The South Korean boyband BTS are known internationally for their dedicated fan base and inspiring music. BTS’ influence is seen everywhere; they sing on late night talk shows, dance in stadiums and even speak to organisations like the United Nations.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite their success, their latest album Map of the Soul: 7 pays homage to the band’s humble beginnings.  

Seven is a symbolic number for BTS. It indicates both the number of members in the group, and the number of albums the band has released over the past eight years. The album incorporates songs from their 2019 extended play, Map of the Soul: Persona. According to the group’s record label, Big Hit Labels, Map of the Soul: 7 reflects the members’ deepest thoughts and emotions about their journey to stardom. 

Each song on the album successfully captures the honesty of the boys’ views on heavy topics, like self-worth. However, most of the instrumental tracks don’t do those heartfelt lyrics justice. 

For example, ‘My Time’, a song performed by Jungkook, reveals the artist’s doubts about exchanging a normal life for a high profile one. It’s a touching confession, especially when Jungkook asks himself, “Don’t know what to do with, am I living this right?” However the substantial amount of quick electronic beats throughout the track masks the sincerity of the message. Other songs, like the vocal line’s ‘Zero O’Clock’ focus on the struggles of finding internal peace in a fast-paced lifestyle. The simple guitar strums and airy vocals present make the entire track feel like a light-hearted cheesy pop song. The music reminds me of those early 2000 boy bands featured on Nickelodeon. 

Although I’m critical towards a majority of the songs, I will admit there are some that manage to perfectly highlight both the band’s emotionally thoughtful lyrics and unique sound. The tune of ‘ON’’ is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, on the album and on the radio. The heavy drum beats and the repeated vibration of high notes give the melody more dimension. The sharp vocal changes in the pre-chorus helps to build up the energy in the song. It’s definitely an ego-booster anthem, especially when the boys are confidently chanting, “Bring the pain on”. 

‘Louder than Bombs’ is a haunting track about the emotional ups and downs fame brings to celebrities. What stands out the most in this pop tune, is the emotion in the member’s voices when they sing, “Louder than bombs I break”. The riffs and slow claps help set an eerie mood that appropriately matches the song’s point. 

The music in BTS’ new album doesn’t showcase the same originality and diversity as their previous ones, however, their decision to write emotionally insightful lyrics is one that should be well rewarded and recognised. The album doesn’t sugarcoat the messages the artists are trying to send. They may be international superstars, but BTS are still boys who struggle to make their inner voices heard.

4 stars

Image: AJEONG_JM

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