Big Hit / iriver / Columbia / Virgin
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
For anyone missing 90’s boy bands, BTS offers the next best thing, and they’re arguably an improvement. Some pop fans might be put off by the non-English lyrics, though the europop-inspired hooks are catchy enough that it hardly makes a difference if listeners don’t understand exactly what the group is singing on Map of the Soul: Persona.
“Boy With Luv” is likely the track non-K-pop fans will most likely recognize due to BTS’s recent performance on Saturday Night Live. The sweetness and sincerity of the vocal delivery and the English lyrics featuring Halsey about having “waited all my life” discuss looking for a special romantic partner. The track almost sounds like a rewrite of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” so it’s easy to see the appeal to an American audience.
Other highlights include the opening track, “Intro: Persona,” which is more rock-inspired and features lyrics expressing self-confidence, “Make it Right,” and “Home,” which both sound more like standard boy band tracks. Though unlike, say, the Backstreet Boys, BTS has three members who rap.
In “Make it Right,” the group presents themselves as ideal romantic partners who will do anything for their love. Admittedly, this track has the awkwardness of all seven group members seemingly singing to the same woman, though getting hung up on technicalities such as these takes the fun out of listening to boy bands.
“Home” is more of a slow jam, so reminiscent of Bruno Mars that it sounds like it came from 24K Magic. The track describes being comfortable with a new lover, comparing one another’s presence to a “home.”
Part of the appeal of K-pop groups like BTS is their choreography and music videos, which fans can’t experience by just listening to the album. Yet, Map of the Soul: Persona is more than superficial fun. BTS members clearly have serious musical talent behind their flashy showmanship.