In an unprecedented year for the music industry, with tours paused and concerts canceled, BTS has adapted to the new restrictions set by the coronavirus pandemic better than almost any other entertainer. Regularly releasing music in the months since COVID-19 ushered in a new normal, the South Korean act has continued its streak of breaking records for physical album sales and digital streams. And, as online events replaced in-person gatherings, BTS held virtual concerts that recorded unrivaled levels of participation from global viewers.
2020 also saw BTS’ heightened social impact through the group’s engagement on subjects including racial injustice and the challenges brought about by the virus. From formal platforms like the U.N. General Assembly to familiar ones like the group’s Twitter account, the artists shared messages of solidarity and hope. Their world tour may have been postponed, but the seven members from South Korea proved that their worldwide influence is only growing.
They rang in the new year in grand style as performers at the Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve in Times Square and, in the same month, became the first Korean group to perform at the Grammys. Here are more selected highlights from BTS’ momentous year in 2020.
Feb. 21, 2020: Released Map of the Soul: 7
Before COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, BTS released the album Map of the Soul: 7. It became the septet’s fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart and was the only album to sell at least half a million copies in the U.S. during the first half of 2020. The members performed the album’s title track, “ON,” for the first time at Grand Central Terminal in a segment for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Feb. 24.
May 22, 2020: Released D-2, Suga’s Second Mixtape
Almost four years after releasing his first solo mixtape as Agust D, Suga dropped D-2. The album hit No. 11 on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest-ranking album by a Korean solo artist on the chart. In an interview from earlier this year, TIME asked about the difference between Agust D the solo rapper and Suga the BTS member. “There is a lot more that I can openly express and that I can show a more raw side to myself [with Agust D],” he had said. “What’s similar is that both sing of dreams and hope.”
June 6, 2020: Donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter
“We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence,” BTS posted on June 4, using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality spread across the U.S. Shortly after, the boy band and their label Big Hit Entertainment donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter. A little over 24 hours later, ARMY, the group’s dedicated fanbase, matched the donation.
June 7, 2020: Gave Commencement Speech at YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” Ceremony
As the Class of 2020 attended virtual commencement in place of in-person ceremonies, BTS delivered a speech at YouTube’s online graduation event alongside speakers including Barack and Michelle Obama. “If any of you feel lost in the face of doubt or uncertainty, or the pressure of starting anew, don’t rush, take a deep breath,” Jin said.
July 14, 2020: Released Japanese album Map of the Soul: 7 – The Journey
The album featured Japanese versions of tracks mostly from Map of the Soul: Persona and Map of the Soul: 7. It also included two new original songs: “Stay Gold,” the lively pop number that is also featured on the soundtrack for the Japanese drama series Spiral Labyrinth – DNA Forensic Investigation, and “Your eyes tell,” a delicate ballad co-written by Jungkook.
Aug. 31, 2020: Topped Billboard Hot 100 Chart With “Dynamite”
BTS became the first all-South Korean act to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The vibrant disco-pop track “Dynamite” scored the largest digital sales in one week since Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” in 2017. In a congratulatory message, South Korean President Moon Jae-in wrote that BTS was “writing a new chapter in K-pop history.”
Sept. 23, 2020: Spoke at the 75th U.N. General Assembly
Following their participation at the U.N. General Assembly in 2018, where BTS became the first K-pop group to address the United Nations, the members returned to speak—this time on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their lives as artists. They also shared a message of hope: “The night is always darkest before the first light of dawn,” RM said.
Oct. 10-11, 2020: Performed for a Virtual Audience of Nearly 1 Million at “Map of the Soul ON:E”
After their virtual concert in June, “Bang Bang Con: The Live,” set the world record for the most viewers in a music concert live stream with more than 750,000 fans tuning in, “Map of the Soul ON:E” attracted an even larger audience. The two-day online event held in October gained 993,000 viewers across 191 countries and regions.