Hello there, MACG Readers! Today I present the first in a new segment: Rapid Reviews. As a means to get better acquainted with the “pop” in K-pop, I challenged myself to listen to straight-up pop artists and actually give my impressions. Good, bad and ugly. It only seemed fitting to introduce this series with K-pop juggernaut BTS.
I’m going to be giving my general thoughts on their latest LP, “MAP OF THE SOUL: 7.” I’ll give a quick overview of the album, what I thought were the highs and lows and my overall impression. It all culminates in a star review out of 10 … because why not? Stars are fun, and plus people like shiny things, right?
So without further ado, I give you:
BTS — MAP OF THE SOUL: 7
On Feb. 21, 2020, K-pop setptet BTS released their fourth full-length album, “MAP OF THE SOUL: 7.” This is the second in the “MAP OF THE SOUL” series from the group. The first entry into this series was an EP entitled “Persona,” which was released April 12, 2019. Four songs that appear on that EP open “7”: “Intro: Persona,” “Boy With Luv” (featuring American singer Halsey), “Jamais Vu” and “Dionysus.” The album begins in earnest with Suga‘s interlude “Shadow.”
With a grand total of 20 songs (19 original pieces, and one remix featuring Australian singer, songwriter and producer Sia), the album clocks in at 76 minutes and 23 seconds. “7” is comprised of group songs, solos and tracks from separate sub-units within the group.
Thematically, the band pulls from their past work (starting seemingly from their debut album, “Dark & Wild”) to tie up several narrative strands. Members of the group share writing credits. The predominant lyrical contributor is leader RM, with Suga being the second most prominent contributor. The overarching theme is the band itself. Named “7,” most obviously because there are seven members of the group, but also the seven years they’ve been active since their debut.
The album is a comprehensive exploration of both their musical journey and their life together as a group. Most overt is the direct conversation the album seems to have with its fanbase, ARMY. There are notable lyrical references to Greek mythology, film and literature. RM particularly makes liberal use of metaphor and conceit to dig into the group’s backstory. The rap line (RM, Suga and J-Hope) carry on the tradition of cyphers (though not in name) with track “Ugh!” It’s another scathing indictment of other Korean artists, most prominently rappers, who have flung negative criticism and what many consider disrespect in BTS’s direction.
Dionysus, Interlude: Shadow, My Time, Louder Than Bombs, Ugh!, 00:00, We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal, Outro: Ego
Boy with Luv, On, Friends, On (featuring Sia)
Long story short: This is an album for ARMY. Yes, BTS does make music for everyone (part in parcel with their biggest rally cry of inclusion of everyone regardless of background, appearance, even musical preference). But this is very obviously an album the group made as a gift to their fanbase. A non-ARMY will not share the same enthusiasm as a member of their fandom. Which is okay.
It’s the group’s largest undertaking to date, what could be considered their mangum opus in terms of sheer size. Timing, scope and overall theme points to this being something of a goodbye letter to ARMY. As it’s almost time for at least three members to enlist, this is most likely the last project we’ll get from the group — at least the group as it is now. A nice send-off and love note to ARMY. However, for casual fans of BTS or those who aren’t really interested in K-pop, this is a decent pop album with some lyrical and vocal high points, but nothing overwhelmingly special.