The Bangtan boys are finally back.
Over the past eight months, fans have been scouring the Internet for any word of new music from their beloved worldwide idols. But the past year hasn’t been easy for BTS. Early in 2018, members announced they almost disbanded, tearing up as they revealed to fans that they were struggling with mental health.
“But we re-gather our hearts,” vocalist Kim Seokjin said at a speech. “And I’m glad that we were able to produce such a great result.”
The seven-member Korean boy band persevered through hardship out of a never-ending love for its fans and released its latest album Friday. The question of “Who am I?” resonates within every track of “Map of the Soul: Persona,” and the Bangtan personality old-time fans can recognize makes itself present with each beat and lyric.
Leader and rapper RM — stage name of Kim Namjoon — steals the spotlight in “Intro : Persona,” and it surprises the listener by opening with DJ scratching. It’s a tad nostalgic to BTS’s hip-hop days. The beginning of the introduction questions the singer’s identity, specifically RM’s numerous personas — he’s a leader, a rapper and an idol, but he’s still Kim Namjoon. He raps “‘Who am I?’ The question I had my whole life.”
All fans of the “Skool Luv Affair” era probably had their hearts stopped after reading the title of the second track, “Boy with Luv.” The catchy and danceable beat features vocals from American singer and songwriter, Halsey. It’s easily lighthearted and sweet and a song about how love is a force too strong to handle.
“Mikrokosmos” encapsulates the type of sound that can bring the listener to outer space, floating among planets. BTS’ voices are intimate among pretty twinkling sound effects, and it’s goosebump-worthy. It’s the perfect song for closing credits after a feel-good movie. The band elaborates on the idea that every person is their own universe with lyrics, “One history is one person / One star in one person / Shining with seven billion lights / Seven billion worlds.”
In a collaboration with Ed Sheeran, the band released “Make It Right” to show its desire to strengthen relationships. With its simple instrumental, the song is straight-up poppy and fun. Yet, it blends into this new BTS sound that can easily get lost in generic pop.
Meanwhile, “HOME” hits straight at the heart. It’s an anthem for the fans, but it’s also a coming-of-age story — BTS has grown up. In 2013, the boys released their debut track, “No More Dream,” yearning for “big cars and big rings” among other lavish things. Now, BTS has all of that and realizes these material items aren’t fulfilling. Instead, it discovers that its fans fill the emptiness in a way that possessions can’t with lyrics, “That place is probably mi casa / With you Imma feel rich.”
“Jamais Vu” fills the listener with something like nostalgia. Its delicate sounds, starting with emotional vocals, become a solid beat later in the song after J-Hope comes in rapping. The term “jamais vu” is actually the opposite of deja vu. It’s when a person sees something they know — for example, another person — but momentarily doesn’t recognize it. It’s easy to tell these lyrics are pleading for something to save them from the jamais vu with “So give me a remedy / A remedy that will make my heart beat again.”
The final track, “Dionysus,” is named after the Greek god of wine, but it isn’t just about the wine. BTS chose this god because he was an outcast from the rest of the Olympians, referring to a time when BTS was outcasted for starting off with a small, unpopular company. Over a heavy beat, lyrics such as “Just get drunk like Dionysus” celebrate being an artist, even in the face of harsh criticism. It’s reminiscent of the band’s older, intense hip-hop beat but with electronic vocal effects dabbled throughout. By the end of the album, the boys just want to have fun, raising a glass to the criticism.
The members of BTS acknowledge themselves as artists and idols, but they’re also storytellers. The boys have come quite a long way and had to overcome most of their struggles together. “Map of the Soul: Persona” showcases the journey of self-discovery, but any listener can tell just how much the boys have grown since the days they once asked us, “Hey, what’s your dream?”
Contact Kailey Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.