Though not without it's faults, 'Wings' is a highly emotional album in which the BTS members show off all of their strengths.
Last month, BTS (Bangtan Boys) released their second full-length album entitled ‘Wings’. The album quickly achieved an ‘all kill’ across the South Korean music charts, and has reached number one on the iTunes charts in 26 different countries. It also debuted at number 26 on the Billboard 200, ranked in the Official UK Album Chart, and has recently topped the World Albums Chart.
The title track ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’ broke the record for highest amount of views within 24 hours of release on YouTube for a K-Pop group MV. The MV on YouTube currently stands at over 40 million views.
With such high levels of success, we thought we would take an in-depth look at the 15 track album.
Opening the record is Intro: Boy Meets Evil. The group are playing off their strengths and doing what they do best – combining edgy rap verses with more mainstream sounding vocals. As usual, they manage to do it seamlessly despite the contrasting tones.
Next, the title track Blood, Sweat & Tears – and it is easy to see why they chose to release this song first. The hook does its job by being incredibly infectious, the kind that you just cannot help but bob your head along to and repeat to yourself long after the song has ended. The track is epic and dramatic, however, some of the song’s transitions from verse to verse are somewhat jarring, and might take a few listens before you can get used to the switches.
Begin is maknae member Jung Kook’s solo song, which is a very smooth R’n’B jam. His vocals are strong and the song is chilled while still having inserts of electronic crescendos that keep the energy up. It’s not going to be your cup of tea if you prefer your songs upbeat and pumping, but it certainly has pros. Interestingly, rather than being a love song to a woman, it seems to be a love song to his fellow BTS members and how they have helped give him an identity.
Jimin’s solo gives us another change in pace, as Lie proves to be a real belter full of dramatic attitude. From its orchestral beginning to its powerful hook line, this song is perfect for those of us who really like to feel the music and sing it at the top of our lungs. It has all the ingredients to be a very popular track as a live performance and Jimin may just have trouble being heard over fans singing along.
Up next is V’s solo track Stigma, which is another slow R’n’B jam. It makes a great change to hear V’s distinguished voice separated from everything else. Fans of BTS will know that V is often given the harsh and rough parts of songs, probably due to his high energy and naturally forward personality, so this gives listeners a chance to see him in a different light altogether. The song itself feels slightly derivative and familiar, but this does not detract from its strong execution.
First Love is Suga’s solo piece, and it is a piece that chronicles his love of a piano and how it symbolises his wider love of music as a whole. This rap is very raw and emotional, and talks candidly of rough times and occasions where Suga has felt like giving up on his passions, only to be pulled back in. It sounds strange to talk of an inanimate object in a somewhat romantic way, but nevertheless, it sends a potent message and gives fans a great insight into Suga’s past and the motivation that keeps him working.
Much like First Love, Rap Monster’s solo Reflection is highly emotional. It is a track in which the leader of the group really lays himself bare and discusses what most of us are likely quite familiar with – anxiety and insecurity. In the K-Pop idol world, perfection is demanded of you, and it seems that Rap Monster is illustrating how he struggles with this. This is a really powerful song that will likely speak to many listeners, and it’s wonderful that RM is brave enough to be open about it all. Its closing repetition of “I wish I could love myself” is cutting, but also very relatable.
J-Hope’s solo Mama is a joyful and happy-sounding song. It mirrors his upbeat and energetic personality in its sound. As the title suggests, it is a song dedicated to his mother, thanking her for all she did to support him and his dreams growing up. It’s not exactly a boundary-pushing piece, but the sincerity of its message and infectiousness of its beat mean it doesn’t really have to be.
Jin brings the pace down again with his solo Awake, a song full of emotion and longing. Again, this is a song that is not exactly stepping onto new ground or being experimental, but it is undeniably beautiful all the same. Jin’s voice copes well with the challenging notes in this track, and it is good to hear the real voice of a member that is arguably often neglected when it comes to line distribution.
Moving onto a song by the vocalists of the group Jimin, Jung Kook, Jin and V – we have Lost. Honestly, the song itself is fairly tame and has a more pop vibe than many other BTS songs. However, the boys perform it well and it makes a change from giving vocalists a ballad to show off their talents. It’s a good song with a message about how you may question the path you’re on, but to not give up if it’s going to get you to what you really want to achieve.
Cypher Pt. 4 is a serving from the rapper trio J-Hope, Suga and Rap Monster. Much like the tracks Cypher 1 to 3, part 4 drips attitude and really gives you a vibe of the typical hip hop bravado. Honestly, this sort of inflated ego and style in rap music is very tiresome and is not too far departed from what Western rappers like Lil’ Wayne is dishing out. Having said this though, all three members show that they are worth their rapper salt and all their flows are strong and unique (and much better than Lil’ Wayne…in my humble opinion at least).
Differing from the rest of the album, we have Am I Wrong? giving us a flavour much more similar to many of BTS’ previous single releases. This may be the reason that the group have chosen to perform this song on Korean music shows alongside ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’ and ’21st Century Girls’. It has a tonne of attitude and cheekiness while mixing rap and vocals really well. This song is recommended if you have been a big fan of past songs from the group.
Next is the real crowd-pleaser of a song 21st Century Girls. Its message is great, albeit slightly cheesy – basically telling the young girls of today to be strong and have faith in themselves despite any negativity they may face. Again, the track is chock full of BTS attitude and slick style and will likely be very popular during concerts. It has already proven to be a very fun watch when the group have performed it on music shows.
The penultimate song on the album Two! Three! (Hoping for More Good Days) slows everything down again and has a quite melancholic vibe. About remaining strong in the face of adversity and despite difficult things in one’s past, it is likely another track that many listeners can relate to.
Interlude: Wings aptly closes the album, and is a kind of clubby-sounding, background track that you can imagine playing as credits roll. The track still manages to be strong, but is likely not going to be one you remember after finishing the album.
‘Wings’ is a generally very strong album – you can really feel the amount of hard work every single member has put into it. It’s a brilliant touch to give every member a solo track, and thus a place to really show their talents and feelings.
Many of the messages throughout this record are strong, emotional and heavy; you feel as though the members have put a lot of heart into it, and are laying themselves bare for all to see. This is hugely refreshing in a K-Pop world where you feel many are trying to uphold an image of perfection and almost non-human facades.
However, it is not without its weaknesses. A few of the songs sound slightly generic, as though they had poured so much creativity into some songs that they had next to none left for the others. Even so, each member is a strong talent in their own way, meaning that this is something they can just about get away with.
I would not recommend this album if it is your first foray into the world of BTS, but rather, something you come back to after familiarising yourself with their past work. Make sure you do come back to it though, as many of the tracks are masterful pieces in their own right.