New BTS album racks up millions of listens within hours

South Korean K-pop boy band BTS members pose for a photo session during a press conference on BTS new album 'BE (Deluxe Edition)'. AFP/Jung Yeon-je

SEOUL - Tens of millions of fans around the world raced to listen to the latest offering from BTS on Friday, as the K-pop sensation dropped their highly anticipated new album to a deluge of excitement.

Three hours after "BE" was made available on a simultaneous worldwide release, the video for first track "Life Goes On" -- a song offering a message of hope in the face of the coronavirus pandemic -- had been viewed almost 20 million times on YouTube.

BTS have ascended to global superstardom since their debut in 2013, holding a string of sold-out shows in Los Angeles, Paris and London last year.

The trailblazing septet cemented their prominence in the world's biggest music market 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.

READ: BTS releases new album with 4 million pre-orders

"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 Friday.

"If many people can relate to it, I will be really thankful."

The eight tracks -- which include "Dynamite" -- are the group's fifth Korean-language studio album, and "contains the most 'BTS-esque' music yet," Big Hit said in a statement ahead of the release.

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."

The megastars are scheduled to perform "Dynamite" and "Life Goes On" for the 2020 American Music Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles.