We really didn’t know what to expect from BTS for their comeback this time around. Euphoria seems to have been forgotten as the release seems to have changed from Love Yourself: Wonder to Love Yourself: Tear and the sound we got from the Singularity video and the teasers for Fake Love seemed to be a somewhat at odds with each other. They have had enough solid projects that they are absolutely due for a dud and we felt that this might be it.
But it’s not…it’s so not.
The production of this set, while dark in places, is nicely balanced and gives us some good variation on styles, showing off what the group is capable of doing and the depth of their talent over a beat. We get a little turn up, some heartfelt emotion, some romance, some seduction, and some fun all the space of about 44 minutes. There is a strong emphasis on real instruments this time around and the addition of more woodwinds and guitars adds some classic appeal to their tracks, giving them a lot more staying power in the mind. We are also thrilled that our fear that the group would become a lot less gritty in their beats and song choices have been waylayed thanks to the deep bass that permeates the tracks and the absolute power that is Outro: Tear.
With the release of both Singularity and Fake Love as representatives of the album, one would be forgiven for thinking that this album would hue darker than its predecessor. We are happy to say that this album is actually a lot more balanced than that release ended up being as there are bright spots as well slower moments to make the experience more complete. Honestly, this makes our complaints about Her somewhat prescient as the group seems to have thought the same and made corrections. There is much more attention paid to track sequencing and offering highs and lows for the listener to flow between instead of keeping things at a steady pace. And before anyone says that was a shorter project, the only difference is that there are two skits included there that aren’t here; the projects are about the same length in time and the same length in tracks.
Why did they come with the vocals this time around? Jimin, Jin, V, and Kookie have grown over the years and nowhere has it been more demonstrated than in this project. We are used to the occasional soulful, background run from our Kpop groups, but there are a lot more of those from the lead vocalists this time around. BTS started out as a hip-hop group with some singers in it to give them accessibility to a wider audience. Since then, the vocal line has grown into their own entity and just as capable of carrying a song as the rappers. Nowhere is this more demonstrated than The Untold Story, which might be this group’s first honest-to-goodness Korean-style ballad. The balance between the voices is just as good as it was on Fake Love but, without the rappers to break it up and adding in the background adlibs, you get the full brunt of them bringing the emotional resonance.
Not that we are not living for the rap line this time around. We are thankful to report that our worry that RM would be less prominent in the performances of the tracks was completely eviscerated once we got to track three and progressed. The rapper makes the most of his deeper voice on the more seductive-sounding tracks and brings his unique flow to almost every track after that. We were also impressed with Suga, who brought the flying rap with expertise and really had us making the ugly face on Anpanman. J-Hope manages to hang well with the more expert rappers in the line and shows a marked improvement since Wings/You Never Walk Alone. He brings his A-game on Paradise and really has us hoping for more of that from him in the future. They all have a lot more presence in the grand scheme of the album and sometimes absolutely make the songs work thanks to their energy and confidence.
Again, the album hasn’t been out that long at the time of this review, so the translators haven’t had enough time to really give us everything yet, but we do understand enough to know that their strength in writing has not wavered. This has always been where BTS has stood out against a lot of their contemporaries and predecessors in that they do tend to come with total concepts for albums and their lyrics more often than not stay within that concept and makes sense from beginning to end.
This is an all around much better experience this time compared to their last release. While we didn’t hate it at the time (and still don’t), we have found that we haven’t gone back to it as much as we have their other projects. This is the real introduction to BTS that the wider American audience needs and artistic growth that the Army deserves.
Our favorite tracks are 134340 (Pluto), Paradise, Anpanman, and Outro: Tear. The most skippable track is So What.
Update: We have lyrics for you, courtesy of pop!gasa. Follow the links below the player to see the associated translation.