With over 3 million pre-orders globally the much anticipated release, BTS Map Of The Soul: Persona did not disappoint.
Released on 12th April 2019, this was definitely the groups most anticipated album. BTS are well known for their meticulous and detailed concepts involving the BTS Universe, some eagle eyed fans believe this concept has been teased by the boys since 2017; during a performance of DNA you can see Jin sporting a white shirt with the word ‘Persona’ beautifully embroidered. This is also not the first time we have seen the term “The map of the soul” in relation to BTS. During the ending script of the comeback trailer for their previous album; Love Yourself Answer, “Epiphany” it reads “In the end, the thing I need to find is the map of the soul, which is the beginning of everything”. This attention to detail and subtle hints created immense excitement and anticipation among the Army fandom.
The album is named after Murray Stein’s book, titled Jung’s Map Of The Soul. Although you don’t have to read the book to improve your enjoyment of the album or the universe BTS have created, it is an interesting and thoughtful read. One thing I deeply enjoy about BTS and their comebacks is the introduction and invitation into a new world of art and literature that I may not have been exposed to previously. Encouraging fans to engage in a new world of discovery, broadening their prospective.
“The shadow is the image of ourselves that slides along behind us as we walk towards the light. The persona, its opposite, is named after the Roman term for an actor’s mask. It is the face we wear to meet the social world around us.”
According to Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, Persona is how we present ourselves to society; a social mask we wear to conceal our true nature while we play the role that reflects the individuals surrounding environment, a continuous theme explored in the lyrics throughout the album and subtly placed in the comeback trailer for the album Intro: Persona. Masks have been another constant theme with BTS, from member V’s “Singularity“, “Fake Love” or their 2019 Golden Disc Awards performance to name but a few cryptic clues. Also a counterpart with ‘Boy in Luv’ causing nostalgia amongst Army, the title track ‘Boy with Luv’ continues to reflect certain aspects of its junior song even down to the similarities between the choreography. Fans might also recognize the title from BTS’ Mnet Asian Music Awards in December, the VCR during their performance reads “You gave me power/ you gave me love/ so now I’m a hero/ so now I’m a boy with love/ I’ll show you the map of the soul.”
- Intro: Persona
Sometimes you have to look back before you can go forward, a recurring motif throughout the whole album. BTS’ leader RM takes charge of this albums intro, sampling the instrumental from the 2014 Intro: Skool Luv Affair, the open video sequence in both trailers also parallels one another.
“Who am I”
The opening line and consistent question RM asks himself during this intro track. Persona is a hip hop heavy track, challenging the concepts of identity with self-reflective lyrics. RM illustrates his journey of self-discovery with the absence of musical clichés, just the powerful emotion through his rap; you can hear the passion in his voice as the song begins to reach its conclusion. Depicting all his Persona’s, offering them as an option to fans to use for comfort with whichever self they identify with more.
This is a strong opening track for the album, opening the doorway for the listeners to continue on the journey they have mapped out.
- Boy with Luv (featuring Halsey)
BTS team up with popular artist Halsey for this fun and catchy title track, with a gentle EDM influence and an addictive hook; you can see why this song and video has been breaking records. The bright vocals give off a sense of optimism and positivity, feeling as vibrant and colourful as the music video. Although Halsey’s parts are smaller than I imagined with how anticipated this collaboration was, her voice complements beautifully with the members, harmonising in both English and Korean. The section that stood out the most to me in this song was definitely Suga’s rap; I was immensely impressed by his ability to experiment with his rap style while keeping his usual flow.
The similarity in the title “Boy in Luv” references their past era emphasising their personal and musical growth but also the songs mantra of finding love within yourself reflects the message of the whole Love Yourself era.
Another song dedicated to their fans, reinstated by the release of the second music video ‘Army with Luv’ it is simply an innocent and fun song with a wispy element that you can’t help but sing along to, something that has become easier for global fans now that it has become a regular radio hit.
Mikrokosmos refers to the ancient Greek philosophy of microcosm, the perception of viewing humans as their own little universe. The comfort it brings to fans resonates with their previous hit “Magic Shop”, the concept of our own galaxies, mentioned by RM on numerous other occasions and the parallel between the message to fans; “So show me/I’ll show you” and “You got me/ I got you” brings the same feeling of belonging and BTS being there to comfort you.
The song offers a support system to its listeners, embracing them in a warm and gentle pop melody. The delicate vocals and harmonising amongst the members brings listeners to full attention while the instrumental grows more commanding.
Fun fact: Scottish singer Ryan Lawrie who appeared on the X Factor back in 2016 also contributed to the writing process of this song along with London based producer duo Arcades.
- Make It Right
Make It Right is a collaboration with British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran which faintly echoes previous work by the singer while still creating something new and different. This appears to be a song of reflection and realisation while paying homage to “Sea” a hidden track from the Love Yourself Era about conflicting thoughts on their success.
With repetitive instrumental, soft singing and rapping as gentle as a whisper, this song has a simplicity to it that causes the listener to pay more attention to the honest meaning behind the song rather than becoming distracted by an ‘over the top’ melody. Even down to the live performances, no choreography, no flashy stages, just seven members conveying their emotions through their voices alone.
BTS have never shied away from how important their fans are to them and this whole album is also a reflection on that. HOME is an R&B track which expresses how their fans are a home to them, no matter where they are in the world they feel at home when they are with their fans. “House” and “home” hypothetically are the same however, “house” is traditionally where you live the majority of your life, whereas “home” does not necessarily mean one place, it can represent numerous locations, gatherings and people, imagery that is expressed by BTS through this smooth track.
The chorus has a warmth and comforting feel to it, with Jimin’s gentle vocals, memorable lyrics and V’s soulful voice throughout the song conveys such a deep connection between his voice and his heart. HOME also parallels their debut song ‘No More Dream’ with the direct link between the lyrics; ‘Even if we have what I wanted in my dreams, Big house, big cars, big rings’, coming full circle as the members share they once believed they needed materialistic things to feel validation and to show success however, they express that despite achieving this level of fame they still feel a sense of emptiness only their fans can fill.
- Jamis Vu
Jamis Vu is French for “never seen”, the opposite of ‘Déjà Vu’. The term refers to the phenomenon of experiencing a situation that one recognizes to some extent but nonetheless feels unknown and unfamiliar despite rationally knowing this situation is familiar. An ideology present throughout BTS’ on going story line, following member Jin who repeatedly has to relieve the same day in an attempt to change the fate of his fellow group members.
Although what appears on the surface to be an unlikely sub unit, Jin, J hope and Jungkook create the formula for a perfect ballad. From Jungkook’s breathy and agile vocals, creating a more intimate and intense quality to the song. Jin’s haunting and hypnotic voice leaves a lasting effect on the listener, capturing and mesmerizing your ears while J hope’s honest rap conveys his sadness and desperation.
Jamis Vu is an incredibly challenging concept to capture, but through the lyrics depicted and soft memorable melody you can feel the heavy emotion, the deeper meaning and sadness.
The concluding song on the album is Dionysus. This rock infused hip hop track may sound like a simple party song but like every other song on this album it also holds a deeper meaning than a stereotypical drinking and partying tune.
Dionysus refers to the ancient Greek god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, theatre, and religious ecstasy. This links in with the concept photos where some members were photographed with white grapes and naming it after the God of theatre also compliments the albums persona concept, hiding behind a mask while you act and play the part society accepts. The Thyrsus staff mentioned several times throughout the song references the staff carried by Dionysus which can be seen being held by RM during the live performances.
The fast paced beat and rock-rap influence is a much different sound than we are used to with BTS; another reason why I enjoyed the album so much is because of its experimentation. The almost tribal chanting amongst the members and heavy beat that one can only imagine you would feel through your chest during a live performance.
Especially in Suga’s rap verse, expressing the emptiness of fame if there is no artistry behind it and self-reflection. “What does it matter if I’m an idol or an artist?” Reflecting on recent themes during BTS’ career of conflicting identities, various personas and how they are perceived and want to be perceived by the public and their fans.
All seven members ripple with confidence in this final track, Jin’s clear vocals carrying through the music easily and well balanced even during the piercing high notes we hear from him during the climax of the song to J hope’s charismatic delivery.
Although nearly every track sounds different, each song connects beautifully together, blending into one another fluidly. The message within each song is consistent, following the same theme, directly addressing their fans. The lyrics, melodies and the emotions in each member’s voice brought a great deal of comfort to me while listening, resonating with the Love Yourself Series and echoing a similar warmth felt from their previous songs such as “Magic Shop” and “Answer: Love Myself “. Even as a casual listener or someone listening to BTS for the first time you can still relate or appreciate the emotions each track portrays and BTS have an expert way of making their listener feel less alone.
Overall I found the album expressive, dripping with emotions and a perfect reflection of how much BTS have grown and developed as artists while creating the perfect recipe for an album; a catchy ‘stuck in your head’ for hours title song, elements of hip hop beats, a tender ballad, a fun adrenaline filled rock infused track and an important deeper message.