Taking a Trip to Find Your Persona; BTS Map of the Soul: Persona Album Review
Kpop. You might think of cookie cutter manufactured groups that produced music that many didn’t understand. Many think of Korean soloist Psy with his 2012 hit, Gangnam Style. Kpop has been an integral part of Korean entertainment culture since the 1990’s but has yet to hit America until late 2000’s.
Kpop has been gaining more and more interest over the last two years with many Kpop groups such as NCT 127 and Red Velvet collaborating with western artists such as Jason Durelo and John Legend.
Other accomplishments of kpop artists included BlackPink’s success as the first Kpop group to perform at this year Coachella.
In the Spring of 2017, I began my love of the genre when I began listening to different Korean artists such G-Dragon. I realized that this foreign genre was diverse and unique especially when it comes to what the artist wants. When I think of Kpop, I think of many of my favorite Korean artists that have impacted my life and help me become a better version of myself.
However, the group that stands out to me among the new western interest to Kpop is a group of seven 20 somethings who have a passion for bringing messages of self-love to their fans. They won the Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards two years in a row. They are the only Korean group that has appeared on Saturday Night Live.
The group consists of Leader and Main Rapper, RM ( formerly Rap Monster), Suga, J-hope, Jin, V , Jimin, & Jungkook. The group was originally a hip hop group but decided to evolve their sound to more pop, rock and EDM.
The boys of BTS have played such a major role in getting more Korean groups spotlight in the United States not only for their catchy music but for their passion for showcasing messages of loving yourself. They compose music that looks into not only messages of self-love but into art, psychology and more, which is very different from the traditional boyband.
Their album, Map of the Soul: Persona comes after their successful Love Yourself series, that focuses on bright and dark parts of love that lead to finding the ultimate love, loving yourself. The latest album showcases concepts of psychology and mythology that focus on the realizing eternal love starts with yourself.
The song brings a retro and old school vibe to start the album out. Sampling from "Skool Luv Affair," RM speaks about longing to understand what his role is in the world. The song showcase RM’s journey as a musician and how BTS has evolved as a group. RM shows that he too questions who he is just like his fans do. This idea of questioning one’s purpose is also brought up in the previous albums but with a different approach time around. RM still questions who he is but he’s working on figuring out without changing himself to suit others expectations of him. RM talks about how he learned from his mistakes and was sick of people bringing up the things that he had done in the past.
"Boy with Luv" Feat. Halsey
This catchy tune featuring Halsey is a remake of their 2014 single "Boy in Luv" which talks about what love means to a teenager. In the first song, the group talks about feeling the need to change who they are in order to find true love. However, this new version ("Boy with Luv") speaks about how loving yourself is really the way to find true love.
“Love is nothing stronger (I want it)
(Than a boy with), than a boy with luv
Love is nothing stronger
(Than a boy with), than a boy with luv”
BTS shows with their previous albums that you don’t need to do big and crazy things in order to be loved. It’s actually the little things that matter as rapper, Suga mentions in the following.
“From the moment I met you, ya, my life was all you, ya
You’re the star that turns ordinaries into extraordinaries
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”
Once you find true love with yourself then you fall in love with the trivial habits of your loved one and of yourself. It makes love seem more fun than in their 2014 album’s perspective. Love doesn’t have to be this complex and hurtful thing. The music video showcases a theatrical version of what finding internal love means with references to their old songs and to “Singing in the Rain” where some iconic scenes are recreated. This song has to be one of the best on the album both with it’s tune and important message of true love.
"소우주 (Mikrokosmos)" :
This track almost reminds me of an amplified One Direction song that presents that life correlates with the universe and the stars. The translation of the Korean title goes to an ancient Greek philosophy of Micronism which is looking of humans as being their own little world.
BTS utilizes concepts of stars and other micronism concepts to present that we marvel at things that make us feel human and apart of our own world as seen in the line, “Perhaps the reason this night looks so beautiful is not because of these stars or lights, but us." Humanity feels as unique as the stars and lights are.
The song utilizes all the strong parts of the BTS vocal line which consists of Jin, Jimin, V & Jungkook while brining the strong rapping style of J-hope & Suga with smooth rapping style of RM to the picture. It makes the track feel like coming of age and remembering how unique every individual is.
"Make it Right":
A slower and simple R&B track that was written in collaboration with Ed Sheeran. The song speaks about improving relationships between friends and most importantly with yourself as RM talks about in the following quote.
“A little taller than I was before
With a voice a little more solid
All of this to go back to you
Now I'll spread wide a map called you
RM speaks about feeling secure about yourself and realizing when you are developing as a better person. This necessarily doesn’t have to do with finding a person to help you become a better person but it starts with yourself.
Many would probably interrupt this song as a something that talks about making things right with a relationship. However, I think it is a song that speaks to the person that is desiring something more in their life.
It sounds similar to an Ed Sheeran song but with a BTS twist to it. One of my top three songs from the album. The track is refreshing and feels like a song to listen to with the windows down on summers day.
This song speaks to the BTS ARMY as the boys find refuge someone that makes it feel like to continue on especially through hard times. It has a more mellow and R&B vibe with hints of the common phrase “ Mi Casa es su Casa.”
They approach the idea that home doesn’t have to be a physical place but can be with a person as an example in following quote.
“It's comfortable even as you say nothing
With you, anywhere will be my home
You know I want that
You know you got that
BTS shows that if you find home with a person then you feel great about yourself and are not concern about what is going on around you. Finding home with someone that you truly love makes you feel rich and feel better about yourself.
The boys of BTS are very open that they find home within their fan base and that they love their continuous support. They feel like apart of them and something that feels similar to home to them especially traveling around the world so often.
I enjoy that not only they incorporate both Korean and English to phrase their message but also utilize Spanish too. It makes the song feel more homey and wanting to find that feeling that they speak about in the song.
An ode to not only their fans but also themselves when it comes to this rocking R&B track.
The meaning of a Jamais Vu stems from physiological concept where someone is doing something they’re familiar with but seems abnormal to them at the same time.
It is basically the opposite of déjà vu that many would think of. The softer track on the album includes a new subunit with a focus on not wanting to deal with struggles of the real world but having to in the end.
“Please give me a remedy
A remedy that will make my heart beat again
What should I do now
Please save me, give me another chance
Please give me”
The message behind this song is relatable to many who feel like they need a remedy to go on and move past hard times.
The soft and melancholy vocals of Jungkook and Jin combined with J-hope’s rap gives the aura of feeling reminiscent of something that has happened in the past. It feels similar to “ The truth Untold” with it’s tone.
One of the most unique songs on the album, Dionysus gives a experimental rock vibe while talking about feeling like a outcast in the world.
Like many of the tracks on this album refers to a specific concept of psychology and mythology, this track refers to the Dionysus the Greek god of Wine & Homosexuality. Dionysus was considered an outcast and BTS relates to feeling like outcast since their debut date.
BTS references to how they feel they have been reborn as an artist and understand their level of fame now after years of working hard as Suga states in the following.
“Born as a K-pop idol
Reborn as an artist
Reborn as an artist, reborn as an artist
What does it matter if I’m an idol or an artist, cheers
Art at this level is over-drinking, over-drinking yeah
The new record is the fight against oneself, a fight yeah
Toast to this, one shot
But I‘m still thirsty”
The new record that Suga speaks about is in reference about how each new album and music video BTS comes out with beats a previous record from before. The Boy with Luv music actually got over 100 million views in the first day of being uploaded.
Although they have so much success, they want work more to proof that they are deserving of these records but also want to be know for these records as artists.
BTS has come a long way from their 2013 hip hop records to music that correlates with different messages that are relatable to many 20 something year olds. The boys of BTS create a experience for their fans to find joy in their music while also finding joy in who they are as unique human beings.
Their message is just as unique as their passion for music and their culture. It has been hard for Asian artist especially Kpop artists to make an impact in western music. When people think of Kpop, they close their minds. They are missing out on artists that will challenger their views on traditional popular music.
Music breaks language barriers and connects us to the world. BTS has helped the world break down one of many barriers to bring happiness and joy to not only their fans but the world.