Song Review: BTS – IDOL

My descent into K-pop obsession was not an immediate one, and songs I now consider classics didn’t seem that way the first time through. There was a time when K-pop was decidedly weird, and I’d come away from a track genuinely confused about whether I loved it or hated it. This dizzying experience was what ultimately hooked me all those years ago, but it’s been less and less prominent of late. With so many acts trying on variations of the same sound, too many comebacks have become predictable.

And then you have a track like IDOL. As K-pop’s biggest export, BTS could have easily played it safe with their follow-up to May’s Fake Love. Instead, they’ve delivered a big, noisy collage of sound that feels destined to polarize listeners’ opinions.

IDOL draws heavily from the South African musical genre Kwaito, fusing that percussive drive to the group’s familiar hype song structure and adding a touch of traditional Korean instrumentation. It’s a dense blend, which gives the instrumental an overpowering, overstuffed feel. On the plus side, this sense of production bombast fuels an unending supply of energy. IDOL never lets up. It’s like they took the climactic, chant-heavy portions of their past hype tracks and strung them together one after another. Rather than employ a familiar EDM-style build the way we might expect, IDOL starts at 100 and maintains that intensity until its closing flourish.

So what makes the song so polarizing? For me, IDOL’s biggest misstep echoes an issue I’ve had with BTS’s music (and pop music in general) over the past few years. There are simply too many filters and too much autotune. I welcome the anything-goes sense of adventure supplied by IDOL’s instrumental, but its vocal arrangement could learn some restraint. BTS have an incredible vocal line, but they sound far less incredible when warped by computer trickery. The second verse is especially grating, as effects pile on top of effects and threaten to extract any sense of individuality from the performance. This arrangement also limits IDOL’s ability to deliver melody. Its hooks rely more on sing-song energy than potent pop magic.

With this said, I came away from IDOL with a sense of genuine confusion — the kind I really haven’t felt since first discovering K-pop’s charms. This alone makes the song a success. It bucks trends even as it embraces others, and unapologetically leans into pop music’s more-is-more mentality. Love it or hate it, there’s certainly no ignoring it.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9


37 thoughts on “Song Review: BTS – IDOL

  1. I’ve only heard Idol once and, as I’ve mentioned before, my first listen can never be taken as my final opinion, but I’m really disappointed in this song, honestly. I understand your points and definitely agree with most of them, but the whole song just kind of reminds me of a rejected iKON track from a year or two again. Good or bad (right now, bad, at least to me), it just doesn’t sound like BTS-and not in the way that DNA and Fake Love didn’t sound like BTS. It’s polarizing, and that’s often a good thing, but they’ve taken some of BTS’ biggest strengths and all but eliminated them (i.e. Suga not getting to showcase his incredible flow, Jungkook’s vocal lines getting completely covered by autotune and effects). The whole atmosphere of the song feels less like the confidence and independence they were going for (which, great concept for them! BTS get lots of hate just for being popular) and more like they’re simply trying too hard to tell people that they don’t care about their critics. I’m sure it’s partially due to the high expectations I had for this song, but BTS, the most influential group of the last few years, could have done any style and concept of any quality they wanted and still have been successful, and I feel like they took that too much to heart. I genuinely want this song to grow on me as much as possible. Hopefully, after some more listens, I’ll be able to separate the initial disappointment from whatever charms I find.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 100% agreed. I was disappointed that their incredible rap line didn’t get much chance to show here! Was also put off by the ‘we dont care about the haterz’ vibe, idk but when celebrities release songs like that I feel like it does not come across as confident, but rather the opposite.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In something very contrary to K-Pop, I actually found the song better while listening to it without watching the MV. Coupled with the video, there is just too much going on. It’s a sensory overload in a bad way. Usually I find that a lot of songs fall flat when you separate them from their videos. I also appreciate BTS experimenting at this point in their career when they could easily play it safe, although they did cast a bit of a safety net, especially for the Western audience, with the Nicki Minaj version of the song.


    • I also first listened to the song several times before watching the M/V for IDOL. I’m glad I did – and walked away loving both! It’s quickly my top 5 BTS songs.I was actually just waiting for an energetic, intense song from BTS. I suppose this is all subjective and it depends on what we all like but since FIRE is my ultimate fave song of BTS, IDOL fit my taste of music. MIC Drop Remix is great as well.


  3. Hey, personally I felt that this comeback wasn’t as good as before 😦 the vocalists didn’t get to showcase their voices with all the effects and (sort of?) rapping, and there were only small bits of melody… But I have to agree that the song does bring much hype 😀 The song reminded me of Big Bang’s Bang Bang Bang, so I was wondering if they were aiming for that vibe, or is it meant to be a summery song?

    Would you check out the other songs though? I felt that the non-title tracks were some bit better (and they released full versions of serendipity, euphoria, and epiphany 0.oooo), with the rapper line going into the vocal territory and the other 2 tracks giving off a more familiar(and thus comfortable) vibe (referring to Spring Day for Love Myself, and Save Me for I’m Fine).


  4. So, I’m the only one who thinks that this can easily be the follow-up for Not Today (which means they’re playing *very* safe)? Its chorus sounds exactly the same. The rest of the song is a patchwork of nonsense hip hop verses and noise, and the video is a compendium of what you can do with just a green screen and a mobile app of editing.
    They would have experimented something if they had chosen a title track like So What with a retro-future style they never experienced before.

    It’s oh *SO CLEAR* BTS have become a lemon to be squished until the last drop in the shortest time with 5 minutes productions developed every 5 months.
    Kinda history repeating like most of western boybands who followed exactly the same path.
    Risk 1: they will collapse.
    Risk 2: they will split.
    Risk 3: they will break with their agency.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I get the feeling I’m the only one who love it from the start. The mv is sensory overload, add that noisy song, then I’m hook to it. I can see why some might hate it. But I love hype songs, the performances are gonna be great.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, I thought you would give a lower grade. This song is a complete mess. Worst title track of theirs. I cannot see any appeal from it. Furthermore, the lyrics are just horrendous. Is this what loving yourself all about ? I really don’t think so.


    • I believe this is a fun, over-the-top kinda narcissistic way to deliver the message. They are telling to people (haters) can talk all they want, they are enjoying themselves, in a exuberant way. I get why some people may don’t like it but in my opinion is a quite interesting they decided to approach it in this way instead of the usual sensitive and emotional stuff artists put out there when it comes to this topic.


      • Maybe you’re right, I guess it’s just my personal opinion that the lyrics are as messy as their musical arrangement. I don’t appreciate lazy kind of writing like “I am an artist, I am an idol. So what. You guys can talk all about me but I’m still successful. I love myself”. This is too shallow and narcissistic for my liking. This kind of song can easily send wrong message to young teens out there. We have enough of Mic Drop and Cyphers and even Ddaeng. Considering that BTS have the actual LY campaign with UNICEF, this is pretty funny to see this is the best thing that they can do. Lyricism with underlying bullying, low key passive aggression, as well as over-the-top narcissism. It’s nothing but hypocritical of them.


        • That’s a quite extreme way of seeing the lyrics/concept but I guess it’s a matter of perspectivee. “this is pretty funny to see this is the best thing that they can do.” I don’t think this is the best they can do cause they have already proved they can produce high quality stuff when it comes to lyrics and it would be silly to they can’t write anything else for this topic just ’cause they decided to approach it in a different way that doesn’t fit your taste.
          From my point of view, when I first heard the song I felt like the way they wrote the lyrics is exactly how haters sound and they are just mocking haters by being just like them and because of the explanation of the lyrics from the DKTV is just proof they are doing so. They used a lot of korean and culture references maybe that’s why intl people don’t get it right.


          • I don’t think I’m seeing it in an extreme way, since that’s what they were trying to promote right from Day 1. And of course, this is just my opinion.
            Well, the song is just not my style, so I don’t think any explanation can add my enjoyment to it. Lols. I thank you for your reply anyway.


  7. I pretty much agree with all that you said. Kpop feels weird again and I’m really enjoying that. Of course I can’t know how the song will sit with me as I hear it more (and more) but as of now I like it quite a bit.

    Also because I just read the comment above mine:

    “There are tens and hundreds of myself in me
    I welcome another me today
    After all, all of them is me
    I just go at it rather than to sit on it”

    I liked this one. It offers a satisfying resolution to the negative sentiments surrounding questions regarding which parts of the individual are genuine or molded to fit an ideal–found in Fake Love. Actually probably a favorite from BTS.


    • I love that part too! Its the lines that stands out for me, plus the beginning line of RM, its the second time he mentioned the “artist vs idol” thing and how he doesn’t care. Glad he have that kind of perspective.


  8. What is wrong if they attempt nonsense, and leave your brain kind of music once, they have already risked it and could have played safe, I completely agree that the vocal arrangement is messy but the music is good and is hyped which suits this song, no matter you love or hate it you can’t ignore it!
    Only thing is it was quite unexpected from BTS!


  9. i think the voice enhancement trick is necessary for thi kind of song. this is not ballad or those cheesy type songs. this is a crazy ass song. imagine them using their “normal” singing voice in idol, it’ll sound flat, lifeless and boring. since they pushed this kind of beat, their vocals need to hype up also or else everything will suck. if you wnna hear their “normal” vocals, that what the other tracks are for.


  10. I didnt like it at first, it was too much and there’s the autotune and filters they have used in the past that I really dislike. But after a few listens, I like it, it’s something different than what other groups are releasing so that just adds extra points to it and it’s quite interesting. I dont think it’s my favorite BTS track tho.


  11. I think this is their “I Got A Boy” moment where they’ve released a horrible mess of a song but they’re at that kind of level of popularity where it’s still gonna be more successful than anything else being released rn. Let’s just hope it doesn’t make K-pop crash and burn like back in 2013…


  12. oh come on….its true the MV was all over the place but its different….. its something no one can expect from BTS….I love them cos they are ready to try out new things and take risks….the song is amazing and their voice were arranged…..let’s just wait and see how they perform it on stage….its gonna be dope…they did wat all k pop artist are afraid to do….try new things and embrace another culture…


  13. Lets be real BTS music has been going downhill since Spring Day. DNA sucked, fake love was trash. i honestly thought that Fake Love would have been their worst title song but i STOOD corrected. But that is to be expected when their music production routine is being rushed. All of their previous song that took time to come out had a better production process. And that made them better at least to me. BTS is not a bad group esp for fans like me who have been following them since DEBUT and PRE-DEBUT. But as they are trying new sounds i think we need to give them a little more time to figure out which way they would like to go in terms of their musical direction.


    • I suppose that’s your own point of view. The numbers and sales say otherwise. I wasn’t a huge fan of DNA but that’s just because it’s not my style. I don’t hate it though. But I love Fake Love and IDOL. People who want BTS to create music like they were in their earlier years need to realize that they are evolving as they evolve and as they grow since they started when they were just very young guys.


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  15. I was disappointed. Usually BTS wows me with their comebacks. This song sounded way to messy for me to enjoy. All I liked was the chorus and even that is pushing it a bit. I get that they’re trying to explore new sounds but this one was just not doing it. i like bts because of their unique vocal line and hyped rap line. But… i feel like the craziness in this song overpowered both and i’m probably not going to listen to Idol anymore. 😦 So sad.


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  18. I love the way you carefully worded your post to not be too offensive towards the group themselves. I completely agree with you on the fact that the use of autotune really dulls down their vocals, they all have such beautiful voices and their full potential is not being shown with that mask over it. Overall, your post is very well written. Thank you for sharing your opinion!


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