BTS is back. The world’s biggest boy band has returned with the launch of a new album series. The Love Yourself series provided them with the platform to being their crossover into mainstream American music and pop culture. Glossy EDM-pop confections like “FAKE LOVE,” piqued America’s interest; and with the outstanding MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA, BTS may have their first true crossover hit.
Persona begins with “Intro : Persona,” a poignant tribute to the boom-bap and rap-rock of the Beastie Boys. “Intro” is a stark sonic shift from the straightforward dance and electronica of the Love Yourself albums. It’s infinitely more interesting and mature which is exactly what BTS needed.
The sole collaboration on the album, “Boy With Luv,” which features Halsey, is one of the strongest BTS tracks ever. The Bruno Mars-esque track is the perfect attempt at an English-language crossover that retains what makes BTS unique. “Boy With Luv” is built around a bouncy bass line and punchy synths; Halsey’s delicate tone is welcome contrast to the vibrant energy of the production and the rap verse. The excellence of “Boy With Luv” is hard to match, and “Mikrokosmos” falls short. The track sounds like a mix of Justin Bieber’s Believe and Purpose eras with a dash of Bastille. Lyrically, “Mikrokosmos” is comparable to Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” it speaks to the vastness of the universe and all the possibility it holds. If anything, this track is inspirational without being overdone or cheesy, which should be commended.
“Make It Right,” which was co-written by Ed Sheeran, is underwhelming given the caliber of artists (Sheeran, RM) who are at the helm. On the one hand, the beat drop is uninspired, but on the other hand, the second and third verses are some of the most well-written moments of BTS’s career. Of course, the lyricism loses some of its charm when translated from Korean to English, but the fact that most of the magic remains is a testament to BTS’s talent. The following two tracks are also stellar. “HOME,” a suave R&B tune that accentuates the Bangtan Boys’ swagger, and “Jamais vu” an emotional break-up ballad with a surprising melody in the chorus, are excellent. It should be emphasized that the rappers in BTS have expert control of their tone and flow; they’re outperforming a lot of popular current American rappers. Finally, the closing track, “Dionysus,” brings the audience back to the Beastie Boys influence of “Intro : Persona.” There’s a lot going on here: dance, pop, rock, rap, and more. At times it works, but it really is a matter of personal taste.
All in all, Map of the Soul: Persona is well-produced and a powerful leap forward for BTS. Their songwriting is sharper; their vocals are stronger; and their American domination is here. BTS is back, and better than ever before.
Key Tracks: “Boy With Luv”; “HOME”; “Intro : Persona”