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South Korean boy band BTS makes history: First K-pop group to top U.S. Billboard 200 chart

The latest album from South Korean boy band BTS, debuted in the top spot of the Billboard 200 album chart. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

As a K-pop group, South Korean boy band BTS has experienced a lot of firsts.

It was one of the first K-pop acts to perform at the American Music Awards in November 2017. The group also made history as the first in the genre to take home an award at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards. Just last week, BTS became the first Korean band to perform live at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards.

Now, BTS, the seven-member group also known as the Bangtan Boys, has made history again as the first K-pop band to have an album debut at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 chart. “Love Yourself: Tear,” the group’s third album, was released May 18 and in its first week had the equivalent of 135,000 sales in the United States, of which 100,000 were traditional album sales, according to Nielsen Music. The rest were made up of streams and individual track downloads, Billboard reported. “Love Yourself: Tear,” sung mostly in Korean, is also the first primarily foreign-language album to take the top spot since a classical crossover vocal quartet released “Ancora” in 2006, according to the music site.

BTS’s rise to the top knocked American rapper Post Malone into second place. The rapper’s album “Beerbongs & Bentleys” claimed the No. 1 spot for the past three weeks.

This is only the second top 10 appearance for a K-pop group on the Billboard chart. In 2017, another BTS album, “Love Yourself: Her,” debuted and peaked at No. 7.

BTS emerged onto the music scene in 2013 and has since won over global audiences with songs that combine pop, R&B and hip-hop. Like many other K-pop groups, BTS is known for dynamic performances with complicated choreography and androgynous-style makeup. The band members range in age from 21 to 26.

The group’s achievement even received notice from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who tweeted and posted a congratulatory message to Facebook.

“The songs, dance, dream and enthusiasm of BTS … energized and gave strength to young people around the world,” Moon wrote.

“At the very heart of BTS’s outstanding dancing and singing is sincerity,” he said. “This magical power turns grief into hope and differences into similarity. Each of the seven members sings in a way that is true to himself and the life he wants to live. Their melody and lyrics transcend regional borders, language, culture, and institutions.”

“Thank you to BTS for spreading joy across Korea and the world with your great performances,” he said.

Following the announcement, members of the group took to Twitter to thank their fans, who are collectively referred to as “the ARMY.” The acronym stands for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth.”

“No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Thank you so much for letting us see such a good news as soon as we woke up,” wrote Kim Seok-jin, better known as Jin, on the band’s Twitter account. “It’s amazing and so surreal. Thank you to all who have listened to our music! We will continue to work hard!”

Another BTS member, Jung Ho-seok, who goes by J-Hope, also expressed gratitude.

“Thank you very much, everyone,” J-Hope tweeted.

BTS’s successes would not be possible without the ARMY, whose enthusiasm rivals that of Beliebers and Swifties. For two years in a row, BTS has won top social artist at the Billboard Music Awards. The distinction is awarded to the artist with the highest fan engagement on social media. This year, BTS beat out artists including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, CNN reported.

When the band appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the members could barely be heard over raucous fans, who were clustered near the edge of the stage. “I love yous” and deafening screaming interrupted their interview.

In comments on a YouTube video of the band on “Ellen,” one user made an astute observation, writing, “90% of this video was screaming.”

Over the weekend, social media were also flooded with thousands of ARMY members eager to congratulate the group.

A fan account tweeted, “To the boys who were underrated and ignored. But they struggled so much, sacrificed too much they worked so hard and never gave up.”

Another user recognized BTS for its loyalty to the ARMY, tweeting: “Everytime they achieve something, their first words are always for us. They’re so kind, humble and grateful, we stan the right boys.”

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