BTS’s J-Hope pre-released More at the start of this month and somehow my even-keeled review spawned quite a discussion in the comments section! (That is, if you define “discussion” as unhinged character attacks with a wicked plot twist.) So, let me humbly begin this review by admitting that I don’t understand art. I’m too thick-headed to see the grand plan behind BTS’s ventures. Symbolism is lost on me. And apparently, I’m jobless as well.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can get down to discussing the actual music and my opinion regarding new single Arson (방화). Truthfully, I hear the same strengths and shortcomings I noted with More. This is clearly a passion project for J-Hope, and that’s a very welcome development after the corporate sheen of the Dynamite/Butter/Permission To Dance era. He deserves a little artistic catharsis, and the indulgent nature of songs like Arson gives listeners plenty to chew on. This is a straight-up hip-hop banger without much concession to poppier elements like sung choruses.
For this approach to hit with full potential, I listen for a fantastic beat and/or a dynamic flow that grabs and keeps my attention. Arson has elements of both, but never quite seals the deal. The gritty – almost industrial – production has a cold, mechanical appeal. Distorted synth adds great texture that feels ripped straight from the early 90’s. J-Hope’s performance traces the repetition of the beat, delivering a combative flow from the start. This never lets up or changes all that much, highlighting emotion and energy over all else. This – coupled with Arson’s relatively short running time – makes the song feel more like a mood-setting intro than a lead single. Arson and More are probably best experienced in tandem, or as pieces of a bigger whole. For me, More‘s grungy guitar gives it a slight advantage.