Alright, it's only Friday and usually the album reviews are withheld for Mondays, but this album release feels like no other. Over the past half a decade, K-Pop group BTS have exploded into fame and now, it's fair to say, they have achieved world domination. The Western awards shows may shamefully try to deny it, but BTS are the biggest pop group in the world currently, and deservedly so. This meant that, despite the release of Ozzy Osbourne's new album - which will be reviewed on Monday - there was just nothing else to write about today.
Their incredible success has inspired legions of devoted fans who are referred to as the 'BTS Army', and perhaps this is why I'm feeling an amount of pressure going into this review that I never have before. Never before have I reviewed a new album by a band with such a huge and devoted set of fans, so reviewing the record actually feels quite daunting.
Thankfully, 20 songs later, I can confirm that this is one Heck of an album. Map of the Soul 7 is a journey full of emotion, passion and quality, with BTS showing their talent and versatility throughout. Very rarely do two songs, at least back-to-back, fit into the same genre. The album takes influence from Hip-Hop, Trap, Indie, and pop and rock genres - a much wider variety than can be said for most other pop artists.
It's a consistent record, with shallow peaks and troughs rather than sharp spikes. It blazes out of the gates, with RM's rap-rock fusion song 'Intro : Persona' subverting my expectations from the first moment, making it a strong, exciting track to open the record with. The follow-up, 'Boy With Luv', features Halsey (though she's a tad underused) and features shades of Ava Max's 'Sweet But Psycho' with an almost identical "oh my my my" peppered throughout. Nevertheless, it's a fun bop and it's difficult to come out of the other side of it without smiling.
There are some slight negatives to the album so let's just get them out of the way. Some of the solo tracks - Jimin's 'Filter', Jungkook's 'My Time', V's 'Inner Child' and Jin's indie-pop 'Moon' - are fun but just a bit underwhelming. They're not bad by any stretch, and the performers all nail it, but it's diificult not to feel that BTS are better as a whole. Additionally, 'Make It Right' was co-written by Ed Sheeran and, quite simply, you can tell. It's full of Sheeran's style and though the group do their best with it, it isn't one of the stronger efforts on the record.
It's good, then, that there ARE plenty of stronger efforts. Whether it be 'Black Swan', 'Respect', J-Hope's 'Outro : Ego' (the main melody of which sounds like an off-brand version of Major Lazer's 'Light It Up') or the inspirational 'Louder Than Bombs' (this one co-written by Troye Sivan), BTS show time and time again just why they are currently sitting at the top of the music tree. The diversity of the songs ensure that you never get bored, a useful tool to have if you're capable of it and it's this adaptability that set BTS apart from their peers.
Gun to my head, though, and I'd pick out 'Dionysus', 'ON' and 'UGH!' as the absolute cream of the crop. 'Dionysus' is BTS at their best, full of all the swagger, confidence and power that a band like them definitely should have. 'ON', a version of which they did with Sia, is simply an excellent song, and though it isn't the most unique song on the album, it's one that stays with you long after it has finished. (This one also features a familiar section, with the pre-chorus featuring an "oh na na na" very similar to that of Nina Nesbitt's 'Colder').
'UGH!' is the deepest they dive into the Trap genre, even utilising the auto-tune sound that comes with the genre, something they certainly don't need. Ironically, it's an angry song about anger, about how rage is currently the primary mood of the human race. It's a testament to their performances that this feeling of anger comes through, despite the fact that most of us don't speak Korean. In fact, if the translations are anything to go by than their lyric game is generally strong, though 'UGH!' certainly tops the lot.
This may be my longest album review to date, but that's just down to the length of the album, with Map of the Soul 7 encompassing 20 songs - plus additional extras on the enhanced edition - that span more than an hour. That being said, it never gets dull and though it's a long album, none of the individual songs outstay their welcome.
So, is it a good album? Short answer: yes. In fact, it's a great album and one that will do no harm to their current status as pop Gods. Whether you're a fan from the very early days - and if so, there's a sequel to a song all the way from 2013 on here - or have just recently jumped aboard the train, there's no doubt that this will only fuel that passion. "I wanna be the top" says Suga on 'Interlude : Shadow', the strongest of the solo tracks. "I wanna be the king." Well, Suga, you're part of BTS so you're already there, and with this record it can be safely assumed that there is where you will stay.