Reflection and self-acceptance are themes that become increasingly more prevalent as society seeks to become more progressive. K-pop superstars BTS continue to explore these themes on their newest release Map of the Soul: 7. The album serves as part repackage, featuring the group’s previous album Map of the Soul: Persona and 15 new tracks. You can read my review of Map of the Soul: Persona here.
Map of the Soul: 7 requires multiple listens to take everything in. There’s a lot going on, from fierce and energetic hip-hop to ballads. While the tracks vary in style and influence, the ties that bind the album are the lyrics. It shows BTS’ willingness to explore new sonic landscapes while staying true to their message of self-acceptance.
The driving message is that of reflection and readiness to take on whatever the future holds. While the group has visited this theme often in previous releases, this time around there’s a stronger conviction in the delivery. Each member’s voice has taken on an assured and forward tone.
Solo songs make a return, which were last notably featured on the group’s 2016 album Wings. Each member of the vocal line — Jimin, Jin, Jungkook and V — has his own song. The track that stands out the most is Jimin’s “Filter.” The Latin-influenced track is a sleek delivery from the singer. Jimin sings about how there are more sides to him than just being happy all of the time — a more reflective topic than the upbeat instrumentals would have you believe.
One of the biggest moments for reflection comes from the group’s youngest member, Jungkook. His solo “My Time” has the singer reflecting on his formative teen years as a trainee all the way ’til now. He sings candidly of his struggles in his pursuit of becoming an idol and the support he received from his fellow members.
The vocal lines aren’t the only ones who get to take charge. The rap line — Suga, RM and J-Hope — has some heavy hitters on the album. The track “UGH!” throws back to the group’s hip-hop beginnings, with the rap line’s rapid-fire delivery and swagger. The track’s reminiscent of previous songs like “BTS Cypher 4” and “MIC DROP,” serving as a tell-off to all the haters.
Another highlight is RM and Suga’s “Respect,” where the two rappers discuss the weight of the word “respect” and how its meaning is often used too lightly. The track’s a unique one for BTS, as it plays out like a conversation between the two members, becoming an engaging debate and a wake-up for how words often lose meaning.
“Louder Than Bombs” is one of the albums and quite possibly the group’s most powerful song. The track, co-written by pop singer Troye Sivan, has a melancholic tone to it with the vocal line’s excellent harmonies and the rap line’s subdued deliveries. The group sings of two different “explosions:” one of pain and one of success. The group takes both instances in stride and perseveres.
— troye (@troyesivan) February 16, 2020
“We Are Bulletproof: Eternal” is a reference to the group’s 2013 track “We Are Bulletproof: Part 2.” This song serves as an emotional tribute to the group’s fans, known as ARMY. The group states that although they started as seven members, they have their fans now and BTS has become much bigger than just a music group; it has become a movement.
The group’s newest single, “ON,” is an epic effort. Featuring the Blue Devils marching band, the stomping and high-energy track is another testament to the group’s tenacity and willingness to fight through pain and hardship. The album also features a remix of the track, featuring Sia, although her part is limited to the chorus.
Map of the Soul: 7 is a return to form for BTS. On their previous release, I noted how it felt like the group had given in too much to their new influences, due to their newfound international stardom, and that they lost some of what made them who they are. This time around, those new influences are still there, but the group has reigned them in and made sure that BTS is heard loud and clear.
While the majority of the production works well for the album, elements like auto-tune on a few of the tracks aren’t needed. It would have been interesting to hear more of Sia on the remix of “ON” as well. She is a powerhouse vocalist and it feels as though her ability wasn’t utilized fully on the track. With that said, the album has a good balance of fun and heartfelt moments, showing not just a duality to the group, but a multi-faceted style that we’ll no doubt get to see more of, if this album’s any indicator of what’s next.
Check out the video for “ON” below and let us know what you think of BTS’ new album!
Featured Image: Big Hit Entertainment