By Melissa Domingo
Popular K-pop group BTS (방탄소년단), released their seventh studio album “BE” on November 20 and it has already racked up multiple achievements. The pre-release single “Dynamite” has been nominated for Best Pop Group/Duo Performance for the Grammys, and all of the songs on the album charted on Billboard Hot 100. They are now the only Korean act to have a non-English song to peak at #1 on Billboard Hot 100.
Both musically and visually, the members of BTS were heavily involved in the production of “BE.” They were involved in the songwriting and production process, as well as directing the teasers, and music videos. The album expresses the emotions that many people may be feeling due to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the band empathizes with listeners through the songs.
“Life Goes On” blurs genres together with its hip-hop and pop-rock influence and the addition of the acoustic guitar. The leading single was a complete 180-degree turn from their previous title tracks like “IDOL” and “ON”, both of which relied on heavy and loud beats. They sing of the hope that people should allow themselves to feel even with the current pandemic, despite how much despair it may have given people.
With its ‘70’s flare piano, “Fly to my room (내 방을 여행하는 법)” sang of being stuck in one’s room, and trying to assuage boredom by “flying” around the rooms of a house. It is by no means my favorite track. It feels like a song that’s been written and heard before, I don’t think that there’s anything special about it. I think it’s mediocre, and it feels like a filler track or a transition into the next track “Blue & Grey”.
Like the title insinuates, “Blue & Grey” is a pop-ballad about the sadness and despair an artist may feel due to burn-out, with lyrics like, “I just wanna be happier/ Is this being too greedy? (이것도 큰 욕심일까?)” Despite all of the achievements they may accomplish as a septet, they still crave more. I’m typically not a huge fan of ballads. They feel too slow and sometimes they feel a little boring, which isn’t necessarily the case with this song. Either way, I still wouldn’t go out of my way to put it in a playlist for me to listen to every day. The way that this song is composed is similar to “Jamais Vu”, a song from the album “Map of the Soul: 7”.
Listeners get a break from the music through a skit, it’s about their first #1 on Billboard Hot 100 with “Dynamite”, the skit fades out with RM asking j-hope, “Seriously, Hob-ah, isn’t this happiness? (진짜, 홉아 … 이런 게 행복 아닐까?)” It’s lighthearted and a great transition into the next song “Telepathy (짐시)”, a funky track, with disco influence about their relationship with their fans. It’s a personal favorite: it’s vibrant, cleverly uses autotune, and makes you want to move around.
The next track “Dis-ease (병)” is a hip-hop track, and a callback to their earlier pieces of work like “If I Ruled the World”. The three rappers of the group, SUGA, RM, and j-hope, give the lyrics life with their quick-witted wordplay, while the vocal line, Jungkook, V, Jimin, and Jin, slow down the pace of the song, adding versatility and melodic vocals to the song.
An EDM track serves as the penultimate song on the album. “Stay” is another song about their fans, and how they know that even with the distance that is brought on by quarantine, they will always stay together. To be blunt, I don’t like this song, I’ve never been a fan of EDM, and this is your typical EDM song; beat drops, synths, loudness. It’s reminiscent of “So What”, from the “Love Yourself 轉: Tear” album and “I’m Fine” from “Love Yourself 結 ‘Answer’”, which I also was not a fan of. I would skip listening to it, and I don’t think I would really try to even force myself to like the song because it just isn’t a genre I’m a fan of.
The album ends with their first fully English track “Dynamite”, which also served as a preamble for the whole album. It’s a disco pop-song, accompanied by flare pants, big glasses, and bright lights in the music video. It’s fun to listen to, the choreography is easy to follow for people who enjoy dancing, and the lyrics are easy to sing-along to. Though I think after the first few listens, the song does lose its charm and gets rather annoying. It’s the same problem I have with anything related to EDM, it’s loud, it’s too busy, and it isn’t my taste.
I think the album and the concept that they planned was fitting: it’s about the pandemic and how it affected their daily life documented through seven songs of varying genres. I also appreciated the change in tone, the first half is more mellowed out, a little more on the sad side, but after the skit, a switch is flipped and the music is more vibrant and upbeat.
It isn’t my favorite album, but it isn’t the worst either, it’s a sincere and special album since it was entirely prepared by them and was dedicated to fans of their music, it’s also a great show of their continued belief that music transcends language and culture.
FEATURED IMAGE (at the top of this post): A concept photo for the “BE” album. (PHOTO CREDIT: BigHit Entertainment)