By Nina Claudia Soukhanovskii ‘20
It’s an exciting time for fans of South Korean global sensation, 방탄소년단 (Bangtan Sonyeondan), as their new album Map of the Soul: Persona, released on April 12, is not only one of the most highly-anticipated albums of 2019 but also the start of a new BTS era.
The boy band, consisting of members RM, Jin, Suga, J-hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, previously attracted many fans through their inspiring concept of the Love Yourself era. The era focused on helping fans all over the world to learn how to love themselves unconditionally through the lyrics of BTS’ songs.
“I didn’t know anything about loving myself. You guys [the fans] taught me. Through your eyes, through your love, through your tweets, through your letters, through your everything, you guys taught me and inspired me to love myself,” said leader of the boyband Kim Namjoon, “What is loving yourself? I don’t know. Who can define their own method and way of loving myself? It’s our mission to find and define our way to love ourselves.”
BTS gained fans for their passion for music and for their love of their fans, called the “BTS ARMY”. The hard-working boys additionally wooed many fans with their stunning vocals, catchy beats, rapping, and gorgeous looks.
Each BTS album starts off with a solo from one of the members. This time, it was Namjoon’s turn for a solo. Titled Intro: Persona, the track features Namjoon’s effortless transition between rapping in Korean and English over an upbeat guitar riff.
Throughout the song, pre-released a couple weeks prior to the comeback, Namjoon keeps bringing up the question, “Persona, who the hell am I?” This question seems to be the theme for the new era. Now that the boys and the fans have learned to love themselves, they have to learn their place in the world and gain enough courage to speak out.
Intro: Persona is followed by the title track of the album, Boy with Luv, which is a summery collab song between BTS and their long-time friend, Halsey. This song is a reference to the band’s 2014 Boy in Luv.
In the song, Halsey sings about the giddiness of being in love while BTS add lyrics about their experience becoming world famous and interactive relationship with their fans. In fact, in the Spotify version of the song, Halsey impresses everyone by joining the boys in harmonizing with them in Korean, a language in which she is not fluent.
Furthermore, the music video, earning a shocking 78 million views in the first 24 hours, crushed the old record by over 20 million. Featuring new hair colors for all of the boys, the music video is full of vibrant colors and new choreography combinations.
The comeback stage for Boy in Luv was aired on NBC’s Saturday Night Live on April 13, where BTS performed their new song as well as Mic Drop (released in 2017).
Boy with Luv is followed by Mikrokosmos, an electronic pop song with an ancient Greek philosophy reference. This song is about everyone being their own individual light in a world “shining with seven billion lights”. Again, the whole concept of speaking yourself and being a positive individual is brought up.
Next is a song called Make it Right, which was actually co-written by Ed Sheeran. The song has a lot in common with Sheeran’s hit song, Shape of You. The song talks about “making it right” with a loved one. A perfect song for a wedding!
After Make it Right, BTS added a song dedicated to their ARMY. The boy band is known for writing touching lyrics about their fans, who, as they say, helped them become the successful artists that they are today.
HOME features a “vibey” production and another unforgettable chorus, like the band’s 2018 Magic Shop. In Magic Shop, the boys sing that they are ARMY’s magic shop, or escape from all their problems and worries. In HOME, the boys say that just like they are ARMY’s magic shop, ARMY is their home.
The next track in the album is something new that the band has not done before. Jamais Vu is a song performed by a sub-unit of the band, singers Jin, Jungkook, and rapper J-hope. Since there are two more albums in this era rumored to be released sometime later, fans are excited to see if the other four members will be split into sub units as well.
Jamais Vu features abrupt key changes and an overall gentle melody. The band’s oldest member, Kim Seokjin (Jin) and youngest member, Jeon Jungkook, serenade listeners with their golden voices while rapper Jung Hoseok (J-hope), who is also known for his singing as well, accompanies them.
Finally, the album closes off with a hip-hop banger called Dionysus. The lyrics of this track equate the success of being popular artists with getting drunk. This track uses upbeat rapping and electronic vocal slides as a way to throwback to some of BTS’ songs in 2013, when they first debuted as “hip-hop warriors”.
In the concept photos released for the physical album, the members are seen wearing bright colors and posing with various objects, including wine glasses and grapes. Some fans are proposing the idea that BTS are trying to get away from toxic masculinity by wearing pink and other colors that are usually seen as feminine.
The physical album has received a jaw-dropping 3 million pre-orders, which is more than any of the other BTS albums. The physical album will have two photo-cards (signed by the corresponding members) a photo-strip, a full-color photo-book, and a CD with the beloved songs.
The boy band, known for their jam-packed schedule, are set to go on a worldwide stadium tour, starting in Los Angeles on May 4. The tour, titled Love Yourself: Speak Yourself, will feature the new album as well as some of the band’s older songs from previous eras.
Additionally, the band is nominated for two Billboard music awards. In 2017, they became the first Korean act to win an award (Top Social Artist) and to perform at the BBMAs. In 2018, they repeated themselves by once again performing and winning in the same category. This year, they are nominated for TSA, but also for Top Duo/Group. They will be going head-to-head with many famous American bands, such as the Imagine Dragons.
All in all, Map of the Soul: Persona is definitely different than BTS’ previous albums. Although it is on the shorter side, playing for only 26 minutes, all of the tracks are taste-breakers for both new and old ARMYs alike.