It must be terrifying to be in BTS’ shoes right now. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook are no longer just regular K-pop idols but now a worldwide sensation that has paved the way for their genre like no one before. With the insane amount of feats they’ve reached, it feels like the entire world is scrutinising their every move.
That being said, the amount of hype and excitement for their newest release hit us like never before. With “IDOL” being the last of the “Love Yourself” series, this album marked the beginning of a new era. The “Map Of The Soul” series seem to be interlaced with Jungian theories and Greek gods, evident from their tracklist and concept photos with further allusion.
Out of all the things to expect for this comeback, a revisit to “Skool Luv Affair” certainly wasn’t one of it. The moment the reverb echo of the former album’s intro begun, we just knew there was no way to ever one-up BTS. Even when you think you’re prepared, they’re already several steps ahead of you.
As all members have had their chance at the introduction— it was only fitting to start from the beginning again. Leader RM delivers the intro, his snappy rapping complementing the electric guitar riffs and the echoes of “Skool Luv Affair”. Sporting the similar hairstyles from that era as well, we wondered what this reference could mean. “Who the hell am I?”, he asks, questioning what truly makes any of us the people we say we are. It’s hard to not acknowledge how insanely talented the man is, spitting bars of wordplay with effortless style and confidence.
The second track finally rolls by; the title track, “Boy with Luv” featuring America’s sweetheart; Halsey. Even though her amount of lines were rather disappointing (though in defense… perhaps she was just given the fair treatment of how line distribution really works in the industry :)), Halsey does a great job on the song.
In comparison to the Nicki Minaj collaboration BTS last had with “IDOL”, which did have a music video but was rather obviously just the two artists put together thanks to the wonders of post-production. Credit has to be given when it’s due, especially on Halsey’s end in this case.
The Western world of music should take note of her efforts when considering collaborating with Korean artists, especially seeing as to how it’s slowly becoming more of a norm. Halsey not only fully committed to the music video by also having animated hair colours, but learned to sing accurately to the Korean lyrics and learn a part of the choreography.
We can’t imagine how daunting that must have been on her end (imagine dancing next to what are practically considered veterans!) but Halsey made it clear that this felt more like a meet between two friends. The chemistry between the boys and her worked perfectly, without feeling forced or gimmicky. For once, it didn’t feel like there was a disparity between the two artists involved— but rather was just a bunch of similar aged young people just having fun.
And now, into the song itself. BTS being BTS couldn’t resist diving deep into this album, fleshing out ideas that come with the well thought album concept.
The mere title alone is an obvious reference to the former, aggressive “Boy in Luv” — the title track of “Skool Luv Affair”. However, Bangtan had long graduated from exaggerated eyeliner and schoolboy uniforms. No longer is it necessary for them to be the guys playing tough, demanding attention from the girl they like.
Now, they’re adorned in various shades of pinks, designer jewellery and confidently sing that they’re a better person when they’re in love. It’s an interesting commentary on masculinity as well, especially in terms of the drastic change of clothes and attitude.
“Now I get it,” sings Jimin with a sheepish smile and rosy cheeks, complementing his peachy hair. “Love is nothing stronger than a boy with love”. The realisation that love and being in love doesn’t actually weaken a person but strengthens them, speaks volumes in comparison to the assertive former.
The maturity of the track is what makes it especially satisfactory. Say whatever you want about BTS, but they have aged gracefully on the charts and it is through this song that they have revisited the past in the most gracious manner. The smooth transition and graceful growth are what seals this track with approval. They are not reinventing themselves, but rather are acknowledging their past and showing how much they’ve changed since then.
Overall, “Boy With Luv” sounds like a good pop-funk song that will be very fun to sing along to when it hits the airwaves. The addictive “Oh my my my”s, laced with Halsey’s sweet vocals especially feels like something that will be a go-to.
The third track of the album, “Mikrokosmos” caught us off-guard with its soft opening. Titled “Small Universe” in Greek, the song gives us exactly that. With muted sounds and paled noises, it feels like a small secret of something that only you have access to. The song itself feels like it was made to be sung along at concerts, with that sentimental beat that just tugs at heartstrings.
The lyrics touch on how ARMYs mean just as much to BTS as they do to them, saying how they’ll always have each other for strength. With British producers working the track this time, (such as Ryan Lawrie, an ex-contestant on “The X Factor”) we can see how the song itself has a slight Brit-pop vibe. It is reminiscent of everyone’s favourite British boy band, One Direction, with its emotional yet pop-driven sound.
“Make It Right” is slick, sexy and cool— it needs no explanation for itself. It’s a succinct song that delivers exactly what it’s here for, without overdoing itself. Ed Sheeran was actually one of the writers of the song, which makes us wonder if there will be even more collaborations between the two top-selling artists. Keeping in the theme of sexy, we get the retro-inspired “HOME”. Starting off with a funky beat and snapping of fingers, we are launched into the sultry and stylish world of a post-BTS.
Rapper Suga even references his famous “big house, big cars, big rings” line from their debut song, “No More Dream”, which further encapsulates how far they’ve come since their hip hop warrior days. The whole “24K Magic” vibe of it all though just tinges it with class and a whole new level of sexiness. We don’t know about you but the way Jimin sings “Mi Casa” sure got us feeling some way!
However after all that steaminess, everything is fanned away with the emotional ballad of “Jamais Vu”, (which is the opposite of deja vu, where something should feel familiar but isn’t). The first unit track featuring main vocal Jungkook, oldest member Jin and rapper J-Hope, fans were speculating what the track could possibly be about. This is perhaps the most curious line up for a unit yet, as BTS usually split themselves into vocal and rap units.
The track itself is an emotionally honest song, with both vocalists serenading sweetly. The vocals are the driving factor of the song, as the beat is rather muted here too. J-Hope serves as the perfect balance of the two here, with his sharp yet calm rapping style carrying the song with the right amount of energy to make sure it does not fall flat.
Then it all comes to the final track of the album, “Dionsyus”. Named after the Greek god of wine, the song does not disappoint from being anything less than a rambunctious, drinking anthem. The only purely Bangtan track off the entire album (composed and written by J-Hope and their own producers Supreme Boi and PDogg), it serves as a reminder that BTS will never lose their original flavour. Originality is something that they seem to never lack, evident in this rock number laced with hip hop.
Rapper Suga drops a rather iconic line, “Born as a kpop idol, reincarnated into an artist”, which not only throws mad shade towards haters who have long dissed BTS since their beginnings for being nothing more than a plastic industry-made idol group. It is interesting to note his usage of the term ‘reincarnation’, as Dionysus is a symbol of it and connects death with immortality.
Tying everything back to the main theme of the album, BTS brings us to an absolute party right up to the end. It may be the end of the world tonight, but that’s not stopping them from drinking up. Taking a step away from the squeaky clean image of idol-dom, it’s refreshing to see them take on songs that deal with regular young adult activities instead of constantly being vanilla.
“Map Of The Soul: Persona” serves as an interesting entry on the board of BTS’ discography. With very pop based sounds, “Persona” feels exactly like its name; a character that someone has adopted and is being perceived by the public. Most of the songs don’t have that classic BTS sound that has become somewhat of a trademark for them, but rather they show different aspects and sides to the 7-member group. It feels like the sweet spot in between; where BTS has managed to weave themselves into the center of who they are and the ever vast and changing world around them.
The album is a solid release, with generally favourable songs that can most definitely enter the airwaves without a second’s glance. In fact, this release is starting to make us wonder… is BTS even capable of making a bad album? Even when given somewhat mediocre tracks to work with, these South Korean boys seem to be gifted with Midas’ touch.