so you want to learn about BTS…

welcome to the rabbit hole! here are some resources to help you learn about these seven awesome dudes! ♥

(last updated January 2021)

the primer(s)

want to know a bit more about the members? this Tumblr primer was my first introduction to the members, and this person has since done an astounding job updating it with so much material over on AO3. tbh, the whole thing is overwhelming af even for me BUT the landing page, which I linked, is honestly the best fan-produced profile I’ve seen and it’s not too long! you can also just check out the kprofiles to learn more about the members. 🙂

I also really love this k-pop glossary to help with a lot of the terminology that shows up in the primer itself and in the videos/fan content because it takes a while to pick up the lingo!

finally, there is an incredible cinematic universe going on that has been ongoing across various albums, music videos, books, and even a webtoon over the past five years—and all signs point to it making a hell of a comeback very soon. there is an incredible starter guide over at The BTS Effect; I found the content summary particularly helpful because there’s just so much content to sift through at this point!

ready to jump into some video recommendations? let’s get it!

top video recs

this was hard as hell to narrow down, honestly, since I have now consumed so much BTS content, but here are a few of my video must-sees… seven links per section because seven members, seven years—and Map of the Soul: 7:

recent-ish live performances (in no particular order except for the first one being the best thing I’ve ever seen):

  • 2019 Melon Awards – this long af performance includes my favorite older song, Boy In Luv, some of my favorite newer songs, some solo stages with choreo set to older songs, and then a banger of a finale. if you watch nothing else, watch this.
  • BTS doing “Seoul Town Road” with Lil Nas X – this was wild and so much fun and it also includes Lil Nas X with Nas doing Rodeo so it’s def worth a watch!
  • “ON” at Grand Central Terminal – don’t talk to me, okay, I still haven’t recovered from JK’s solo or this dance break! also, this is a live performance. absolutely unreal.
  • “Dionysus” + “Not Today” – this is from my favorite concert ever (I talk more about this in the bonus section I have now added at the end) but let me just tell you that this is just an incredible performance on so, so many freaking levels all by itself. the energy is off the charts, the outfits are amazing, and the fact that it’s these two songs back-to-back? *chef’s kiss*
  • Make It Right” on Colbert – this is delightful because they’re just sitting on these stools being soulful and it made me think of my faves from my formative years, BSB, but also it just sounds really lovely and it’s soft af. I like that it shows their range. (for more like this, they recently did “Stay Gold” for a Japanese show and it was delightful.)
  • “Black Swan” on Fallon – this dethroned the Corden version from last year because the staging and styling are just so incredible and they’ve really matured in the way the play with this song… plus, in general, their whole week on Fallon was incredible! (I mean, IDOL wearing HANBOK in front of a national monument.)
  • 2020 Melon Awards – I’d put this here just for the incredible “Black Swan” intro, but this is also my absolutely favorite performance of “Dynamite”… and, believe me, there are a lot to choose from.

music videos (organized by release date):

  • “Save Me” – this was recorded all in one take. yeah. I’m screaming too. the choreo is lovely, the video itself really simple, and the song is one of their faves and one of mine too!
  • “Blood, Sweat and Tears” – the aesthetic is strong with this one! I mean, honestly, it is incredible storytelling—don’t take it from me, here’s an expert’s take on it—with lush visuals and a song that truly was a cultural reset for the fandom, so definitely worth a look!
  • “Not Today” – as you might be able to tell by the fact that this song also shows up in one my recommended performance videos, I am weak for this song and its choreo! you also get headband!Tae (a perennial fave), pink-haired!Jimin, a stunning landscape, and a cool storyline. it’s definitely a fun watch.
  • “MIC Drop” [Steve Aoki Remix] – this was my first song and my first MV so I’m biased but I do love it! the choreo is awesome, the song is super catchy, and the video will get you super hype with its awesome effects. also love that Steve Aoki himself is in the video, since I have adored him for years.
  • “Black Swan” – the super lush aesthetic returns and so does the choreo! I love that there is storytelling in this as well, and the fact that it highlights Jimin’s expertise in contemporary dancing. the setting for is also really gorgeous!
  • “ON” – there are literally like 5 versions of this video, but this one is seriously epic. dystopian setting for the storytelling and we get to see most of JK’s arm tattoos? I’m here for it, 100%. (that said, the Kinetic Manifesto version is absolutely worth a view also, if only because of that killer dance break.)
  • “Daechwita” – yes, I know, this is technically Agust D and not all of BTS… but Big Hit themselves promoted it and put it on their channel, and two of the other members are featured in the video, so I think it counts! it’s also an incredible video, so I couldn’t not include it.

interviews/other fun stuff (in no particular order):

  • Carpool Karaoke with BTS – self-explanatory and also a great chance to get some insight into personalities!
  • subway interview with Jimmy Fallon – seriously adorable… I love their continued rapport and these are pretty great questions.
  • BTS answers ARMY questions in London – these were fun and RM (Namjoon)’s slight English accent is glorious in this.
  • Radio Disney Interview – this is hilarious and RM needs a raise for all his translation work, thank you very much.
  • Backstage at the AMAs with Zach Sang – super thoughtful (even RM was impressed!) and a really interesting interview
  • Break the Silence DocuSeries – available for purchase on WeVerse, this series is honestly really profound and delightful.
  • Run BTS – these are officially available for free on VLive (from the beginning) and WeVerse (from episode 86 on), as well all over YouTube (unofficially) with subtitles in various languages.
  • In the Soop – available for purchase on WeVerse, this wholesome af series of them in the woods remains of the few bright spots of 2020 tbqh.

compilation video/channel recommendations (in no particular order):

  • their official channel – they host lives, behind-the-scenes, dance practice videos (!!!!), the boys reacting their own stuff… honestly, it’s a treasure trove. (I especially recommend this year’s FESTA content… this rehearsal video from the 2018 MAMA performance was a revelation because the actual performance was unfortunately not shot in a way that truly showcased how incredible this choreography is. just… please watch that.)
  • WhatchaGot2Say – lots of channels react to BTS but these guys are my absolute fave. they are so shook often and honestly I love their reactions! getting to see them go from baby ARMY to total stans has also been completely delightful.
  • Justin Burke – he’s a vocal coach who loves to react to BTS from a vocal perspective (and he devotes a lot of time to my bias!)… he tends to fanboy, which is fun, but do be ready for that.
  • Adam Mishan – another vocal coach who does reaction videos… I find him really balanced in his approach because, if he ever does a critique, it’s always kind and fair, and he’s always so appreciative of the hard work that goes into every performance and how difficult it is to do what they do.
  • Marianne Draws – this illustrator/animator makes the cutest animations set to k-pop songs and they’re often also super funny… I love spending time looking at the videos on their channel and they’ve also got super cute items in their RedBubble shop!
  • MBC Debut to IDOL BTS Compilation – this is a wild ride y’all but it’s basically two hours of live performances showing them age over the past almost seven years and, uh. you get to watch JK (and, to a certain extent, Jimin) pull a Neville Longbottom before your very eyes. (you also get to watch the various tragedies of RM’s hairstyles unfold, holy crap.)
  • BTS Dances Ranked Easiest to Hardest – this doesn’t include anything from the latest album, so it’s a bit off… I’m certain that Dionysus and Black Swan would both crack the top 20 (if not the top 10, depending on whether you include Dionysus’ Melon dance break) and ON would probably be #1. (I also don’t always agree with the ranking because the dance breaks for some of those songs are way harder than the rest of the choreo, so the difficulty grade can be deceiving.)

the music (playlist)

building this was honestly really difficult because their discography has so much range; I have literally joke all the time that you could build a playlist for just about every mood using their music exclusively.

based on their setlists throughout the years, my curated playlist includes pretty much every song that I now can sing along to after having consumed at least 100 hours of performance of footage (as of January 2021).

this playlist is best enjoyed on shuffle (and if you know me at all you know that is extremely unlike me because I usually hate the chaos of that but they’re just that good y’all)! the playlist is also updated constantly because I cannot help myself. 🙂

(you can also listen to my bias ruin lives with his self-produced single from the 2020 FESTA here. it’s so, so good y’all.)

and, if you already have some songs you like and want to explore some more? someone on Reddit made an incredible flowchart to help you navigate the discography and someone on Twitter turned those recommendations into Spotify playlists. happy listening!

bonus: concert ranking

after having seen literally every single concert that there is to stream anywhere, here are my top seven:

7. Love Yourself: New York – this was my first show I ever watched and so I am attached to it for that reason… but I’ve found it also serves as a really good baseline for someone who hasn’t seen a concert. (the Seoul version, with the same setlist but a few better outfits, also would suit that purpose… but it’s not available for streaming, so it didn’t make the cut.) it’s fun, high-energy, and really highlights some of my favorite things about their shows, like they way they mix group numbers and solo stages, and the way the title medley is a devastating proposition. I also really appreciate that this is one of the few shows available for rent on a streaming platform, which makes it much more accessible than the rest of the shows on this list. highlights: J-Hope’s iridescent white suit during “Just Dance” is a revelation, all the solo stages, and RM’s super profound speech about loving yourself at the end. (available on DVD and for purchase/rent on Amazon Prime)

6. Bang Bang Con: The Live – this was a really lovely experience to see live, not just because we had missed seeing them, but also because it was so innovative. they previewed some of the things we’re going to get when the Map of the Soul tour finally happens (please @ God), brought back some favorites, and delivered a really fun ninety minutes via a cool platform. we also got to enjoy a lot of delightful banter that was thankfully subtitled in English pretty much in real-time. highlights: JK’s hair, the sub-unit stages—particularly the Saturday Night Fever “Respect”—and the remix of “Boy With Luv” that we all deserve and desperately want to purchase. honorable mention goes to the instantly memeable inflatable ARMY bomb from “Anpanman.” (available in a few online uploads and should hopefully be available for purchase/replay on WeVerse soon)

5. Love Yourself: Japan – this DVD has both of the Japan shows for this part of the tour, which makes it an incredible deal. I prefer the Tokyo show over Fukuoka simply because it includes the rock remix of “Blood, Sweat and Tears” in the medley and therefore ended my whole career. (listen, BST in Japanese just hits different, as does “Boy In Luv”… and rock remixes? yeah, no, I’m basically hyperventilating already.) this DVD is also a love letter to Kitty Gang Jimin, so it is truly a delightful experience. highlights: the title medley in both, the wardrobe throughout, the Japanese version of “Fake Love” in the rock remix that I love with the choreo (the only way that it could’ve been more deadly to me specifically was if it was with the Speak Yourself version of the outfits, like it was in São Paulo… JK in this outfit is just devastating), V speaking Japanese and singing a capella during the messages in Fukuoka, all the extras. (officially available on DVD and there are also unofficial streams of it floating around)

4. 5th Muster [Magic Shop] – this ranking surprised even me because I historically do not enjoy the musters a whole lot since I have terrible secondhand embarrassment and struggle with a lot of the skits. that said, the 2019s muster was devastating on way too many levels—not least of which was the setlist, which seems to have been curated just to ruin my life—particularly Act 3, which is truly unskippable as far as I’m concerned. and don’t even get me started on the wardrobe… highlights: JK’s outfit during Act 1 (when he does a bit of “Euphoria” to boot); all of Act 3 but especially “Intro: Skool Luv Affair,” “Dimple,” and “Ddaeng” featuring the vocal line rapping. (available for purchase on VLive+)

3. 2017 Live Trilogy Episode III: The Wings Tour [The Final] – the setlist for this concert literally does not give you a single moment to breathe… like, it is truly astounding. I was glad that the video packages for this show were not as devastating as the ones for Love Yourself/Speak Yourself because we genuinely needed the time to breathe. highlights: uh, the first 30ish minutes? I mean, “MIC Drop” followed by “We Are Bulletproof pt. 1 & 2,” then “Hip Hop Phile,” then “Cyphers pt. 1-4”? WILD. the title medley and encore (especially “Spring Day” as the closing!) are also incredible. (available for purchase on VLive+)

2. Love Yourself: Speak Yourself [The Final] – the only way that I can describe this concert is just feral from start to finish, y’all. the setlist is truly incredible, as it opens with “Dionysus” and includes “Make It Right” and “Mikrokosmos” in the encore. literally my favorite four separate performance videos from a show are from this show. get ready to be fucked up the whole time… especially because they re-shot all the video packages and the Jimin/RM one is particularly devastating. highlights: the opening two numbers (a clip of which I linked at the top!), THE WARDROBE THROUGHOUT, the title medley, “MIC Drop” + “Idol,” the encore’s crying bitch hours. (available for purchase on VLive+)

and, last but not least…

1. Map of the Soul: ONE – I truly did not believe that anything could surpass #2 as my top show… and then I watched both days of this online concert in October 2020 and my soul pretty much left my body. holy hell. I felt like I was ascending through so much of this show. the opening, which goes from “ON” to “N.O.” to “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2,” sets the tone… and you really do not get a chance to breathe. stunning solo stages, amazing stage design, styling that can only be described as deadly—this show has it all. highlights: the fact that there were changes in outfits between days, the staging for “UGH!”, everything about “My Time” and “Filter,” Seokjin being the cutest during “Moon,” Taehyung having a literal child during “Inner Child,” and the encore choices (which also changed each day). (VOD available for purchase hopefully soon!)

interested in diving into more k-pop? feel free to check out my guide to Seventeen (SVT) or my ever-expanding k-pop faves playlist.