BTS allows authenticity to shine on ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

In the last seven years of BTS’s career, its members have become innovators. The band was the first K-pop group to attend the Grammys as presenters, beat YouTube records and break into the mainstream American music industry. From its rise to fame to the music the group makes, BTS keeps proving how unique it truly is. 

One of the reasons behind BTS’s popularity is the different personas the members are able to embody. For BTS, its international stardom and dedicated fan base allow little room for mediocrity. As a result, the group is constantly experimenting with genres, intent on diversifying its capabilities. 

Over its last few albums, many tracks fell flat. As the group explored its sound, BTS stopped producing music that felt genuine. The group has opened up in the past about struggling with this newfound fame; it made sense for the members to go on their longest hiatus yet recently. After the 10-monthlong break, Map of the Soul: 7 is an earnest effort at reconnecting with the old BTS — the BTS unrestrained from listeners’ expectations. 

Initially focused on hip-hop and rap, BTS definitely emphasizes these elements in its latest work. Tracks like “Louder Than Bombs,” co-written by Troye Sivan, and title track “ON” are heavy with both R&B and pop elements. The group has a consistent pattern when it comes to its past title songs. Often, they end up mediocre in comparison with the rest of the songs on their respective albums. Yet, “ON” was definitely a wise choice. The high-energy song features the members’ voices coming together seamlessly in the midst of regular beat drops. 

The group is often praised for its vulnerability with fans. For this album, many moments are startling. There are multiple times when the group expresses regret over its explosion of fame. The album’s most honest song has to be Jungkook’s solo, “My Time.” Contrasting with the lively beat, he writes about his frustration at losing out on normal experiences as a young star. The track has a mournful Jungkook looking back at his time as a young artist, contemplating the inescapable fame that had him wishing for a sense of normalcy. “I’m a little kid grown up not knowing it (Like a child who got lost),” he sings. 

Although the group has become famous for its star-studded collaborations, it’s glaringly obvious that the band’s strength lies in the music which showcases its best abilities. For example, Sia is featured on the alternative version of “ON.” Her limited parts, however, sound more like awkward chants and add nothing substantive to the song’s quality. If anything, her feature muddles the song’s original quality. 

The album’s highlight is the callback to the group’s past works. The strongest song on the new record has to be “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal.” This track works in reference to 2013’s “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2,” an upbeat track in which the members’ voices are determined and unwavering. “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal” finds the band feeling nostalgic. “We were only seven,” the members wistfully sing, voices calm and even. “Bad memories, numerous trials/ We bravely blocked them all.” BTS isn’t a precocious group with larger-than-life dreams anymore — it is now full of experienced musicians expected to transform the industry. Choosing to reference and remix older works serves as a celebration of the momentous work that the group has accomplished. 

Map of the Soul: 7 represents a lot for BTS. It’s an introspective look at how the seven members managed to dominate the music industry together with seven years of experience under their belt. Their work is as much about recapturing their hopeful feelings from their early careers as it is a reflection on their current success.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected].