BY RACHEL KIM ’21
The Korean pop group BTS, or Beyond the Scene, has been topping charts, winning awards and making history worldwide since their debut as a seven-member South Korean boy band in 2013. Hailed for their explosive choreography, inventive music videos and lyrics that criticize society, it’s no surprise that BTS is the new face of today’s international K-pop craze. According to Gaon music chart, the group’s latest album, “Love Yourself: Her,” released on Sept. 18, 2017, sold an impressive 1.2 million albums in South Korea. Despite its commercial success, in comparison to BTS’ previous albums, “Love Yourself: Her” is a disappointing diversion from the group’s original sound and spirit.
“Love Yourself: Her” is an EP consisting of nine tracks with an additional two tracks, “Sea” and “Skit: Hesitation and Fear,” available exclusively on the physical album. The album’s release comes two months after the band’s decision to change their English moniker from Bulletproof Boy Scouts to Beyond the Scene. “Love Yourself: Her” reflects this change with crisp beats, smooth acoustics and overly polished vocals. The album is a substantial shift from the trademark angst of BTS’ previous albums, focusing instead on mainstream electronic dance music.
BTS’ experimentation with the electro hip-hop scene is influenced by mainstream American music. The album’s single, “DNA,” strays from BTS’ original sound with repetitive lyrics. “DNA” is not the only track on the EP that features this change. The third track, “Best of Me,” produced in collaboration with Andrew Braggart of the Chainsmokers, is so unlike BTS’ previous work it’s bewildering. This trend is repeated in tracks “Dimple (Illegal)” and “Pied Piper.” The songs are catchy with solid hooks, but the use of autotune and unnecessary bells and whistles becomes overwhelming and distracting.
The two strongest tracks of the EP are “Mic Drop” and “Go Go.” While both songs are unoriginal with over-composed structures, the classic BTS angst still exists beneath the surface. “Mic Drop” is a hyped anthem that addresses haters who criticize BTS’ success. The lyrics are a string of sarcastic apologies. “Sorry Billboard, sorry Worldwide, sorry mom … your son’s too hot.” “Go Go” is satirical with a tongue-in-cheek quality as the lyrics criticize the squandering habits of youth who spend money they don’t have. This mentality is reflected in the song’s chorus of “YOLO YOLO YOLO YOLO.”
In addition to a change in sound, the group has also changed its approach to constructing an album. Rather than focusing on establishing album thematics, such as complicated friendships and anger, as BTS did with “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” series, “Love Yourself: Her” presents a conceptless auditory experience.
With commercial success, musicians often recraft their musical image by stepping away from their roots. With “Love Yourself: Her,” BTS tries to reinvent their music while struggling to find footing between their new and old identities.