BTS, the South Korean boy group, released their seventh studio album on Feb. 21. Map of the Soul: 7 is an introspective album where each of the seven members reflect on their careers and personal lives.
As a continuation of last year’s record Map of the Soul: Persona, Map of the Soul: 7, is made up of 20 songs, the first five of which have been previously released on Persona. The pop feel of the repackaged tracks contrasts the new ones, which focus on heavier themes of shadow and ego while detailing personal struggles. This is an awkward tonal shift which serves to highlight the growth in their music, but is jarring to the listener.
The concept behind the Map of the Soul series is based on the psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung’s model of self (1947), which is comprised of the archetypes persona, anima/animus, shadow and ego.
In an extended version of the comeback trailer, “Interlude: Shadow,” band member Suga addresses the struggles that come with fame. In the first part of the song his rap translates to, “I run but the shadow follows, as dark as the light’s intense/ … Don’t let me shine.” This acknowledgment of his fear of fame is surprising because it is an aspect of BTS that the group is often hesitant to address. This revelation of inner turmoil reminds fans that the members are human.
Like “Interlude: Shadow,” the track “Black Swan” confronts the negativity that comes with fame. The instrumentation of this unique track has string instruments under a trap beat, which creates a haunting atmosphere. The lyrics successfully address BTS’s fear of a loss of connection with music and equates this loss of passion to death.
The 11th track, “ON,” is a turning point in the album. This anthem wonderfully executes a declaration to embrace the shadows and invite the pain, an inescapable part of life.
Digital copies of the album also include an “ON” remix featuring Sia, which doesn’t live up to its potential. Her voice is only showcased as background vocals in part of the chorus and seems like a pointless feature for clout.
The final two tracks of the album, “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” and “Outro: Ego,” represent the reflective nature of the album through references to the first two songs on their debut singles album “2 Cool 4 Skool.”
“We are Bulletproof: The Eternal” reveals the force behind the group’s resilience: their fans. This sentimental track is the highlight of the album, with beautiful harmonies evoking emotion before listeners even read the lyrics. Once the message is revealed in the translations, fans may be moved to tears.
“Outro: Ego,” is a juxtaposition of “Interlude: Shadow.” The bright instrumentation is coupled with J-Hope’s rap that translates to “Hard it was, and sad it was/Still reassured and made me know myself.” While the interlude grappled between self and shadow, the album’s outro does a good job of concluding the journey taken in the album to embrace both.
Intimate lyrics will resonate with fans of the group, while genre-bending sounds and excellent production quality have the potential to interest nonfans. This combination shows BTS moving in a new direction, where they will achieve new levels of mainstream success in the western music market.