Album Review: BTS Find Balance and Strength With ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

BTS’s new album Map of the Soul: 7 finally arrived, and the members of BTS were right. The album totally exceeds all expectations. As the members examine their legacy on Map of the Soul: 7, they create a near-perfect balance of nostalgia and looking toward the future.

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BTS | Noam Galai/Getty Images

BTS take listeners on a journey with ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

Before BTS released the title of this new album, fans went back and forth for months. Some thought it would be called Map of the Soul: Shadow; others thought it would be Map of the Soul: Ego. This logically made sense as it would follow the precedent set by BTS’s 2019 EP Map of the Soul: Persona.

Instead, Map of the Soul: 7 is a whole cohesive story in one album. It includes five songs from Map of the Soul: Persona, and then goes on to explore the Shadow and Ego concepts from Carl Jung’s theories. By the end, the members of BTS have persevered and discovered their true selves.

It’s not a dark album, but it has dark moments. Map of the Soul: 7 at its core is an album of reflection. As a band, BTS’s legacy is still in the making, and the group gains new fans around the world every day. Map of the Soul: 7 sold over 2 million copies in six hours in South Korea, making it the new record holder for the most copies sold in one day in the country.

The band showed their versatility on the album

As an album, Map of the Soul: 7 puts an emphasis on the members. Interspersed with tracks featuring all seven members are solo and unit songs. This sends the message that BTS is simultaneously a cohesive septet and seven individuals with different styles. It also allows the BTS members to showcase their versatility.

The rap line directs the progression of Map of the Soul: 7 with RM’s solo “Intro: Persona,” Suga’s “Interlude: Shadow,” and J-Hope’s “Outro: Ego.” They also deliver their known ferocity on the track “UGH!” With the song, the rappers acknowledge that while anger is a necessary part of life, it can also be misguided.

On Map of the Soul: 7, the vocal line comes together on the song “00:00 (Zero O’Clock).” In “Friends,” Jimin and V sing about their meaningful friendship. It’s worth noting Jimin played a hand in producing the song, no doubt a signifier of how important the song and friendship is to him.

Jungkook, J-Hope, and Jin’s ballad “Jamais Vu” is one of the songs originally from Map of the Soul: Persona that is included on Map of the Soul: 7. Suga and RM, the first two members to join Big Hit Entertainment, collaborate on the track “Respect.”

For the vocal line’s solos, Jimin’s Latin pop song “Filter” foreshadows what the singer will be capable of on tour with choreography. Jungkook’s “My Time” reflects on his time growing up in the spotlight with BTS as the youngest member, and in “Inner Child” V sings to his past self about a difficult time. With “Moon,” Jin is polished and graceful as he sings for his love of ARMY.

BTS incorporated nostalgia into ‘Map of the Soul: 7’

In order to reflect on their past, BTS returned to it. Yet they still found a way to make Map of the Soul: 7 its own entity. Perhaps most impressive of all, BTS found the perfect place to end one story and start another.

The group first debuted in June 2013, making 2020 their seventh year together. They renewed their contracts with Big Hit Entertainment for seven more years in 2018. Even though their journey is still ongoing, the group found the perfect point to stop and reflect.

Map of the Soul: 7 features a sequel to BTS’s 2013 song “We Are Bulletproof, Pt. 2” with “We are Bulletproof: the Eternal.” While it’s a continuation of the same message, “We Are Bulletproof: the Eternal” has a completely different feel. BTS trade uncompromising hip-hop for a bittersweet reflection of how after seven years, they are still “bulletproof.”

“We were only seven / I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I / But we have you all now… Throw stones at me / We don’t fear anymore / We are we are together, bulletproof,” they sing.

The lead single “ON” is a trip back to BTS’s hip-hop past, and with the song BTS take an introspective look at their calling as artists. While they reference the pain they faced from challenges, they acknowledge it is part of their journey and led them to this point.

Combined with the nostalgic reflection, perhaps the most apparent theme of the album is perseverance. Despite the dark moments, relentless strength is an undercurrent to the songs on BTS’s Map of the Soul: 7. It’s what has carried BTS through their past eras and will continue to carry them through their careers.