If BTS fans were left wanting more after the band’s last release, 2019’s Map Of The Soul: Persona, they will feel sated after listening to their seventh full-length album, Map Of The Soul: 7 – the K-pop kings hit us with a gargantuan 20-song track-list, and almost 75 minutes of pop music to devour.
Admittedly, the opening five tracks did feature on the mini-album, but they were certainly strong enough to warrant a place on this record. And in classic BTS fashion, it’s a real mix of styles and moods.
The strongest moments come when they really stretch themselves. Interlude: Shadow creates an ethereal swirl of reverse sounds as Suga raps about the insecurities of the darkness that may come with fame, his voice grippingly unsteady, switching from aggression to deep, spoken word accounts jarringly.
Louder Than Bombs embraces that darkness, with vast reverbs and a punishing chorus from Jimin and Jungkook that comes out of nowhere. “Louder than bombs, I break/All the pain pour out/From the moment I knew/The expression you had on wasn’t that expression/Louder than bombs, I break” paints a post-apocalyptic world reminiscent of Grimes’ new record Miss Anthropocene.
We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal is perhaps their most powerful love song to date, as the soft keyboard chords and sensitive verses from J-Hope give way to a surging EDM explosion as the cry, “We are we are forever!” rings out boldly.
However, where BTS’ erratic genre shifts have felt cohesive for them in the past, 7 shows big disparities as the album progresses. The acoustic-led Latin pop of Filter sounds way too safe and repetitive compared to their usual output, while the mass singalong of Inner Child cranks up both the cheese factor and the vocals, so much so that you’ll wonder whether your speakers can take it. The DJ scratchiness of Outro: Ego and Respect are fun, but lack that clinical edge which is so prevalent in the opening part of this record.
While there are some excellent numbers, on the whole, Map Of The Soul:7 just isn’t as consistent as 2018’s Love Yourself trilogy, and the new songs just don’t live up to the promise of the opening numbers we’d already heard on Persona.