Superstar South Korean act BTS just elevated K-pop to previously uncharted territory: this month, their latest album, Love Yourself: Tear, skyrocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making them the first group in the K-pop industry to claim the coveted spot after earning a whopping 135,000 album units — 100,000 of which were traditional album sales — in the U.S. during the week ending May 24.

Those numbers add up to K-pop’s biggest unit and sales week ever. Tear’s chart placement is only the second Top 10 K-pop album, following the septet’s own Love Yourself: Her, which peaked at No. 7 last October. If that weren’t enough, Tear is also the first No. 1 foreign language album to top the chart in twelve years, following Il Divo’s Ancora.

This is one of BTS’ most prestigious accomplishments following a steady stream of firsts. In 2017, the K-pop superstars overtook Justin Bieber to win the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards. They succeeded at keeping their title on May 20, when they became the first K-pop group to perform at the BBMAs. Last October, “DNA” smashed all kinds of records, making BTS the highest charting K-pop group on the Hot 100 at No. 67—a feat they managed to outdo in December when the “MIC Drop” remix became their first Top 40 hit at No. 28.

This latest accomplishment has long eluded the K-pop industry, but BTS have been clawing their way up the Billboard 200 since The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2 hit No. 171 in 2015. The album rollout for Love Yourself: Tear saw the group stake their place more aggressively in the American market. The album’s release date (May 18) aligned with the American standard of Friday releases, while the group’s comeback performance of “Fake Love” at the BBMAs was a rarity in an industry that relies largely on the Korean music show circuit.

But BTS’s Stateside efforts don’t exist in a vacuum. K-pop has long pursued the American market: Wonder Girls toured with the Jonas Brothers, performed “Nobody” on So You Think You Can Dance and held the title for the highest charting K-pop group on the Hot 100 for nine years. Then, the inescapable virality of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” stormed the Hot 100 at No. 2 in 2012 — before his momentum petered out abroad, he collaborated with Snoop Dogg on “Hangover,” performed at the American Music Awards and took the stage at Madison Square Garden alongside Madonna.

But the trajectory of BTS’ own career deserves a closer look, so we can understand the achievements that led up to their most recent milestone.* What story does the data tell us when it’s put in chronological order? As the underdogs from a small agency, BTS were already exceeding expectations early in a career that started back in June 2013. And their reputation as all-around record-breakers didn’t come out of nowhere: the septet progressively branched out across various charts while gaining momentum with each new comeback. To paraphrase “DNA,” none of this is a coincidence.

* PopCrush limited the timeline to the U.S. Billboard charts. We omitted some charts including the Billboard Canadian Hot 100 as well charts hidden behind the BillboardBiz paywall, like World Digital Song Sales.

  • March 1, 2014

    BTS made their debut on the World Albums chart with Skool Luv Affair at No. 3.

  • May 16, 2015

    The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1 peaked at No. 6 on Heatseekers Albums, No. 2 on World Albums and No. 20 on Independent Albums.

  • December 19, 2015

    BTS made their Billboard 200 debut as The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 2 reached No. 171. They became the first K-pop group not under YG Entertainment or SM Entertainment — two of the Big 3 companies in the South Korean music industry — to enter the chart. The album also peaked at No. 1 on Heatseekers Albums, No. 1 on World Albums and No. 9 on Independent Albums.

  • May 21, 2016

    The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, a repackaged album from the HYYH era, peaked at No. 107 on the Billboard 200, No. 10 on Heatseekers Albums, No. 2 on World Albums and No. 42 on Independent Albums.

  • May 28, 2016

    “Fire” peaked at No. 30 on the Japan Hot 100.

  • Oct. 29, 2016

    Wingspeaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on World Albums, No. 7 on Digital Albums, No. 9 on Independent Albums and No. 20 on Top Album Sales. “Blood, Sweat & Tears” hit No. 18 on the Japan Hot 100. BTS also made their debut on the Social 50 at No. 2.

  • Nov. 26, 2016

    BTS topped the Social 50 for the first time — which they would go on to do for 76 non-consecutive weeks! They currently hold second place for most weeks at No. 1, behind Justin Bieber’s 164 weeks.

  • March 4, 2017

    You Never Walk Alone, a repackaged album from the Wings era, reached No. 61 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on World Albums and No. 19 on Independent Albums.

    Meanwhile, “Spring Day” cracked the Bubbling Under Hot 100 at No. 15 — an unprecedented feat that foreshadowed their eventual Hot 100 hits, “DNA” and the “MIC Drop” remix. The song also peaked at No. 11 on the YouTube Songs chart and No. 48 on Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales.

  • March 11, 2017

    “Not Today” barreled into the YouTube Songs chart at No. 10 and peaked at No. 23 on the Japan Hot 100.

  • May 21, 2017

    BTS made history as the first K-pop group to win the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards, overtaking Western stars like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. “We still cannot believe we’re standing here on this stage at the Billboard Music Awards,” RM said during the group’s acceptance speech. “Most importantly, this award belongs to the every people all around the world that shine the love and light on us by the million and make BTS proud."

  • May 27, 2017

    “Spring Day” hit No. 38 on the Japan Hot 100.

  • July 29, 2017

    Since July 2017, BTS has reigned atop the Social 50 chart for 45 consecutive weeks and counting.

  • Sept. 29, 2017

    In an interview with Korean broadcaster, KBS, RM named the group’s next goals: to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and enter the Top 50 on the Hot 100. Now, it’s safe to say: mission accomplished.

  • Oct. 7, 2017

    In one of the septet’s most eventful charting weeks, Love Yourself: Her became the group’s highest charting entry on the Billboard 200 at this point, rising up to No. 7. The album also made it to No. 1 on World Albums, No. 3 on Digital Albums, No. 6 on Top Album Sales and No. 14 of the Official U.K. Albums Chart.

    “DNA” also became the septet’s debut entry on the Hot 100, initially hitting No. 85 on the chart. Elsewhere, “DNA” peaked at No. 4 on the YouTube Songs chart, No. 37 on Digital Song Sales and No. 49 on Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales.

  • Oct. 14, 2017

    “DNA” peaked at No. 67 on the Hot 100, making BTS the highest charting K-pop group. Wonder Girls previously held the title with “Nobody,” which peaked at No. 76 in 2008. Psy continued to be the highest-charting Korean act with “Gangnam Style,” which hit No. 2 in 2012. “DNA” also rose to No. 38 on Streaming Songs and No. 22 on the On-Demand Streaming Songs chart.

  • Oct. 28, 2017

    Love Yourself: Her peaked at No. 2 on Independent Albums.

  • Dec. 16, 2017

    The “MIC Drop” remix with Steve Aoki and Desiigner shot up to No. 28 on the Hot 100, outdoing “DNA.” This achievement also designated the remix as the first Top 40 entry for any K-pop group. The song also reached No. 4 on Digital Song Sales and No. 7 on Hot Canadian Digital Song Sales.

  • Dec. 23, 2017

    BTS made their debut on the Pop Songs radio airplay chart with the “MIC Drop” remix at No. 37. This was the second K-pop song to ever grace the chart, following Psy’s appearance with “Gangnam Style” at No. 10 in 2012.

  • Dec. 30, 2017

    “DNA” peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Korea K-pop 100.

  • Jan. 13, 2018

    “Spring Day” hit No. 28 on the Billboard Korea K-pop 100. Meanwhile, “Blood, Sweat & Tears” could be found at No. 77, while “Best of Me” hovered at No. 86 on the chart.

  • Jan. 27, 2018

    BTS reappeared on the Billboard Korea K-pop 100 with “Go Go” at No. 52.

  • April 14, 2018

    The group’s latest Japanese album, Face Yourself, hit No. 43 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on World Albums, No. 10 on Digital Albums and No. 41 on Top Album Sales. Meanwhile, “Go Go” and “Best of Me”— both songs off Love Yourself: Her — hit Nos. 58 and 73, respectively, on the Japan Hot 100.

  • April 28, 2018

    “Let Go” rose to No. 40 on the Japan Hot 100.

  • May 20, 2018

    BTS became the first K-pop group to perform at the BBMAs with “Fake Love,” after snagging their second-consecutive Top Social Artist award.

  • May 24, 2018

    At a press conference in Seoul, Suga named topping the Hot 100 and attending the Grammys as the group’s next goal. “Although part of me feels as though we may be talking about dreams that are too large in scale, I also think that it’s a good thing to dream big,” he said, according to Soompi. “We want to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard 200, and we want to go to the Grammy Awards.”

  • May 27, 2018

    It was announced that Love Yourself: Tear snagged the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 for the June 2-dated chart.

  • May 29, 2018

    Billboard announced that BTS broke the Top 10 on the Hot 100 for the first time with “Fake Love” at No. 10. The June 2-dated chart position marks the first-ever Top 10 song by a K-pop group and the 17th foreign language song to reach the Top 10 in the Hot 100’s 59 years. “Fake Love” is also the third overall K-pop entry in the Top 10, following Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (2012) and “Gentleman” (2013).