Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides 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.
As I anticipated, BTS’ IDOL has been quite the polarizing title track. Some have called it the group’s worst release yet, while others can’t get enough of its noisy energy. But most listeners seem to agree that there are some true standouts among the album’s other new material. The drum and bass fueled I’m Fine feels like an obvious single, but to these ears Answer: Love Yourself carries the album’s most striking melody.
Much of my complaints about IDOL stemmed from the overuse of vocal filters and autotune. BTS have become more entwined with hip-hop than any other genre, making it easy to forget that the group is home to some of modern K-pop’s most engaging vocalists. Songs like Answer let this aspect of BTS shine, as the guys drop the posturing and deliver a straightforward shot of anthemic pop music. As an encapsulation of the entire Love Yourself series, Answer wears its heart on its sleeve. Its uplifting arrangement might feel overly cheesy to some, but the earnestness is surprisingly affecting. That robust, two-part chorus certainly helps, underlined by a grandiose instrumental where the synths resound like church organs. Surprisingly, Answer was co-written by English singer-songwriter Conor Maynard, which marks his first work for the K-pop industry. If the strength of this song is any indication, I hope he won’t be a stranger.
**And for those of you who might normally skip remixes, make sure to check out the excellent Pedal 2 LA Mix of DNA, which reinvents the track as an electric guitar filled 80’s rock anthem.