A closer look into the messaging behind BTS’ ‘Map of the Soul: 7’
Last week, BTS released their long-awaited album Map of the Soul : 7 on Feb. 21. At its heart, 7 is a celebration of BTS, their fans called ARMYs, and the love they have for each other and the art that BTS creates.
Seven years into the group’s career, it’s time for some reflection on their time as BTS. They call back to their previous eras, including elements and samples from Skool Luv Affair, 2 Cool 4 Skool, and having 7’s lead single title “On” come from O!RUL8,2?’s “N.O.”
The last message BTS promoted was to “speak yourself” and this full Map of the Soul era can be a follow up to that, continuing their journey. Along with reflecting on the group’s career, 7 ponders how to deal with speaking yourself if you may not have answers to the questions asked in “Intro : Persona” (which officially started the Map of the Soul era last march): “Where’s your soul? Where’s your dream?”
Suga’s solo “Interlude : Shadow” is the first of 15 new tracks on 7, and truly continues what was started with Map of the Soul : PERSONA. “Shadow” brings a darker mood to the MOTS era (which was previously light and pink with PERSONA), both lyrically and musically. Suga raps about wanting to be at the top with fame and success, and the dark shadow that ends up coming with it. Even once you achieve your dreams, there will be difficulties. That shadow and fear that stays with you, and will conflict you and leave you wondering about what you truly want in reality.
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Following that, “Black Swan” discusses a possible side effect that shadow might bring: passion and the loss of it. The death of passion is something that is unfortunately far too relatable. This far into their lives as artists, the members of BTS have had their fair share of questioning; as have ARMYs in their many passions. After you realize what you’re going through and admit that you’ve lost passion or motivation, you’re just stuck asking “what’s my thing?” Hearing these global superstars ask the same is quite comforting, and makes it so easy to connect with the band.
The first solo track from the vocal line is Jimin’s “Filter.” This song is definitely a step away from his previous solos “Serendipity” and “Lie.” Jimin sings of presenting himself in different ways and being seen in different perspectives. Jungkook’s solo “My Time” brings us back to the main theme of the album, as he reflects on his time in BTS from his early teenage years to now. Similar to Suga, Jungkook speaks of a negative aspect to his career: trying to find time within his hectic life. Both of these tracks represent the singers and their talents well.
Next track “Louder Than Bombs” brings up the shadow again. Echoing the crux of “Shadow,” this track explores the pain that comes with fame, but this time offers a light to it all: ARMYs. BTS promises to “sing endlessly to [ARMYs]” because the pain they feel is also felt by their fans that have been with them during these seven years. Lead single “ON” continues that promise, challenging life to “bring the pain on.” Musically, this song perfectly encompasses that energetic determination to carry on and fight through whatever pain following your passion throws at you.
The rap line’s track is often one of the most powerful songs on each album, and 7’s “UGH!” is no exception. RM, Suga, and J-hope rap about the empty rage that comes from haters and the rage the artists feel in return.Contrasting the rap line’s track is the vocal line’s “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” directly after it. This song is like a sweet reaffirmation to ARMYs. It re-enforces the relationship between them and BTS, and the amount of love there is. Having your favorite band tell you “you’re gonna be happy” provides that special kind of connection that BTS has with their fans that they’ve built in their seven years. “Zero O’Clock” also fits into the group’s story, almost like a sister song to “ON,” saying that even though today was full of pain, the clock will reset and a new day will bring better ones.
V speaks to himself from years ago on his solo track “Inner Child.” V’s previous solos “Stigma” and “Singularity” were sultrier, but this one packs an emotional punch. The opening notes sound like the stars he sings of being speckled in the sky one by one, showing the song’s inspirational and dreamy feel. “Inner Child” is a beautiful look at V’s life, from being the dreaming kid who worked so hard and was fearful of his outcome, to the happy and successful person he is today.
V and Jimin team up for the happy track “Friends” that celebrates their unique relationship. Stories from over the years about the two “soulmates” show that being in BTS has allowed them to find themselves and know that they will always be together even throughout their personal difficulties.
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Jin continues the band’s promise to ARMYs in his solo “Moon.” This focus on the fans is different than Jin’s “Epiphany” and “Awake,” where he explored his relationship with himself. Comparing himself to the moon orbiting ARMYs’ earth, Jin promises to always stay by their side and be the light in their lives.
On “Respect,” RM and Suga discuss what the meaning of ‘respect’ is. This track just seems fun at first glance, but can also fit into the album’s theme. As they begin to understand “respect” as being able to look at someone and their flaws and still see them as good, they ask to not be respected so easily because they’re not sure they should be or in case the weak them ends up coming out. ARMYs can go on and on about how much they love and respect BTS, but there’s still the apprehension of being praised that can make it hard to believe. The pain of fame and success contributes to that, and “Respect” is an interesting, but fun, take on that struggle.
“We Are Bulletproof : the Eternal” plainly states the relationship between BTS and ARMYs that has come from these seven years and encapsulates Map of the Soul : 7’s purpose. “We were only seven, but we have you all now.” After seven years of hard work and even doubt, BTS knows they have their fans with them and always will. No matter what happens, no matter what pain the group faces, they will always have their reason for all of it: ARMYs.
Closing out the album is J-hope’s “Outro : Ego.” J-hope has the more cheerful style of the rap line, which absolutely shines through on “Ego.” On this track, J-hope looks at the hardships faced as what made him him.
Map of the Soul : 7 looks back on the past seven years of BTS, their experiences, and what has come from them. Although there has been, and is, pain, BTS always has ARMYs to remind them of what they have achieved and the massive amount of love they have earned. Utilizing different genres and the members’ varying personalities, this album shows the connection between BTS and their fans, and why it continues to exist. There is not just one piece that fans hold onto, but an array of reasons to love the group that come together to speak their message. No matter what new project BTS could explore, ARMYs will continue to support them because their message of love and perseverance will always stay the same.
What’s your favorite song on the album? Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.