Article. Yoon Haein
Photo Credit. Billboard

TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s 2019 debut album, The Dream Chapter: STAR, entered the Billboard 200 chart at number 140. The following year, minisode 1: Blue Hour hit 25, and 2021’s The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE went up to number five, representing a steep jump. After their 2022 release minisode 2: Thursday's Child rose one slot higher to number four, they released their fifth mini album, The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION, on January 27, and it was then that the group finally topped the chart. The albums charted thanks to first-week sales totaling 39,000 copies (The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE), 65,500 copies (minisode 2: Thursday's Child) and 152,000 copies (The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION). TOMORROW X TOGETHER has risen each year as though progressively climbing a set of stairs, improving upon previous sales each time.

The reason for their steady growth can be worked out by looking at each album’s performance on the Billboard 200 following the second week of their releases. The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION was number three in its second week and then 10 and 12 in its third its fourth weeks, respectively. TOMORROW X TOGETHER has become one of only two K-pop boy bands to have stayed within the Billboard 200 top 10 for three consecutive weeks. The other group, of course, is BTS. Just like people keep on buying BTS albums even after the week they’re released ever since the group became popular in the United States, the same is true about TOMORROW X TOGETHER. Although it covers performance outside the US too, TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s performance on Spotify’s Daily Top Song Global chart gives an even clearer picture of how the group is growing. A look at the chart shows the lead single of The Chaos Chapter: FREEZE, “0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)” (feat. Seori), charted at number 89, and the album’s B-side, “Anti-Romantic,” charted at 127. When minisode 2: Thursday's Child was released the following year, every track made it to the chart, including the lead single, “Good Boy Gone Bad,” at number 81. “Sugar Rush Ride,” the lead single for their most recent album, The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION, entered 43 places higher, debuting at number 38, while three other tracks off the album were in the top 100 and the remaining song was number 112. Going off the steady album sales figures, we can see that more and more people are listening to TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s songs, and some of them become big enough fans to buy the group’s follow-up albums. 

@txt.bighitent Replying to @TXT JAN27 CB ✧ ira there is no IF for me dc @Miri #Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock) #YEONJUN #TOMORROW_X_TOGETHER #TEMPTATION ♬ Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock) - TOMORROW X TOGETHER

Min YeSl, head of the BIGHIT MUSIC marketing team, placed particular meaning on the fact that the song “Tinnitus (Wanna be a rock)” off The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION is “going viral on TikTok all by itself.” The song is neither the lead single off the album nor is it all in English, but it entered the Spotify Viral Chart for the week of February 20 this year at number 47. Even though there was no marketing push behind the song, user-generated content related to “Tinnitus” became popular and interest in the song continued well after its release. “It’s mostly dance videos,” Min explained, “and there’s lots of reaction videos like, ‘I didn’t know this was K-pop,’ and, ‘I lied about it being a K-pop song and played it for my friends/family.’” Two years ago, “Anti-Romantic” was also popular on TikTok and played a major role in promoting TOMORROW X TOGETHER to the world. While the lead singles go to elaborate lengths to capture TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s identity through the outfits, music videos and performances, songs like “Anti-Romantic” and “Tinnitus” are tracks that make the group’s music more approachable, creating a larger entry point into the world of TOMORROW X TOGETHER for listeners around the globe. Min pointed out that one of the reasons “Tinnitus” has been so popular is the “Afrobeats genre.” Kim Yoo Young, a representative at the HYBE 360 Overseas Distribution Business Team, explained that “Afrobeats is becoming very popular in the market, to the point that Billboard recently created a separate chart for the genre.” TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s music is based on the subgenres of pop that are popular at a given moment, and is steadily appealing to more and more people. Min also stressed that the group’s music has “continually found commonality within the North American music market, such as through collaborations with salem ilese, iaan dior and Coi Leray.”

“The people in charge of album distribution in the US also said TOMORROW X TOGETHER is ‘all over TikTok’ and they’re ‘basically TikTok kings,’” Kim’s explained, showing how TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s songs were able to reach overseas listeners, including those in the US. Music written around global trends spreads on TikTok and other platforms that have a strong influence on the music industry through various video challenges. Although this is one of the main avenues for music to become popular lately, TOMORROW X TOGETHER is different because they are particularly active on TikTok themselves. TOMORROW X TOGETHER has more than 20 million followers on the app and member YEONJUN is famous from his strong presence on the platform alone. TOMORROW X TOGETHER is there on TikTok interacting with the app’s representative Generation Z user base, and the group releases the kind of songs Gen Z are into right now and want to do challenges based off of. This may be why TOMORROW X TOGETHER, who was called the “next big thing” by the media when they first debuted, has become “a voice for today’s” generation and the “it band.”

According to the Korea Customs Service, the US is the third-largest importer of K-pop music. As of 2019, statistics showed that 40.8% of K-pop listeners in the US had been consuming K-pop for more than five years. “There are few artists in the US who can sell more than 100,000 physical albums,” Kim said, “so it’s an opportunity for people in the US pop music industry to start getting interested in K-pop.” Park Yun Joo, head of the HYBE AIC3 team in charge of TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s global promotions and PR, explained that, in the US market at the moment, “K-pop is no longer just a niche because the larger public beyond the fandom is coming to listen to K-pop little by little.” BTS formed their fandom, ARMY, in the early days of the group’s entry into the US market, helping make K-pop more widely known in the country, and later became the most successful artist in the music industry—not only in the realm of K-pop, but in the whole world. As a result, Kim said, “Now there are K-pop corners everywhere in offline music stores, including Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble and indie stores across the US. There are more and more stores that only have K-pop in places with a large population that consume K-pop, such as New York and LA especially.” In this new era, TOMORROW X TOGETHER is growing its fanbase by continuously and gradually approaching not only longtime K-pop fans but also those who found out about K-pop through BTS. This might explain why TOMORROW X TOGETHER is increasingly appearing in major media in the US, starting with their appearance on MTV’s Fresh Out Live, live performances on The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Late Late Show with James Corden, and making it out to the red carpet at the AMAs (American Music Awards). The group is making K-pop’s ever-growing realm their own, with music, messages and a social media presence that all resonate with Gen Z around the world. 

After attracting more and more attention to themselves in the US with their albums, songs, TikTok and appearances on talk shows and at awards ceremonies, TOMORROW X TOGETHER brought everything to fruition at Chicago’s famous music festival Lollapalooza last July. Their performance at the fest, which attracted attention even before the show when they became the first K-pop group to be in a main time slot, was proof positive of TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s popularity in the US. During the show, the audience broke into song, singing “Anti-Romantic” together, and even though the festival isn’t set up for typical K-pop fan participation, a considerable number of the audience were holding up their light sticks. “Industry officials on the scene said things like, ‘It was really attention-grabbing—I think the group will be even bigger next year,’” Park recalled. The resounding response to TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s performances like the one at Lollapalooza have stirred up even more buzz and only solidified their popularity further. Speaking to social media posts, Min said that “TXT ranked third in the amount of buzz after j-hope and BTS while Lollapalooza was going on.” In other words, the performance not only helped “in terms of awareness for local media and industry people,” but also served as a chance to “unite and solidify the fandom.” She also pointed out that “sales of old albums increased after the tour and Lollapalooza.” Clearly, TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s amazing performances alongside a live band have made people who were already somewhat interested in TOMORROW X TOGETHER into proper fans. Since their debut, the group has made steady inroads with the American public, proving with their onstage skills what makes them the “it band.” And the popularity the group has created for themselves throughout the entire process led to them appearing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC. Park pegged their appearance on the show as another important moment for TOMORROW X TOGETHER, saying, “The New Year and Thanksgiving season is a major season not just for music fans but for everyone. Just like going to a party or watching a parade, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is a show that everyone who lives in the US watches to celebrate the New Year,” she said, explaining how “TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s appearance on the show proves their popularity.” 

minisode 2: Thursday's Child was number 192 on the Billboard World Albums Artists year-end chart in 2022, making it the only K-pop album to chart after BTS’s Proof. According to the US Year-End Music Report for 2022 released by Luminate (formerly Nielsen Music), minisode 2 sold 227,000 physical albums, placing it third in the US in terms of album sales. Although the album also came in at number four on the Billboard 200 with 65,500 copies sold in its first week, the report shows that it continued to perform well in the long run. minisode 2 was released in May last year but continued to chart on the Billboard 200 until after Lollapalooza for a total of 14 weeks. In addition, The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION has topped the 200 since its first week on the chart and continues to be popular. “The album did very well in its second week,” Min said, “and I think this is an indicator proving how popular the album is.” Steady performance well into their albums’ release periods and their continued sales growth proves the steady climb TOMORROW X TOGETHER is making, and The Name Chapter: TEMPTATION’s number one on the Billboard 200 is evidence of the group’s popularity. It’s been the case throughout TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s history: The group started out young and embarrassed by the horns growing on their heads. At some point, they reckoned with the devil’s temptation, luring in their fans all the while. Now, the fourth-generation boy group has shown the world they really are the “next big thing,” and that’s how they’ve made a name for themselves—right at the top of the Billboard chart.