BTS, perhaps the biggest boyband in the world at the moment, has shown it isn’t afraid to create music that veers off from the standards customarily tied to pop music — it writes music that is sincere and passionate and fulfills the soulful needs of itself.
The Korean septet released its sixth extended play, Map of the Soul: Persona, on Friday. It’s an expressive, sincere seven-track exploration into the minds of all seven members.
The name BTS has two meanings: Beyond the Scene, and Bangtan Boys, an acronym for a Korean statement that is loosely interpreted in English as “bulletproof boy scouts.” The story of the language barrier-breaking band starts with the discovery of frontman Kim Nan-joon, better known as RM, and his rapping abilities. BTS was initially going to be hip-hop-based, but its debut was delayed to form into a more conventional group. In 2012, Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Min Yoon-gi (Suga), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Kim Tae-hyung (V), Jeon Jung-kook (Jungkook) and RM molded into the BTS the world has become infatuated with.
BTS began gaining traction in 2015 when it won SBS MTV’s The Show for its single “I Need U.” The band’s following single, “Dope,” earned 100 million views on YouTube. The band made TIME magazine’s list of the 25 most influential people on the internet in 2017 and sold out the world-renowned Wembley Stadium, which sits 90,000, in 90 minutes.
The seven worldwide sensations knew they had to impress after the release of its lengthy, immensely successful 26-track album, Love Yourself: Answer, in August 2018. Map of the Soul: Persona maintains the profound nature that helped the band attain its success, but it’s not as triumphant. “Dionysus,” despite a groovy beat, tries too hard. “Intro : Persona” contains intricate lyrics but is a let down sonically. When two songs on a seven-track EP aren’t extremely well executed, that’s a problem. Nonetheless, the remaining tracks provide warmth and show the beautiful, poetic minds of all seven members.
Here’s a breakdown of the best three tracks on Map of the Soul: Persona:
Note: all lyrics have been translated to English for this article
3. “Make It Right”
Guided by catchy synths is the Ed Sheeran collaboration “Make It Right,” a lyrically endearing track about how positive relationships can vastly improve the world. As in practically all of the band’s work, the vocal sections of this track are equally split among each member, and it’s wonderful. Though Jungkook’s falsetto-based verse is the best vocally, Suga’s verse holds the most enchanting lyrics: “The reason I survived in hell: it’s for you; it was not for me / If you know, please don’t hesitate and save my life / I’m thirsty wandering this desert for you, so hurry and grab me quickly / I know the sea without you is the same as a desert.” The track is instrumentally repetitive, but it works inexplicably well with all seven members’ outstanding vocal performances.
2. “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey)”
The harmonies and infectious beat in “Boy With Luv” will inevitably get stuck in your head after just one listen. The band has another track under the title “Boy in Luv” from 2014, and the transition from being in love to having it shows the emotional growth of the septet. Again, Suga’s verse encompasses the most blatantly lovable lyrics: “You’re the star that turns ordinaires into extraordinaires / One after another, everything is special: the things you’re interested in, the way you walk or talk and every little trivial habit of yours.” Halsey’s harmonies flawlessly accent those of the septet, and it’s simply an inescapable bop.
The emotional nature of this track is evident from the first tick of the instrumentation. The title, “Mikrokosmos,” is a reference to the Greek philosophy microcosm, which views each human as its own universe. RM highlights this specifically: “One history in one person / one star in one person / 7 billion worlds, shining with 7 billion lights.” The track uses the concept of stars to explain finding brightness amid dark times, as Jungkook sings: “Starlight that shines brighter in the darkest night / The deeper the night, the brighter the starlight.” It’s an extremely well-executed track amplified by thought-provoking notions, and it’s the best on Map of the Soul: Persona.