What’s Up with the Hype for BTS’s Latest Comeback?

BTS isn’t just your typical boy band that sings about chasing after girls and dealing with heartbreak. From the moment the seven-member group entered the K-pop industry, the group’s songs have revolved around a variety of societal issues, ranging from mental health to self-love to struggles students face. On top of singing about complex issues, they even have an entire alternate universe strung together by their music videos (think Marvel Cinematic Universe—but this time with music videos and lyrics that are treasure troves of Easter eggs). Their musicality has garnered much attention across the globe, leading to everything from appearances on The Ellen Show to a collaboration with Desiigner and Steve Aoki to an upcoming performance this week at the Billboard Music Awards.

With much anticipation from fans, their most recent album Map of the Soul: Persona was released on April 12. The title is in reference to the book Jung’s Map of the Soul by Murray Stein, which focuses on Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and his theory about the human psyche consisting of different personalities. Consisting of seven songs, the album explores the constant struggle young people face with identity and self, especially when it comes to the complex issue of love.

As per the structure of their previous albums, Map of the Soul: Persona hits off with a solo rap from one of the rappers as RM, the leader of BTS and a key member of the production powerhouse behind BTS’s songs, launches into a fast-paced rap in “Intro: Persona." The title itself alludes to Jung’s theory that all humans have a persona or a mask of sorts we wear to conceal our true selves. As he raps along with the heavy beats and constant cycles of guitar riffs, RM delves into his journey towards self-discovery, wondering aloud at one point “Who the hell am I?/I just want to go/I just want to fly." The song is more than just a rap solo as it cements the album’s theme of identity and self-discovery.   

"Boy With Luv" (feat. Halsey)

The hard rock instrumentals in “Intro: Persona” soften into the more upbeat instrumentals of “Boy with Luv." Exuding boy-next-door vibes, “Boy with Luv” is BTS’s take on the pop love song genre. The song is a counterpart of sorts to their 2014 song “Boy in Luv." While “Boy in Luv” focused on the rush of emotions and anger initiated by unrequited love, “Boy With Luv” reflects a more mature look on love as the boys have developed a love that comes from within. The vocal line solidifies the sweet and playful tone of the song, with each and every one of their unique voices working together to paint an image of a boy filled with love. Featured artist Halsey adds onto the flirtatious vibe in the chorus as she harmonizes with the boys with her distinctive vocals. Meanwhile, the rap line takes and play around with the tone throughout the song, from Suga fiddling with the pitches to J-Hope adding a touch of playfulness to RM riding along the beat.  

A series of notes cascade down as the album transitions into “Mikrokosmos." The unique title is rooted in the word “microcosms," referring to each and every human creating their own small universes. The lyrics embody the meaning of the title as the boys sing about establishing one’s identity in a seemingly overwhelming sea of personalities. The gentle instrumentals go well with the boys’ soothing tones as they sing lines like “우린 빛나고 있네/각자의 방 각자의 별에서” which roughly translates to “we're shining brightly/In our own rooms, in our own stars." With “Mikrokosmos," BTS reassures listeners who feel lost and unable to find, or even accept, who they truly are by showing how each and every unique identity can shine no matter what.

BTS then takes it down a notch with “Make It Right” which has a more relaxing vibe to it. The final result of a songwriting collaboration with singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, “Make It Right” reflects the group’s hope to better the world with love. The song’s instrumentals have depth and complexity with layers of repeated horn melodies and drum-like synth beats. The vocal line plays around with their vocals as they harmonize in various parts throughout the song. Jimin, Jin, and Jungkook weave together their voices during the pre-chorus with Jimin singing with a falsetto as Jin and Jungkook hold it down so that the song doesn’t float too far away into the dreamy vibes. Meanwhile, V’s deep, baritone vocals provide an anchor for Jungkook’s soft, dreamy voice during the chorus.

The jazzy instrumentals of “Make It Right” fade away into “HOME," a song BTS dedicated to their fanbase ARMY. When explaining why they chose to do so, they credited ARMYs for always making them feel safe and comfortable, as if they were truly at home. Throughout the song, the group showers ARMYs with appreciation, singing at one point “말을 안 해도 편안할 거야 너만 있다면 다 내 집이 될 거야” which roughly translates to “it's comfortable even as you say nothing/with you, anywhere will be my home." The snazzy instrumentals will make you want to groove along with the beat, making “HOME” a song worthy to head bop to.

Jin’s gentle voice then opens up the song “Jamais Vu” as a continuous series of piano chords play in the background. Jungkook soon follows, carrying over the gentle tone of the song while singing along with the varying pitches of the instrumentals. J-HOPE eases his way in, rapping with a tone mirroring a mother comforting her crying child. Like other songs in the album, the title “Jamais Vu” alludes to the album’s theme of self-identity since it is a French phrase that is the direct opposite of “deja vu” and refers to the illusion of the familiar becoming unfamiliar once again. Through the song, the three members comfort listeners as they show that fame doesn’t solve everything and that they are still as lost as ever.when it comes to determining their identity.  

The serene atmosphere created by “Jamais Vu” is soon shattered with the entrance of the heavy, 80s hip-hop inspired instrumentals in “Dionysus." BTS works on the dark and angry musical style of their early songs as they take on the criticism they received over the years and spit back fiery responses. Famous for being the Greek god of wine, the titular character was an outcast amongst the Olympians due to his mother being a mortal. The boys build off this image of Dionysus to show how they have grown from an unknown and underestimated boy group to the musical powerhouse they are today despite the odds. With “Dionysus” the album wraps up with a bang.

From singing flirtatious tunes to questioning their true identity, BTS displays their versatility in music throughout their latest album Map of the Soul: Persona while still maintaining a strong focus on the importance of being true to oneself.  

Check out the album!

 

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