The year 2020 marks an important turning point in K-pop's growth.
This year, K-Pop stars quickly expanded their reach in the U.S. market with the help of their powerful fandoms. K-pop transcended beyond Korea's borders, transforming from an alternative culture from the periphery to being consumed by mainstream pop cultures worldwide.
BTS was at the forefront of opening a new chapter in the K-Pop music industry. It is no exaggeration to say that 2020 is the year of BTS as the group broke records and barriers to expand the possibilities of Korean pop music. Some analysts say that the group has cracked the structure of the pop music industry, which is centered on Anglo-American music.
BTS's fourth full-length album, 'MAP OF THE SOUL: 7' released in February this year, showed the group's position as one of the artists with the largest fandoms in the world.
'MAP OF THE SOUL:7' has sold more than 4 million copies, topping all five major music markets globally, including the U.S., Japan, the U.K., Germany, and France.
Since then, the world was hit with the unexpected COVID19 pandemic in which the group had to stop all their world tour plans. Still, the group has adapted to the new era and took on all challenges to flow in a new direction.
BTS prepared for a new album and released their first all-English song, "Dynamite," as a digital single in August.
Equipped with disco-pop cheerfulness and a friendly vibe, "Dynamite" has emerged as BTS's most popular hit song to date, opening new horizons in many ways. It has become the stepping stone to strengthen the group's status as one of the world's preeminent pop stars, breaking the prejudice that K-Pop can only be consumed by certain fandoms.
"Dynamite" has topped Billboard's singles chart 'HOT100' for three consecutive weeks. The group set a historical record that marks a milestone in the history of Korean pop music.
The song continues to stay in the top ranks of the HOT100 chart even today for the 16th consecutive week.
BTS was also nominated for the 'Best Pop Duo/Group Performance' at the Grammy Awards, the most prestigious music award ceremony in the U.S., as they were recognized for their musical value.
In November, the group released their mini-album 'BE,' which captures the hearts of everyone stuck in the new era of the COVID19 pandemic. Their title track "Life Goes On" became the first Korean song to reach the top of the HOT100 chart setting another milestone in history.
As BTS makes a series of global achievements, TIME magazine selected the group as "Entertainer of the year," saying, "BTS has become the biggest band in the world."
BLACKPINK's contributions cannot go unnoticed as well. This year, they accelerated their cascading growth in popularity and made the leap as the most popular girl group in the world.
They released the singles "How You Like That" and "Ice Cream" ahead of the release of their first full-length album 'The Album' and both songs entered Billboard's HOT100.
'The Album' was released in October comprehensively with their musical colors, and they became the first girl group in K-pop history to sell one million albums. They also ranked in second place on Billboard's 200 charts. BLACKPINK is also the first K-Pop girl group to be selected as the protagonists for a Netflix original documentary. Their YouTube channel has become the 2nd most-subscribed YouTube channel globally for all artists, just behind Justin Bieber.
The growth of K-Pop fandom is at an all-time high this year as many other K-pop groups such as NCT, MONSTA X, and SuperM also made their way to the Billboard charts. K-pop's global fandom expansion and the music market boomed in numerous facets, especially in terms of album sales.
BTS's fourth full-length album, 'MAP OF THE SOUL:7,' has accumulated sales of 4.35 million copies as of December 5, according to Gaon Chart, setting a record in Korean music history. The mini-album 'BE' also sold more than 2.65 million copies.
Several K-pop groups' albums became million sellers in 2020 as well, including Seventeen's 'Heng:garae' (1.37 million), '; [Semicolon]' (1.12 million), NCT's 'Resonance Part 1' (1.28 million), and BLACKPINK's 'The Album' (1.22 million).
It was a remarkable change compared to 2019 when BTS was the only million-seller with 'Map of the Soul: Persona' selling 3.71 million copies. According to Gaon Chart, the cumulative sales of the "Top 400" albums in 2020 reached 38.58 million copies, a new record. In comparison, the "Top 400" albums in 2019 sold 24,594,928 copies combined.
With such growth in 2020, it will be interesting to see what happens for K-pop in 2021.