gives each member a chance to shine.
“Best of Me”: a soft and sweet dance track with an awesome beat drop.
Now onto the actual list!
30. “Jump”- Skool Luv Affair (2014)
I’m taking it back to the early days of BTS and their second EP- Skool Luv Affair– with this first song. “Jump” is a high energy, high octane number that is sure to at least get your toes tapping even if you’re not one for dancing. The lyrics are about letting loose and having fun but also about reminiscing on the band’s younger days, partly missing their youth and wanting to return and partly remembering the frustration of wanting to grow up and achieve their dreams. The vocal line- Jin, Jimin, V, and Jungkook- are excellent as always here, especially V who only gets one verse but pretty much steals the show. His verse is so iconic that his fellow band members often sing it back to him, even to this day. “Jump” feels like a song focused on the rap line though as they have the majority of the storytelling. SUGA’s verse towards the end hits the point home pretty hard, translating from Korean to “It’s different from what you’ve dreamed of when you were little… Now jump to the stage, we are the new generation heroes”. This reflective perspective combined with a killer dance-pop style makes “Jump” one of the best songs from the band in their earlier years.
29. “Boy in Luv”- Skool Luv Affair (2014)
Another track from the 2014 extended Skool Luv Affair, “Boy in Luv” was the lead single released from the EP. The song has that classic boy band trope of the boys desperately pining for the girl of their dreams. What makes this song stand out from the usual is that whilst most boy band songs with themes of unrequited love and first crushes tend to have a soft, ballad style, “Boy in Luv” goes in hard with the pop-rock beats as the boys deliver the words with passion and a hint of frustration. The rap segments are fiery and the vocals aren’t full of the sweetness and light that romance songs usually are. Jimin, Jin and Jungkook get to flex a bit of their softer vocals with the bridge but it doesn’t venture into cheesy romance ballad at any point. “Boy in Luv” is another great example of BTS’s ability to turn music clichés on their head, even at the early stages in their career.
28. “Fake Love”- Love Yourself: Tear (2018)
Please don’t hate me for putting this song so far down on the list. “Fake Love” is one of the better-known songs from the group and is thoroughly varied in style. Part hip hop, part pop-rock, part grunge and part electronic, the song has a bit of something for all kinds of music fans. The chorus is also highly accessible to anyone, no matter what language you speak. The English repetition of “Fake Love” is the main hook of the song and it makes for an easy singalong. BTS’s main message as a whole with their work is also reflected in “Fake Love”, with the primary theme being that not if you are not being true to yourself or with your partner when in a relationship, then that love will not last. As well as being one of BTS’s best, “Fake Love” is a great song to listen to if you’re feeling a bit angst-ridden.
27. “Mikrokosmos”- Map of the Soul: Persona (2019)
If there’s one thing that BTS’s music is brilliant at doing, its making the listener feel like an individual and that they are important despite the huge world we find ourselves a part of. “Mikrokosmos” is a great example of a song that does this whilst also being a sweet love theme. “Mikrokosmos”- the Greek word for microcosm- refers to something small that encapsulates the characteristics of something much bigger. The song title is a reflection of the message that runs throughout: that no matter how small you feel in this gigantic world, each one of us represents much more. The lyrics emphasize that each person in the world shines bright with their own light “7 billion different worlds/ Shining with 7 billion lights.” The light-hearted pop tune has a positive message about remembering that you have your own light that will always shine. There are some romantic lyrics thrown in there too about seeing the light within another person and realizing you have a connection with them. With a great pop tune that is contemporary and accessible, “Mikrokosmos” manages to be both an uplifting pop song and a modern romance tune.
26. “Lights”- Lights/Boy With Luv Single (2019)
Similar to “Mikrokosmos” in the way the song emphasizes that we as people have our own shining light; “Lights” is described as an “electro-pop power ballad” and has a clear and powerful piano chord progression throughout. “Lights” is a song that feels like a love letter to BTS’s fan base- or the ARMY- as they sing about themselves and their fans being each other’s light in the darkness and being able to get through tough times because of that light. This is certainly one of the more special songs for the ARMY, as it is specifically for us as fans. “Lights” is the first Japanese song entry on this list too, as BTS has released several Japanese language studio albums as well as Japanese covers of their Korean songs. Despite the majority of the song being in Japanese, the chorus is mostly in English. The theme of the band and their fans being a guiding light for one another is reflected in this English chorus with the repetition of “I’m your light” and “You’re my light”. A song that has likely gotten many BTS fans through some difficult times, “Lights” is an important song that demonstrates the strong bond that BTS has with their ARMY.
25. “No More Dream”- 2 Cool 4 Skool (2013)
We’re rewinding back to where it all began with this next entry. “No More Dream” was BTS’s debut single from their first adorably named album 2 Cool 4 Skool from 2013. Most of the group were still teenagers or in their early twenties at this point, mere babies of the music industry. As a group of cute Korean boys, you might think their debut would be full of musical and cutesy clichés in an attempt to attract the target audience but “No More Dream” has a much broader message for the younger generation. It is simply about not being afraid to go your own way, not living by guidelines that anyone sets out for you, and calling out those who try to push others into certain directions in life. The message is set within a definitive hip hop sound- as BTS were initially mainly focused on the hip hop and rap music genre before they branched out. “No More Dream” is obviously an important song in BTS’s history, launching them into the spotlight and demonstrating their abilities. But it also showed what kind of band they were and what their music was about: staying true to yourself and not taking hypocrisy or forcefulness from anyone. Do you have big dreams of grandeur for your future? That’s great! Don’t let anyone try and stop you. Don’t have any particular dreams? That’s fine too! Don’t let anyone force you down a path you don’t want to be on. The intricate raps, great vocals and addictive hip hop beat of “No More Dream” showed off their prowess but also gave us a glimpse of BTS’s ability to represent and stand up for the younger generation, both within South Korea and around the world.
24. “Anpanman”- Love Yourself: Tear (2018)
Super catchy and highly upbeat, “Anpanman” is a song about how anyone can be a hero whilst referencing a particular superhero character whose head is made out of bread. I should probably go into a little more detail with this one. Anpanman is a Japanese superhero who was created for a picture book in 1973 by the late author Takashi Yanase. The character then became the star of an anime series that was very popular. Anpanman was not a particularly powerful hero. In fact, he was one of the weakest. He didn’t have many powers, though he did have a head made out of anpan- a kind of sweet red bean bread. His name literally translates to “Bean Bun Man”. Anpanman may not have amazing powers but his spirit is pure as he is often depicted feeding the hungry with pieces of his head. An odd sentence but the sentiment is there. In the lyrics to the BTS song, the group sing, and rap about not having the amazing powers of certain heroes but giving their all with what they have. What I love about “Anpanman” is that BTS is able to create a song about their vulnerabilities and their struggles to be the best they can whilst framing it within the narrative of a childhood story. They emphasize those heroics are possible from anyone, even the weakest of superheroes. They go as far as to suggest that they themselves are the weaker heroes by their comparisons between themselves and Anpanman in the lyrics, “I’m a new generation Anpanman/ I’m a new superhero Anpanman.” Top it off with an optimistic, pop heavy beat and you’ve got a song that is a bit random- especially if you don’t know the source material- but insanely good with an inspiring message to all of the unconventional heroes and Anpanmen of the world.
23. “ON”- Map of the Soul: 7 (2020)
“ON” has one of BTS’s best music videos but the song itself is also one of their best. The strong electronica and hip hop beat that flows throughout the song is incredibly engaging, making it difficult to not at least bop your head or tap your toes as you listen. The song shows the maturing of the group’s music as they have gotten older as well as how their identities as artists have changed. At the point when “ON” was released, the group had been through a lot in their seven years together as a group. “ON” reflects their determination to keep on going, keep on fighting and keep on creating music no matter what new troubles come their way. The heavy drumbeat that runs throughout makes the chorus sound even more like an anthem that the lyrics suggest. The repeated chorus lines “(Eh-Oh)/ Bring it, bring the pain, on yeah/(Eh-Oh)/ Come on up, bring the pain, on yeah” suggest a strong will to fight which is relatable to anyone, even if you’re not a global K-Pop superstar. “ON’s” mature sound, rhythmic chants and fighting lyrics make it one of BTS’s best.
22. “Stay Gold”- Map of the Soul: 7- The Journey (2020)
The next Japanese song in this list, “Stay Gold” was originally part of the soundtrack for the Japanese drama series, Spiral Labyrinth- DNA Forensic Investigation. The song is another theme of inspiration and staying true to who you are- “staying gold” as it were. Emphasizing themes of togetherness and not losing your spark even in the most difficult of times, “Stay Gold” is one of BTS’s best songs to listen to if you’re struggling with the current state of our world. It reminds us to be ourselves, even “In a world where you feel cold”. “Stay Gold” has an addictive chorus and a captivating soft pop theme that is as comforting as it is catchy.
21. “0:00” (“Zero O’Clock”)- Map of the Soul: 7 (2020)
The vocal line is centre stage in one of my personal favourite BTS songs up next, “0:00”- or “Zero O’Clock”. “Zero O’Clock” was released at the beginning of this year with the Map of the Soul: 7 album. Jungkook, V, Jimin, and V really nail the vocals here, each of them harmonizing perfectly and giving flawless performances in their solo section. The relatable message of the song is what makes it stand out as one of the best that the group has to offer. The song is about getting through difficult days, the days when you feel like everyone else is ahead of you and you’re being left behind “ Those days when you’re sad for no reason…/And it looks like everyone else except you is busy and fierce.” We’ve all been there so of course, that is relatable no matter what country you’re from or what language you speak. As the vocal line sing about lying in bed with countless thoughts- wondering if all of your worry and fear is your own fault- they remark that soon it will be midnight. The day will be over and this is your chance to start again and have a better day, “When everything is new, zero o’clock.” This is an inspiring way to consider your bad days. That is all it is. It is just a day. Once midnight rolls around, a new day has begun and there is a chance to try again. I have honestly taken a lot from the ideology of this song and have tried to put that thought process in my head when I have bad days. The chorus is another great element of “Zero O’Clock” as it repeats the phrase “And you’re gonna be happy” four times in English. This reflects the way that some people- myself included- will tend to repeat things to themselves in an effort to ingrain it in their heads. This is particularly true when you’re feeling sad, as it can be comforting to keep telling yourself over and over that it is going to be okay in the end. Zero O’Clock is a must-listen for those who may feel like the world is getting too much at the moment. Even if you don’t look up the lyrics and don’t speak Korean, the soft ballad nature of the song is incredibly soothing to match up with the comforting themes and lovely vocals. “Zero O’Clock” has gotten me through some tough days recently and I hope it will continue to help others too.
20.”Fire”- The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (2016)
As the title suggests, “Fire” is certainly a song that is sure to get listeners fired up. “Fire” is an intense electronic song that goes all out on the techno sound. Much like “ON”, “Fire” takes on a more mature sound than previous electronic dance tracks, displaying growth in their musical style as the years go on. Despite, the over-the-top and busy nature, the song still reflects BTS’s messages of being yourself, this time under the imagery of setting the world on fire as you do so. Another anthem-like song that is empowering and just plain fun to listen to, “Fire” marked a change in direction and style for BTS when it first came out in 2016. Their music only grew from there, as did their skill as performers, rappers, and vocalists. The rap line truly sets the song alight in “Fire”, giving an epic performance that makes the fiery tune one of their best.
19. “I Need U”- The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt.1 (2015)
One of the best things about BTS’s music is that although some may see their songs as inaccessible- due to being in another language, the lyrics are actually brilliant at representing the struggles of the younger generation. As they have grown, their music has too but a fair amount of their earlier material was in line with issues concurrent with youth. “I Need U” is a brilliant example of a classic break up song, relatable to anyone but especially so with younger people. A somewhat angst-ridden and brooding song, “I Need U” demonstrates the excellent emotional vocals of each member, both the rap line and the vocalists. There is a certain R&B style that runs throughout as well as techno dance beats that elevate the song despite the melancholy break-up theme. The sadness that runs throughout doesn’t become too somber or depressing to listen to thanks to this musical styling. Easily conveying the confusing and self-destructive nature of relationships and breakups during youth, “I Need U” is able to encapsulate a whole generation’s emotion both with its lyrics and R&B sound.
18. “Awake”- Wings (2016)
One of the more underrated BTS members is Kim Seok-Jin- known by his stage name Jin. Jin is sometimes considered the weakest member of the group due to his lack of formal dance or singing training. So many underestimate Jin, but his solo song “Awake” proves the non-believers wrong. “Awake” marks Jin’s first try at co-creating a song- he is noted on the credits alongside j-Hope amongst the other songwriters- and it feels very much like a personal experience tied to him. Every member gets their own solo song on the Wings album, but it is Jin’s that I have chosen for this list due to the heartfelt emotion within the lyrics and his performance. “Awake’s” lyrics are quite somber in nature, seeming to tell the story of someone who feels that they can never truly be as great as they want to be or succeed in the way that they want to but they are fighting on nonetheless. These themes seem to reflect the criticism that is often aimed at Jin. In the song, he also references “6 flowers” that he is holding tightly on to. In the chorus, he sings “I can’t fly like the flower petals over there” which feels like a reference to the constant comparisons he gets to his six fellow band members and the way he is constantly made to feel that he is not as talented as they are (which is ridiculous because they are all insanely talented in their own way). “Awake” depicts the struggles with confidence that Jin feels under the huge spotlight of BTS and he sings it with real emotion and nuance, making it not only a great solo for him but one of BTS’s best overall. The bottom line here is to not sleep on Kim Seok-Jin. I know I said it earlier but it requires repetition. This is essential learning. He’s a great singer and dancer and- of course- he is the one and only worldwide handsome! Show him the love he deserves.
17. “21st Century Girl”– Wings (2016)
BTS are hugely versatile artists but they are also very good at playing to their target market. They are a group of gorgeous Korean boys with a huge amount charm, charisma and talent so you can probably guess who that market is: the ladies. That’s not to say they don’t have male fans, far from it. Their fan base is just as diverse as their music. But it cannot be denied that women are a key market for these boys. Their song “21st Century Girl” is a perfect example of how they can make a song directly for that target market whilst maintaining a positive message and not sacrificing their musical style. “21st Century Girl” has a pretty simple premise. It’s aimed at women – as the title suggests- and carries the message that you are perfect the way you are. RM opens the song with “Your worth it, your perfect/ Deserve it, just work it”, which sets the tone and theme for the rest of the song. It continues to cut through the constant issue that women and girls have with self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth in our society. I myself am a victim of this, constantly comparing myself to others and feeling unworthy. I can safely say- as a member of that target market that the boys are singing for in this song- that it is refreshing to hear a group of young men say that we are enough as we are. In South Korea, the standards are even higher and so I imagine that this song helped a lot of women and girls get through self-image problems when it was released in 2016. Another great element of this song is that it doesn’t feel the need to be a sappy love song. It fits in well with BTS’s techno-pop style with some great rap and hip hop segments and a banging synth beat running throughout. “21st Century Girls” is an empowering female track that just so happens to come from one of the world’s biggest boy bands and for that, it is one of their best.
16. “2! 3!” – Wings (2016)
Another song that is specifically for BTS’s legion of fans- the ARMY- 2! 3! carries a positive and inspiring message (which is something that we desperately need at the moment). With a soft R&B style and some awesome rap segments from j-Hope and SUGA, 2! 3! is both a song depicting the struggles that the group themselves have faced since their rise to idol status as well as a song that encourages the listener to keep going when times are at their most difficult because no matter what, it will get better. As I said, this is definitely a necessary message at the moment. The song also conveys BTS’s gratitude towards their fans for always supporting them, with j-Hope’s verse being particularly moving in regards to this “So thanks/ For believing in someone like me”. BTS constantly prove themselves to be a group who genuinely care for their fans and want to show this appreciation in their music. With an apt message that is particularly poignant at the moment, a fantastic soft pop/R&B sound and an honest look at how idol life is far from perfect, 2! 3! is a song that can be enjoyed and appreciated even if you’re not a member of the ARMY.