BTS’ much-anticipated Map of the Soul: 7 arrived with a bangin’ lead single paired with a powerful message. If you count the Japanese releases, it marks the seventh full-length album for the group, but of even greater significance is that BTS is heading into their seventh anniversary as a team! Seems like the perfect time for a look back from the beginning to now and how their lives have undoubtedly changed since their debut.
Map of the Soul: 7 already broke the preorder record prior to its release, earning the top spot over any other Korean artist with over 4 million copies sold. In fact, every position in the Top 5 belongs to BTS, including albums Map of the Soul: Persona, Love Yourself: Answer, Love Yourself: Tear, and Love Yourself: Her.
With Lucky Number 7 on their side, this phenomenal project is a beautiful milestone for BTS that’s chock-full of heart and meaning; making points on love, loss, and a society that could stand to chill.
Whether you’ve been streaming the album all day or you’re waiting for a moment to fully immerse yourself, here are seven things to LOVE about BTS’ Map of the Soul: 7:
Though BTS released three tracks before the lead single, “ON” steps up to the plate ready to fight and win. Backed by marching band-rich instrumentals, this hip-hop track lets every member of the group shine, playing up their individual strengths and styles. In line with the overall intent of the album, which is to come face-to-face with your shadow, the lyrics get real and are ultimately clear in their determination. Scared? Do it anyway. Shaky? Do it anyway. Nervous? Do it anyway.
The best way to overpower your darkness is to lock yourself in with it, pushing forward with your light until both sides become one YOU. So often we try to distance ourselves from the things that we perceive as weak, especially fear. “ON” demands that we wrangle what we’re afraid of that’s holding us back — our darkness — and channel that energy into freedom.
2. AN ARTIST’S WORK
BTS has always been as open as possible about their struggles: in youth, in society, in relationships, and as artists. Upon the release of “Black Swan,” this became extremely apparent as the track unmasked the internal struggle when passion runs dry. Before that, “Interlude: Shadow” illustrated the price of fame, that feeling of losing pieces of yourself as you gain more notoriety, and wondering what happens if you fall from such heights. What’s there to catch you? Jungkook’s new R&B solo, “My Time,” is a bittersweet look into the life of a twenty-something young man who had to grow up faster than others his age due to his profession, examining how much he’s missed and questioning when his moment for those experiences will come.
While BTS has certainly provided insight to the ups and downs of careers as entertainers on other tracks such as “IDOL,” “MIC Drop,” and their series of cyphers; Map of the Soul: 7 exposes the underbelly, the insecurities that we don’t speak aloud so that we don’t give them more power to consume us. Creating art in itself is a vulnerable act, and for BTS to share with us their shadows amidst their giant spotlight, it’s a grounding message of: We see you, we’re with you, we may be far apart, but trust us, we understand.
3. THE GROWTH OF A GROUP
Now approaching seven years since their June 2013 debut, BTS shows that they have no plans to cut ties with their past, tucking away the fact it will always be a part of them that helped shape the group into who they are today. The concept is even built into the music as Map of the Soul tracks take samples from songs in earlier eras: “Intro: Persona” and “Intro: Skool Luv Affair” (Skool Luv Affair, 2014); “Interlude: Shadow” and “Intro: O! RUL8,2” (O!RUL8,2?, 2013); and “Outro: Ego” and “Intro: 2 Kool 4 Skool” (2 Kool 4 Skool, 2013).
Over the years, fans have been able to watch the BTS members blossom into what now seems to be the truest versions of themselves, showing growth in confidence, knowledge, and skill under the watchful gaze of the public eye. The boys have hardly been shy when it comes to speaking up against societal prejudice through their music, but it hits differently now that they have more experience and age behind them. Though ARMY is made up of a diverse range of ages, ethnicities, genders, and nationalities, the relatability of the group and their music has earned them widespread appeal. Coming from a small company with no backing from major entities, it’s always been BTS and their fandom growing up together, with the group’s journey of overcoming hardships endearing them to hearts all over the world.
4. KINETIC MANIFESTO FILM: COME PRIMA
The music video for “ON” arrives in the form of the Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima, in which BTS performs alongside dancers from The Lab Creative Arts Studio and the Blue Devils marching band. It’s a fierce and empowering visual against a minimal backdrop, creating an image of solidarity and rebellion. The band on the track is put into full use in the video, complete with eye-catching line formations and a choreographed drum sequence featuring BTS themselves.
It’s hard to not feel the fire coursing through your veins watching the film as every individual comes together in defiance. In five minutes, the video gives all seven BTS members their moment in the sun, provides excellent cinematography with the help of drones to capture every line change, and includes a hard-hitting dance break from the Boys With Luv. The group has channeled this energy before, but this is the most powerful they’ve ever looked, commanding movements that shift from aggressively firm displays of agility to fluid body rolls in counts of eight. As they face the camera over and over again, there’s no question that BTS is issuing a challenge; daring to be crossed and ready to take on whatever gets in their way.
A second music video for “ON” was released on February 28; followed by BTS gallivanting around New York on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon before they hit the road with The Late Late Show with James Corden for Carpool Karaoke.
5. THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Map of the Soul: 7 isn’t all shadows and struggle, there’s a lot of love in it, too! The members openly share their love for one another and their love for their fans, and they really tug at the heartstrings on this album. “Louder than bombs,” a hauntingly beautiful song co-written by singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, tackles the pain of love, heartache, and holding on through the storm. Shifting gears from the sea to the stars, “Moon” is a love song to ARMY sung by Jin while Jimin’s Latin-inspired solo, “Filter” is far more seductive in nature, putting a different lens on heartfelt expression. “Friends,” a duet between Jimin and V is the song to dedicate to our BFFs that we all need, unmistakably solidifying the soulmate bond.
Something to admire about BTS is that they’ve always painted various shades of love and affection into each of their albums. In an industry where romance is often front and center, they don’t forget to showcase that the heart speaks in many forms. Throughout their discography, they express the love of your family to the love your first passion to the love between friends to the love of their fellow group-mates and beyond; as shown in the finale to the “We Are Bulletproof” series, “We Are Bulletproof: the Eternal.” Significantly different from the previous rap-heavy tracks of the trio, it’s a tender reminder that while BTS started as seven — with ARMY, they’re infinite.
6. LOVE YOURSELF, KNOW YOURSELF
Where the Love Yourself era focused on different facets of love from love for another person to love for yourself, the Map of the Soul era encourages listeners to grant themselves grace and understanding as indicated in tracks “00:00,” V’s solo “Inner Child,” and “Outro: Ego.” It also continues BTS’ message of speaking up for what you believe in, as demonstrated in “UGH!” and “Respect,” both songs pushing back against a society with questionable practices and demanding, obviously, R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
To know yourself is to love yourself as shown through BTS’ discography. They’ve always spoken about life and experiences that they know, so it’s not much of a surprise that their journeys to self-love have become interwoven in the storyline carried in their music. Having to fight to be taken seriously is a burden of youth that the group knows all too well. But as the road to self-discovery is never-ending, there’s been no rush to grow up faster artistically, and it’s that steady pace that’s led to major inspirational movements by both the boys and their fans.
7. MAP OF THE SOUL HITS THE ROAD
BTS had plans to take this album on tour, but Due to the events of 2020, Map of the Soul: 7 unfortunately couldn’t travel the globe as planned. However, fans were treated to performances from the album at BANG BANG CON The Live and the virtual concert Map of the Soul ON:E.
Having witnessed Wings, and attended both Love Yourself and Speak Yourself concerts, it’s hard to imagine what will possibly be revealed the next time BTS is able to tour again, but we look forward to the magic they’ll bring.