Bulletproof Boy Scouts, also known as Beyond the Scene, has preached self-love and reflection for years now, but on “Map of the Soul: 7,” the K-pop band takes its turn to look back on the history of BTS and each of the members’ individual journeys. With 2020 marking the seven-year anniversary of its first album, “2 Cool 4 Skool,” all members made sure to make “Map of the Soul” a piece of art its ARMY — the nickname given to the hoards of BTS fans — won’t forget.
The album begins with five songs fans will recognize from the previous album, “Map of the Soul: Persona,” released last year. Hit songs like, “Boy with Luv” and “Make it Right” are still mesmerizing to listen to and gives the audience a taste of what the rest of the album has to offer. The mixture of American and K-pop has never been so accessible, and the splash of hip-hop and rap provided by RM, J-hope and Suga was perhaps the best performance by the trio to this date.
Suga sets up a darker and more chaotic tone with songs like, “Interlude: Shadow” and “Black Swan.” He raps: “Yeah, hmm, shadow at my feet, look down, it’s gotten even bigger / I run, but the shadow follows / as dark as the light's intense / I’m afraid, flying high is terrifying / No one told me how lonely it is up here.” Suga embraces the struggles he faced growing up as a K-pop idol and is open and honest about the true effects of remaining in the spotlight for over seven years.
Even if that theme isn’t carried all the way through the album,it still seems fitting. After finishing the 20-song tracklist it seems the album tends to jump all over the place, from fast-paced pop love songs to more grounded ones about fears and loneliness. However, that’s what makes BTS and this record so unique.
“Map of the Soul” includes the perspectives of all seven band members and their specific viewpoints on growing up in the K-pop industry. Each clearly has their own way of expressing that experience, and that’s shown in their solo performances. For example, Jimin’s solo song, “Filter,” focuses more on soft acoustics rather than J-Hope’s up-beat and trumpet-heavy “Ego.” One may originally think the constant jumping back and forth between these different genres seems clunky or jarring, but somehow, BTS makes it work in its favor.
The album also has many throwbacks to BTS’ old days as a more grungy and street-rap band. The song “Respect” features old school disc-scrubbing while RM and Suga rap over the well-produced yet still heavily characterized BTS beats. “Respect” then leads into, “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal,” which is the third installment in the Bulletproof saga. All seven members are featured in the song as they sing about the drastic changes they’ve experienced in their lives since the age of seven. It’s an emotional and heartfelt song, but BTS makes sure not to go out on a sad note.
The contrast between the Intro, the Interlude and the Outro is clear and purposeful. RM begins by questioning who he really is in “Intro: Persona,” while Suga focuses on his fears of being an idol in “Interlude: Shadow.” RM raps in the intro, “Who am I? The question I had my whole life / The question I probably won’t find the answer to my whole life.” He gestures toward the idea of not truly having an identity as a K-pop idol or perhaps more along the lines of not being able to differentiate between RM, the idol and Kim Nan-joon, the person.
While I noticed J-Hope’s vocals are absent in most of the songs on the album, he makes up for it by producing and rapping the outro song “Ego.” It features samples from BTS’ original album and song “2 Cool 4 Skool,” resulting in a palpable feeling of nostalgia and joy. Even as the album tackles the hardships and struggles the band members faced growing up, they still make sure to end the album in a high-spirited and energetic fashion.
Overall, “Map of the Soul: 7” is a great addition to the highly awarded K-pop band. The album is never afraid to get real about the member’s emotions and feelings while maintaining a positive outlook on life. The songs consistently experiment with different genres in addition to using samples from the band’s old albums perfectly. It’s a messy combination that just couldn’t feel more right, and ARMY fans across the globe should be ecstatic that BTS killed it once again.
Contact Daniel Carter at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.