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Five BTS songs that altered my brain chemistry—literally

They debuted days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer—10 years ago. As we celebrate their 10th anniversary, this BTS tita counts down my favorite musical uppers

The author, a BTS ‘tita’, with her Yoongi

From BTS BigHit official Twitter

DOES it have some kind of cosmic meaning that BTS debuted on June 13, 2013, six days after I was diagnosed with breast cancer? Maybe not, but humor me.

Although it was a mild disappointment (thanks to expectation management) that my boss and I failed to score tickets to Suga’s solo concert in nearby Singapore, and I refused to condone the sheer materialism of dynamic ticketing (read: a SG$238 ticket ends up as $1,238 because of demand, but what do you do), I still love the boys.

So please pardon my internet clickbait title, because it’s literal—BTS have become one of my biggest mood stabilizers. So to honor their 10th year, here, in no particular order, are my five essential BTS songs, and why:

  1. Boy With Love – released April 12, 2019, from the album Map of the Soul: Persona. Billboard staff ranked it no. 37 in the list of the year’s best songs, and the band debuted it on US comedy show Saturday Night Live in April, the first K-pop band to appear on the program. It was the very first BTS song I heard, specifically the May 16, 2019 performance on the Stephen Colbert Show. I wondered how a K-pop band could pull of an ingenious black-and-white version of the song, channeling the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (complete with skinny suits and the drum set behind them). I saw the music video later, pastels and all, and it made more sense—but the Colbert performance had me going, hmmm. These boys are on to something.

  1. Mic DropMic mic bungee/Bright lights, going forward/You thought I was gonna fail but I’m fine, sorry/Sorry, “Billboard”/Sorry, “worldwide”/Sorry Mom, your son’s too hot. I mean, how can you not love this rap verse by Suga, a middle finger at the global music establishment, as well as at their disgruntled Korean contemporaries (especially mediocre rap purists) who kept trying to pull BTS down? Yup, sorry. The song was actually released in 2017 on the album Love Yourself: Her, and reached Billboard’s Top 40. For the video, however, it was the Steve Aoki remix, featuring tough-guy rapping, infectious beats, and explosive choreography, that really blew you away. It’s a feel-good manifesto, and it helps that Aoki was a friend and supporter from the get-go.

  1. The Truth Untold – released 2018, from the Love Yourself: Tear If there’s any dramatic number that shows off the talent of the BTS vocal line—Jimin’s high notes, V’s earthy range, Jin’s soulful delivery, and Jungkook’s brilliant, pitch-perfect tenor—it’s got to be this heartbreaking melody. It’s a hint of the boys feeling the pressure of their massive fame and the need to put on a mask—part of coming to terms with the life they chose, but done in a characteristically authentic BTS way. You know that I can’t/Show you me/Give you me/I can’t show you a ruined part of myself/Once again I put a mask on and go to see you/But I still want you.” Somebody hand me the tissues!

  2. Permission to Dance – released July 9, 2021, as the B-side to their song Butter, and as their third all-English song. It didn’t hurt that it was written for them by Ed Sheeran, and it debuted at the top of the US Billboard Top 100. Why is this song significant? Because it was the most infectious, feel-good battlecry for a world reeling from the global pandemic. A delightful video, choreography inspired by American Sign Language, and lyrics that make you smile—”There’s always something that’s standing in the way/But if you don’t let it faze ya, you’ll know just how to break,” sing Sope (Suga and j-hope) in one memorable verse—make this a true anthem of optimism. I happen to think BTS’ English songs have dumbed-down lyrics for a broader market, but this one makes you think a little more. Even Elton John approved—he’s mentioned in the lyrics.

  1. Run BTS – released June 10, 2022 as part of their first anthology album, Proof. “If we live fast, let us die young,” the boys sing. It’s a rocking, fast song that shows off everything—fabulous, precise choreography, vocal and rap skills—and is especially memorable in a practice video that proves once more how hard they work. This has sentimental value, however; it’s the last practice video they released as a group, as oldest member Jin (Kim Seokjin) enlisted in the South Korean Army in December of the same year. It will be 2025 before they perform together again, but in the meantime, this is on constant rewind in my car, on my phone, and wherever I want some BTS beats to enliven me.

Bonus: My Universe – released 24 September 2021 as a song by BTS and British rock band Coldplay, as part of the latter’s Music of the Spheres album, so it’s not strictly a BTS song only. Still, aside from the beautiful song itself, with BTS actually singing in Korean, it’s the goodwill that gives one the feels. ARMY love it when BTS get respect, and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin is like the big hyung the boys never had, heading to South Korea to record with them, giving them credit and praise, and even joining BTS on stage for their closing Las Vegas Permission to Dance concert in 2022. Whatta guy.

About author


She is a writer, editor, breast cancer and depression survivor, environmental advocate, dog mother to three asPins, Iyengar yoga instructor and BTS Army Tita. She edits part-time for a broadsheet, but is headed towards a full-time vocation as an online English writing coach and grammar nazi.

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