The video for first track Life Goes On had been viewed almost 20 million times on YouTube three hours after BE was made available on a simultaneous worldwide release. The song offers a message of hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the best thing that has happened this year,” wrote one fan, among more than 560,000 comments.
“Just when I was starting to feel like trash again and wanting to leave this world, BTS drops this album,” another added.
“Their music saved me so many times and it still continues to do so.”
Since their debut in 2013, BTS has achieved global superstardom, performing in a number of sold-out shows in Los Angeles, Paris and London last year.
The seven-member boy band gained further recognition worldwide when their all-English single Dynamite entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number one in August, making them the first South Korean act to top the US chart.
Last month, their label Big Hit Entertainment made a multi-billion-won stock market debut, raising 963 billion won ($840 million).
“Our goal with the music on BE is that it can be a comfort to a lot of people,” member Jimin told a press conference today.
“If many people can relate to it, I will be really thankful.”
Big Hit said in a statement ahead of the release that the eight tracks including Dynamite are BTS’s fifth Korean-language studio album and “contains the most ‘BTS-esque’ music yet.
The new album needs “to persuade the sceptics who have more recently heard about BTS that their work is powerful, original, and deep”, CedarBough Saeji, a visiting professor at Indiana University Bloomington, told AFP.
“If this album can demonstrate that loyal fans exist in large part because of phenomenal artistic offerings, the critics who attribute BTS’s success only to loyal fans will be forced to reassess.”
The group’s lyrics are often socially conscious with themes such as ills of consumerism and mental illness.
The seven members constantly engage with fans locally and abroad through social media and they have a total of 30.7 million followers on Twitter.
Member Jin said another BE track, the retro disco Telepathy, expressed “the sad reality of not being able to meet with our fans around the world because of Covid”.
“The song is about how we’re happiest when we’re with our fans, and that although we’re physically apart now, we’re in fact always together.”
BTS is scheduled to perform Dynamite and Life Goes On for the 2020 American Music Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Since their initial stock market debut, Big Hit’s shares have fallen back but the firm is still worth around USD6 billion (SGD8 billion). The label warned in its IPO prospectus that it faced a “risk factor” in the form of mandatory military service for all seven BTS members.
All able-bodied men are required to serve in uniform in South Korea to defend it against the nuclear-armed North, usually for 18 months.
BTS’s Jin, who is the oldest member at 27, cannot delay his service beyond the end of 2021, while the other six will have to follow in the coming years.
The South is currently debating exemptions for stars such as BTS, who have been at the forefront of the Korean Wave cultural phenomenon in recent years, but the band reiterated today that they all plan to serve.
“As a young South Korean man, I think I must serve in the military without a question,” Jin said.
“As I’ve said every time, I will accept the call of the country at any time whenever it happens,” he added. “All of us plan to serve.”