A Grand Unified Ranking of All BTS Albums
I don’t have any children, but if I did I suspect that ranking them would feel something like trying to come up with the positions for this ranking. The amount of time I spent in front of my BTS shelves looking at my albums going back and forth on what was going to be in the top five and what wasn’t was pretty much a physical ordeal — but I’m actually very glad I did.
As a faithful ARMY — 2022 is the sixth year I’m spending in BTS world — all of their music obviously means a lot to me and each and every era has different memories of different periods of my life attached to it. But I tried to remain as objective as possible while giving my reasoning for each placement.
So here it is, my ultimate ranking of albums and EPs BTS have released throughout their almost decade-long career. Let me know what your list looks like is in the comments and let’s go down this lane of incredible music.
It’s not that I don’t like BTS’ latest release. But the quality of the Butter EPs — while having one of their most breathtaking photoshoots to date — is not as high when compared to the other titles on this list. The CD itself does contain only two songs, after all — iconic songs, yes, but still only two.
O!RUL8,2?, a stylised version of Oh, Are you late too,?, is BTS’ sophomore album and the second instalment in their School Trilogy, also known as their debut era. While their looks are definitely interesting, the ten tracks of O!RUL8,2? definitely lay down a strong foundation of who BTS is as a group in 2013 and who they will become in the future. I just don’t like it as much as a whole album as others — but nothing gets me going like shouting the final verse of “The Rise Of Bangtan“ chorus at the top of my lungs.
13. 2 Cool 4 Skool
The iconic debut album, the place where everything started. Some questionable choices were made when it came to looks, but the two debut singles — “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2” and “No More Dream” — were and continue to be such enormous bops that will probably never go out of style. All in all, 2 Cool 4 Skool was really a great introduction to who BTS were planning to be on the K-Pop scene — and it’s fascinating to come back to it almost ten years later to see where they have changed dramatically and where they have maintained their musical style.
12. Dark & WIld
Dark & Wild is BTS’ first full album, and while it’s not technically part of the School trilogy it’s still very similar to it in both sound and general aesthetic. Dark & Wild, in general, goes to great highs — showstopping and spectacular “Danger” — and great lows — meme-generating machine “War of Hormone” — but it’s generally a great moment of closure for the first era of the group’s career, with all its contradictions.
11. Skool Luv Affair + Special Addition
The final instalment of the School Trilogy is also my personal favorite. The boys’ sound had already had some time to mature and evolve, and while it was still mostly very aggressive — see the EP’s lead single “Boy in Luv” — it also found time to relax and be a little bit more into its R’n’B side — as exemplified by the Special Addition’s title track “Miss Right”. Skool Luv Affair also contains some “old school BTS” songs that have by now become legendary, like “Spine Breaker”, “Tomorrow”, “Just One Day” and “Jump”. Oh, “Jump”. My eyebrows have never once not caught fire when hearing SUGA deliver that “Let’s jump and down / Uriga wasseo we are BTS” at the beginning of the bridge.
10. Map of the Soul: Persona
We’re entering the top ten with a bit of “Oh my my my, Oh my my my”. A phrase that is scientifically proven to make everyone’s day immediately better. Map of the Soul: Persona is the first instalment of a duology (or was it meant to be a trilogy?) in which BTS reflect on themselves and their role as artists through the three Jungian concepts of Persona, Shadow and Ego. Out of the two, MOTS: Persona looks outside of BTS — to who they are as idols and what their relationship with ARMYs is like. It’s packed with iconic bops like “Boy With Luv”, crowd-shaking “Dionysus” and absolutely devastating end-of-concert-crying-song “Mikrokosmos,” and it feels like a regenerating good time whenever you put it on.
BE has been called the most mature album BTS have ever put out, and with good reason — almost entirely self-produced from the music to the photobook to the packaging, BE came out right in the middle of the pandemic and it contains the boys’ reflection on the time spent between lockdown and isolation. It feels intimate and true because the eight tracks of BE have proved once more that BTS really are the voice of their generation — both in the good times and in the bad times. I have personally yet to recover from the devastating emotional whooping “Blue & Grey” gave me the first time I listened to it.
8. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1
The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, also known as HYYH from its Korean name Hwa-yang-yeonhwa, is probably the BTS era. Not necessarily the best albums — at last in my opinion — but the message and the general aesthetic of that era and how it captured the contrasting emotions of being young so perfectly will remain forever iconic. This isn’t to say that the HYYH albums are bad — they have some of the most famous pieces of BTS’ entire repertoire, and this first EP, in particular, includes probably one of my top five favorite BTS songs, “I Need U”.
7. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2
Even though “I Need U” has a very special place in my life as an ARMY, the second The Most Beautiful Moment in Life EP ranks higher than the first because of its overall tracklist — a gallery of bop after bop from melancholic “Butterfly” to absolutely demonic “Baepsae”. Overall, the two EPs together are a great starting place to get into BTS’ discography — and they represent, should I say it, a moment in their career where they really started growing into their roles as artists and idols.
6. Love Yourself: Her
That moment of growth into artists and idols I was mentioning for the HYYH era definitely reached its height and full maturity with what has to be their most famous era yet — Love Yourself. Love Yourself: Her and its lead single, “DNA,” are what launched BTS into international superstardom — not that they weren’t famous outside of South Korea before, but the purple tide of BTS really started to rise with the promotion of “DNA” (and hasn’t stopped since). All of the nine tracks on this EP are beyond iconic — “DNA” and “Best of Me,” another great ARMY song; “Go Go” and “Mic Drop,” which have the public on their feet and screaming whenever they’re performed live; one of Jimin’s most beautiful solos, “Serendipity”. Overall, Love Yourself: Her is a pivotal album of BTS’ careers and the only reason it isn’t higher on the list is because the trilogy it started was completed by two other pivotal albums.
5. Map of the Soul: 7
The second part of the Map of the Soul duology, MOTS: 7 focuses more on BTS themselves rather than on their stage personas. Beyond the two lead singles, “ON” and “Black Swan,” each member gets a solo and moment to reflect on his life and who he really is — from Jungkook’s soulful “My Time” to Jin’s sweet “Moon,” passing through Yoongi’s aggressive “Shadow” and Hoseok’s upbeat “Ego”. It’s an album about BTS, and one that will definitely help listeners understand how they see themselves and how they feel after seven years of activities.
4. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever
Young Forever was the end of the HYYH era, a repackage album that included all the tracks from the two EPs as well as some new songs — including fan-favourite “Fire”. That feeling when Yoongi says Bultaoreune before the music explodes just never gets old. Young Forever really encompasses the entirety of BTS’ HYYH era and is the perfect symbol of a very precise moment in their lives — and in the lives of ARMYs, who share their same struggles and perspectives on the world.
3. Wings + You Never Walk Alone
And here we go. The top three. Wings and You Never Walk Alone, the first being a full album and the second a repackage, are another watershed moment in BTS’ career — is it because of ahead-of-her-time legend “Blood, Sweat & Tears” and chart-queen “Spring Day”? Maybe. Probably. The entire tracklist is packed with gold, as BTS embark on their first concept album (based on Herman Hesse’s bildungsroman Demian) and fully step from boyhood into early adulthood.
2. Love Yourself: Answer
YOU CAN’T STOP ME LOVING MYSELF! Love Yourself: Answer brought us its lead single, “IDOL,” a certified incredible song to shout at the top of your lungs in a sold-out stadium. Answer marks the end of the Love Yourself era and it truly brings the answer it promises — what does it truly mean to love yourself? It packs a massive emotional punch and conveyed much of the message BTS has come to be known for across the fandom — self-love, acceptance, honesty about one’s struggles.
1. Love Yourself: Tear
The sophomore album of the Love Yourself trilogy will forever be that album for me. The darkest in meaning and feeling, starting for the raw vulnerability of “FAKE LOVE,” Tear is the heartbreak after the initial euphoria of Her and before the revelation of Answer — it alternates between being quietly melancholic and violently hurt, and it’s such an emotional rollercoaster that it couldn’t not be number one on this list.
(image: Big Hit/HYBE)
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