Published Feb 24, 2020This year marks seven years that prolific K-pop unit BTS have been performing together. Fittingly titled, Map of the Soul: 7 is a reflective self-examination of the group's last seven years, putting the individual members' past trials and tribulations on full display in a way that the genre rarely does. The result is an album that is less concerned with attracting brand new listeners and more interested in rejuvenating its members through truth in music, as well as doing right by the existing fans that helped BTS make it this far.
For the uninitiated, Map of the Soul: 7 is a sort-of sequel to last year's Map of the Soul: Persona, an EP that kicked off the Map of the Soul "era" in the band's career. As such, the first five tracks of 7 are straight off of Persona, with 15 new tracks following them. The decision to frontload the album with the more summery songs from last year pays off, as it accents this tonal shift into more serious territory when the interlude track and "Black Swan" arrive. It's as if the Persona material recaps what came before, and everything beyond track five is where the boys are now.
The new songs on 7 are quite literally written for — and to — the members and fans: there's "Inner Child," where V sings to his confused younger self and offers aged advice. On the impossibly sweet "Friends," members Jimin and V sing to each other about wanting to stay friends forever. And then there are the thank you notes to fans on tracks like "Moon" and "We Are Bulletproof," which confess how BTS have pulled so much strength from their fan base.
After an album's worth of exhibiting doubt, confusion and anger, the clarity and sheer positivity of closing track "Outro: Ego" is a beautiful finale. With a catchy beat and a horn-heavy chorus worthy of the FIFA World Cup, J-Hope confidently reminds himself and listeners that you know yourself best, and should trust yourself above all.
Map of the Soul: 7 is not necessarily loaded with the explosive singles meant to break the internet the same way songs like "Idol" "DNA" and "Fake Love" did in the past, but that's clearly by design. The group made a conscious decision to experiment and give more of themselves rather than a rinse and repeat of what's worked before. 7 smartly makes the decision to focus on exactly what makes BTS special: its members. (Bighit Entertainment)