Just yesterday, the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) revealed its annual ranking of the 10 biggest recording artists in the world, and while the tally was largely populated by familiar names like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift, an act that’s never appeared at the top finally made it to No. 1. In doing so, they made history, showing that tastes are changing everywhere in noticeable and important ways.
BTS have officially been named the biggest recording act in the world of 2020, according to the music industry organization, which bases its ranking on total activity. According to the IFPI’s report, both digital and physical formats were taken into consideration when choosing a winner, with everything from CDs to streaming to vinyl factoring into where a name landed.
By landing at No. 1, BTS have become the first act to top the annual ranking that performs primarily in a language other than English. Previous champions on this closely-watched tally include the likes of Taylor Swift, Drake, Ed Sheeran and Adele.
The South Korean boy band typically shares songs in their native tongue, and they have found incredible success in doing so. They first took over their home country nearly a decade ago, but it didn’t take long for them to expand globally, becoming chart-topping superstars who seem to smash records and make history every few months with new albums and singles. It is worth mentioning that while they are primarily known for singing and rapping in Korean, the fact that they have made the jump to English has sped up their ascent considerably, and it is partially responsible for their landing at No. 1 on the IFPI’s latest list. They were also aided by another highly-successful Japanese project that fans everywhere ate up.
BTS dropped three albums in 2020 (Map of the Soul: 7, Map of the Soul: 7 – The Journey and Be) and all of them performed well and sold a surprising number of copies for any release in this day and age. Two were performed primarily in Korean, while the middle release (Map of the Soul: 7 – The Journey) was a Japanese compilation.
Most of the songs BTS shared in 2020 were performed in either Korean or Japanese, but not all fit those descriptions. The seven-member vocal band also scored their biggest hit yet with “Dynamite,” which ended the year as one of the most-streamed and bestselling cuts globally. The disco-pop single was performed entirely in English, which helped it rise to No. 1 on charts almost everywhere and rack up as many plays and sales as it did. “Dynamite” was marketed as BTS’s first all-English track, though they’ve dabbled in the language before in many ways.
While they don’t adhere entirely to one language (and why should any artist), the fact that BTS have been named the biggest recording act on the planet is incredible. For decades, it was assumed that no figure could become as large as the septet has without appealing to Western markets, and in order to do that, speaking English was a necessity. BTS has shown that it’s not all about the U.S., Canada and the U.K., while also proving that those who sing and rap in other tongues can still succeed in those places.
BTS’s win on this list proves so many people wrong and breaks with long-held beliefs in the music industry that are crumbling rapidly, opening up the field to any talent that can find an audience and nurture it with great art.