A group that needs no introduction, BTS’s rabid online and physical presence around the world have allowed the group to seep into mainstream consciousness, making them cultural mainstays that have all but changed how we perceive South Korean boybands.
Still, beyond their boyish good looks, the true star behind BTS’ success has always been their music. A group that is unafraid to experiment and evolve past being a stereotypical label-controlled music act, their impressive discography is nothing to scoff at.
So in preparation for their impending comeback in 2020, here are Turntable Thoughts’ definitive ranking of their entire catalog so far.
*Mini albums are classified as EPs. Reissue and compilation albums are not included. Their Japanese albums are also not included given that a majority of them are translated originals.*
EP | Released on: 11/9/2013
The 1st EP of their career, O!RUL8,2? doubles down on both the group’s rap and pop aesthetics to mixed results. Clearly inspired by American production of the time, the group sounds out of their element as they awkwardly embrace growing rap trends while also attempting to establish a signature pop sound.
9. Dark & Wild
Album | Released on: 19/8/2014
The group’s first full-length studio album, Dark & Wild is a disappointing blend of the 2 EPs (O!RUL8,2? and Skool Luv Affair) that came before it. The pop-based songs are great, while the rap ones are not. Stuck in between glitzy pop and rap-rock, the album sees an unholy communion between the two that just doesn’t meld very well.
8. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2
EP | Released on: 30/11/2015
Compared to its predecessor, Beautiful Moment Pt. 2 is a much more toned down affair. Despite each of its tracks sounds great, they lack the oomph that makes the best BTS projects tick. “Ma Life” is easily the most energy inducing track on the EP. Feeling like the group fell back on what they were familiar and comfortable with, this mini album sounds too safe for its own good.
7. Skool Luv Affair
EP | Released on: 12/2/2014
BTS’ 2nd EP was a return to form that saw the group sounding right at home amongst pop-rap production. They returned to their boom-bap style of rapping but at the same time dabbled much more in actual pop tunes (a trend that the group has gone on to perfect). The project felt like BTS had found their footing with a sound they could call their own.
6. 2 Cool 4 Skool
Single Album| Released: 12/6/2013
A rap-centric project, 2 Cool 4 Skool was South Korea’s first introduction to BTS. It’s an impressive offering that hints at the group’s pop sensibilities and their strong chemistry. Most importantly, there’s a hunger that’s heard within the boys that makes this single-album that much more exciting to dig into.
5. LOVE YOURSELF 轉 ‘Tear’
Album | Released on: 18/5/2018
The full-length offering of their Love Yourself series, Tear was BTS’s victory lap after the incredible Her mini-album. Yet compared to its predecessor, this album is decidedly lacking on nearly all fronts. The album is less punchy than Her was, and a majority of the songs also aren’t as catchy. Though every track on here is still top-tier, compared to their best efforts, Tear is slightly disappointing in that regard.
Album | Released on: 10/10/2016
I had previously declared Wings as BTS’ best album. Yet on further comparison with the group’s discography, that is no longer the case. Featuring less experimentation than some past projects, Wings still shines brilliantly with instances of pop perfection on songs like “Lie” and “Mama” (which I personally think is their best song). Much of the record is catchy and brimming with swagger, it is BTS at their most confident. However, more so than their other albums, Wings suffers from severe tonal whiplash as the group often transitions from hype to mellow at the drop of a hat. A flaw that holds the album back from being their best.
3. The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1
EP | Released: 29/4/2015
Beautiful Moment Pt. 1 is when the group seemed to have finally established a solid balance between their rap and pop sounds. Every track on here features stellar production; much of which is thumping, assertive and veers away from the ‘safer’ sounds of their past efforts. True to the EP’s title, it actually feels like the group is enjoying every moment of the record, with “Boyz with Fun” being a clear example of this and also serving as one of the best songs of their career.
2. MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA
EP | Released on: 12/4/2019
The highest selling project in South Korean history, BTS were at the height of their powers at this project’s release. Fortunately, the group fails to be complacent no matter how big they grow to be, with Persona holding its own as one of the group’s best projects. BTS has always had a penchant for ear-worm hooks, but the ones on this EP are on a whole other plane of addictiveness. Despite also being a rather scattershot effort when it comes to a cohesive sound, each song is distinctive enough to solidify Persona as a extremely masterly collection of tracks.
1. LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’
EP | Released on: 18/9/2017
This mini-album was the shot heard around the world, it was BTS declaring to the Western music scene that their brand of pop is here to stay; so it’s only natural that Her is their best project to back that statement up. The EP is also the beginning of their Love Yourself sound of glitzy, maximalist pop. Ditching the rougher rap aesthetics of previous projects (save for “Mic Drop”); every song feels ready-made to be a surefire chart-topping single on mainstream pop charts worldwide. If Wings had it in small doses, then the entirety of Her is absolute pop perfection.
Plus, the record’s only skit is endearing for all the right reasons.