Undeniably entertaining while struggling to escape past glories...

K-pop sensation BTS have had a career made of dreams in the last few years. Having built a reputation for making impactful, introspective music, spurred by their massive success of their previous album series ‘Love Yourself‘, expectations were high yet seemingly easy to achieve for the septet with the announcement of a new era of music in ‘MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA’.

The latest offering from the globally celebrated act unsurprisingly began making its presence known much before its release on 13 th April with an explosion of excited reactions across social media, as their ever-loyal fanbase ‘ARMY’ prepared to welcome new music with open arms.

Kicking off the record is ‘Intro: Persona’, featuring a catchy beat and bandleader RM bringing forth his ability for strong lyricism as he talks about his imposter syndrome and about recapturing his motivation to pursue music.It is a decent opener by all means- serving well to establish the seven-track offering as worth a listen . But it lacks authenticity coming across with a beat that seems recycled and stale.

Following title track ‘Boy With Luv’ feat Halsey, was one that generated significant buzz among fans upon glimpsing a teaser. A summery pop anthem that references their 2014 release ‘Boy In Luv’ it came with the anticipation that accompanies big-name collaborations.

The band have always surprised their adoring fans with unexpected features from well-known figures from the Western music world. Starting in 2017 with Steve Aoki’s involvement in explosive ‘Mic Drop’ to Nicki Minaj’s feature in last year’s ‘IDOL’ that successfully launched the band into the West’s main-stream music scene, these collaborations have only ever borne brilliant music.

But the nu-disco-tinged ‘Boy With Luv’ – despite topping charts and breaking YouTube records within a few days of release- comes across forgettable, especially if there’s no loyalty or love of being a fan to anchor you to the song.

The same can be said of ‘Make It Right’, co- written by Ed Sheeran. With a soundscape that’s more than fine, it is less K-pop – a genre that the inspirational band brought respect to -and more typically Western-influenced.

While previous albums are remembered for strong verses from the three rappers of the group, the vocalists become the stars of this seven-track production. From the electro-pop brilliance of ‘Mikrokosmos’ and the emotive stylings of ‘ Jamais Vu’ – both made in collaboration with London-based production duo Arcades- the vocal talent, and their light yet soulful delivery, stand out with clarity.

The highlight of the album comes in the form of ‘HOME’ as the rapping- which remained weak up till that point of the production- seamlessly falls into place with the vocals. With a dynamic flow, and captivating lyricism, it connects with listeners begging to grace your ears again and again.

Final track ‘Dionysus’ makes use of a beat that seems familiar for the group. It’s the kind of music that established them as the global sensation they are now known to be, but as it drags listeners through soundscapes that sounds similar to previous releases, the track loses its ability to stand out on its own.

‘MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA’ is a valiant, and partly successful attempt from K-pop’s biggest band to move forward in their music. While they undeniably remain a success, the recycled sonics and multiple references to past music, makes it hard for old listeners to let go of past glory and for the new to connect with their current music.

6/10

Words: Malvika Padin

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