Music Features

The 35 best BTS songs to date

The South Korean boy band BTS has inarguably become the biggest band in the world with their meteoric rise only continuing its path over the past few years. While they failed to take home a Grammy at this year’s awards ceremony for the Pop Duo/Group Performance category, that hardly puts a dent in what has been so far an illustrious and record-breaking career.

The band made up of the seven members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, has a wide and diverse discography, running from EDM inspired synth-pop such as “So What,” to acoustic infused mid-tempo numbers like “Life Goes On,” to gloomy ballads with “The Truth Untold.”

With their last two Las Vegas shows taking place this week, we decided to rank what we think are the groups best songs to date.

35. “Young Forever”

Despite the band’s claim to fame initially stemming from their hard-hitting and personal lyrics that dealt with the hardships of youth – especially the cultural pressures put on Korean teens- they’ve grown quite fond of open sentimentality in their lyrics. Their sincerity has always been present, but it’s evolved with songs such as “Mikrokosmos” and “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal” seemingly built to be the concert ending number, perfectly formed and produced to elicit tears as fans watch on from the crowd. One of their earlier versions of this is their song “Epilogue: Young Forever” off of their album The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. It was both a culmination of the chapter they’d been in but also a promise to fans and themselves that they’d continue to chase their dreams – it was positive and uplifting without an ounce of insincerity. [Allyson Johnson]

34. “Respect”

Despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of this retro throwback, Suga and RM created one of the most strictly fun BTS songs on Map of the Soul: 7 with their unit number “Respect.” Both playing as an homage to classic inspired hip-hop and funk as well as intricately adding elements of modern hyper-pop such as Suga’s deconstructed and layered verse, it’s a superb demonstration of the twos individualist styles coming together to create something that plays true to their own colors while producing something electrifying and new. [AJ]

33. “Mikrokosmos” 

Debuting on the mini-album Map of the Soul: Persona, “Mikrokosmos” is a summation of all of BTS’s best concert closers. While it carries an air of wistful sentimentality, the emotion of the song performed live carries even greater weight. A song about finding light in the dark and about learning to value both the great and small wonders in the world, the instrumentation builds with the song to an uplifting and gratifying crescendo. V and Jungkook are greatly serviced here as they utilize their lower registers. [AJ]

32. “Intro: Boy Meets Evil”

Despite being such an integral part of BTS and, often, an unsung MVP, J-Hope hasn’t always been given the best solo numbers on group albums that demonstrate all that he’s capable of. As the opener for Wings, “Intro: Boy Meets Evil,” like its performer, is a dynamic and light on its feet song that utilizes the rapper’s ability to transition from singing to rapping with ease while showcasing the aggression he can push behind a lyric. [AJ]

31. “Lie”

Jimin might consistently be given the strongest solo numbers of any member on a given album, perhaps due to his distinctive tenor that plays well with peculiar motifs that blend different avenues of pop. In “Lie” off of Wings his voice goes from staccato verses to wailing choruses over heavily processed strings and a rumbling bass line. [AJ]

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30. “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal”

Sentimentality has become an easy tool in the group’s arsenal but with “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” they earn the emotions that are delivered. The second to last song off of Map of the Soul: 7, its lyricism takes listeners through the band’s journey from underdogs to global sensations, making sure to highlight yet again how they are no longer just a group of seven due to the support and fans that have cheered them on. The intro to the second chorus is particularly satisfying as it uses a drop-in instrumentation before bringing it back behind the vocals for greater impact. [AJ]

29. “Stay” 

No other song in the groups catalog expresses the idea of laughing through the pain as much as the glitter pop anthem “Stay” off of BE. The Jungkook produced EDM track is breathlessly exhilarating, playing to the strengths of the sub-unit of Jungkook, Jin, and RM. It is perhaps the best use of RM on the album (beyond his endless songwriting credits) as he lets go of some of his laid-back rap stylings from the other songs for something more assertive, more easily melodic which contrasts with Jin and Jungkook’s sweet, piercing pop vocals. [AJ]

28. “Singularity”

Potentially the most aptly titled BTS song as V demonstrates what makes him so distinct in the group with a song that’s jazz-influenced, sultry, and theatrical in all the ways we’ve come to expect from him but still managed to surprise us. Languid in its pacing, the song and its songwriters knew exactly how to utilize the singer’s baritone to tremendous and transportive effect. [AJ]

27. “134340”

One of the more pleasantly surprising aspects of BTS’s ever-growing discography is how there’s a good deal of them that are based on the niche and or peculiar ideas. Take the light jazz-inspired “134340” which takes Pluto being removed from an official planet in the solar system as renamed with a numerical code and transforms it into a song about isolation and a lone entity being ousted after thinking it had a greater purpose. [AJ]

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26. “Butter”

Of the band’s three English releases, it’s 2021’s “Butter” which is by far the best with its R&B style instrumentation and confident vocals giving what is an airy and weightless number enough push to become instantly catchy. Demonstrating a great unison in sound, everything from Jin’s smooth pre-chorus to J-Hope’s ending hype riffs showcases a band at the peak of their power. [AJ]

25. “Spine Breaker”

One of the initial aspects that gained BTS a following was their refusal to back down from writing about social norms they didn’t agree within South Korea as well as openly speaking about troubles such as conformity and mental health. With writing credits from all three rappers, “Spine Breaker” off of their 2014 album Skool Luv Affair is a number dedicated to calling out young people over their selfish materialism as their parents broke their backs in order to support them. The message is even more disorienting considering the playful, boyish, and almost condescending style in which they perform the song. [AJ]

24. “Silver Spoon”

Released on the cusp of BTS’ fame, “Silver Spoon” is the band’s response to the impression that their generation doesn’t work hard enough. With lyrics conveying their endless efforts to succeed—“we’re try-hards, we meet your expectations / we’re try-hards, we’ve earned that name”—BTS solidified itself as a band ready to tackle deep themes through a solid hook and a catchy beat. [Claire Di Maio]

23. “IDOL” 

Inspired by traditional Korean instruments and modern hip-hop, BTS express their feelings about themselves being “idols,” a profession in Korea that is more synonymous with the word entertainer rather than the word musical artist. “IDOL” is the group’s title track from their 2018 repackage album, Love Yourself: ‘Answer,’ which is the final installment to their three-part trilogy titled Love Yourself series. The song was their first release after achieving a number one album on the Billboard charts, delivering a speech at the UN general assembly, and performing and winning the billboard music awards. It served as a defining moment in BTS’ career as they finally embraced who they are as artists and stopped caring about the label the critics and the public placed on them. With the combination of traditional Korean instruments, hip-hop beats, and South African dance music in the song, BTS proves that they can maneuver different musical genres and create something unique while staying true to their original style. [Fatima Belagam]

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22. “Butterfly

Pausing from their harder-hitting hip-hop numbers, BTS released “Butterfly” on their 2015 album BTS The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2. A sweet and nostalgic song about the fear of losing someone close, the impassioned chorus gives an emotional number a punchy liveliness that elevates it from being just a light ballad. [AJ]

21. “Intro: Persona

Despite his enormous influence on the group both as the leader, rapper and songwriter, and producer, RM can often feel overlooked as some of the flashier performers in the group. “Intro: Persona” isn’t simply a reminder of what he can do but a playful and energetic testament to how much he had grown from the start of his career. Loose and free wielding, RM deconstructs himself as an artist and a person in the lyrics in the deceptively introspective and thematically explosive number, rapping “Who am I? The question I had my whole life / The question which I probably won’t find an answer to my whole life.” [AJ]

20. “BTS Cypher Pt.2: Triptych” 

Ask any fan and they’ll have a different song performed by the rap unit that they declare their favorite. However, there’s a special distinction to “Cypher Pt.2: Triptych” in how it fully showcased their rough around the edges abilities, especially as, musically, it shifts from throwback beats to more modern sounds that emphasize a tinny aesthetic. RM has a particularly standout verse though all three shine in their take-down of critics who debated whether they were real rappers due to their idol status. [AJ]

19. “On”

Perhaps the catchiest song ever composed about professional sacrifice, “On” explores the group’s perseverance as they adjust to international fame and acclaim. It’s not their first song to explore the growing pains of personal and professional growth, but it comes with a message: “Bring the pain.” The band intends to move forward and grow, however uncertain the future is. We dare you not to sing “hey na na na” every time you hear this song. [CM]

18. “Blood Sweat & Tears”

No best-of list for BTS is complete without the inclusion of their game-changing single “Blood Sweat & Tears” off of their album Wings. A testament to their creativity and unity as a band – both through the song but especially through the electrifying live performances of it – it combined the big ideas and central questions in the lyricisms with a grown-up sensuality that distinguished them from their prior work. Jimin’s opening verse is a highlight along with J-Hope’s punctuated rapping style. [AJ]

17. “Whalien 52” 

With a synth and lo-fi instrumentation backing it, there’s almost a romantic edge to a song that is so wholly about loneliness. With the wistful youthfulness that appealed to so many, BTS croon about the need to continually share your voice because, even if currently people are failing to hear it, it will one day find an audience and be celebrated. The name and themes are inspired by the 52-hertz whale, who is the only noted of its kind and who, while never having been seen, has had its unique and singular frequency heard all over the world. [AJ]

16. “Telepathy” 

A retro song that has producer Suga’s fingerprints all over it, “Telepathy” takes its time. By your second, third, and then likely 20th listen to the song, it hooks itself in with an infectious and odd head-bopping rhythm. It is a song about how the happiest moments for the band are the ones they’ve shared performing in front of their fans. The disco-inspired beat and vocal processing both dominate, unlike anything they’ve created before, while also calling back to the energy of earlier hip-hop works, such as fan favorites “Ma City” and “Boys with Fun.” [AJ]

15. “Paradise” 

“Paradise” finds resonance in the comforting notion that every one person’s idea of “paradise” can be their own – whether that means superstardom or being able to save enough for a new laptop. A charming and introspective number from the supergroup on their album Love Yourself Tear, the timing was appropriate considering it marked the moment before their rising star became blinding, opening up the doors for further aspirations and ambitions. It’s a strong showcase for all of the members with RM, in particular, having a standout verse and the pre-chorus and chorus laying over a distinct snare beat. [AJ]

14. “Save Me” 

Released on 2016’s The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, “Save Me” was yet another critical step in BTS’s ascension to worldwide acclaim. The electropop track finds its strength in the energized and airy musicality which masks more somber lyricism about the safety someone can find in another’s care. The song’s unexpected rhythmic patterns and musical breakdowns give the number an unusual touch, refusing to add more to the production simply for the sake of it and the deceptively stripped-down nature adds to the overall effect of the song. [AJ]

13. “Trivia: Seesaw” 

An unexpected number from resident rapper Suga, “Trivia: Seesaw” defied what fans had expected from the member in his solo number for the album Love Yourself Answer. Catchy and melodic and deploying what would become a much-more accustomed laid-back rap style, “Seesaw” has much more in common with Calvin Harris’s “Slide” than other BTS singles. The song glides on the beat with smooth and dreamy production. [AJ]

12. “Serendipity” 

Gorgeous in its recording, transcendentally captivating when performed live – vocalist Jimin had an ethereal hit on his hands with his solo “Serendipity.” Meticulously crafted around his abilities as a singer and his specific tonality, the love note of a number is flirtatious, sensual, and sincere, a true stunner that shines a light on the peculiarity of his vocal color. [AJ]

11. “Magic Shop”

“Magic Shop” is so saccharine-sweet in its build-up that it shouldn’t work to the level that it does but its execution is flawless. The production is smooth with immense clarity and the emotional tug of the song and its instrumental crescendo as their last, sing-a-long style, give and take verse is sung is powerful. The vocalists are all given ample time to shine here and the simple message of offering a place for listeners to go when they’re feeling low is direct and effective in approach as the song itself is a balm for anyone who presses play. [AJ]

10. “Run”

Early BTS is distinguishable from how they weaponized youth in all its chaos, unfettered wants, and adrenaline-seeking ways to bottle time through music. “Run” – an early hit – is indicative of the energy that BTS was first packaged as and it’s immediately rousing. The beat is low but steady in the verses until the chorus hits with that youthful, take on the world ferocity. It’s a feeling that has evolved as the band has grown both older and in terms of global stardom, but that spirited, sprinting full speed ahead has never left them – a theme that’s especially evident in all their best songs. [AJ]

9. “Euphoria” 

“Euphoria” performed by vocalist wunderkind Jungkook is a certified, feel-good bop. Airy and weightless, it’s made great by Jungkook’s vocal coloring and its instant ability to lift your spirits. It is strictly pop, with playful backing runs and instrumentals that allow this song to soar with its youthful spirit and flowery aesthetic. The sentimentality in the lyrics rings through as a perfectly rendered love song – soulful, sweet, and a little naive and backed by the EDM-inspired instrumentals and Jungkook’s expected sugary smooth vocals, it makes for one of the strongest solos and best suited for the member performing it. [AJ]

8. “Outro: Tear”

RM, Suga, and J-Hope, at their best, are forces to be reckoned with on stage and these highlights are often best on display when they group up for their unit songs. “Outro: Tear” off of the album Love Yourself: Tear deserves more love. The versus split between the three is distinctly their own, from RM’s spit-fire and hard-hitting delivery to Suga’s deliberate drawl that accelerates the more impassioned he gets, to J-Hope’s free-spirited and loose styling, and it allows the moments where they come together on the chorus to hit stronger. The song’s significance grew when it was released that it had been written when the band had been contemplating breaking up, with lyrics such as “We walked towards the same place/But this place becomes our last/Although we used to talk about forever/Now we break each other without mercy” take on a whole look new meaning. [AJ]

7. “Fake Love”  

The lead single from their third Korean-language album, Love Yourself: Tear, “Fake Love” explores a love that requires losing your own identity—and therefore, not a real love at all. RM, who co-wrote “Fake Love,” told Beats 1 in 2018 that it’s a song about how if “you’re not true to yourself, your love won’t last forever.” The song is a powerful exploration of the desire to give in to a love that feels like destiny, and the realization that “fake love” always takes, but never gives. Breakup anthems never sounded so good. [CM]

6. “Moon

 In their seventh year as a group, BTS released their fourth studio album titled Map of the Soul: 7. The album was the second and final installment to the Map of the Soul series, which featured songs from their EP titled Map of the Soul: Persona and included fifteen new tracks. Among these fifteen tracks were subunit and solo songs that each represented their own stories. “Moon” is the seventh track on the album performed and written by the oldest member of the group, Jin. In the upbeat guitar-driven pop-rock track, Jin symbolizes himself as the moon and his fans as the earth he shines and orbits around. The song serves as Jin’s declaration of love for his fans, in which he promises that he will continue lighting up their world by doing his best for them. [Fatima Belagam]

5. “Pied Piper” 

Demonstrating a self-awareness of their all-consuming effect on their fans, “Pied Piper” bases itself on its namesake but with a twist, focusing on the idea of their music luring fans away from their day-to-day responsibilities. Funny then (and suitable) that “Pied Piper” the song is so alluring. Its production is gorgeous and it’s made all the stronger in the live performances. It’s blatantly flirtatious, playing to the wants and wills of fans around the world who see them as means of escape, all the while retaining that edge that allows their sincerity to shine through. They know they’re distractions, and “Pied Piper” works so well in narrative because it both disparages the idea while emboldening it. There’s a soulful beat to the song that differs itself from other of the band’s outings with a more R&B flow that allows each member a moment to shine. [AJ]

4. “Boy with Luv (feat Halsey)”

BTS’ 2019 collaboration with Halsey produced “Boy with Luv,” an upbeat celebration of love. What makes “Boy with Luv” stand out among BTS’ discography is the structure of storytelling within the verses and chorus. BTS members alternately sing the verses, declaring (in Korean) lovestruck sentiments like, “Your every picture / I wanna have under my pillow” and “I’m flying high up in the sky / With the two wings you gave me.” Halsey’s appearance in the chorus, meanwhile, functions as a response to such declarations of love: “I have waited longer for a boy with, for a boy with luv.” It’s a gentle love story wrapped in a candy-coated, peppy wrapper, and catchy as all get out. [CM]

3. “Dis-ease” 

As the greatest highlight on a uniformly strong album, “Dis-ease” is further proof J-Hope is more often than not the band’s not-so-secret weapon. A 90’s inspired track that superbly escalates as the song goes on, it opens with J-Hope and his singular rapping style. “Dis-ease” is packing so much punch that it threatens to spill over, but it’s the barely contained mania that starts as a jog and ends as a sprint that makes it so wonderful, starting with J-Hope’s soul, moving to Suga’s laid-back verse (his best showing on the album) to a bridge that shows all four vocals bouncing off of one another until reaching its crescendo. [AJ]

2. “Spring Day”

Considered often to be the crown jewel of BTS songs, “Spring Day” became a massive hit and to this day offers some of the most emotionally motivated lyrics the band has ever produced along with soaring instrumentals and orchestration that allowed the lyrical sentimentality to pierce listeners. It was a noted gear shift towards musical maturity, with heavy symbolic references and lyrical imagery that was introspective and longing. The members for the most part are all given ample showcase moments – through V, in particular, is well suited for this song with his naturally emotive vocals which elevate the lyrics here. “Spring Day” was a moment to allow the band members to bare their souls as their music gravitated from their typical hip-hop genre into something more pop and alternative, a shift that would stick with them until the present. [AJ]

1. “Black Swan” 

The third single from BTS’ fourth Korean-language album Map of the Soul: 7, “Black Swan” explores the possibility of an artist losing their passion for their craft. Translated from Korean, the opening verse cries out: “If this can no longer resonate / no longer make my heart vibrate / then like this may be how I die my first death.” Alternatively, in English, the group sings, “Do your thing with me now / What’s my thing, what’s my thing? / Tell me now.” It’s a surprisingly introspective song among some of the more upbeat choices, but a beautiful exploration of how an artists’ relationship to their work evolves. With “Black Swan” they showed immense growth as artists – both with how they approached the music and how they interpreted their own fears and dreams for the lyrics.  [CM]

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