On May 18, 2018, BTS released their highly anticipated third full-length album, “LOVE YOURSELF: Tear.” The album continues the narrative started during their previous mini-album, “LOVE YOURSELF: Her.”
The first track of the album is a welcome change from previous albums. The soothing neo-soul melodies compliment the timber of Kim Taehyung‘s (aka V) voice wonderfully. His soft delivery gives more emotion to the visually descriptive lyrics. The track talks about the sudden realization that the love a person is experiencing is false and the resulting fallout.
The melody is very simple, using a slower drum kit, an upright bass and a piano accent. This formula allows V to create the ambiance of the lyrics. It is an intriguing introduction to the album, especially considering that the only other instance of this type of R&B is “Stigma” from the “WINGS” album.
The album’s lead single, “Fake Love,” is a darker fusion of classic rock and R&B. An interesting moment in delivery comes from Jungkook. Instead of using his mixed voice, Jungkook uses his chest voice, creating a more dramatic effect that matches the tone that V begins the track with. After the first verse, everything explodes sonically with the hook, before settling down for RM‘s first verse.
The lyrics convey the emotions involved with loving someone so much that you change or mask your true persona in order to satisfy them. The irony of this is that a person can only do this for so long before it becomes too much, which is seen in the hook, particularly the line, “I’m so sick of this fake love.”
The Truth Untold (feat. Steve Aoki)
The vocal line owns the third track of the album. The lyrics are some of the most heart-wrenching that BTS has every released. They talk about having the desire to show your true self to someone you love but the shame of the “damage” done to your own psyche and self-confidence. Due to this shame, the mask is seemingly the only way to live up to the “standard” set in the relationship, whether that be with someone else or with yourself.
The most surprising thing about the track is the production itself. Steve Aoki, who is known for EDM and Dubstep tracks, outdid himself with this unexpected simple piano melody. This allowed a continuation of the emotion set in “Singularity.” Another interesting production choice was the absence of a beat until the 2:42 mark just before the climax of the track.
This fourth track, named after the numerical representation for the demoted planet Pluto, continues the path of self-reflection. The metaphor of Pluto’s descent from planet to something almost forgotten is excellent inspiration for someone asking why he or she has been demoted in the eyes of their loved one or, even more devastating, themselves.
There are little scientific nuggets nestled in the lyrics, such as the specific temperature of -248 degrees, which, in Celsius, is slightly lower than the minimum surface temperature of Pluto, which hovers around -240 degrees. This provides a solid reference point for listeners to realize that as cold as Pluto’s surface is, their hearts are colder.
The production of this track includes something new for BTS. During RM’s first verse, there is a flute that accents the melody. This gives the track more of an Earth, Wind & Fire vibe, a welcome surprise from the norm.
“Paradise,” the albums fifth track, represents a shift in thinking from the darkness that is hiding and not knowing what to do with yourself to realizing that not having a “dream” is okay. The lyrics compare life to a marathon and state that there is no reason to “run for nothing,” as if in a rush to finish the race. Rather the song encourages the listener to take their time, even stop if need be, and be assured that the race will continue at the pace they have set.
There are two interesting moments in this track. One is a little lyrical nugget during Jungkook’s first verse. It uses the number 42.195. This is more than just some random number put into the lyrics to ensure the rhyme continues. This number actually echoes the first line of the song, “Marathon, marathon.” The exact length of a marathon is 42.195 km. It is more likely that this is done to emphasize and assist the listener to visualize just how long of a race a marathon is, allowing for an easier comparison to life.
The second point of interest is during the delivery and production of the chorus. The entire vocal line takes turns in “leading” a section. While one member is leading, the other three are backing and replacing the higher synth that disappears during Jimin‘s pre-chorus. This allows for a seamless transition to reintroduce the high synth again during RM’s verse. The most impressive part of this is that the richness and fullness of the background vocals are not changed between V’s, the only baritone of the vocal line, lead lines and the lead lines of Jin, Jungkook and Jimin, who are all tenors.
Track six, “Love Maze,” follows the train of thought of “Paradise.” However, just like a literal maze, the path to loving oneself is a confusing one with many different paths. When you have someone with you on the journey, it doesn’t become such a lonely time, as you are able to rely on someone that is in the trenches with you.
A notable part of the track is the use of harmonies to create effortless transitions between Jimin and Jin during the song’s refrain. It creates the illusion of fading vocals without using editing and production software.
Produced by Jungkook, the seventh track of the album is an encouragement to ARMYs to believe and love themselves as much as they do BTS. This is personified by the chorus, which states, “You gave me the best of me. So you’ll give you the best of you.”
This is the first song written and produced by Jungkook in BTS’s catalog, and it is a solid first track. It is apparent that he took his time and really worked hard to produce a quality track his bandmates and ARMYs would be proud of.
Airplane Pt. 2
A sequel to “Airplane” from J-Hope‘s “Hope World” mixtape, this eighth track explores the journey of BTS as a group, as opposed to “Airplane Pt. 1,” which covered J-Hope’s solo journey to the present. The lyrics also reflect the physical places that their various tours have taken them, such as Tokyo, Brazil, Mexico, California and New York to name a few.
The production on the track has a bossa nova influence paired with a piano, creating a Latin-flavoured track, something only Jimin has attempted during “Lie” on the WINGS album.
There is a special delivery moment during the pre-chorus. Jin and RM create a call-and-response section without losing the tempo and rhythm. Their voices also compliment each other extremely well.
There is an interesting lyrical choice during the pre-chorus as well. RM raps the line, “Who should I live as today, Kim Namjoon or RM?” This line makes reference back to the “mask” spoken about in “The Truth Untold,” thus continuing the theme of the album.
The ninth track of the album was a pleasant sonic surprise, as BTS has never done a song with dancehall influences and effects. V’s voice is a perfect introduction to the song. The placement of the heavy autotune during the hook was also done very well, as it does not overpower the track. Instead, it acts like seasoning for the track.
The inspiration for the track comes from the Japanese anime and character Anpanman, who also goes by the moniker “Weakest Hero.” The lyrics express a sheer tenacity to do what needs to be done for the greater good, even though they do not have the traditional superhero traits.
Track 10, “So What,” is a declaration of intent, a will to live life and ignore the meaningless chatter of the observers passing by. The lyrics are the most touching part of the song. They express a sentiment that most people experience in today’s society. The pressure to act in a way that is approved by the masses is stifling and constricting. The lyrics in this song basically say that it is more important to live your own life and not worry about those who do not walk in your shoes since you cannot please everyone.
The last track of the album is the rapper line track. It is reminiscent of a rough and anguished heartbreak and its physical expression of tears. The delivery here is the focal point. It has been a while since we have heard RM growl and yell on a track. The last time was on “What Am I To You” from the “Dark & Wild” album. This time, Suga and J-Hope join him, continuing the intensity he set.
There may be a clue to the era following this one in Suga’s first solo verse. Instead of saying the word “tear,” he spells out “T.E.A.R.” This is similar to the end of the “Fire” MV where the end screen reads “BOY MEETS WHAT.” The “WHAT” here is now known as “Wonder,” “Her,” “Answer,” and “Tear.” So the question remains … what is T.E.A.R?
This album is an outstanding body of work, not only as a continuation of the LOVE YOURSELF concept, but as a standalone project as well. The production and lyrical content has increased sharply in quality, as BTS has tapped global producers like MNEK and DOCSKIM.
It would be a disgrace to ignore the two stars of this album, V and Jin. Both of them flexed their vocal prowess during their moments. V started many of the tracks on the album, while Jin effortlessly showcased his range, particularly in “Airplane Pt. 2.” No doubt, ARMY is chomping at the bit to hear what the seven young men have to say next.