BTS Love Yourself album cover.
(Big Hit Music)

10 Years of BTS, as Told Through Their Discography

Here’s to a decade of amazing music.

June 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of a little group called BTS. In June of 2013, the seven members of BTS—RM, Jin, SUGA, j hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook—formally stepped onto the South Korean music scene with their single “No More Dream” and their first single album, 2 Cool 4 Skool.

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The rest, as the saying goes, is history. BTS had a rocky start, coming from a minor label in their home country’s entertainment industry, but they rose way above what maybe they themselves had hoped to become an absolute worldwide phenomenon—and, I would argue, one of the true voices of their generation.

BTS did all of this always together with their now equally world-famous fanbase, the ARMY, which has supported them and boosted their reach every step of the way—even and especially now that the group has taken a break from their activities to focus on solo endeavors and also complete the mandatory military service of South Korea. I’m very proud to be and have been a member of the ARMY for the past six years and counting—because as one famous fandom slogan goes, we are in this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.

So what better moment to look back at the first 10 years of BTS career through their discography? Here’s a list—with insights by yours truly—of the group’s Korean body of work, following the official list given by Big Hit itself on its website.

2 Cool 4 Skool (2013)

2 Cool 4 Skool is the start of it all. The styling was atrocious—so much so that the BTS members themselves have often talked about it—but the songs hit hard and still do. “No More Dream,” the actual debut single, and “We Are Bulletproof Pt.2” are always huge crowd-pleasers whenever they’re performed live. This single album marked also the beginning of the very first BTS era, known as the School Trilogy—because yes, BTS and K-Pop groups in general were talking about “eras” way before the Western music industry caught on.

O!RUL8,2? (2013)

The EP O!RUL8,2? is the second-ever project in BTS’ career. It’s also the second instalment of the School Trilogy, exploring more of the same themes as 2 Cool 4 Skool with that hard-hitting sound. As BTS themselves say, they were very very angry at the start of their careers. This EP includes one of my actual favourite BTS songs, “Attack on Bangtan,” as well as other classics like “Satoori Rap” and “We On.”

Skool Luv Affair (2014)

Skool Luv Affair is BTS’ second EP after O!RUL8,2? and the third instalment of the School Trilogy era—it was also the first project to receive a repackage four months after its original release, titled Skool Luv Affair Special Addition. The EP’s lead single, “Boy in Luv,” is nothing short of iconic and both “Spine Breaker” and “Jump” are right up there with it. And one can’t not mention the fact that Skool Luv Affair is where the grand storyline of the Bangtan Universe—which spans a good chunk of BTS’ music and videos at least until Map of the Soul: 7—kicks off.

Dark & Wild (2014)

Dark & Wild is the first proper studio album that BTS ever released, and while not technically part of the School Trilogy—which, as the name suggests, should be made up of three parts only—is still considered its natural conclusion since the sound of the album is very much the same of previous releases and BTS’ music following Dark & Wild would feel markedly different. “Danger” and “BTS Cypher Pt. 3: Killer” are some of my absolute favourite BTS songs, and while the tracklist does have some questionable entries—looking at you, “War of Hormone”—it’s still a great ending to the very first era of BTS’ career.

The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1 (2015)

The The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1 EP marks the beginning of a new era for BTS after the one they debuted with, and a shift in both sound and image that might be more immediately recognisable to fans who have come to know the group in recent years. The HYYH era (from the Korean name of the EP) is widely considered one of the best ones in their entire discography, and it’s certainly one of their most meaningful—voicing what it feels like to leave adolescence behind and step into young adulthood. The tracklist for this first EP actually includes a song that is definitely in my personal top 5 of BTS songs of all time, “I Need U,” as well as some other classics like “Dope.”

The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2 (2015)

The second part of The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, still an EP like the first one, truly has no skips. From its lead single, “Run,” to SUGA’s iconic “Intro: Never Mind” and other staples of BTS music like “Butterfly” and “Baepsae,” it really does stand out even among the “competition” that followed it. It’s also worth mentioning that the HYYH era is when BTS’ career started to take off, with their work becoming more and more recognised by the South Korean public even while the industry was still actively trying to move against them. Their first win at a music show—an important milestone for every K-Pop group that wants to make it big—was actually in 2015 for “I Need U.”

The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (2016)

The conclusion of the HYYH era comes in the form of the very first Korean compilation album that BTS ever put out. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever includes all songs from the previous two EPs, of course, as well as three new songs—and what songs they are. The album’s lead single is the iconic “Fire,” which has never stopped being one of ARMY’s favourite songs and a pillar of pretty much every single BTS live performance. The second you hear SUGA say that “Bultaoreune,” you know it’s time to get impossibly hyped up. “Save Me” is also particularly powerful, even though very few other songs in the group’s entire discography pack the same emotional punch as “Epilogue: Young Forever.”

Wings (2016)

The studio album Wings is arguably a watershed moment in BTS’ career, which took an incredible turn upward with this release. A concept project inspired by German novelist Herman Hesse’s coming-of-age novel Damian, Wings is the start of the third era in BTS’ career—which of course takes its name from this album. And in the minds of ARMYs everywhere Wings means one thing—”Blood Sweat & Tears,” the album’s lead single, one of BTS’ most iconic songs and a masterpiece that was truly ahead of its time. It’s not like the rest of the tracklist is anything to scowl at—it features a solo song for each of the members, as well as the infamous “BTS Cypher Pt. 4” and the beautiful “2!3!” which is dedicated to ARMY.

You Never Walk Alone (2017)

You Never Walk Alone is the repackage of Wings, including all of its songs as well as four new ones—all of which have in time ascended to classic status. “Not Today,” “Outro: Wings” and “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone” have been well-liked since their release, of course, but no other BTS song comes close to “Spring Day”. One of the group’s best songs ever, beloved by the group and ARMYs alike, forever popping back up in the charts with every new BTS release. It’s such an expected occurrence that it has by now become an inside joke within the fandom.

Love Yourself: Her (2017)

With the Love Yourself: Her EP begins the Love Yourself era, one of the most significant in BTS’ career and the real start of their ascent to international superstardom. They were undoubtedly known both in their home country and abroad before, but the EP’s lead single, “DNA,” absolutely took the world by storm. Pretty much every single song on this tracklist is immaculate, from “Pied Piper” to “Go Go” to the rap line’s song “MIC Drop” and the vocal line’s song “Dimple,” until yet another entry in the “songs written for ARMY” diary, “Best of Me.”

Love Yourself: Tear (2018)

Let me start this entry off with a personal note and say that no BTS album has meant as much to me as Love Yourself: Tear. While I love all of the Love Yourself trilogy dearly, Tear was released at a moment of my life when I personally really needed to hear it—keeping up the uncanny tradition of BTS releasing just the right music for just the right time in seemingly every ARMY’s life. I listened to it over and over again and no other project of theirs will ever have that same impact, simply put. But besides my own experience, Tear is one of the most well-put-together entries in the group’s discography, wistful and sorrowful and oh-so-meaningful from its lead single, “Fake Love,” down to the incredible “Outro: Tear” and through the other songs on the tracklist, like “Magic Shop” and “134340.” It’s one of those albums that is on the very highest of rotations.

Love Yourself: Answer (2018)

Love Yourself: Answer is a compilation album that marks the end of the Love Yourself era—an emotional moment for everyone involved, BTS and ARMYs alike. It includes all songs that had previously appeared in the other instalments as well as a handful of new tracks, first and foremost the album’s lead single “IDOL,” which is physically impossible to hear without wanting to jump up and dance and sing along at the top of your lungs. I particularly love “I’m Fine,” which serves as the opposite to Young Forever’s “Save Me,” and “Trivia: Seesaw,” which are some of my favorite songs to listen to time and time again.

Map of the Soul: Persona (2019)

The EP Map of the Soul: Persona marks the start of the Map of the Soul duology, and it’s one of the most delightful projects that BTS has ever worked on. Fun and light without ever being shallow—truly the perfect pre-summer release—it features some widely known songs like “Boy with Luv,” “Home” and the absolute banger that is “Dionysus”. It also includes one of my favourite “written for ARMY” songs, “Mikrokosmos”—cue to me absolutely sobbing my eyes out as I heard it live for the first time in Paris’ Stade de France—as well as the beautiful “Make It Right.”

Map of the Soul: 7 (2020)

The second part of the Map of the Soul duology, which was released as a longer studio album, has been described as a way for BTS to reflect about themselves—while Persona, whose songs are featured on 7’s playlist, was their way of reflecting on ARMYs. Heavily inspired by Carl Jung’s theories of psychology, like Persona before it, it serves as a deep exploration of who BTS truly are and perceive themselves to be—a journey that is made clear with “Intro: Persona,” “Interlude: Shadow” and “Outro: Ego”. The entire tracklist, though, is filled with absolute gems—from the album’s lead singles “On” and “Black Swan,” to the vocal line’s solo songs, to the incredible heart-wrenching masterpieces that are “Louder Than Bombs” and “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal.”

Be (2020)

The studio album Be—the fifth in BTS’ Korean discography—is probably the most personal and intimate one the group has ever released. The members worked on it during the COVID-19 pandemic and probably immediately after canceling what was supposed to be their last world tour before their break. They curated almost all aspects of this album—from the music to the styling—themselves and really poured their feelings, both negative and positive, into it. The tracklist includes the album’s lead single, “Life Goes On,” as well as the absolute masterpiece that is “Dis-ease” and the group’s very first all-English song, “Dynamite,” which was released as a digital single in the summer of 2020, before the album was announced.

Butter (2021)

Butter is a single album that contains two of BTS’ English-language hits, “Butter” and “Permission to Dance.” Both songs have been very fortunate, climbing rankings of all sorts all around the world. Still, while “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” are fun to listen and dance to—even though I’ve always been a “Butter” enjoyer more than a “Permission to Dance” one—it has to be said that they’re the least BTS-like songs the group has ever put out, together with “Dynamite.”

Proof (2022)

Proof is the latest of BTS’ compilation albums and the biggest—since it contains a retrospective of the group’s entire discography. It was released after the announcement that BTS was going to take a break from group activities and would probably start their mandatory military service soon, so this particular album was intended as a chance for both artists and fans to look back on the almost 10 years spent together. It also includes two new songs, “Yet to Come” and “Run BTS”—and I have to be honest and say that the latter is one of the absolute best songs BTS have ever put out. It goes so hard. It’s spectacular when performed live. Truly a textbook BTS hype song.

Take Two (2023)

The latest instalment of BTS’ discography, the digital single Take Two was released during the 2023 BTS Festa to mark the group’s tenth anniversary. Take Two would have been emotional anyways since it’s a song dedicated to the relationship BTS have with ARMYs, but it’s even more so when its lyrics about moving forward together are read in this particular moment of the group’s career—with members halting their joint activities to pursue solo projects and do their mandatory military service, all with the promise of coming back together as soon as possible.

(featured image: HYBE)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.