Still Haven’t Checked Out BTS? Now Is a Great Time.
Their fourth studio album, Map of the Soul: 7, drops on February 21.
BTS — that stands for Bangtan Seonyeondan, or Bulletproof Boy Scouts in Korean — has taken Kpop somewhere it’s been trying so hard to go for the last 15 years — mainstream pop in America.
Maybe you’ve caught one of their performances on TV or on YouTube and thought, “Well, I have no idea what they’re saying, but that’s pretty good,” usually accompanied by, “How do they dance like that?!”
And if you’ve since been waiting for a good time to sign up for the Army — the name of the BTS fandom — now is a great time to join.
New Music Is Coming
The 7-member group will release their fourth album on February 21, called Map of the Soul: 7. If that title sounds a little intense to you, there’s a lot of indication it will be an intense album — in recent BTS fashion, just as introspective and soul-searching as light and pop-y.
The only track currently released off the new album is called “Black Swan,” a song about the possibility of an artist losing the ability to enjoy or create music and how this would be “a first death.”
It’s heavy stuff, and the music video that accompanies it is, unusually, a contemporary dance piece performed by MN Dance Company. This is not something that your average Kpop group can get away with and still rack up millions of Youtube views (as of writing this, the video has been seen over 26 million times), but BTS has reached the point where they don’t need to rely solely on their image to promote their music; the fans trust them to put out thoughtful and engaging as well as catchy songs, so the sky’s the limit on whatever concept they want to promote.
But not to worry, BTS themselves perform an entirely separate choreography with the song, also more influenced by a contemporary dance style than the usual Kpop hip-hop influenced style. This is something they’ve played around with before with their song “Spring Day,” which is in part a reflection on the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.
BTS just performed “Black Swan” for the first time on James Corden’s Late Late Show, where they wore all black and danced in bare feet. The performance is as crisp as you would expect from a professional dance company, and somehow they still manage to sing and rap at the same time.
Catch Up on the Previous Releases
If you dig this more moody, soul-baring, retrospective vibe, I recommend checking out BTS’ previous trio of releases— Love Yourself: Her, Tear, and Answer with Answer as the compilation album combining the tracks from the previous two EP’s, plus a few additional songs, including the title track “Idol.” This three chapter method is now a pretty common way of releasing music in Kpop, which BTS popularized with the trilogy The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: pt. 1, pt. 2, and the compilation Young Forever.
The Map of the Soul albums are likely to follow the same formula; Map of the Soul: 7 is a follow-up to last year’s Map of the Soul: Persona.
I could go on forever about their various styles of music here, but suffice it to say that they switch it up enough throughout their discography that you’ll probably find something you like. A few of my personal favorite title tracks are “Spring Day,” “I Need U,” “Fake Love,” “DNA,” “Fire,” “Dope,” and “Blood, Sweat, & Tears,” in no particular order. (Ok, that was more than a few, but they have a lot of music for a group that’s only been around for 6ish years.)
OK but… What’s the Big Deal?
BTS. BTS is the big deal, judging by just about any metric you can think of. But also, I think they’d be the first to say that they aren’t. In many ways, their group was set up to break the mold of what a Kpop group could do, say, and make music about. But they also sing and dance and rap about growing up, the fear of failure, friendship, heartbreak, and love, and that’s nothing new.
I think what sets them apart is that they’re so honest about how they feel, and it clearly shines through in their performances and interactions with each other and the fans. And they genuinely want to make the world a better place, especially for young people, with their music and influence.
And yeah, it doesn’t hurt that they’re great musicians, amazing dancers, and they’re cute. Doesn’t hurt at all.