There’s an assumption that living in an iridescent bubble of fame affords BTS the luxury of exploring metaphysics, much like the original boy band, The Beatles, did during the recording of The White Album. But what if we told you that BTS—the wildly popular, immaculately coiffed, ridiculously good-looking, dancing, rapping, and singing K-pop megastars—were already deep thinkers to begin with? Love Yourself was a campaign dedicated to self-acceptance and helped spread BTS mania worldwide. So popular was the message (and its messengers) that in 2018, BTS leader RM addressed the United Nations general assembly on the topic.
On this album, BTS (RM, Jin, V, J-Hope, Jimin, Jungkook, and Suga) ponder the timeless question: Who am I? MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONAreferences one of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s key concepts (in short, “persona” refers to the mask one presents to the world to hide what’s on the inside). The matter of a K-pop group espousing individuality is as complicated as it is tantalizing, yet BTS are the ideal avatars to transport Jungian theories to a young audience. Over insolent rap rock and a “Whole Lotta Love”-style guitar riff, RM takes stock of the personas he’s accumulated over his lifetime on “Intro : Persona.” Like “IDOL,” it serves as a reminder of the band’s commitment to authenticity and transparency.
“Mikrokosmos” and “Jaimais Vu” open up more universes of thought with understated dance pop. And the BTS ARMY has recruited two new cadets: Halsey appears on “Boy with Luv” and kills the hook, while Ed Sheeran has a songwriting credit on “Make It Right” (his “Shape of You” vibe is all over the song). Meanwhile, “HOME” keeps the party going with its slow-rolling “SICKO MODE” feel, and you can practically see the lasers and confetti cannons erupting during “Dionysus.” It’s the album’s rowdy bookend, with thrashy rock, pristine vocals, and hard-in-the-paint raps. MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA shows BTS evolving and exploring who they are—musically and individually. As Jung himself wrote, “Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakes.”