Review

Song Review: BTS – Boy With Luv (ft. Halsey)

Where does an idol group go after they’ve reached the pinnacle of success? So many pop culture phenomena plateau at this point, or – worse yet – come to an abrupt end. My favorite era in any artist’s career tends to match their gradual ascent to the top. Once expectations and attention climb too high, it’s difficult for even the most talented of acts to measure up. This tricky spot encapsulated much of BTS’ 2018. The guys had secured an unprecedented international audience. They were (and still are) at the top of their game commercially. Yet, I often found myself longing for their 2015/16 energy – when mega-stardom was just out of reach and their names weren’t on the lips of every Western pop star imaginable.

Because of this, I was concerned to see that Boy With Luv (작은 것들을 위한 시) would feature an American duet partner in singer/songwriter Halsey. There’s nothing wrong with cross-country collaborations, but I’m always hesitant about K-pop’s globalization robbing it of its unique touch. However, BTS have played it smart. Not only does Halsey blend surprisingly well, but the song itself resists the urge to simply repeat the sound of their previous singles. Instead of bigger, Boy With Luv goes different – and that’s the best thing a group at BTS’ level can do.

Taking a cue from agency-juniors TXT, Luv paints an upbeat, disco-infused slice of funk-pop perfectly poised to take on the summer. Years down the road, I doubt it will be considered one of BTS’ iconic singles, but that’s okay. The group has already established themselves in this regard. Instead, Boy With Luv is pure fun, grooving on an irresistible bed of sunny synths and rhythm guitar. The vocal arrangement has a wispy quality throughout. It’s densely layered, but never anchored by one commanding tone. This creates a sense of brisk movement, as if the entire track is wafting just beyond the tips of your fingers. This ephemeral approach could easily result in a forgettable performance, but it suits the guys’ airy vocal aesthetic.

Boy With Luv doesn’t hit as hard melodically as TXT’s excellent Crown did, despite sharing a similar vibe. The hooks stick immediately, and will likely stand the test of time. Yet, the breezy chorus lacks the impact of BTS’ best work. The rap line compensates, though I wish the song would have opted for a less trendy flow during the second verse. You all know how much I hate post-chorus tempo shifts! This one felt particularly jarring.

Still, Luv arrives as a pleasant surprise — a feel-good track unencumbered by layers of theory-baiting lore or concessions to trend-driven radio playlists. Sometimes all you need is a nice beat and a good melody. K-pop could always do with more of this sound, and BTS are at a point to influence the entire industry — just as they have time and time again.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

~

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19 thoughts on “Song Review: BTS – Boy With Luv (ft. Halsey)

  1. Great review Nick, i was eager to see your thoughts on this one, but i’ve kinda predicted it would ended up being of your liking. I’m very surprised that i’ve liked it as well, since the feature and the first teaser’s sound made me worry a little, but Halsey’s vocals mixed up very well (though some of her ad-libs sounded a little annoying for my ears) and the production hooked me instantly.

    Guess this will eventually become one of my favorite singles from the boys!

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    • It’s understandable that the teaser might be a bit worrisome. I really liked Halsey in this song. Ad-libs can be a little annoying, but she really blended in well.

      I’m not going to say this is gonna be my favorite, but it’s a song I won’t be disappointed in hearing :). It’s surprisingly a grower. I tried to see if it can grow on me on my way to work earlier, and I ended up listening on repeat. It wouldn’t be that surprising that this new single will grow on a lot people

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    • I definitely agree that the “I want it!” ad-libs verge on cloying, but they’re mixed far enough in the back that they’re relatively easy to ignore.

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  2. Really like that you were on the point here! Agree that this song won’t be an iconic song, but it will definitely pass! Nothing too impressive/memorable, but it’s an ear worm. Reminds me a little of 2NE1’s “Hate You” actually. Nothing out of the park, but something that can still win the game. I was surprised that Halsey wasn’t too out there during the song, but she really blended well with the vocals. I did expect that your rating would be between an 8-9 XD You’re right that BTS is probably to going to match the 2015/2016 era since that era has a lot of history. But we never know. BTS can surprise us. I believe BTS doesn’t have to force themselves into making songs that will match the 2015/2016 era, but as long as BTS stays consistent with their music, it’s not going to be a problem.

    With that said, have you listened to the album? Because I feel like there’s a particular song that REALLY caught my attention, as well as a lot of people.

    Nice review Nick! Agreed with a lot of things you said here

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  3. This is probably the most unexpected BTS’ title track ever, and that’s exactly what I had been expecting from BTS for the last 2 years. I like almost everything of Boy With Luv, and I have to say Microcosmos and Make It Right work the same way too as b-sides.

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  4. Although I agree Boy With Luv is a “feel-good” song and its succeeds in getting you in a happy mood, I found the song to be a bit monotonous and at times boring. I liked the pre-chorus though.

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    • I an see where you’re coming from. The general sound is a bit underwhelming when compared with their more impactful material. I don’t think the vocals sound bad at all, but the arrangement is definitely a choice… and one that won’t work for everyone.

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    • You’re not the only one. The vocals are extremely breathy and weak, and no elements of surprises with this song just riding on the trend. The ‘Oh mymymy’ sounds cheesy as well. Their releases like DNA and Idol have been a huge disappointments so far. Still can’t beat their wings album.

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      • what’s the trend if you don’t mind replying? So far what I’m hearing from the latest releases theyre all going for an edm drop song?

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  7. Haha I thought you might like this one. I really loved their Tear album last year + all of their comeback trailers, but I haven’t actually liked a title track properly since Spring Day (although DNA isn’t HORRIBLE), so I was really satisfied with how much I liked this one, although I really don’t know how any title track will ever break into my top 3 (Blood Sweat & Tears/Spring Day/Run)…

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