It feels like a disservice to refer to BTS as the biggest boyband in the world. BTS is arguably the biggest act in the world, period. With ever-expanding influence, record breaking tours, and sales that rival (and sometimes surpass) the likes of Adele and Taylor Swift, BTS has shown no signs of slowing down. On their last record, Map of the Soul: Persona, BTS delved into R&B and hip-hop, collaborated with Halsey on one of the best songs of 2019, and penned songs with Ed Sheeran. That record became their third #1 album in the U.S., surpassing a chart record previously held by none other than The Beatles. Now, with Map of the Soul: 7, the Bangtan Boys reflect on how far they have come with a grand testament to their collective and individual strength.
Map of the Soul: 7 functions as both a repackage and an expansion of the sonic world introduced by Map of the Soul: Persona. The album begins with five songs from Persona before transitioning into new music. “Black Swan” was the world’s first taste of new BTS music post-Persona (SUGA released a solo track preceding “Black Swan” titled “Interlude: Shadow,” a teaser for the new era). “Black Swan” is, in many ways, the antithesis of “Boy with Luv,” the cardinal song from Persona. Whereas the latter is bright and bouncy, the former boasts gloomier lyrics that tackle the concept of fear. But 7 isn’t solely about fear and darkness, as many fans theorized pre-album release.
Many of 7‘s standout tracks appear in the middle of the tracklist. There’s “Louder Than Bombs,” a bombastic anthem co-written by Troye Sivan that covers how togetherness and the power of love and music can conquer any obstacle in life. It’s an absolutely incredible track and one of the best of the year so far. Everyone in the group gets their time to shine and reference their own solo tracks. The band’s latest single, “ON,” features an EDM riff that is reminiscent of J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” and an explosive and euphoric chord progression. Jungkook also delivers what is the definitive vocal moment of the album on the bridge; he shows off his impressive range and precision with expert ease. A Sia-assisted version of “ON” is tacked on to the end of 7, but it simply cannot compare to the original and, quite frankly, brings down the overall quality of the album. There’s also the balls-to-the-wall energy on “UGH” a gorgeous showcase for the rap line’s talent that’s filled with gunshots, and “Respect,” a more 90s hip-hop influenced rap track anchored by RM and SUGA. “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” is the de facto ballad on 7 and while it lacks the suave finesse of the ballads on Persona, the sincerity and passion still rings true. Finally, V’s solo track, “Inner Child” is a beautiful and emotional track about the singer’s past life before the fame and fortune; it’s a truly heartwarming moment on such a vast and sprawling album. The boys also dabble in afropop on the album closer, further adding to their commitment to the globalization and universal healing properties of music.
While the remainder of the tracks are weaker by comparison, they still offer incredible insights into the collective and individual psyches of one of the biggest global phenomenons in recent memory. BTS have truly come into their own as artists on Map of the Soul: 7; this is some of their best, most touching, and most ambitious work yet.
Key Track: “Louder Than Bombs”; “ON”; “Inner Child”; “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)”