There are very few things in the world I would wake up at 5 a.m. for: those include early morning flights and BTS music video releases. After almost a year of anticipation, global sensation BTS, which is composed of the seven members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin, and Jungkook, has released its seventh album Map of the Soul: 7, and it does not disappoint.
Members of BTS have continued to expand their creative horizons within k-pop and have officially mastered their own twist on pop, which has driven their steady takeover of the music industry in both South Korea and the U.S. It’s crazy to think that only three years ago, the group made their first American award show appearance and left the American masses confused about where all the hype was coming from.
From the get-go, I loved “ON,” the album’s second single. It may not be the catchiest song because it doesn’t have a distinctive hook, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s an absolute banger. “ON” incorporates band instruments that make my head bop every time. The song’s official music video made my jaw drop because I genuinely didn’t think that BTS could become even more large-scale and deviate so distinctly from their previous music videos – the 2016 MV for “Save Me” only used one shot on a single set, and now they’re incorporating hundreds of extras and CGI effects. However, although I understand that their label’s artistic directors wanted the video to be completely different, I was honestly really confused by its dystopian storyline and setting.
The Map of the Soul album series which began last year with Map of the Soul: Persona completely flips the script BTS normally follows, literally. For example, the title song from their 2013 album O!RUL82 is called “N.O” and both songs have similar defiant energies – “N.O” was a call for teenagers and young adults to stand up for themselves against the pressures of cutthroat societal standards. “ON” can be viewed a the confident brother to “N.O.” as the fully matured BTS can take on any hit thrown at them. In addition, 7’s “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” is a gentle ode in comparison to their debut album’s angry “We are Bulletproof pt. 2.” (The glow up is REAL.)
Get ready for angst galore with “Interlude: Shadow,” a solo song rapped by Suga, who regularly writes and produces music for the group and other artists. He raps about how as his fame grows, so does his looming shadow. I appreciate the honesty that the song holds, giving listeners a tiny glimpse of his psyche in this fame whirlwind he is experiencing.
“욱 (UGH!)” is that girl. This track is the biggest throwback on the album, with a similar energy and veal to BTS' earlier projects. It could even be perceived as a successor to the rap unit’s "Cypher" series in their previous albums which was composed of fast-paced rap songs that let them get rid of their frustrations. My only caveat with the song is that it needed more umph with the bass.
“Friends” almost made me cry because it’s so freakin’ sweet. I feel like a major third wheel whenever I hear V and Jimin basically serenade each other over their close bond that has stood the tests of time and explosive fame. (They call each other soulmates for goodness’ sake!)
J-Hope’s “Outro: Ego” is wonderfully happy and brightens my day whenever I hear the beats and trumpet sounds. What makes the song especially unique and distinctly J-Hope’s style is that he highlights his fear of losing ‘Jung Hoseok’ and the burden of being ‘J-Hope.’ He twists this visceral introspection of himself into something optimistic and joyful: “Look ahead, the way is shining.”
In Map of the Soul: 7, BTS is ultimately throwing it back to its early days while simultaneously moving forward in the best way – their maturity and growth are obvious and admirable. My only complaint about the album is that it repackaged older songs from their previous album, which I found to be redundant and quite unnecessary as there’s plenty of great new material without them. Otherwise, 7 is genuinely a delight to listen to and can cater to almost anyone’s style as long as you can look past the increasingly irrelevant language barrier.
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