BTS brings “ON” new genres in “MAP OF THE SOUL: 7”

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BigHit Entertainment

“MAP OF THE SOUL: 7” by BTS was released on Feb. 21. Within a week of its release, the album rose to the top of the Billboard 200 chart.

Helen Kang, Copy Editor

On Feb. 21, BTS released their fourth studio album, “MAP OF THE SOUL: 7,” their second chapter of the “MAP OF THE SOUL” series. 

The series itself references Jungian philosophy, a branch of personality psychology founded by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. He proposed the concept of archetypes, which are unconscious desires that model people’s behaviors and personality. The series is based on Jung’s four major archetypes: the self, the anima/animus, the shadow, and the persona. BTS began the series sharing the joy of finding love by reaching out to their fans and enjoying the little things in life. “MAP OF THE SOUL: 7” tells the story of the band’s discovery of their true selves, with an acknowledgement that their shadows and scars from their hardships are also part of their self. 

The album itself consists of 20 tracks, five of which come from their previous album, “PERSONA”: “Intro: Persona,” “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey),” “Make It Right,” “Jamais Vu,” and “Dionysus”. The following 15 tracks are new releases, seven of which are each of the member’s solo songs.

 

“Interlude: Shadow”

Lead rapper Suga transitions listeners from “PERSONA” tracks into the album with his solo song. Released Jan. 10, months before the group’s comeback itself, Suga sets the tone for the dark themes of the album.

The song is heavy with bass, with an intense emo-rap and samples from the group’s track “Intro: O!RUL8,2?” part of their 2013 album, “O!RUL8,2?”. He begins the song with, “I wanna be a rap star / I wanna be the top,” an ode to his dreams as a young boy back home in South Korea. However, once he has reached that level of success, he looks back with regret, reassuring himself that, “The life you chose: you achieved everything without regrets / So what’s the problem? Enjoy it.”

The rapper’s stage name, Suga, and his rapper name, AgustD, often mask his real identity as Min Yoongi. He ends the song with an acceptance of the disconnect between his public image and his real self with, “You are me, I am you.” Being such a successful group in foreign markets, Suga presents the harsh reality of the group’s rags-to-riches journey through his own perspective. Now that the group’s achieved an unimaginable amount of success, they find themselves in fear of the responsibility that they hold in the public eye.

The rapper told The Guardian in 2018 that, “Fame is like a shadow. There’s light and there’s darkness; it’s something that follows you constantly and not something that you can run away from.” The group’s raw, unfiltered emotions are an important contribution towards the ever-growing nature of their fame. 

 

“Black Swan”

Released a week after “Interlude: Shadow” on Jan. 17, “Black Swan” was the first single release of the album along with the Art Film, which set the dark visual elements of the album. The Art Film is performed by MN Dance Company, a contemporary dance crew from Europe, part of the band’s global art initiative, “Connect: BTS.” Their Official MV released Mar. 4, which showed how the members transform into black swans- elements of surrealism parallel to Darren Afonofsky’s 2010 ballet psychodrama.

The song opens with a nervous, eerie instrumental of classical strings, followed by melodies that make sharp transitions from intense, heartfelt raps to soft whispers of vocals, heightening anxiety within their listeners. The uneasy feel stems from the layering of trap beats with classical instrumentals, which can be overwhelming for first-time listeners, but seems to fit perfectly with the message that the band is trying to convey.

“Black Swan” tells of the group’s greatest fear: the loss of their love for music. They entered the industry through their mutual love for music, but as they’ve gained success, making music has turned into more of their work instead of their passion. In an emotional rap by Suga, he raps how, “The heart no longer races / When hearing the music play / That would be my first death / I been always afraid of.” BTS takes a more intimate approach with a difficult but well-produced track that presents their art form instead of appealing to the masses, breaking boundaries for such a relevant group in the public eye. 

 

“Filter”

From the dark and eerie feel that “Black Swan” brings, lead vocalist and main dancer Jimin brings a seductive song by combining Latin instrumentals with his honey, breathy vocals. The catchy beat carries the album from the heavy emotions driven by artistry to a more mainstream song, given the rising popularity of Latin pop. Jimin draws the attention of a lover with, “Put your phone down, don’t even think of turning your head away” and then offers, “Mix the colors in the palette, pick your filter / Which me do you want?” The sexual appeal of the song is sure to drive fans crazy, and offers a unique element to the album as a whole. 

 

“My Time”

Following Jimin, main vocalist and lead dancer Jungkook tells of his journey from leaving his home at the age of 13 to pursue his dreams of becoming a musician, to debuting in BTS at the age of 15, to becoming part of the biggest boyband in the world. He begins with the fear he felt as an idol at such a young age, “I’m a little kid growing up not knowing it / Don’t know what to do this, am I living this right?” He then comes to the conclusion that he can always rely on his fans, the ARMY, “Happy that we met each other / Now until the very end.” The electronic RnB and trap beats fit perfectly with the vibe that Jungkook’s voice brings: a gentle but strong desire for self-discovery. While not as catchy as “Filter”, “My Time” is one of the strongest solos of the album. 

 

“Louder than bombs”

Co-written by pop singer Troye Sivan, the song immediately draws listeners in with its dramatic, moody but almost euphoric vibes. The breathy, dreamy vocals combined with the subdued but strong rap verses perfectly present the flexibility of the band.

The group sings of the deep fear of the uncertainty they feel as artists who’ve already surpassed their own expectations, not knowing what’s next for them. They begin the song with heavy descriptions of their perspective, “The unfamiliar shadow amidst those cheers / In my quiet sea, waves would sometimes rise.” However, despite their troubles, the band promises their fans that, “Whatever wave may sweep over us / We will endlessly sing for you / Louder than bombs, I sing.” In their heart-wrenching song of gratitude for their fans, the group also presents one of the best pieces of their album, which perfectly embodies their artistry and versatility as a team. 

 

“ON”

The group’s title track, released with their “Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima” on Feb. 21, and the Official MV on Feb. 27, left fans in confusion and sparked controversy within the fandom. In terms of the visuals of the song, the choreography is a powerful and sharp hip-hop number, as expected of the choreographer, 19-year-old Sienna Lalau from the award-winning “The Lab” dance crew. In collaboration with the UCLA Bruin marching band, the Blue Devils marching band and a gospel choir, the song’s heavy brass elements bring an anthem-like intensity that contrasts with the biblical allusions dotted all throughout the MV.

While the implications behind the symbolisms in the movie-like MV are a mind-game of theories, the message behind the lyrics are clear: even though the group finds themselves in a difficult situation given their success, they are committed to fighting fearlessly. Even the title of the song itself is an ode to their past, as it’s the reverse of their 2013 hit “N.O”. While the song may just seem like a catchy song with strong beats and an impressive hip-hop choreography, the piece is actually a deep homage to the group’s career, and again, perfectly embodies the quality of work that BTS puts out. 

 

“UGH!”

Building off of the strong beats of “ON,” BTS’s rapline Suga, J-Hope and RM write and deliver an angry and angsty diss track that attacks the “malice-filled rage” of Internet trolls that throw hate comments at them. The rappers clarify to their haters the difference between anger and harsh actions. Leader RM raps, “Rage? Of course you need it / But this is not rage, this is excretion / Which one is rage, you know?”, while J-Hope adds, “I can rage, but if there were to be damage done to others’ lives, I don’t like.” With strong, choppy trap beats and the sounds of gunshots, “UGH!” is an intense track that showcases the technique and thoughtful lyrics of the group’s rapline. 

 

“00:00 (Zero O’Clock)”

On the other end of the spectrum, BTS’s vocal line brings a soft, hopeful ballad that establishes an intimate connection with their fans through the relatableness of the song despite their position as the biggest boyband in the world. The youngest member, Jungkook, begins by describing an off-day, something everyone can relate to, “You know those days / Those days when you’re sad for no reason / Those days where your body is heavy / And it looks like everyone except you is busy and fierce.” However, the band comforts listeners by reassuring them that zero o’clock signifies the beginning of a new day; a better day, “Turn this all around / When everything is new, zero o’clock.”

Along with the calming and hopeful voices of the members, the instrumentals deliver an equally hopeful feel that intertwines with their voices to support the liveliness of the song. While the vocal line’s ability to deliver an emotional song is no secret, they once again surprise fans with a vulnerable and pretty track: one of the best in the album. 

 

“Inner Child”

“Inner Child” starts off with a soft melody, as expected of vocalist and visual, V, whose deep, husky voice is nothing less than soothing. However once the chorus comes, the song evolves into a brighter song, a surprise as V usually covers the group’s darker themes, as seen with his solo endeavors “Singularity” and “4 O’Clock.”

He sings of his struggles as a young boy pursuing his dream to become a musician, “At the time, we had it tough / While looking up at those stars in the sky, too far out of reach / I ran towards the endless light.” But now, as a successful grown man, he accepts his dark past as part of himself, “I’ll give you my world / The lights illuminating your eyes, they’re the me of now / You’re my boy, my boy.” As the song reaches its climax, a choir of vocals joins the background, uplifting listeners as V transitions to singing of his self-acceptance. While the song doesn’t seem to fit in the album because of its indie-pop vibes, the laid-back instrumentals intentionally highlight V’s vocal range and technique, lending for a strong track by itself. 

 

“Friends”

Lead vocalist Jimin joins V in a heart-clenching, wholesome, anthem-like track that celebrates their 7 years of friendship. Both born in ‘95, the duo shares a close relationship. The song itself is filled with inside jokes such as “the dumpling incident” and “the dreamcatcher,” which go beyond even the biggest fan’s knowledge, making listeners feel like they’re intruding on a secret. From when they met each other and practiced with each other as trainees, as V describes, “I met you when you were clammy with sweat,” to when they enrolled in the same high school in Seoul (“I remember our school uniforms / Heartfelt stories filling the school bus”), the pair promises each other that, “One day when this cheer dies down, stay by my side.” The two alternate line to line, directly singing towards each other, Jimin’s high register, nasally voice intertwining with V’s lower register, husky voice. As the song progresses, they are joined with a gospel choir, as they all collectively chant, “You are my soulmate,” while listeners can’t help but gush at how wholesome it all is. 

 

“Moon”

Oldest member and vocalist Jin’s solo starts with an instrumental that almost sounds otherworldly and transitions into upbeat guitar riffs that compliment his stable vocals. “Moon” is Jin’s love song to fans, where he describes himself as the moon that stands by the Earth, symbolising his fans, and reflects its beauty. He turns the attention onto his fans with, “Everyone says I’m beautiful / But my sea is black / You’re the one with the flowers blooming,” and promises that, “I’ll be there for you / I’ll be your light.” Lacking a climax, the production of the song is mediocre in comparison to BTS’s potential, but Jin’s heartfelt lyrics and sweet voice make up for it.

 

“We are Bulletproof : The Eternal”

The boys bring it all home with a sentimental, anthemic track that celebrates their fans’ love and support throughout their journey as a band, which allowed them to become eternal: larger than themselves. The title in itself is in continuation of their past tracks, “We are Bulletproof Pt. 1,” made during their trainee years, and “We are Bulletproof Pt. 2,” from their debut album.

They begin by recalling their painful memories, “We stayed up all night to dance and sing / The endless music sheets,” then describe how they fought through it, “Bad memories, numerous trials / We bravely blocked them all, bulletproof,” with acknowledgement that they succeeded along with their fans, “We are together bulletproof / Yeah we are not seven, with you.” While the production isn’t jaw-dropping (a basic instrumental to emphasize the lyrics), the song almost has a hypnotic effect, as you’ll find yourself rocking side-to-side, maybe even waving your arms, singing along even with the non-English parts, entranced. 

 

“Outro: Ego”

Although “We are Bulletproof: The Eternal” seems like the perfect song to close the album, full BTS albums usually begin with an intro and close with an outro. “Outro: Ego” was released Feb. 2 on YouTube as the album’s comeback trailer, starring rapper J-Hope. With the intro from BTS’ debut album, “2 Cool 4 Skool,” the track gives another reference to the band’s past, which fits the message of the song itself: accepting your past is the only way to move on to the future. In his biographical solo, J-Hope recalls a time where he was “asking myself why I live and breathe,” until now, where he can proudly say, “Now I don’t care, it’s all choices by my fate / Keep goin’ now.” The rapper’s cheerful vibe fits perfectly with the uplifting song, especially when accompanied by jazz-style horns and a soulful choir. The song is, to say the least, a bop.

 

“Map of the Soul: 7” takes listeners on a whirlwind of emotions, from the eerie themes of “Black Swan” to the hype of “Outro: Ego.” As the band explores new genres such as soul and latin pop, they also throw it back to old-school hip-hop samples from their previous works. With both solos and duets, the album does a good job at showcasing each member’s ability, while giving them a chance to express their artistic creativity. Everything comes together as an acceptance and celebration of their dark past, making for an enjoyable listen that leaves hope for the band’s potential in the future.