Most of the time, a k-pop 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 k-pop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
It’s a wonder I enjoy BTS’ new album as much as I do. Love Yourself: Tear is generally very trendy and mid-tempo — two aspects that aren’t strongly aligned with my taste. But, the same could be said about BTS’ music as a whole. The fact that so many of their songs have ranked high on my personal charts is a testament to how well they pull these sounds off. I’m still firmly behind 2015-2016’s HYYH as the strongest of their eras, but Tear holds a few surprises that hint at exciting things to come.
Longtime readers will not be shocked by the track I’m featuring today. So What comes at the tail end of the album, and offers the shamelessly uptempo burst I’d been waiting for. Someone on Twitter described the song as BTS produced by Sweetune, and that’s not too far off. There are obvious differences, but the pounding instrumental definitely harnesses that unflagging Sweetune energy. Honestly, I never thought we’d get to hear BTS deliver this kind of straightforward dance track. They came close with 2016’s Wings Interlude, but its full “outro” version eventually retreated to the group’s usual hip-hop. With So What, the hip-hop is present in the verses, but the tempo never drops.
Then there’s that galvanizing chorus, underlined by the most propulsive club beat the guys have ever given us. You could make a case that the whole thing is pretty basic, cut-and-paste house music — down to its chugging “oh oh oh” post-chorus — but it’s delivered with absolute panache. I doubt whether BTS will suddenly move full tilt in this direction, but I wouldn’t be the least bit disappointed if they did.