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BTS are finally back. We’ve been eagerly awaiting the latest album from the K-pop group that have taken the world by storm. After months of waiting, it’s finally here. The BTS boys are back with the first album, Persona, in their Map of the Soul series. This album is energetic. Everything sounds upbeat and confident and you can see the growth in BTS’ style and music. There’s a little bit of rock, rap, and pop, and each song has its own flavor. The short seven song album is a burst of personality with a little something for everyone.
I’ve already done a review of the intro song to this album, which can be read here. "Persona" is a powerful opening from BTS’ leader RM. It’s a reaffirmation of how BTS has come from so little to becoming a strong group of boys that believe in themselves. "Persona" wraps up everything from the Love Yourself era; being young, growing up and learning about family, friendship, and love. "Persona" opens the door for the psychological concepts and ideas about personality that BTS are looking to dive into. To be more specific for this album, the persona is the part of the personality which faces outward. This is the side you show the world and present to everyone. We all know BTS as the vibrant and ever-cheerful K-pop group beloved worldwide, and so this album would of course be focused on more upbeat themes. What better way to start the new era of BTS music?
"Boy With Luv", the main track on Persona, is so much fun. The video is filled with bright visuals and bright smiles. What makes this MV so great is how everyone in it looks like they’re having the time of their life. Halsey has hung out with BTS before, and her comfort working with the group is genuine. Her voice blends with the track and adds a pop to the all-male vocals. Everyone gets a chance to shine in this video. Suga raps while standing on a keyboard layout, as he is the renowned piano player of the group and the instrument has been instrumental (haha) in his life as an artist. J-Hope shines as the dancer, his moves incredibly pronounced. He makes it look easy. My favorite is RM rapping on a stage while the others watch on. RM commands attention when he performs, and the video highlights this. Each of our vocal singers get lots of lines and play to their strengths. Jimin and Jungkook dance their hearts out, and we get to enjoy the always surreal visuals brought to us by Jin and V. There’s so much to appreciate in this video. The dance moves are fun and bouncy, but still have the sexy body rolls that BTS are known for. There are little moments that every fan will appreciate. Whether it be the boys looking on and cheering while RM raps from the stage, or J-Hope’s cute finger hearts during his verse, "Boy With Luv" is a fun ride to watch over and over.
Lyrically, "Boy With Luv" also hooks you from the beginning. When Jimin starts the song asking “How’s your day”, I was totally ready to answer. What newer ARMYs may not be too familiar with is the parallel this song holds to a BTS song years ago, “Boy in Luv”. They even strike the same pose at the end of both videos. With this new version, BTS shows how they’ve matured and have effortless control of their style and place in the music industry. While “Boy in Luv” focused a lot on a younger male discovering what it feels like to have a crush on someone, “Boy With Luv” sounds more like someone who’s familiar with this feeling and totally comfortable with flirting. The sexy eye contact and self-assured struts from the video translate into the lyrics.
Each of the boys performs the song to perfection. My personal favorite is Suga’s rap. His deep voice slows down the song for a moment and leads perfectly back into J-Hope’s energy in the second part of the verse. I like being able to see the change in BTS over the years. The emphasis in the lyrics is on being in love and not just having a crush, as their younger selves described years ago. This BTS have lyrics that sound so sincere, filled with metaphors and promises that they’re ready to make.
"Mikrokosmos" is a great follow up to "Boy With Luv". This track makes me want to run out into a meadow on a sunny, breezy day and spin around in circles. It’s the easiest for me to dance to and makes me smile with the fun beat in the chorus. First, let’s talk about that title. It’s a reference to a microcosm, which is a miniature of something that has qualities and characteristics that represent something much bigger. For this song, it’s about a person’s place in the grander universe and iterating the fact that though we may seem insignificant, each person has a place in the world. The “Kosmos” part comes in with the lyrics mainly focusing on space and the galaxy. As RM says in his verse, “One history in one person, One star in one person, shining with 7 billion lights, 7 billion worlds”.
This song is a great comfort if you’re ever feeling lost and unimportant in the world. Each person is a star, and each star has an important place in the galaxy. The music is upbeat, and for me Jimin’s voice shines here the most. The beat makes you feel like you’re looking up at the sky, and seeing something wonderful. For days when I’m feeling low, I know I’ll be listening to this song to help get me on my feet. For me, what sums up the theme of this song is J-Hope’s verse almost right at the beginning of the song, saying, “Some lights are ambitious, some lights are wandering. Each person’s light is a precious one”. I love the “You got me/ I got you” lyrics in the chorus; they make this song so hopeful and uplifting, something BTS is known for among fans.
"Make it Right" is another anticipated track due to Ed Sheeran’s involvement. Sheeran doesn’t sing on the song, but he is one of the writers. This song is another about deep, strong love. What else would you expect from the artist behind “Perfect”?
"Make it Right" has a bit of that Sheeran quality. The little horn noise throughout the song is a distinct sound that feels right at home in a Sheeran song. The same goes for the soft synths that make up the instrumentals. However, this is still clearly a BTS song in its themes and in the sound. This reminds me a little bit of "Love Maze" from their earlier Love Yourself albums.
The lyrics are a nice dedication to all of those who love BTS. They sing about how their music isn’t just for them to make. It’s for anyone who can benefit from their messages. "Make it Right" feels a lot like a promise to all their listeners that they’ll keep making music that touches people. They want to connect people to each other and with themselves. The desire for connections in BTS’ work has always been something of importance to the group; they want to know that they’re making a difference in the world. The optimism in this song is infectious. BTS is always good at writing songs to inspire. This song, along with "Mikrokosmos" and "HOME", fit with their mission. "Make it Right" is an easy listening experience that serves as a great change of pace from the more lively sound of the songs before it.
"HOME" is a lovely song. Thematically, it’s similar to "Make it Right." This one is made for the fans. It’s one of the songs with a softer beat, which plays in to the idea that BTS are comfortable everywhere; the world is their home. More specifically, this song is how the fans make the world feel like a home to them.
BTS are wildly popular for a reason. They’re always interacting with fans across social media platforms, and concerts, and whenever they can in person. They never fail to show how grateful they are, and even have defended the dedication of fans to late night hosts and interviewers. Not surprisingly, this song is easy to love. There are so many sweet lines in here to make any ARMY smile. As Jin says toward the end of the song, “You, who recognized me when I wasn’t much to look at, I could smile at the thought of you” is a stand out for me. Even when things get hard, BTS loves to perform. BTS will always appreciate the love their fans give, and that makes them able to travel the world and feel that confidence that they hadn’t started out with—A fun callback to the early days is Suga’s verse. He describes that they now have “Big house, big cars, and big rings” but none of that matters without the love they get from the fans. In BTS’ first song, “No More Dream”, Suga rapped, “I want a big house, big cars, and big rings”. Seeing the same line years later is an exciting things for ARMY. It shows BTS still remember who they are at their roots, and despite getting all the things they wanted from the outset, the material perks aren’t what they do this for. They do it because they love it and they love seeing others inspired by them.
"Jamais Vu" adds to the psychological impact of BTS’ concept. The title is a psychological term used to describe a feeling that something is familiar, yet it feels totally alien to them. In other words, it’s the opposite of déjà vu.
There’s so much to unpack with "Jamais Vu". It’s easily the saddest of the songs on the album. If BTS had only positive songs, then they wouldn’t be true to the concept of diving into the persona aspect of personality. This may be a good introduction to when we dive deeper into the Map of the Soul in the next few albums. We’ll see some of the less pleasant aspects of personality. "Jamais Vu" is a sub-unit of J-Hope, Jin, and Jungkook. This is an interesting combination we haven’t seen before. Normally they would split songs by the rap line or the vocal line. This seems like a nice mix. All of their voices blend well together, and having less cooks in the kitchen helps the chorus to hit harder. The chorus begs to “give me a remedy, a remedy that will make my heart beat again”.
"Jamais Vu" is focused on the self-doubt and second guessing that the BTS boys may do to themselves. The K-pop idol life is hard. It’s damn hard. It’s terrifying to hear some of the practice schedules and diet/exercise habits of these idols, especially the girl groups. For all the positives that BTS have experienced, it would be foolish to think that it all came easily to them. The "Jamais Vu" feeling is one of the boys experiencing their everyday idol life, but sometimes getting foggy and overwhelmed by everything. They can make mistakes, get confused, and find themselves repeating those mistakes. It’s totally human, and the vulnerability in this song is something nice to break up the illusion that everything is perfect in the lives of the BTS boys.
The music for "Jamais Vu" is another soft one, probably the softest in the album. They have a constant piano going in the background, which is almost like a heartbeat in itself. Jin’s vocals in particular are extraordinary. Though sometimes the eldest in BTS is overlooked, putting him and Jungkook’s voices together has always been a power move. The two harmonize together so well, and it makes the song one that you want to listen to over and over.
"Dionysus" might be my favorite song. This is easily the one with the most energy. It’s primarily a rock based song with a wicked awesome guitar accompanying the boys. There is also a bass in the background so the rappers can really stand out. J-Hope in particular gets my favorite hard hitting moments. He mainly interjects within the other members’ lines. What I like about this is that J-Hope is actually the writer for this song. As I’ve said many times before, I love J-Hope’s musical style, and his uniqueness shows in this song. "Dionysus" is unlike anything BTS has done before, in that it is more of a rock song than anything else. This change is amazing. It shows that though BTS has established sounds, they’re always willing to experiment and try new sounds with each album.
This song is straight up fun. Dionysus is famously the Greek god of wine, but also of theater and madness. For BTS, they take this and apply it to themselves to forget about the pressures of media and criticism. BTS have had few serious controversies in their careers, and so this song is a bit of an opportunity for them to let loose. The song is a fun mish-mash of each member singing or rapping in short bursts. The chorus is particularly fun with their repetition of “Drink up, one shot, two shots” and descriptions of linking arms and drinking together. BTS is always under constant pressure, and it’s nice to know they can have a song about some of the crazier times they have to be free.
Something that sets this song apart for me is the multiple layers to it. Suga has a verse where he describes each show they put on as a party. It sounds as if each stadium show or performance venue is a little like getting drunk off the fame and flurry of idol life itself. So there is both literal and metaphorical drinking going on here. I’m also a huge fan of combining rap and rock with an ancient Greek deity. The comparison of themselves to drinking like Dionysus is for the most part and innocent one. Then again, when you’re as on top of the world as BTS, it’s not too far-fetched of a comparison to make.
My overall impression of this album is that BTS have truly accepted their role as a dominant force in K-pop, and the worldwide music industry as a whole. You can feel it in the tight thematic and sound choices in their work, and in the strength of their voices in each and every song. This is a powerful showing for the new era of BTS and one that I’m sure millions can’t wait to hear more of.