“Map of the Soul: 7” is a journey through Korean group BTS’ history and their rise to stardom. This massive album takes you on this journey through the different members’ individual songs and a variety of pop-inspired tracks.
This is BTS’ fourth studio album, and it comes in with an astounding tracklist of 20 songs, featuring a digital version of their single "ON" that features artist Sia.
The album is a follow up to an EP the group released in 2019, titled “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which was released in 2019. Five of the songs from the EP appear on the full album, which brings the album to a large number of 20 songs, clocking the album in at over 74 minutes.
Members of the group are heavily involved in the writing and production of each song, with all seven members getting one or more writing or producing credits.
“Map of the Soul: 7” echoes the band’s 2016 album “Wings,” which is one of my favorite albums of all time from any genre. This similarity comes from the unit and solo songs that compose a lot of the second half of the album. Giving members a chance to shine individually or with one or two other members really strengthens this album and brings it to life. It’s exciting to listen to, as you wind through different members’ chapters within a larger story.
The solo tracks are where this album exceeds expectations for me. These personal divergences from the main and single tracks make “Map of the Soul: 7” really echo its name. The album isn’t a straight line that gets you from opener to closer; it is a journey and a map to self-discovery.
Jimin’s solo track “Filter” is the song I keep going back to the most. It’s a different style than the singer usually takes for his solo tracks, as they usually are very light and emphasize his breathy vocals. The track is inspired by latin-pop, as a bright guitar is the guiding force with emphasis on the shouting chorus. While this song musically is different than Jimin’s past songs, it still addresses a deep message like his previous ones. Jimin sings about how different people and groups of people see him in different ways and how that impacts his actions and thoughts about himself.
While a lot of the album is on the lighter side, particularly the rap line (SUGA, RM and J-Hope) adds a grunge layer sprinkled within tracks such as “UGH!” performed by the three rappers and SUGA’s “Interlude:Shadow,” where he raps against himself. "Louder than bombs" is a strong alarm that combines the rapline's grit with the standard pop sound for the group.
Other standouts from the album include Vocal Unit’s song “00:00 Zero O’Clock,” sultry single “Black Swan” and the chirpy “Friends,” performed by V and Jimin, that is about their friendship. Usually by the time an album comes out, I am sick of the singles. While that may be true with the single "ON," "Black Swan" is still on my daily playlist. It's such an understated chorus that will stick in your head.
The only drawback to this album for me is the repeated songs at the top of the tracklist from the group’s last release. I think one or two songs would have been enough, but five of the tracks at the beginning of the album feels repetitive and boring at first listen. For me, the album truly starts after those songs.
“Map of the Soul: 7” feels like a nostalgic homecoming. The diverse tracklist and personal touches from each of the members makes this album something special and makes the listener feel connected individually to the group.
Once again, BTS proves that music truly knows no language. Self-exploration, hardships and love are themes that transcend cultures. The group continues to prove that emotions speak louder than words, uniting listeners from across the globe, which is truly something special. Thanks for getting me excited about Korean music again.