Every week, we tell you about an album you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Map Of The Soul: Persona, the new album from global juggernaut, Korean boy band BTS.
If you are reading this right now, you most likely have heard about BTS, but if you haven’t though, here’s a rundown: They’re arguably the biggest group on earth right now, having sold out stadiums and hockey arenas around the globe. They’re the first Korean group to go to No. 1 on the Billboard album charts, have spoken at the United Nations, played SNL this past weekend, and were nominated for a Grammy last year. They quite literally have broken the internet, multiple times, the most recent being for their new album, Map Of The Soul: Persona. It came out this past Friday, and had more than 3 million pre-orders and pre-adds on streaming services, and has 42 million streams on Spotify alone as of the writing of this article. The music video for their title track, “Boy With Luv,” accumulated almost 90 million views within the first 24 hours, breaking the record for the fastest time a YouTube video has reached that number.
Those are all impressive numerical feats that let you know one thing: We’re dealing with a worldwide phenomenon here. The group’s Korean language albums have crossed borders in ways previously unthought of for K-Pop records and that’s largely due to their ability to connect with fans in a meaningful way, and through the universal messages they put across in their songs. BTS’ songs and fan interactions are reminding a generation of people to love themselves and love one another, and as a young woman, being reminded of the need to put myself first, speak up for myself, and love myself is something that is so important and not necessarily put across in other modern pop music. BTS though, made it their personal goal to spread this much-needed positivity for a society — and a generation of teenagers — that could use as much as it can get right now. So many people credit BTS and the group’s stress on the importance of self-love and expression to them wanting to be a better version of themselves, and that has as much to do with BTS’ success as the music itself.
BTS hasn’t always been as successful as they are now, as their story is one of perseverance and self-made success. Debuting in 2013 under the Korean entertainment company Bighit Entertainment, the seven members, RM (Kim Namjoon), Jin (Kim Seokjin), Suga (Min Yoongi), J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), Jimin (Park Jimin), V (Kim Taehyung), and Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook) released their first song, “No More Dream.” In the song, they encouraged young people of today to question authority and to strive to find themselves in a constantly changing society, while also being one of the first K-Pop groups to do so. Due to the lack of the company’s resources though, the group had a hard time gaining success, but eventually broke into mainstream media after years of hard work, bucking the K-Pop system that rewards playing to type and doing what producers tell you to do.
BTS gave their fans a month’s warning for the release of Map Of The Soul: Persona and their next era. Having just finished their “Love Yourself” campaign with the albums Love Yourself: Her, Love Yourself: Tear, and Love Yourself: Answer in late August of last year, they have shifted their focus from self-love to self-exploration and expression with this new album. Titled Map Of The Soul: Persona, the album is loosely based on psychiatrist Carl Jung’s compilation of works called Jung’s Map of the Soul, which focuses on exploring the different versions of one’s self.
The album itself has only seven tracks, but even with such an intimate tracklist, the group was able to explore and excel at many different sounds and styles. The album opens with “Intro: Persona,” a fast-paced hip-hop solo track which features RM and actually samples one of the group’s older songs called “Intro: Skool Love Affair.” In this track, RM furiously shouts “Who the hell am I?” which sets up the focal point and concept for the rest of the album and era.
The Halsey-featuring “Boy With Luv” exhibits an upbeat sound, pegging the song as sure-to-be huge this summer. Ed Sheeran has a writing credit on the song “Make it Right” and his collaboration with BTS really showcases a great and catchy song with more of a poppy vibe than the rest of the album. The band’s song “Home” features a ’90s hip-hop R&B beat, while “Dionysus” has a fast-paced track with rock interwoven throughout. “Jamais Vu” and “Mikrokosmos” are slower dance-pop jams more than anything else, with really amazing and touching lyrics centered around self-importance and community.
Now, no matter your opinion on BTS and their music, you cannot dispute their impact on the world right now and they will most likely only continue to gain success. BTS has gained all of these accomplishments with barely any mainstream radio play, which is ridiculous because they dominate global music charts. But with Halsey featured on “Boy With Luv,” the group is going to get air time, further reaching an audience that they normally wouldn’t. What these boys are doing is important, showing how music transcends language, giving young people the voice they need, and proving that boundaries that make a genre can be bent and broken. After all, it is BTS’ world and we are all just living in it.