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'It still feels surreal': BTS makes Grammys history, whether they win on Sunday or not

It's been nearly eight years since BTS took to the stage for their debut performance. At Sunday's Grammy Awards, the seven men from South Korea will have more firsts. They are up for best pop duo/group performance for "Dynamite," their chart-topping English-language hit. It marks the group's first nomination as well as the first for a K-pop group. They're on tap to perform and it'll be the first time they'll do so armed with one of their own songs (they had a cameo at the 2020 Grammys, but more on that later). 

Making history and breaking records is nothing new for RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook. 

They're the first K-pop group to debut at the top of Billboard's Hot 100. They hold the Guinness World Records for most-viewed YouTube music video in 24 hours ("Dynamite" hit 101 million views). They've beat their own record for the best-selling South Korean album of all time.

Along the way, they've gained a legion of fiercely loyal fans called ARMY (full disclosure: I am one of them). 

“We're really excited, it still feels surreal,” Jimin told USA TODAY via an interpreter. “We're still figuring out what to make of it. But we do know this is a great honor and we're deeply thankful. We're trying our best to deliver a great performance to return all the support we received from our fans.”

BTS participate in "Dynamite" online global media day.

BTS' journey to the Grammys 

In 2018, during an interview with Jimmy Fallon, BTS was asked what they wanted next in their career and Suga said, “Go to the Grammys.” The rest of the boys laughed lightheartedly when Suga answered. It wasn’t the first time he had expressed this wish. 

A few months later, BTS flew out to attend the 2019 Grammys as presenters, where they walked the red carpet and promised they "would be back."

In 2020, they made an appearance on stage during Lil Nas X's performance of "Old Town Road." In a behind-the-scenes video from the event, the members reiterated how much they would love the opportunity to one day perform their own song. 

Lil Nas X, background center, performs "Old Town Road" with members of the South Korean pop group BTS at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 26, 2020.

And that brings us to now. A nomination under their belt and finally a chance to perform. 

“(A) performance is what we wanted more, even more than a nomination or winning,” RM said. “We are a performance team, so a performance with our own song was one of our final dreams for this whole journey, so we are flattered and excited at the same time.” 

Still, taking home a gilded gramophone trophy would be momentous. 

“We've grown up watching the Grammys. It's one of the biggest awards, and a win would mean a lot for us,” said J-Hope. 

What 'Dynamite' represents now for BTS

After nearly seven months and a list of accolades, did "Dynamite" fulfill its purpose to uplift fans? Absolutely, said Suga. 

“It's indicative of how much ARMY loves us,” he said. “We meant to give comfort with ‘Dynamite’ in the given circumstances, and we feel that many people resonated with this song even during such hardships.”

For RM, the song was a gateway to new possibilities. “For eight years, when we had hardships and very bad things from outside or inside, we always found a way, and we had this virus last year and everyone was confused and lost their way and ‘Dynamite’ gave us more than ‘Dynamite,' and now it symbolizes kind of a possibility, a stairway to another world.”

What led BTS to the music industry leaderboard? 

“Of course, it’s ARMY,” Jungkook said.  

V also included the other members, their label BigHit Entertainment, family and friends who “have all helped us grow and advance step by step.”

Suga said, “When the nominations were out and (we) were set to perform, obviously, we were filled with joy, but our fans seemed much happier than us. We always think: Would any of this have been possible without ARMY?”

BTS fans with photos of their idols outside the 2017 American Music Awards on Nov. 19, 2017, in Los Angeles.

ARMY has become a point of pride for the group, which thanks their fans for every achievement and milestone.

“There are so many blessings we could’ve gotten for these eight years, but I guess for the whole journey the best luck we ever had is that we all have you guys all over the world,” RM said. “So please don’t forget that, whether we get the Grammys or not, we already got what we wanted, and we got you, so that means we got everything.”

What’s next for BTS?

2020 brought its share of ups and downs for BTS. They started the year with the release of their album “Map of the Soul: 7,” a retrospective look at their musical journey. Shortly after, due to the coronavirus pandemic, BTS had to postpone their highly anticipated world tour.

Later in the year, they released a self-directed album, a more intimate and personal body of work reflecting on the pandemic, in the form of “BE.” With it, they got a second No. 1 debut on the Hot 100 with the title track “Life Goes On,” the first Korean-language song to top the chart. 

In 2020, BTS was named Time's Entertainer of the Year and one of Wall Street Journal’s Innovators. They were the world's top-selling act and got the No. 1 spot on the IFPI’s Global Artists chart. 

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, their biggest priority is meeting ARMY again. “The vaccines started to roll out,” Jin said. “If the situation allows, our priority would be to hold a concert with our fans. Also, we're working on individual songs and meeting up for group songs as well. So stay tuned for new things to come out.”