- Last episode, I talked about the wy white women in the Rey/Kylo fandom were going all out to portray John Boyega as a misogynistic monster for an Instagram comment milder (and far less misogynistic) than their usual fare
- Listening to this before March 1? If you’re a BTS fan in the US, head on over to my twitter and enter a giveaway to win a copy of the album!
- The project I refer to a few times in this is an ongoing essay project on blackness and antiblackness in Korean pop and hip hop and their fandom spaces.
- Wisha on Twitter
- Do You Bangtan
- Doolsetbangtan on Twitter
- A really interesting commentary film that BigHit put out for the album that shows some of the talent that goes into crafting this and how BTS has influenced unexpected people across their journey.
- Stick around because I’ll try to have a bonus featuring my BTS nieceling’s thoughts on the album and our thoughts on the official music video for ON ASAP.
(Not a 1:1 match with the audio as I did go off script a few times and might not have caught them all.)
Regular readers and listeners know that complaining is my love language. The first two episodes of Stitch Talks Ish probably proved that considering that that’s like what… over an hour of me complaining across the episodes?
But we’re breaking from the trend with the third episode of my series where in I give into the urge to get downright obnoxious on main about all things BTS following the release of their seventh studio album (fourth if you’re only counting the Korean ones). Map of the Soul: 7.
If you’ve managed to miss everything I’ve been going through for… what I want to say is a year and a half edging close to two years if you count the offline fandom-ing I’ve been doing – I’ve spent a lot of my time talking and thinking a lot about Korean popular culture. Like I will keep my foot on the Star Wars fandoms’ throats until the damn fandom stops being shitty, but in the rest of my time?
Well… I’ve been k-popping.
(Look, y’all know that I’m a cheesy mess at best and I needed to get that out.)
I was around for BTS’ last big release, April 2019’s Map of the Soul: Persona, a seven-track EP that flipped the switch for me from being a casual fan that liked the music but wasn’t invested to someone that literally won’t shut up about BTS.
This is an aside but like… understand that people at my day job send me tweets and links to articles about the group because it’s kind of the one indulgence I’ve allowed myself when it comes to letting the people I work with know that I am a person outside of the office.
Everything this comeback doesn’t just seem larger, it is larger in terms of the impact that the build-up from Big Hit about this comeback has had on the fandom, the artists themselves, and the media worldwide but also… on me.
Last year, I only ordered one copy of the CD. I decided that I’d go to Target to pick up the other versions and just hope for the best when it came to hopefully getting photocards of my bias, Kim Namjoon.
(I should’ve figured out that I was made for excess in this fandom considering that like a week after the CD came out, I was in a Korean pop culture store in Virginia with a selection of K-Pop merchandise buying two more copies of Persona to go with the three I’d already bought by then. Oof.)
I’ve bought eight.
Two are for the niecelings and two are for giveaway purposes and I’d actually planned for it, but I definitely am sitting here waiting for that notification from Big Hit to let me know that my CDs have actually shipped because I got all four versions for myself.
My secondary love language is “spending money on things” and it’s unfortunately a very capitalistic way of showing my interest in something or my affection for someone. And because I really love BTS, all but two of my bigger purchases that weren’t food were related to them.
Hence the four albums for myself.
Anyway, this is going to be a supremely celebratory episode of Stitch Talks Ish around Map of the Soul: 7 that talks about my thoughts on the different songs across the album, the videos for the ones that have them, and my overall feelings about the group and the fandom around this comeback.
Across this episode, when I bring up any translated lyrics or interesting notes about the context, I’ll be referring to fan translator wisha’s translations on Do You Bangtan or the translations from Doolsetbangtan who’s known on reddit as diminie. I’ll link to what user I use in the transcript section for each song because they sometimes go back and update the translations once they’ve sat with the songs a bit more so the meaning can absolutely shift across time for each translator.
Alright so, I hope you’re ready because I’m going to give y’all my all!
The first five tracks on Map of the Soul: 7 were originally from the 2019 EP Map of the Soul: Persona. That the album was at the top of my most played list on Spotify for last year shows just how many times I listened to it, but since I didn’t go over the EP when it came out, I’ll spend some time on each song that reappears on 7 instead of leapfrogging ahead.
First up is Intro: Persona.
Written by Hiss noise, RM, and PDogg and produced by Hiss noise, this introduction was my second favorite song on Map of the Soul: Persona and it remains one of my favorite songs period. If you’re new to uh… any of this, I am incredibly feral for BTS’ rapline. Think Romulus and Remus raised by wolves before going on to build Rome and engage in a little bit of fratricide. Not… necessarily in that order.
But I get extra feral for RM, one of my actual favorite rappers period, and Persona just heightens that. I remember the first time that I saw the music video and how it was pretty much the only thing I could think of for days because the combination of the video’s imagery, RM’s aesthetic – he looks so good with blond hair, y’all -, the way that he delivers his verses with conviction, and the deeply introspective lyrics –
I’m looking at Wisha’s translation and I think it’s incredible to see RM’s struggle with who he is across the song. Starting from the beginning where he literally asks that question of “who am I” and him talking about the different “mes” that simultaneously exist on some level –
The ‘me’ that I want to be,
the ‘me’ that the people want
The ‘me’ that you love
and the ‘me’ that I craft
The ‘me’ that’s smiling,
and sometimes the ‘me’ that’s crying
Living, breathing, every minute, every moment even now
It’s so easy to forget that people – not just celebrities, but like… obviously he’s one – are multifaceted and we’re seeing part of people at every step of the way. We exist as ourselves, plural, imperfect, and in progress and that’s really what I find myself fixating on for this song.
Again, it’s still really high up at the top when it comes to BTS’s latest releases.
Up next is “Boy With Luv” featuring my wife Halsey. This song, the lead single for last year’s EP, was produced by Pdogg and written by Pdogg, RM, Melanie Joy Fontana, Michel “Lindgren” Schulz, “hitman” bang, SUGA, Emily Weisband, j-hope, and Ashley Frangipane
I love love songs.
I also really fucking love Halsey.
So “Boy With Luv” – with a Korean title that diminie over on doolsetbangtan notes can be translated as “a poem for small things” was kind of guaranteed to be a song I loved off the bat. The main video is absolutely at the top of my BTS releases because I love the bright colors and cheery feel, but the song itself is just –
Almost a year later and I still haven’t found a song that fills me with the same kind of joy that “Boy With Luv” does. It balances this bright and downright peppy sound and feel with lyrics that are gentle and tender, these boys full of love for ARMY and wanting to make it clear that they want nothing more than that love.
I think I’ve seen every single recorded performance of this song that’s on YouTube and if y’all remember my general refusal to rewatch most things, the fact that I’ve done this for this song (and for Dionysus) says volumes about how much I love the energy that they bring to this performance every single time.
There are songs that just make your day and Boy With Luv is one of those songs. It’s absolute delight in three minutes and forty-nine seconds. I literally cannot get tired of this song. I’ve tried to see if I could fall out of love with this song due to overexposure and all that happens is that I sing along as best as I can. Every single time.
Love is nothing stronger
Than a boy with luv
Ten out of ten, will listen to it again.
Up next is Make It Right which was produced by FRED and written by Fred Gibson, Ed Sheeran, Benjy Gibson, Jo Hill, RM, SUGA, and j-hope
I actually don’t have a ton to say about this song, but only because it wound up being the only song on the EP I managed to get burnt out on. They’ve done a few different versions, right? And I just found myself… kind of tired of it in a way that I didn’t expect as someone that listens to “War of Hormone” at least once a day.
It’s a good song, don’t get me wrong. My beef with the song is literally that I got tired of it way faster than I thought I ever could for a BTS song. Therefore, it’s personal and not a problem with the song itself.
Highlights of the track for me are vocal line belting out their best. I mean I am marginally less feral for BTS’s vocal line but like… I’m still very fucking feral for them. Geez.
I think I also really still love j-hope’s verse in the track. Not – “I Think”. I know. I know I love his verse. It’s so good. Sometimes for me he falters a bit when it comes to his verses because I have become a Rap Snob, but he’s so good here. He’s so solid.
Like honestly, even the BTS songs I don’t flat out love are really high up on my playlists so like… ether I’m easy to please or they make really good music. Y’all get to decide.
Up next is Jamais Vu which was produced by Arcades, Bad Milk, and Marcus McCoan. This song was written by Marcus McCoan, Owen Robers, Matty Thomson, Max Lynedoch Graham, James F Reynolds, RM, j-hope, and “hitman” bang.
Jamais Vu is a subunit song between Jin, J-hope, and Jungkook and y’all… it’s really good.
Really fucking incredible.
In her translation, Wisha quotes the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of jamais vu which says the words describe “a disorder of memory characterized by the illusion that the familiar is being encountered for the first time”
And I think the feel that this song inspires, like I’m hearing something again even though it’s familiarity isn’t from another group but rather the emotions inspired by it… match up with the definition.
Also like… is this song about gaming? Or love? Or both?
I really like solo and subunit songs across BTS’ career because it gives us innovative and interesting voice combinations. I’m not out here ranking subunits – and in a world where I haven’t gotten my mini-moni subunit with Jimin and RM, I can’t – but if I was? This is one of my favorite subunits we’ve gotten so far, topped only (maybe) by RM and SUGA on Respect later on in the CD just because I remain fantastically feral for rapline in all its combinations.
Now we’re at the last song on Map of the Soul: 7 that’s from Persona and my favorite song from the previous EP… Dionysus. This song was produced by Pdogg and written by Pdogg, j-hope, Supreme Boi, RM, SUGA, and Roman Campolo.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need y’all to know that I love Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy – in an emotional and euphoric sense. Basically, he’s a divine presence known for getting down and he’s one of the pettiest and prettiest immortals out there. I keep a shrine to Dionysus on my dresser because he’s been such a consistently formative figure in my little life.
I love Dionysus.
I love this song.
I love the choreography.
The first time I saw the choreography, I made the kind of noise that uh… you ‘d probably hear from a goat that’s tired of existing. Or if you’re watching reruns of the Vicar of Dibley and you’re watching that one episode where the titular character kind of baaah like a sheep over Richard Armitage.
In her translation of the lyrics, Wisha points out that this is a song that uses Korean wordplay (particularly the similarities between sool, Korean for alcohol, and yesool, artistry, in her explanation) to work together in an extended metaphor of drinking and artistry. As I’m a fan of drinking and creating… this song was pretty much made for me.
I actually want to get some of the lyrics for this song tattooed on my body this year – like on my arm – because I have hit a threshold I can’t come back from with BTS and this song. But it speaks to me as someone who’s been maenad-lite for Dionysus for about a decade and whose love of BTS is honestly, almost as strong and will hopefully last as long.
This song speaks to the artist in me, but also the alcohol connoisseur.
Which is why it’s still definitely super high at the top of my list even with all of the incredible new songs from this new album!
Next, we’ve got Suga on Interlude: Shadow which was written by SUGA, GHSTLOOP, EL CAPITXN, Pdogg, RM and produced by SUGA, GHSTLOOP, and EL CAPITXN.
While you should absolutely check out the music video for Interlude: Shadow, go into it knowing that the track on the album is a bit longer thanks to an additional verse. I think that when you look at like the lyrics on doolsetbangtan, in relation to the music video itself, you get this greater understanding of what you’re seeing and what Suga is referring to by his shadow.
Oh, and a thing I found interesting here is like…
This album contains a ton of references to BTS’ earlier work as a group as well as in solo projects or external collaborations such as where in this song, Suga uses the metaphor – translated on doolsetbangtan – as “that leap can be my fall” and prior to that, we heard it in SUGA’s Interlude on my wife Halsey’s Manic. This is one of several tracks across the album to be a direct callback to older work either via sampling or from reused metaphors.
So you have that reference to the fall, but also one to Suga’s desire for a “big house, big cars, big rings” from No More Dream that was also referenced in “Home” from last year’s EP –
Isn’t it something like this that you wanted
The life you wished for, the life you wanted,
The life you chose, you achieved everything with no regrets
On top of that, you have a big house, big cars, big rings
You have everything you wanted
Then what’s the problem, enjoy
For a bunch of ridiculously wealthy (probably) celebrities, BTS remains relatable. For me, Suga’s struggles with success and with achieving what he wants and just having a Bad Fucking Brain sometimes is one of the most relatable aspects of his public persona that he puts into his music. Like we should be happy is what our brains tell us. We’ve got everything we wanted and that we thought we’d be happy with and yet –
So much of Suga’s songs speak to me because they manage to capture some of the hardest parts of our lives to express and Interlude Shadow is no joke.
(Also, as with Persona, y’all know I’m fucking feral for BTS’ rapline so it’s in my bones that I loved this song. Especially the parts I used for the clip. The last like forty seconds, I think.)
Now we get to Black Swan.
Produced by Pdogg and produced by Pdogg, RM, August Rigo, Vince Nante, and Clyde Kelly, this song was introduced to us via a really beautiful art film directed by YongSeok Choi of Lumpens and featuring a Slovenian modern nance troupe, MN Company.
I liked the video enough, of course, it’s brilliant, but I chose to link to the video of BTS’ performance on James Corden’s show because it was just incredible and I’m still mad I fell asleep before I could watch it when it aired.
First, I want to read the translation of the single’s description from Korean sites that’s up on doolsetbangtan:
In ‘Black Swan,’ BTS steps into the deep, inner side of the self and faces the shadow it has been hiding as an artist. It is the confession of BTS as an artist, who grew up to a global superstar.
“A dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.” – Martha Graham. Black Swan is created with dancer Martha Graham’s quote as a motif. Like a dancer faces their first death when they stop dancing, the track contains the fear of the moment where BTS is no longer able to perform on the stage as an artist. Through Black Swan, the members of BTS express that, as they continue to do music more and more, they will face their first death as well if the music fails to touch their hearts or to make them excited.
But every time such a moment happens, ‘I’ hear another voice of mine from deep inside, ‘I’ face the Black Swan in me, and, ironically, ‘I’ come to a realization that music is the only thing ‘I’ have. Through the mature, self-reflecting lyrics, BTS conveys its confession as an artist who learned what music means to self.
I think that for me, as a creator in my own right, I think what speaks to me the most about Black Swan as a song is that that fear of what comes next. What we become next. What we create next. What happens when the thing that moves us… stops moving us? Or if we keep creating but it stops moving or mattering to the people we’re creating for.
Honestly this song makes me anxious as hell when I like… pay attention to the translated lyrics.
Or like… remember them. (Not necessarily in a bad way, but in a “I’ve got to get my shit together” kind of way.)
Anyway, the performance on James Corden’s show was stunning. I watched it the morning after it aired because I fell asleep early and I spent the rest of my day kind of vibrating with glee over the performance.
These dudes are so talented. Of course, I knew that. Of course. I stan talent. So like… duh. But there’s something about seeing them perform Black Swan on that lil stage that made me just… lose it. It was incredible and I felt like I connected even more with the song. They all looked and sounded so good, y’all. Ugh I need to rewatch the performance again.
It’s just so good.
Up next is Filter, a Jimin solo song that made the phrase “I can be your genie” trend on Twitter once everyone got to the song on their Map of the Soul: 7 playthrough last Friday morning.
Track eight was produced by Tom Wiklund and was written by him, Hilda Stenmalm, “hitman” bang, Lee seu-ran, LUTRA, danke, Bobby Chung, Ahn Bok Jin, Fallin’ Dild, and Fluorescence Boy.
Lowkey, I want to ask a few of the people involved in the writing of this song why their professional names are so colorful – lookin’ at you Fallin’ Dild and Fluorescence Boy – but that’s not important.
What’s most important about Filter is that it is a song that definitely feels super sexy – like just listen to Jimin’s slinky-sexy voice as he croons to the audience – but it’s also… maybe a song about image, being seen, and people’s perceptions?
Girl you have your chance
I can be your Genie
How bout Aladdin?
I’ll be whatever you want
You can choose which one of me to apply, yeah
I’m really looking forward to seeing ARMYs’ theories and thoughts about what they think this song says about Jimin’s evolution as an artist and of his evolving public persona. Looking at early stages and stuff for BTS, Jimin was definitely supposed to be set up as “sexy” but it leaned more to machismo than anything else and is definitely nothing like the softer, more… touchable (but still not remotely accessible) “sexy” persona he adopts in the present time.
Link me if you see anything interesting!
Following Filter is another killer solo song with Jungkook’s My Time.
Produced by Sleep Deez and Pdogg, this song was written by Sleep Deez, RM, Jayrah Gibson, Pdogg, Printz Board, Richard Alleyne and Jungkook. It still stuns me how many people work together to put a song together and I mean –
The collaborative effort definitely pays off here.
My Time is introspective from the front with Jungkook singing about how at 24 “it feels as if I became an adult quicker than anyone” and about how different his life is from that of his peers. God damn do I love a good bittersweet bop.
Because clearly, Jungkook has thought about this –
About how different their lives would’ve been if they hadn’t had that moment that tripped them headfirst onto that path. He’s thought about what he’d have –
And perhaps, what he doesn’t have now and he’s sharing that with us.
One thing about this song that loosely relates back to my on-going project – you know the one – is part of the song that’s in English where Jungkook is like:
Can I someday finna find my time
Finna find my time
Someday finna find my time
Bless his beautiful and brilliant heart, but that is honestly a prime example of how people maybe… don’t get that what they think of as simple slang is a complex and well-constructed form of language. I saw people – largely non-Black fans – celebrating JK for the chorus and his English and like that is entirely your right to do so…
That first “finna” however, not really how you use the word and while its mild misuse won’t earn JK a mention in my project, it’s definitely I find noteworthy in part because I’m pretty sure at least one of the writers who worked on this is Black and therefore should’ve caught that slip and fixed it to something a little more accurate.
Nitpicking aside, I feel like this is another super solid solo from my favorite infant.
How do you follow up a song like My Time? With the powerful and slightly painful “Louder than Bombs”.
We’re at the halfway point of the album friends with a song produced by Bram Inscore and written by him, Troye Sivan, Allie X, Leland, RM, SUGA, and j-hope.
According to Spotify, “Louder than bombs” tells the story of how sadness and fear grow as one encounters stories of pain around the world. The message that “we will continue to listen to your story and will never stop singing, so speak yourself” intensifies with the song’s brisk yet grand atmosphere.
Honestly, I love this song so much but I have no idea how to talk about it. Because there’s so much I feel like I could say but then my brain kind of glitches and all I can say are things like “Joon’s rap in here is so good”, “I really love the chorus”, and “wow what a good beat backing this song”.
I think this’ll be a song that I find myself coming back to and singing all the time.
Now, it’s time to talk about the lead single for Map of the Soul: 7… ON.
A lot of people worked on ON. Pdogg produced the song and he was one of the writers alongside RM, August Rigo, Melanie Joy Fontana, Michel “Lindgren” Schulz, SUGA, j-hope, Antonina Armato, Krysta Youngs, and Julia Ross.
Here’s the storyline information from Spotify:
For the band, the past seven years had been tumultuous, running on their feet and losing balance partway. Regardless, BTS has learned balance and now stands ground wherever they may be, singing of their dedication to carry on their fated path.
Y’all I can’t get over this song. It’s so powerful and I’m just so damn proud of them for working as hard as they have and making it as far as they have. Honestly, I really reacted to this song with largely incoherent shouting because y’all… they brought their mother fucking A Game to this song and it’s a meaningful ass bop.
Also in the interest of saving a sliver of time, I want to just briefly mention the version with SIA’s vocals on it that’s included on digital versions of the album and in a single combo, I believe. I mean… it’s always nice to hear SIA’s voice?
That’s a plus.
But this is pretty much “just” a version of the original song with SIA’s voice layered over the group’s in the chorus.
On the subject of the video:
I’d set my alarm nice and early on the twenty-first in order to wake up in time to watch the kinetic manifesto when it debuted at four in the morning but somehow… despite sleeping on my phone, I slept through my alarm and didn’t get to watch it until like two hours later.
But y’all… even though I missed the sense of community and the first reactions from the folks I follow it was so worth it to be slightly more awake when watching it. This video is a work of art, honestly.
I’m not going to list out everyone associated with the video because there are a lot, but this video was directed by the same director who did the art film for Black Swan and has dancers from THE LAB as well as the Blue Devils marching band working alongside BTS. It’s an incredible feat of artistry and I just… I love it a ton.
Vocal line killing it with the gorgeous and unique voices while rap line fucking owns their verses –
And that dancebreak-
That was so good.
Also like y’all… I know this is super shallow, but they looked so fine in that video. My god. I would like to buy their stylists flowers for what they blessed us with for the video and for their performance of ON In Grand Central Station. How can I make that happened because they legit broke my brain with those looks.
And I’m grateful for it.
Now it’s time to get fully fucking feral for BTS’ rapline with UGH, a song that’s all about some righteous ass rage aimed squarely at the haters – like netizens – who use anonymity to spread shit.
This song was written by Supreme Boi, SUGA, RM, Hiss noise, j-hope, and icecream drum and was produced by Supreme Boy.
UGH’s Korean title doubles as the onomatopoeic word for puking and it does a pretty good job at conveying the disgust my favorite rapline holds towards the haters who won’t leave them the hell alone.
I do have some critical thoughts on this song, but we’ll get to that in a minute because I want to do some celebration first.
First of all, rapline reinforces why I love them with this song.
SUGA’s the stand-out for me here because of how he comes onto the track with disdain dripping from his words and a serious sneer that’s audible in his delivery. Like I can’t imagine seeing him performing this live without transcending my current level of feral fannishness because he’s gonna curl his upper lip with disgust and I will slide sideways into another world where I got soundcheck and am closer to the stage than uh… my high ass seats. I love his verses where he’s just pissed as fuck and a little growl vibrates through his delivery and like… yes.
UGH does it for me.
That’s not saying that RM and j-hope don’t hit it out of the damn park with their verses. Because I recommended Ddaeng on my list of favorite BTS songs last year, I made sure that we’ve covered that I am incredibly here for this rapline. There are few things they can do to fuck that up when it comes to their verses.
I’m just extra fucking feral for SUGA for this song and with everything I’ve been going through across my various fandoms, let me tell y’all how much I appreciate a song that’s a solid “fuck you” to the haters online without needing to actually drop my favorite f-bomb..
Anyway, this song goes inspire some thoughts from me related to my current project and part of that ties into the story:
In the unit song “UGH!”, the rappers criticize a society in which people who hide behind masks of anonymity to cast their anger against others. From the genre of Memphis style trap, the track lends voice to an impressive, blunt rap; building on a beat of fast trap rhythms reflective of exploding emotions. RM, SUGA, and j-hope pour out their ‘anger against anger full of malice’ The lyrics. That. Speak of their conviction to stand up against a world dominated by rage give a glimpse into the pain BTS may have felt as witnesses or as victims of such anger.
From that, can you guess what I find absolutely fascinating and related to my project?
Yes, friends, it’s the trap of uh… trap music.
I am honestly always fascinated by artists without a background in the communities that’d lead them to make trap music or songs with those beats, not just using trap to background or build their songs –
But to use “trap” to deliver these angry and aggressive tones. Always intrigues me because like you can do relatively cheery trap music – Fetty Wap did it in 2014 with Trap Queen. You don’t need to rely on trap music and a heavier hip hop sound when you’re pissed about something.
(I talked about this with the “talking Black” thing: if you performed and talked like that all the time, that’d be one thing, but that hip hop and, to an extent, Blackness, are known as shorthand for rage and aggression to relative outsiders remains… frustrating.)
Anyway, it’s just definitely interesting to me how artists who wouldn’t recognize a trap house if you actually had them over for lunch in one –
Gravitate towards trap music – which does originate from artists who experienced life in and around these spaces – as a tool they use in their quest for musical self expression.
I’m not necessarily making a judgement call here, but it’s something I’d love to explore some day in my own work.
And then there’s also how the song opens with a gun being cocked and shot to start the beat only to then end with gunfire at the end. As someone that’s pretty aware of how limited access to guns are in South Korea, it absolutely remains weird to me to hear gunshots or gunfire being used in Korean hip hop songs as a marker of authenticity or authentic hip hop violence because… they’re trying to evoke a particular image that then… kind of throws you for a loop because it’s like “really?”
Anyway, this is me, still feral for BTS’ fantastic ass rapline, but moving on to the next song on the CD: the vocal line’s “Zero o’clock”.
Who doesn’t want a reset when things get tough?
In “Zero o’clock” – a song produced by Pdogg, and written by Pdogg, RM, Jessie Lauryn Foutz, and Atonina Armato – the reset comes “when the second hand and the minute hand overlap”. “Zero o’clock” is a song I feel would be a really good song to close out your depression playlist with because of lyrics like these from wisha’s translation:
I’ve clasped my hands
That tomorrow, I’d
smile a little more
That it’d be a little better
When this song
a new song will
That I’d be a little happier, yeah
I think that this song manages to be hopeful as hell because sometimes it feels like we’re just waiting for that reset. For midnight to hit or that space between songs. And I just… I think this song is very powerful for that.
Also, okay –
I know that I’ve seen a lot of people comparing Map of the Soul: 7’s unit and solo songs to those from previous albums. I literally did it a few minutes ago with UGH. So I’m not doing anything original by being unable to tear my brain away from comparing this vocal line track to 2018’s “Truth Untold”. But I can’t help myself.
Obviously, the focal line for a group like BTS is going to be incredible. Vocal-line focused songs in this very hip-hop oriented group give us a chance to really appreciate these four unique vocalists working together to weave wonders with these deeply moving lyrics.
Of course, I want to see every single song from this CD performed live. Duh.
However, I think that this is one of the songs that’ll make me cry if I see it – the next song and then the VMin soulmate song “Friends” – because y’all, I listening to this while looking at Wisha’s translation and holding the words in my head and heart…
Up next is V’s solo song for the album, a song directed at his past self “Inner Child”
Produced by Arcades and written by RM, Matt Thomson, Max Lynedoch Graham, Ryan Lawrie, Ellis Miah, Adien Lewis, Pdogg, V, and James Reynolds, this song is a sweet promise to his past self that “we gon’ change”.
What resonates to me is that desire to tell your past self that things will be better. That we do the thing. That we grow. And it’s that sentiment that means that I will probably (okay, definitely) cry my way through this song if I see it performed.
The other thing is that V’s solo songs always hit differently because of his beautiful voice, so deep and rich. I made a note for this song where I just like wrote in frantic chicken scratch that V’s voice is like “velvet” because of how rich it is and how it’s… almost touchable. It’s a voice that you can almost feel on your skin or as a presence around you, like –
Up next is the soulmate anthem we all wish we had with V and Jimin’s “Friends”.
This song was produced by Pdogg and Jimin – I’m so proud of him, y’all – and written by Pdogg, Supreme Boi, Jimin, ADORA, Martin Sjølie, and Stella Jang.
Y’all, I want what Vmin have.
Nothing against my existing friendships which are very good and I adore y’all a lot, but like… Vmin take friendship to higher and stellar levels with this cute ass anthem to their friendship that leaves you feeling like you’ve walked in on a conversation you weren’t supposed to have overheard.
This song is so sweet, like cotton candy melting on your tongue, and you can feel the love and V and Jimin have nurtured for each other across the years. In every single note, every single lyric, the love shines through and This song is an ode to a friendship that V and Jimin promise each other will last forever, and like…
Y’all, just writing and talking about it is making me tear up.
I want what Vmin have, but I also… want them to keep having what they have.
Also, understand that like I cracked the hell up at the repeated references to Jimin’s tiny ass pinky across the song. Like I was putting my notes together and going over the lyrics a whole sniffly mess because this song is that song and then losing it at those references.
This song is…
It’s love and light and I just… I want them to be forever friends.
And like… if I haven’t gotten soggy enough yet, the next song is Jin’s solo song that’s all about his deep dedication to ARMY.
This song was produced by Slow Rabbit and written by him, RM, Jin, ADORA, Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young, Candace Nicole Sosa, Daniel Cesar, and Ludwig Lindell. (Yay Jin!)
Across listening to Map of the Soul: 7 – and looking at translators’ take on the lyrics if you’re like me and still dreaming of getting a grasp on the Korean language -, the one thing that is very easy to feel as a fan is beloved.
While BTS can’t possibly know every single one of their fans, they make an effort to convey their love and devotion to their fanbase as a whole in a way that makes us feel like we’re… kind of embraced by them.
And Jin’s solo is one such embrace. The beat is fun and bright and the lyrics are… just plain loving. In “Moon” Jin orbits us, orbits ARMY, loving us from afar. Like these lyrics…
Rather than saying any words,
Rather than saying thank you,
I will stay by your side
In the pitch-black night,
So that it becomes much brighter,
I will stay by your side
I think my brain’s reaction to this song’s lyrics and the earnest sweetness that Jin uses to deliver his promise to be there for ARMY is just
The quietest, most stunned “fuck”.
Because being beloved (in the abstract, I guess) by Jin is just…
That shit literally just hits different.
(Actually, can I just say that I will probably also cry through this song if I see it performed? That’s where I am at this point.)
We’re getting close to the end, y’all and up next is the RM and Suga song “Respect”
This song was produced by Hiss noise, SUGA, and EL CAPITXN with RM joining the trio for writing.
You can tell that RM and SUGA eat, sleep, and breathe hip hop even now as a lot of their full-group songs rely far less on the heavier hip hop that marked their original sound and concept .
This is how they express themselves and their emotions with an uncertain, uncomfortable world. They learned this love from listening to and learning from Korean rappers like Tiger JK but also Black and white rappers from the US like Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem. They found themselves in hip-hop.
Take this quote from a piece RM wrote that was translated by Emily on the blog Tongue Technology, where he talks about his reaction to Epik High’s 2006 music show win for “Fly” and says that
“I thought that things were really difficult for me, but I felt very strongly that the song “Fly” was giving me comfort. I felt that strength. Differently from connotative genres like poetry or ballads, rap is primarily progressive, and I felt a huge strength from that detail. If I had been listening for the sake of the melody until the, from that point on, I started to listen to lyrics.”
He goes on to talk about how while he loved ballads, he couldn’t sing and that was his path to hip hop really. And like that’s so endearing to me. But also like… okay. SUGA has a somewhat similar origin story with Epik High being one of his gateways to hip hop and a passion for creating and performing music from ages ago. (Peep the interview session on the Jimmy Fallon show subway special for BTS where when they’re talking about what they would’ve been, Suga would’ve been in music. He would’ve been a producer. This was always his path.)
A genuine love of hip hop fuels them and like… that’s honestly great because it gets us lyrics like these as translated over at doolsetbangtan –
When you keep looking at someone, you’re bound to see their flaws
But, the fact that you nonetheless want to keep looking
Requires absolute faith in that someone,
Which is why I can’t really say it so easily
And there’s some great wordplay revolving around the word “respect” itself. I love it!
If you’ve been keeping up with everything I’ve been putting myself through on Stan Twitter and as a result of my big project, you’ll probably guess that I love complicating things for myself. There are things that complicate “Respect” for me, but I can’t quite figure out how to like… explain what those things are –
Beyond the fact that my inability to identify the song and artist in the bit sampled at the start of the song has been bothering me for days.
Someday, we’ll figure it out, I’m sure.
“Respect” has a sound that’s almost… timeless even with the throwback sound it utilizes. It sounds like it could’ve been put out in the 90s, or when I was a high schooler back when Epik High won for “Fly”, or uh… the twenty first of February, this year.
From the album skipping intro at the beginning prior to that frustrating sample and RM’s “Put your hands in the air/like you don’t care” and “Ayo SUGA, I get a feel of early days of hip hop. Then there’s SUGA’s voice where it’s autotuned and exaggerated at some parts, sounding like a song from a decade before when everyone wore low-rise jeans for some reason. My friend Carolyn said “Respect” was very much like a throwback to BTS’ own early days, to the “2 Kool 4 Skool” era and –
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Which is why one of the questions I’d possibly give my left hand to have the group answer is “What is hip hop to you now?” because I’m interested in hearing what they think and how their POV has evolved from when they were teenagers trying to hold their own against the world.
Up next is the penultimate song on Map of the Soul: 7 if you’re listening to your CD fresh out that big ole CD case instead of on Spotify – unlike me, person who is still waiting for their copies from BigHit…
We are Bulletproof: the Eternal was produced by Audien and written by him and… a whole bunch of people like RM, Etta Zelmani, Cazzi Opeia (Sunshine), Ellen Berg (Sunshine), Will Tanner, Gusten Dahlqvist, Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young, Candace Nicole Sosa, SUGA, j-hope, Elohim, Antonina Armato, Alexander Magnus Karlsson, and Alexei Viktorovitch
From the title alone – because I’d really only skimmed the articles about the tracklist information prior to listening to the album for some reason, I’d gone into this track expecting it to be – or sound like – an updated version of their 2013 song “We Are Bulletproof, Pt. 2”
Friends, it is not that.
And while I enjoyed the hell out of that song, We Are Bulletproof: the Eternal is on an entirely different level. Like Jungkook’s My Time, this is another kind of bittersweet bop that charts BTS’ struggles reaching for success and respect and how their love for ARMY and ARMY’s love for them has been able to sustain them this far – and that it will keep them going into the future.
Like these English lyrics speaking directly to ARMY –
Tell me your every story
Tell me why you don’t stop this
Tell me why you still walkin’
Walkin’ with us
(Yeah we got to heaven)
This is… this is another promise to ARMY that lingers in the lyrics and in the earnest, passionate delivery.
Again, the softest fuck.
One of the things that I don’t get about some of the more negative reviews I’ve seen for this album are reviewers and critics calling the emotion across the album – and like… previous BTS albums – somehow insincere?
If there’s one thing I do genuinely trust in across my (admittedly brief) time with BTS, it’s that they love their fans as best as they’re able from a distance (didn’t they listen to Jin’s “Moon” and read lyric translations?) and that they are unbelievably grateful that they’ve been able to come so far alongside us – their fans.
Like… that care does shine through not just in this album but in every single aspect of their actual interaction with the fans and how they think of the fans. If you miss these statements of love when you’re listening to this album and you’re reading the lyrics… what the heck are you doing?
j-hope closes out Map of the Soul: 7 with the sunshine-y but still inward-looking Outro: Ego, a song that feels like a solid end to out BTS’ seventh studio album strongly. This is another Hiss noise-produced track and the dude does double duty as a writer alongside j-hope and Supreme boi.
Like Persona and Shadow before it, Ego revolves around its rapper’s concerns and their time in the group. One of the clearest themes across this album is this sense that BTS is looking to the past as part of what helps them forge their path for the future. In this track, j-hope sings and raps about his perspective looking at his past, present, and future.
I think this is absolutely one of my favorite j-hope solos – though of course, it’s difficult to rank because when he’s good, he’s a god damn superstar.
While I’m here, can I shout a little about the video? It’s such a great video because in it, j-hope shines as… himself. He’s confident and always looking forward, feeling himself fully. Despite my deep hatred of Mark Millar – ugh – I had to cackle with delight at the Kingsman reference and I admire the way the video’s director worked that little nerdy reference in!
At the end of the day, Map of the Soul: 7 really strengthened my love of BTS and my hopes for them to keep on growing and creating well into the future. This CD is… absolutely fascinating and I’d honestly call it “incredible”. There are some songs I clearly clicked with more than others and other songs that will probably sneak up on me and into my heart in the future.
Now, it’s hard to choose favorites from an album like this. Every song on Map of the Soul: 7 makes me feel something. So not only is it difficult pick true favorites, attempting to put them in any kind of ranking is mmm… impossible?
But ugh –
Okay, if I was being forced at mango-point to choose five of my favorite new tracks on this album, I’d go with…
- Louder Than Bombs
But here’s the thing: aside from Make It Right – which is a purely personal problem of burnout that says nothing about the song’s quality – there are no skips for me across the album.
There are songs I want to wrestle with a little bit more, like My Time and UGH for the messages and/or heavier hip-hop tones that the artists use, and songs I just want to bask in like “Moon” and “Friends”. There are songs that hit me hard (Louder than bombs) and songs that I want to focus in the context of my project (Respect).
It’s just… a lot
And that’s a good thing.
I’m not a music critic.
Y’all probably figured that out really quickly.
But I know what I like when it comes to music and what I like happens to be what BTS has put out in this beautiful work of artistry. I thought that I was hooked with Map of the Soul: Persona, but here I am, less than a year later even deeply enmeshed in the group. This won’t be the final thing I say about the album and I may come up with something critical in the future once I’m able to put my thoughts together better. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I already have a strong feeling that BTS will wind up being my top artist at the end of 2020 considering all the streaming I’ve done so far. I know that I’m going to do my best to engage more honestly and critically with BTS as a whole and with the fandom across the rest of 2020. I know that I’m going to do my best to support this group and raise my voice if they mess up in the future.
I love this group more than I’ve really loved any other artists aside from like Britney Spears and Whitney Houston when I was wee because no one will top my love there and y’all –
That means I’m going to love BTS my way. The whole way.
In a few months, my BTS nieceling and I will be in nosebleed-y seats watching BTS perform for the first time – our first time. I’m excited for that experience –
And I’m excited beyond to walk together – with BTS, with my fellow fans, with the watching world – towards a future we can’t predict, but that will be interesting regardless.
Thank you for listening and for loving BTS and for just… joining me in this experience.
I hope the future will be bright and filled with more good music.
Speaking of uncertain futures, I honestly can’t tell y’all what the next episode of Stitch Talks Ish will bring. Will I talk about the MCU? Will I get shippy? Will I finally read a book and tell y’all about it? Who the hell knows! But it’s sure to be entertaining as heck!