BTS often previews new albums with the release of intro or outro tracks. This current era kicked off last month with Suga’s Shadow, which felt too short to write a full review on. It painted a dark, angstier style that honestly gave me pause. I was a huge fan of the group’s 2019 Persona release, mostly because it opted for a lighter, more pop-informed sound. Thankfully, that energy is found again with J-Hope’s outro track Ego.
J-Hope often delivers more upbeat fare, so this is no big surprise. Ego opens with a hodgepodge of retro hip-hop elements before settling into an Afrobeat groove that feels both laid-back and galvanizing. It’s the perfect match for J-Hope’s charms, and allows him to play with the rhythm in an organic way. There’s still a bit too much vocal processing for my taste, but the effects dial down as the song grows.
Rather than a full-fledged chorus, Ego is anchored by a bright synth line reminiscent of some of the tracks from ONF’s 2017 debut album. It also reminds me of C-pop group Oner’s excellent Attack, which was one of last year’s most underrated (and under-known) tracks. J-Hope throws a bit of melody of the top, though it’s closer to a chant than a full-fledged refrain. This approach works well for Ego, which is more about energy than complex song structure. If anything, the track feels a bit too short. Its most exciting element pops up right at the end, when powerful female vocals join the fray to give the song a 90’s club feel. I would have loved to hear this expanded upon further. It adds an unexpected texture that compliments J-Hope’s tone and makes for a fun mashing of genres. Hopefully the upcoming album will bear more surprises like this.
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