When most musicians hit the level of success that BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan) has, it’s very tempting to want to play it safe. But “safe” doesn’t seem to be in this South Korean pop group’s vocabulary as they continue to push their limits, break boundaries, and one-up their already impressive discography. BTS’ (consisting of members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook) latest album Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’, a culmination of their creativity, hard work, and blood, sweat, and tears, is a testament to that.
The freshly released Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear,’ is a follow up to their 2017 album Love Yourself 承 ‘Her,’ featuring “DNA,” “Mic Drop,” and “Go Go,” and their repackaged album You Never Walk Alone, which contained their massive hits “Spring Day” and “Not Today.”
Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’ enchants listeners from its very first track – a sultry intro song titled “Singularity.” The solo track, starring one of the group’s vocalists, Taehyung Kim (V), is a dazzling jazz-soul piece, reminiscent of some of the group’s earlier R&B works like “House of Cards.” Disguised as a sensual ballad, but filled to the brim with a wistful and lingering sadness, it spellbinds listeners like a siren song. But this album isn’t all smooth jazz and R&B. As with any BTS album, Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’ shows off the members’ incredible versatility.
The main attraction of the album is “Fake Love,” a song on quite the opposite end of the musical spectrum from “Singularity.” Upbeat and dark, it’s a combination of the moody angst from their album Wings mixed together with the lighthearted, but heavy themed songs of Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’. It’s unlike previous music by BTS as it incorporates more intricate instrumentation and contains distinct pop-rock and alternative inspired melodies. That being said, it’s a multi-layered song that grows on you each time you listen. The lyrics which can be interpreted as feeling a disingenuous love towards a partner or towards oneself is relatable and rings true to the heart.
There are many noteworthy songs through out the album, such as “134340” – a song that likens Pluto’s demotion as a planet to very human-feelings of loneliness, isolation, and betrayal. There’s also the scorching hot, Latin-inspired “Airplane Pt. 2” with its incredibly addictive hook and ambitious dance choreography, perfect for the upcoming summer months. However, the star of this album has to be “Anpanman.” Though a seemingly cheery and catchy song about a beloved 70s cartoon show (with a lovable, pastry-headed protagonist), the song “Anpanman” delves into deeper themes. “Anpanman” proclaims that any average or “unremarkable” person can become a hero through sheer grit, persistence, and most importantly, a strong heart and desire to do good. The song also serves as an homage to our everyday heroes, further proven when the members don streetwear looks inspired by work uniforms of firefighters, construction workers, and more during their live performances.
Last, but not least, an honorable mention goes out to the song “Paradise.” This track takes a refreshing look at what it means to be a young person living in 2018. It questions the meaning of success and critiques the way in which our society constantly pressures people to find happiness and gain success. “Paradise” encourages taking breaks, self-care, and going at your own pace, because sometimes, it’s okay to not have a dream or destination.
This isn’t the first time that BTS has made a bold statement via song or words. Recognizing and taking ownership of their influence, BTS takes charge in contributing to and creating open dialogue about relevant social issues, commenting on topics such as homosexuality, mental health, and consumerism, despite the members having come from a rather conservative Korean society. As the leader of the group, Namjoon Kim (RM), said during their Billboard Award acceptance speech, “Some of our fans told us that our music really changed their lives. And now we realize that our words truly carry weight thanks to you guys.”
BTS seems like an unstoppable force, breaking records left and right. A portion of their success can be attributed to the globalization of K-pop, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that it’s their hard work that’s catapulting them to fame and success. Despite having to adhere to the demands of a rigid and established entertainment industry, BTS’ efforts to show originality, question the status quo, and put meaning into their work is what distinguishes them. Their fearlessness, willingness to learn and grow, as well as their genuine love and dedication to their fans is what sets BTS apart from others. That’s what makes BTS so special and every bit deserving of the love, respect, and adoration that they receive from their millions of fans around the world.
At this point in time, BTS is well on their way to becoming a household name, if they aren’t so already. While it may be tempting for people, especially western audiences, to classify BTS as just another viral trend, giving their music a chance can easily show that they’re so much more than that. Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’ is filled with great songs and an even greater message. Not only is this album a treat for longtime fans, it’s also a great way for new listeners to get to know this wholesome group for their first time with Bangtan.
Still not sold? Then give the album a listen on Spotify. Better yet, see what BTS is all about when the group performs in Chicago as a part of their Love Yourself World Tour. BTS will be performing at United Center on October 2nd and 3rd.