BY Katie Vicary

Map of the Soul: 7 is the culmination of a seven-year long journey taken by the seven members of BTS.

After securing their place in mainstream music and media with mini-album Map of the Soul: Persona, BTS have returned with another chart-topping album. Map of the Soul: 7 is their most explorative album to date, featuring collaborations with Sia and Halsey, and discussing themes such as facing your inner shadows. Whilst exploring these new musical styles and ideas, BTS have managed, as always, to put their authentic touch on whatever they create. This is something that has and will continue to take them far.

The album kicks off with familiar songs from their mini-album Map of the Soul: Persona, including their collaboration with Halsey on the pop hit ‘Boy With Luv’, and ‘Make it Right’ cowritten by Ed Sheeran. These songs alone make their impact. ‘Intro: Persona’ repurposes familiar sounds from their earlier days such as the absolute powerhouse which is ‘Dionysus’.

At a whopping 1 hour 15 minutes, we hear a very diverse mix of musical sounds, themes and ideas emerging throughout the album. As such, the songs from their mini-album seem to fit much better in this wider context, placed amongst the thematic journey Map of the Soul: 7 takes us on.

Rapper Yoongi brings the real beginning of the album with ‘Interlude: Shadow’, going into the paranoia surrounding his personal shadows and those which come with BTS’ level of fame. ‘Interlude: Shadow’ is arguably one of the best new songs on the album. The lyrics are introspective, insightful, and passionately delivered. Similarly, the first single on the album, ‘Black Swan’, discusses dark themes of losing focus and sanity. As Yoongi explains during an interview with Zach Sang, a key message throughout this album “is that you must face your inner shadow, but resist being submerged into its depths”.

Like previous album Wings, individual members are given a chance to showcase their sounds, talents and personas with solo and subunit songs. Jimin explores the different sides of his person, Jungkook discusses his emotions from trainee life to now, Taehyung sings to a younger version of himself and Seokjin proclaims his love to fans in a bright pop song. The rappers each have an individual song in the form of an intro, interlude and outro but also come together to show off their impressive skills on hard hitting ‘UGH!’.

Their collaboration with Troye Sivan and Allie X, ‘Louder than Bombs’ is an excellent example of collaboration done right. Whilst you can hear the different influences and exploration of genre due to outside input, BTS’ own voice is evident. This shows their versatility when it comes to musical styles and expression. Similarly, this is shown in their second single ‘ON’. A powerful song filled with brass and percussion, akin to what you’d hear from a marching band as it brings a strength and anthem like feel. The power of ‘ON’ is best experienced through their music video, kinetic manifesto visual or live performance as you can appreciate the song and performance in its entirety.

Whilst exploring darker themes about facing inner shadows and fears, BTS do not focus solely on the dark. For example, they end the entire experience with high energy and fun in their song ‘Outro: Ego’ performed by self-proclaimed ‘energiser’ Hoseok. BTS mix in songs about hope, self-love and their own experiences, the ups and the downs, to create the emotional journey which is Map of the Soul: 7.

No matter how big BTS become one thing is clear, they are entirely true to themselves. Amongst today’s mainstream music this is a quality that deserves respect and recognition. BTS have climbed their way to the top without compromising who they are, and Map of the Soul: 7 is a clear example of that.

Listen to 'Black Swan' from Map of the Soul: 7  here:

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