Sometimes referred to as the “Beatles of the 21st century”, South Korean pop group BTS has finally dropped their sixth highly anticipated album, “Map of the Soul: Persona.”
After making a splash internationally with their music, BTS has generated a worldwide fanbase referred to as the ARMY, and have broken a number of records along the way. From the first Korean group to debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200, to having the most views for a music video in the first 24 hours of its release, BTS can debatably be considered a household name.
With a plethora of accomplishments under their belt, members RM, Jin, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, V and Jungkook do not stray far from their beloved artistry when it comes to their latest record. Just like the number of members in the group, the album produces seven flawlessly mastered tracks with symbolism that goes deeper than your usual hit pop song. One doesn’t have to know Korean to understand the message BTS is trying to convey.
As the leader of BTS, RM, once said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “Music transcends language.”
Prior to the album’s release, BTS released the music video for the first track on the record, “Intro: Persona” continuing the BTS Universe — a franchise concentrated on BTS’ music videos that, when laced together, tell a story of seven characters that are each inspired by the members. Within this universe, the storyline addresses hardships including grief and depression.
Behind “Intro: Persona,” lies allusions to the novel “Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction” — a psychological text centered on the psychoanalytical theories of psychologist Carl Jung. Jung’s theory is centered on the archetypes that make up our personality. In other words, a persona. Carl Jung has many theorized archetypes, yet three distinct ones appear in the comeback video for this song: persona, shadow, and ego.
The self-reflective track is laced with rock-inspired beats, as member RM raps about battling with self-identity. “Who am I? The question I had my whole life,” he raps. “The question which I probably won’t find an answer to my whole life.” In the music video, one can watch RM shuffle through different versions of himself — Kim Namjoon, idol, rapper and leader.
Following the intro track is the debut single of the disc, “Boy With Luv,” with the Korean title “작은 것들을 위한 시,” translating to “A Poem for Small Things.” The spirited track featuring pop singer-songwriter Halsey is a reference to their track “Boy in Luv” from their second album “Skool Luv Affair”. While “Boy in Luv” sings of teen love, RM described in a radio interview with the Elvis Duran Show that the single, “Boy With Luv”, speaks more to what actually makes up love.
“[Love] comes from tiny little things,” RM said. “We wonder what your day is, what you eat, we wonder what you’re doing right now, how you guys spend your day. It’s about the tiny little petty things, that’s what we found the love’s about.”
“Boy with Luv” is just one of the many tracks that propel the theme of self-identity and discovery on the album.
Halsey is not the only famous talent featured on the album. The track “Make it Right” was produced in collaboration with “Shape of You” singer Ed Sheeran. The pop-funk waves of the tune make Sheeran’s contribution evident.
One of the catchier tracks on the album, “HOME”, brings the R&B flavor to a tune that pays homage to ARMY. Sprinkled with a few Spanish and English words, BTS sings about how “home” is where the fans are.
Tracks with titles like “Mikrokosmos” and “Dionysus,” are something you’d expect to read in a book pulled from the Beast’s library, but it’s titles like those that entice listeners to search beyond the play button. Tracks that tap into Greek mythology themes and philosophical terms are just one part of what makes BTS different from the rest.
While “Map of the Soul: Persona” radiates a sleek and infectious assemblage of melodies, the album retreats from the purposefully structured storytelling that took place in the group’s previous two albums part of the “Love Yourself” era. Therefore, “Map of the Soul: Persona” receives a four out of five stars.
You can watch BTS premiere “Boy with Luv” with Halsey on the Billboard Music Awards May 1 on NBC.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.