Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-side tracks deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
As expected, BTS’s new album and title track have smashed all sorts of records, elevating their already dominant position in k-pop. But even as it conquers charts, DNA has already polarized many listeners. I gave it high marks on Monday, but with the caveat that the group has released stronger material in the past. Luckily, the album as a whole is as musically consistent as they’ve been for years.
Experimenting with a variety of tones and soundscapes, Love Yourself retains the classic BTS sound even as it teases at the edges. The lush Pied Piper pulls in an autumnal, flute-like synth loop that gives the track an oddly medieval influence. This sound pops up again later in the album as part of the harder-hitting Go Go, but is otherwise quite new when it comes to k-pop. Clearly a play on the “Pied Piper” title, this instrumental motif could have come off as cheesy, but it’s brilliantly mixed within a dense mid-tempo that fuses rhythm guitar and laidback funk elements to create something unexpected and fresh. Even so, Pied Piper‘s biggest asset are its vocals. I’ve always been a sucker for the group’s falsetto-driven performances, and the fact that Piper‘s entire chorus is delivered in this register lends it a sweeping airiness that really hits the sweet spot. While DNA is all harsh angles and electronic textures, Pied Piper feels like a deep inhalation of fresh air. Its melody and tempo might be too tame to act as a title track, but it’s Love Yourself‘s most compelling b-side.