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By Billboard

It’s been 10 months since the release of last April's Billboard 200 chart-topping Map of the Soul: Persona EP, and now BTS is back with Map of the Soul: 7.Out Friday (Feb. 21), the act's fourth LP expands on the themes introduced last year, and spends its 20 tracks ruminating on the duality of the light and dark elements of the band's seven years together.

Beginning with five songs featured on Persona, including RM's "Intro: Persona" and “Boy with Luv” featuring Halsey, the first original Map of the Soul: 7 song arrives in the form of Suga’s solo track “Interlude: Shadow” and the pre-album-release single “Black Swan,” both of which were released earlier this year -- and introduced the introspective themes of the album through atmospheric hip-pop that lyrically delved into both the individual and the act’s relationship with their craft.

Following the pair of pre-releases is the Latin pop flair of “Filter,” Jimin’s solo track, through which the vocalist mellifluously reflects on the different sides, or personas, to himself that he puts forth to the world and those around him. It’s followed by Jungkook’s “My Time,” a breezy tune that kicks off with gritty guitar strings, adding in a bit of rock flare before turning towards chill, ambient R&B-meets-pop instrumentals. On the aptly-named track, the 22-year-old explores how his life has been like something straight out of a movie, growing up in the spotlight as the youngest member of BTS.

The Troye Sivan co-penned “Louder Than Bombs”' arrives off of the high of Jungkook’s track, returning with all seven members. The song proves to be up an angst-filled, bass-fronted smooth tune that is almost devotional in the way it features BTS asserting that their words and their music is able to overpower the force of the titular explosives, ending with a promise to sing eternally for their listener.

Then there's lead single “ON," with BTS reveling in the pain and shadows that accompany the light that they’ve encountered over the seven years of their career since their debut with their 2 Cool 4 Skool EP in June 2013, thriving through the hardships as well as the good moments. The exhilarating, declarative tune -- which inverts the title of their early single “N.O” -- is like a call to arms, prominently putting forth dramatic, marching band-style drums as a driving force of the song as it evolves with each and every verse, incorporating anachronistic elements like choral harmonies and trap beats to create an experiential track full of empowering, energetic moments.

“UGH!” follows the single, featuring the three rappers of BTS -- RM, Suga, and J-Hope -- as the forcefully take on their haters in the style they have in past albums on cypher tracks and through fan-favorite “Ddaeng.” Resonating with fury, the trio deliver ferocious raps about the way anger fuels further negative actions and words, bolstered by turbulent strings, gunshot effects, and plinking synths as they express their disgust.

The counterpart track "00:00 (Zero O'Clock)," that features the vocalists -- Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, and V -- is almost whimsical in the way it comes on the heels of the aggression of “UGH!” As the quartet effusively sings about how happiness can come as the clock strikes midnight, BTS’ harmonious vocals are on full display, soaring over the lilting soft-pop tune, promising up the repeated declaration of, “And you gonna be happy,” as it comes to an end.

V’s “Inner Child” is a sweeping, soaring track full of celestial metaphors, through which the deep-toned vocalist effusively sings about how change comes, singing to his past self about how the difficulties of the past metamorphosed to something great. It leads into “Friends,” a cheery anthem for V and Jimin, through which they share their deep friendship with the world, exploring how they’re soulmates who thrive in their differences and through their times together. Jimin also co-wrote the jocular track.

The bright tone of “Friends” keeps the album’s momentum moving in Jin’s “Moon,” an upbeat, clap-happy pop-rock tune through which the vocalist gracefully, gratefully, expresses his love for ARMY, equating BTS’ fans with the the earth to his light-sharing "Moon.” The poetic nature of his dedication to ARMY resonates throughout the tune as relayed through his expressive delivery, highlighting the bond between BTS and their fans.

“Respect,” the second duet on the album, arrives featuring Suga and RM as they direct audiences to put their hands in the air like they don’t care, serving up old-school beats as they call out for people to thoughtfully think about the idea of “Respect.” The song recalls the earliest days of BTS’ career, when this sort of tune filled their albums, and notably ends with a conversation by the duo, with Suga reverting to his native dialect, or satoori, which the act predominantly featured in early tracks such as “Ma City” and “Paldogangsan.”

Here, they discuss “Respect,” with him ending on the note that English is hard. Nodding back to their past, their present, and their dominance on the world stage as Korean, and Korean-speaking, artists.

Already diverting into their past on many of the songs, BTS emphasize the meaning behind the album’s title heartily in the final duo of tracks, “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” and J-hope’s “Outro: Ego,” referencing the very earliest days of the act's career. The former serves as a euphoric sequel to “We are Bulletproof, Pt. 2” that was featured on their debut album, and preceded by a pre-debut initial version, and the latter, the pre-released funky “Ego” incorporating the very first intro of BTS’ debut album, 2 Cool 4 Skool.

For longterm and new listeners alike, there’s a sense of nostalgia and weight to these tracks, with “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal” poignantly expressing how BTS -- which is known as “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in Korean -- is not only seven, but have become larger than just themselves and eternal because of love and support of their listeners. “EGO” arrives to lay everything to rest, almost as if simultaneously closing the book on the seven years of BTS so far, be remixing their very first album, and boisterously singing about how Map of the Soul is his ego, joyously ending off the album that is a true celebration of everything that BTS has accomplished in their first seven years together.

While the 19 track perusal of the map of BTS’ soul came to completion with “Outro: Ego,” digital copies of the album end off with a second version of “ON,” this time featuring Sia, who arrives to add her own rousing addition to the single.

Fulfilling in its look back on BTS' seven years together and overall optimistic in facing both past and future shadows, Map of the Soul: 7 is a bright sonic soundscape; a celebration of everything that BTS has become. Lastly, it is rife with potential regarding whatever comes their way in the future.

Take a listen to BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7 below.


Billboard

Billboard is the world's most influential music media brand reaching key executives and tastemakers in and around the music business through Billboard Magazine, Billboard.biz, Billboard Conferences, Billboard Bulletin, and other targeted newsletters,...

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