What Map of the Soul: Persona Sounds Like to an ARMY
In which sounds like an invitation to come home.
I have to let this out. Not a fan of the album cover. This is something very trivial and simply a matter of preference, I don’t like fat heart. I sound like an asshole. Anyway, but do you know the cover hides the usual BTS excellency? It’s so much deeper than just a (seemingly) undone fat heart, coordinates, and squares.
Some interesting findings within the fandom about the album cover:
Enough with the theories and the usual mind-blowing intricate concept, it’s never-ending. Let’s just dive in to the music.
I remember what kind of a disorganized mess the review of LY: Tear was presented. This time, I’m going to have track-by-track review and the Spotify link to the song will be embedded along with relevant Tweets related to the song to give more information and context in case you’re a new fan or even a non-fan. Oh, as always, favorite lyrics will be in bold.
When the intro dropped, I was shocked. I was there on the edge of my bed, holding my phone, pausing it every second. I thought I played the wrong song. Worse, I thought BigHit dropped the wrong intro. Turns out, Intro: Persona indeed samples the beats from Intro: Skool Luv Affair (1:33 exactly).
The song delves into the core of our existence as a human, the journey to discover who we are. The previous era, Love Yourself, takes us in a journey to learn how to love, to discover pain while loving, and to make amends with ourselves. This era is the continuation of it. It seems to be taking us in a journey of self-discovery since we finally accept ourselves.
Visually, the MV is a bit peculiar, but as the time goes, I find the peculiarity in the MV is the charm of it. The giant Joon is quite creepy not gonna lie. In the MV we see Namjoon have different clothes, style, and mannerisms, portraying different images of himself. We have Namjoon the environment conscious nature loving boy in his Visvim outer, we have rapper and artist RM, then we have the leader and role model to millions RM in uniform-like blazer, then we have the… giant Namjoon (don’t know what kind of image is this).
Namjoon goes off as always. Though I’m not a fan of his hard hitting rap (I prefer his style in his mixtape, mono), his flow is so natural, it hits at the right moment, the right place with the right amount of emotion. Beats are excellent, perfect for head-bopping, and the chorus is catchy. It stuck in my head ever since it dropped.
Lyrically? Love it. Namjoon proves once again he is a lyrical genius.
Who am I? The question I had my whole life
The question which I probably won’t find an answer to my whole life
If I were answerable with a few mere words
Then God wouldn’t have created all these various beauties
How you feel? How’re you feeling right now?
Being a lyrical genius that he is, Namjoon plays with a politics remark (maybe if you don’t know you can Google pig dog South Korea Na Hyang-Wook) and references a proverb that I think describes perfectly how he’s feeling being in the spotlight. With record-breaking achievements, huge social presence, and a damn strong fandom, the world can’t help but to have expectations and put certain labels on BTS. He tells y’all to slow down and stop imposing things on them.
Someone like me ain’t good enough for music
Someone like me ain’t good enough for the truth
Someone like me ain’t good enough for a calling
Someone like me ain’t good enough to be a muse
The flaws of mine that I know
Maybe that’s all I’ve got really
The world is actually not interested in my clumsiness at all
The ‘me’ that I remember and people know
The ‘me’ that I created myself to vent out
Yeah maybe I have been deceiving myself
Maybe I’ve been lying
But I’m not embarrassed anymore this is the map of my soul
You must never lose your temperature
Cuz you don’t need to be neither warm nor cold
Though I might sometimes be hypocritical or pretend to be evil
This is the barometer of my direction I want to keep
The ‘me’ that I want myself to be
The ‘me’ that people want me to be
The ‘me’ that you love
And the ‘me’ that I create
The ‘me’ that’s smiling
The me that’s sometimes in tears
Vividly breathing each second and every moment even now
Honestly this track has so many references that need to be read and understood so it can be appreciated the way it deserves. You may want to check the notes available on the Genius translation here.
작은 것들을 위한 시 (Boy with Luv)
I’ll tell you frankly
Sometimes I was a little stuck up
Elevated sky, expanded halls
Sometimes I prayed, let me run away
But your pain is my pain
When I realised that, I vowed to myself
With the wings of Icarus you gave me
Not towards the sun but towards you
Let me fly
At first, I’m puzzled why they named it “Boy with Luv” when the direct translation of the Korean title is actually “A Poem for Small Things”. Namjoon did explain that it has a connection with 2014’s “Boy in Luv”. In “Boy in Luv”, he admitted that he sang about love in a childish way, whereas with “Boy with Luv”, he comes to realize that love comes from appreciating small things, hence “A Poem for Small Things”. I prefer “A Poem for Small Things” though, as I’m a sucker for pretty words.
Namjoon didn’t really elaborate what he meant by singing about love in a childish way, but he way I see it, the song has something to do with making things right. With the theme of time travel based on the universe they created (Bangtan Universe) since the beginning of their career, this song could be a redemption to fix what they did wrong in “Boy in Luv”.
In “Boy in Luv”, the boys were portrayed with hypermasculinity image. The girl was slammed against a locker, they treat her like a trophy, and they annoy the girl (remember the outdated saying ‘Well, if a boy annoys you that means he likes you’?). Fast forward to present time, they redeem the mess by shattering all that hypermasculinity shit wearing all pink outfit (the color associated with ‘femininity’), having fun with Halsey, dancing with her, basically including her in their narrative instead of alienating her like an object. I would like to think of this song that way, because I’m so proud. They keep growing and improving themselves. This is solely my own interpretation, though. Note that the video is not labeled as BU (Bangtan Universe) content, so this is truly coming from me not them.
In comparison to “Boy in Luv”, “Boy with Luv” truly illustrates how BTS now has so much love in them and has learned much about being affectionate to themselves and people around them. Cause let’s be honest, 2014 BTS was quite angsty and moody.
The song is glazed with interest and gratitude towards ARMY. As always, they never forget to credit ARMY (the members also confess that the album is indeed a kind of ‘giving-back’ gesture solely dedicated to the fans).
The chorus is so catchy! Aside from “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”, I took quite some time to grasp BTS’ chorus (yes, even I took some time to remember “Fake Love”), but with this song, I could sing it instantly after the first listen. I don’t know much about music genre but people keep saying that it’s funk pop and it’s a mix of pop with retro music. Well, whatever genre this is, it’s definitely a HIT song. It’s so catchy, easy listening for general public, and overall positive happy tunes.
I love the “Listen my my baby…” part wholeheartedly. Especially when Taehyung sings it, combined with the feather-y outfit and his expression. Lethal.
Visually, nothing tops the color of “Spring Day” for me, but this one comes close. The colors are not overwhelmingly vibrant like “DNA” but still bright and pleasing to the eyes. Most importantly, they all look so happy and seem to be enjoying the whole choreography (Hoseok and Taehyung even cracked up while dancing!). I could see that they don’t have to grasp for air at the concert. I don’t think it’s as demanding as “Fake Love”, “Mic Drop”, or “IDOL”.
Before leaving to the next track, it wouldn’t be BTS without hidden concept found by detective ARMYs, would it? Some fun (but gave me goosebumps) ones:
Also look for “Singing in the Rain” references, you’ll be shocked how many things in “Boy with Luv” relate to the movie (pay attention to the dates and the MV length, though).
Oh man, where to begin with this one. I love this one so much.
I love everything about space, moon, stars, galaxy, universe, and the likes. So when I first read it when BigHit dropped the tracklist, I knew I’d love the song. I fell in love more after listening to it.
The beats are very unique, I’d say. I had not heard something quite like it before. It takes time to finally get to know the melody, and I admit it’s difficult song. Difficult to digest, I meant. One perfect word to describe the song: ethereal. If I want to sound pretentious, the word would be mellifluous.
I can’t wait to hear Jimin and Taehyung harmonizing the “You got me, I got you…” part. The 95z duo will show us once again how it’s done beautifully, just like when they harmonized the high note in “Magic Shop”.
If you look at the lyrics, at the surface level it seems like a love song (most of the songs in this album seem look like a love song, but watch… it always goes deeper with BTS). Before diving into its ethereal lyrics, it’s important to know what’s mikrokosmos or microcosm is.
Microcosm: A representation of something on a much smaller scale. Microcosm means “small world” and in the thought of the Renaissance, it was applied specifically to human beings, who were considered to be small-scale models of the universe, with all its variety and contradiction. (dictionary.com)
The starry lights that sparkle
The buildings with the lights that flicker
We’re shining in each of our rooms
At each of our stars
Some lights, ambitious
Some lights, rebellious
All precious, one by one
Basically, we are mikrokosmos. Inside us, there’s this small universe that we need to take care of. We’re our own universe, our own stars. We matter. No matter how tiny our light is, we help lit the the world.
Perhaps the reason the night’s scenery looks so beautiful
Is not because of these stars or the starry lights, but us
One person’s past/history
One person’s individual star
7 billion different worlds
Shining with 7 billion lights
Guys, don’t you feel like they always write the prettiest lyrics? (See Magic Shop’s lyrics)
In today’s Global Press Conference for Map of the Soul: Persona, Hoseok further explained the story of the song — which… (spoiler) makes me love the song even more.
Make It Right
Ed Sheeran helps writing this one. It’s confirmed that Ed Sheeran reached out to BTS first, and since the boys admire him, they agreed right away.
I listened and liked Ed’s old albums (+ and x), the ones before he’s known to be “romantic wedding songwriter specialist” that he is today. Knowing his current music direction, I was quite skeptical about the collab. I had questions like… “Will it be bland?”, “Will it be repetitive?”, and so on.
The track is catchy. No doubt. It’s easy listening, but it falls flat to me. The beats are alright, nothing groundbreaking. Is it because of the opening tune is already repetitive or maybe it’s just too… Ed? The lyrics for sure are BTS’ territory, but the melody… I don’t know, I can feel Ed’s presence throughout the song. I’m pretty sure it’s the repetitive background music.
Vocal line and Hoseok’s rap-sing verse totally save the song. Excellent falsetto by Jungkook, Jimin belting the notes per usual, the harmonization right before the chorus between Jin-Jungkook then Taehyung-Jimin-Jungkook *chef’s kiss*.
The song seems to follow the narrative of Bangtan Universe in which the highlight of the whole storyline is how Jin tries to make things right. It’s layered with gratitude to the fans who have helped them, but at the same time feeling aimless despite the success they’ve been gaining.
Crossing deserts and seas,
I wandered aimlessly
Across the wide, wide world
This eternal night with no end in sight
It’s you who gifted me the morning
I, who was uninvited,
was recognized by one person
Obviously talking about how the fans are the ones who recognize and understand them.
A little taller than I was before
With a voice a little more solid
All of this to go back to you
Now I’ll spread wide a map called you
Look at me, why can’t you recognize me?
I don’t want to hear other people’s noises
Your fragrance still penetrates and breaks me down
Let’s go back to that time
OK. Here comes the long-awaited genre that I miss from BTS, R&B. On the first listen with my friends, I literally jumped off of my seat. I did not expect “HOME” to be a hoe song, and I live for hoe song.
My favorite tracks of BTS are mostly R&B based, such as “Converse High”, “24/7=Heaven”, “Miss Right”, “I Like It”, “Love is Not Over”, “134340”, “Autumn Leaves”, “Butterfly”, “dimple”, and of course “Serendipity”. From 2017, my ultimate hoe song had been “Serendipity”, but now that “HOME” is here… it may replace “Serendipity”, but will it?
“HOME” is announced as a fan song. Knowing that BTS has always been so sentimental with fan songs, I expected moving lyrics with soft beats (although the previous fan song, “Magic Shop” is EDM based, but its lyrics my friends… overrule the genre). “HOME” takes a different route, it’s a baby making song.
We’re welcomed with Namjoon’s monologue, then it proceeds with beats that invite body rolls. It’s old school R&B at its best.
“Magic Shop” = BTS, “HOME” = ARMY. When ARMY is tired, go to “Magic Shop”, and when BTS is tired, they go to “HOME”. Outside, the boys are superstars, but when they’re tired, they just want to go to ARMY and be comfortable, without their personas.
Crazy for myself
As if everything would be possible when I opened the door
As if I was going to show everyone an example to follow
It’s like the more I fill it, the more it becomes empty
The more people I’m with, the more I feel alone
Half-closed eyes, a sleepless night
A place where you are
That’s probably mi casa
With you imma feel rich
That very place is mi casa
Even without talking, it’s comfortable
As long as you’re there, anywhere everywhere becomes my home
You know I want that
You know you got that
Not exactly a touching sappy sad fan song that BTS always made, but this is growth. I’m tired of them feeling sorry towards us. I want them to be happy and celebrate it with us, and that’s why “HOME” holds a special place in me.
Jamais Vu often describes as the opposite of deja vu in which someone doesn’t recognize the ordinary or familiar things/people.
A SUBUNIT SONG. LEGEND. I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH YOU DONT EVEN KNOW.
A magical soul R&B song with strong vocal performance from Jin and Jungkook accompanied with rap verses from Hoseok. The magic of 94z production, thank you Namjoon and Hoseok.
Not complaining about anything but I admit that the sudden change into “Please give me a…” part somehow feels a bit awkward? Like it’s being forced in a hurry. Especially in the opening/first verse with minimal instrumental, it’s quite obvious, but in the next verses, I have anticipated and there are more instrumentals, hence the transition is quite smooth.
The song yet again follows the storyline of Bangtan Universe. Jin keeps waking up on April 11th to save the rest of the boys. The term jamais vu illustrates it perfectly since Jin basically goes on loop and repeats so many events, yet it always feels like the first time.
I’m okay but I’m not okay
Though I told myself saying I was used to it,
it hurts every time as if it’s the first time
If we strip the Bangtan Universe away from the song, the song tells a story about not giving up on life despite the falls.
I think I’ve lost again
You look mad
An illusory blur game over, over, over
If this was just a game
I could just load it again
But I guess gotta deal with it
Deal with this, real world
It’d be better if this was just a game
Because it hurts too much
I need to heal, my medic
But I’m another star
I blame myself for not being perfect
Brake in my head, brake in my step
Please give me a remedy, a melody
A memory that will remain with me
If I, at this point, stop
And turn it off, everything would become more comfortable
The exact line above is so powerfully scary — the thought of “switching ourselves off” easily to feel at ease.
The biggest shocker out of all songs in the album. I did not expect this at all. Well, I kinda know Dionysus would be the hype song, but the degree of the hype was unknown.
Honestly, on the first listen, I hated it. Like… I didn’t get it, at all. No melody, just chaos in my ears. I thought it’s gonna be the “So What” in this album for me. But guess who’s Dionysus’s bitch now? Me. Boo boo the fool.
I know nothing about rock music. I even thought “Dionysus” is a metal genre. All I know is… Hoseok’s writing and producing skills, Namjoon’s opening, Jin’s perfect screaming and Yoongi’s verse are the backbones of this track.
At a glance, the lyrics seem to be a simple party madness song, but try Google about Dionysus, the gay Greek god who’s also the god of wine, harvest (grapes), art (mainly theater), parties, and madness. You’d be surprised how genius the lyrics are. It’s necessary to read explanation from translators because BTS uses metaphors, wordplays, and analogies in this banging track.
It is told that Dionysus can put people in trance with his wine and art (aren’t those like totally BTS things? You can’t tell me otherwise). Dionysus is kinda an outcast because he’s different from the other Olympian gods. Dionysus’ mother is actually a mortal *gasp*. So, an outcast gay god who can put people in trance because of his wine and art? TELL ME THAT THIS IS NOT BTS IN A NUTSHELL?
As always at the end of the review, here’s my personal ranking for this album:
3. Boy with Luv, Dionysus
6. Make It Right
I’ve read many reviews and I got to admit I have to agree on some critics. I’m proud the fandom has matured, and didn’t shoot the critics right away. However, I don’t really think of reviews. They’re just like public’s opinions of the boys, some get them, some don’t and we move on.
Like for example, Pitchfork states that the album looks to the past so much despite the band is moving forward.
The biggest K-pop group in the world try to move their sound forward but spend too much time leaning on their past.
I won’t put this into heart. After all, we as fans, know that this album is about their self-reflection, hence the nostalgic feeling, looking back at the past, and it’s dedicated to us — telling exclusive stories about our bond with BTS. If outsiders don’t get the album, it’s simply beause they’re not invited to the party.