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 want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
In a way, On was the perfect title track to represent BTS’s new album as a whole. The same praises and criticism I had for that song might as well be extended outward to Map Of The Soul: 7. Further listens have heightened its highs and compounded its lows – just like the album itself. Ultimately, the good bits outweigh the bad, but the inconsistency still makes for a frustrating listen.
I’ve removed the quintet of existing Persona tracks from the top of MOTS: 7 because I just don’t understand why they need to be on two albums. Of the remaining songs, my favorite moments play like an extension of the group’s 2019 work. Tracks like Friends, Moon, Louder Than Bombs and We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal harness BTS’s more melodic side and play around with the kind of synthpop textures that made Mikrokosmos so incredible. Taken alongside (the chorus of) On, they’d form a cohesive piece of work.
But, just like On’s jarring verses, MOTS: 7 is peppered with a few hip-hop and trap tracks that just don’t appeal to me. It’s not the hip-hop aspect I dislike. I grew up on the genre, and BTS have fired off more than a few hip-hop classics of their own. But, just like so many rap stars of the West, tracks like Ugh and Respect resort to heavy vocal effects that pull me right out of the experience with their grating tones. I just don’t understand why BTS (or their producers) feel the need to do this. It buries their skills rather than showcasing them.
I don’t think there is one, undeniable standout within 7’s ranks, but right now the song that’s capturing my attention the most is Inner Child, a solo by vocalist V. This anthemic track hits a lot of my musical preferences, opting for a big, stadium-ready melody and soaring production. V is an unlikely vessel for this style of track, but he pulls it off. I’ve always appreciated the unique, husky timbre to his voice, and it lends Inner Child and airy, ephemeral appeal that merges well with the chugging instrumental.
My love for Inner Child is no real surprise. Its producers were also involved in Persona’s Mikrokosmos and Jamais Vu, both of which follow a similar sonic template. I think this lush, pop-informed style is a particularly good match for BTS’s vocal line, and the rare instance where vocal effects actually add to the song’s aesthetic. Time will tell if this goes on to enjoy the same longevity as some of their 2019 work, but its timeless, trend-free approach is a positive sign.
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