Map of the Soul: 7, BTS Shares Achievements and Feats in Their Most Personal Work Yet

Hailing from South Korea, music group BTS have taken the world by storm over the past couple of years. Breaking record after record, speaking at the United Nations, being the first Korean artists to perform at the Grammy Awards, and selling out stadiums all over the world, these boys have proved they are a force to be reckoned with in an industry dominated by artists who don’t look or sound like them. A force unlike any other. 

Their most recent album, Map of the Soul: 7, the “7” standing for the amount of group members and the number of years they’ve been together, dropped on Friday, February 21st. It is a musical rollercoaster with a mix of different genres, the member’s personal stories, and odes to the people who have been with them from the beginning: the fans. Every song on this album feels like a moment worth talking about; every song begs for attention and forces listeners to look deeper into the message behind the musical sounds.

It has almost been a year since BTS dropped Map of the Soul: Persona, a mini album that started their “Persona” trilogy. The series references Carl Jung psychology and the divisions of self: persona, shadow, and ego. The first track on both albums, fittingly titled “Intro: Persona,” is performed by main rapper, accomplished songwriter, and leader RM. In this song, he asks himself “Who the hell am I? / I just want to go / I just want to fly.” The continuation and follow-up to this question is found on “Interlude: Shadow,” a hard-hitting, eerie, emo hip-hop influenced song by fellow rapper Suga. In this song, he addresses his fears of fame and and the anxieties that come with success by saying “Please don’t let me shine / Don’t let me down / Don’t let me fly.” The last track on the album, “Outro: Ego,” is the conclusion to this reflective journey woven throughout the album. J-Hope sings “I look ahead / the way is shinin’ / keep going now” over a catchy, horn heavy instrumental. These three solo tracks are a progression that sheds some light on the want for success, the struggles one faces once they reach the top, and how to overcome that and trust yourself despite the pressure. These three songs also use sample beats from some of BTS’s early songs, giving a nostalgic feel for long-time fans. 

Found between the intro, interlude, and outro are more candid tracks about the group members’ personal struggles; each of them have writing credits on their solos. “My Time,” an R&B inspired song with beautiful layered vocals, is sung by the youngest member of the group, 22-year-old Jungkook. Empowered with emotionally charged vocals, one can hear the desperation as he sings about how overwhelming life became when he joined the group at the age of 15. He is searching for something that he can’t seem to find and wondering if he is living life right—a universal feeling for anyone in their early 20’s, no matter their situation. 

“Filter,” sung by Jimin, has elements of Latin pop and is very different from anything else on the album. It is a sensual anthem with pulsing guitar in the instrumental with his high-pitched, breathy vocals lying on top. “Inner Child,” a Brit pop moment on the album sung by member V, sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a coming-of-age indie film. V sings to his younger self, who faced many struggles about the man he has become today. This song has the calming effect of lying under the stars at night; it feels safe and warm, and like everything is going to be okay. His vocals are soulful and reassuring. 

“Moon” sung by group member Jin is a pop rock gem. Having one of the most notable voices in BTS and being named “Silver Voice” by the Grammy Panel, Jin gets to show off his incredible vocal range on a song he wrote to address fans as he sings, “I will stay by your side / I will be your light / All for you.” This song sounds like going to the amusement park and forgetting about all of your problems; it sounds like pure happiness as his playful, pretty vocals shift into fun falsetto leaving listeners wanting to hit repeat as soon as it ends. 

Track number 10, “Louder than Bombs,” is co-written by well-known pop act Troye Sivan and has a beautifully apocalyptic tone. The husky raps and blended vocals lead to a haunting ambience; it sounds like a climax in an action movie. The vocals are stunning on this track, and the electro-pop instrumental is entrancing. Vocals also stand out on “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal,” the conclusion of two previous BTS songs “We are Bulletproof Pt. 1” and “We are Bulletproof Pt. 2.” This song feels like driving through the city at night; it feels infinite. The bridge is one of the most powerful moments on this album as the boys sing to their fans, “Tell me your every story / Tell me why you don’t stop this / Tell me why you still walkin’ / Walkin’ with us.” BTS is known for their songs dedicated to their passionate fanbase, and this song continues to show their love for their listeners with candid and intimate lyricism. 

One of the most powerful tracks on Map of the Soul: 7 comes from the rap line on a Memphis-style trap song called “UGH!,” a song criticizing society due to the amount of anonymous hate that comes with the modern world. The passion captured within their voices is untouchable. The vocal line’s song also shines. Titled “00:00 (Zero O’Clock),” the lyrics in this song get empathetic as the four vocalists sing about time resetting itself and the hope that comes along with that. There is a promise for better days. The song has stripped back acoustic sounds juxtaposed with hip-hop beats.

The first single released from the album titled “Black Swan” is dark, and filled with modern trap sounds while also including orchestral strings in the background. Again, this song is a very personal moment on the album, as the band sings about the fear of losing their passion. What if the music they make stops resonating with them? On first listen, it is hard to tell their voices apart as the experimental autotune takes over, but it feels as if it’s meant to sound that way, and their vocals mix beautifully. The title track and lead single for this album, “ON,” is a musical achievement that features an intense instrumental with a marching band-based backing track. The gospel choir intensifies the war cry vocals and fierce raps that tell a story about overcoming pain and reflecting on the band’s past.

Once again, BTS have put out an experimental and unique body of work that proves why they have the success and diverse, committed fandom they do. There are not many artists out there telling these stories young people need to hear and that's why BTS is so special. Despite the lyrics being in Korean, the universal feelings and emotions they convey through their music exude through their fervent voices; their music can be felt by anyone if they’re willing to listen.