Love Yourself: Her
Big Hit Entertainment
WHEN this latest album by BTS (also known as Bangtan Boys) debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album charts, it marked a monumental K-pop moment – it was the highest an album from that genre had ever gotten on the chart.
K-pop had been trying to penetrate the US music market for the longest time, so Love Yourself: Her’s success is very much a victory for the genre, as it is for the group’s loyal and ardent ARMY fanbase.
Musically though, Love Yourself: Her doesn’t really break conventions, and is more content to play it by the book.
There is some experimentation, but for the most part, the seven-member boyband merely cruises through a contemporary set of sonic templates (90s hip hop, electronic-informed R&B and the unavoidable tropical flourishes).
But one certainly can’t accuse the group of being a one-trick pony, not with the assorted musical styles on display here.
Earlier this year, BTS – comprising Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V and Jungkook – extended its identity to mean “Beyond The Scene”. The group is certainly getting there with this nine-track collection.
Soulful opener Serendipity showcases lead vocalist Jimin’s voice to a tee. With melodies that are delicately arranged against a soft R&B background, the soft and sensual ballad is an exquisite display of the group’s maturity.
The group immediately follows up with the livewire EDM banger DNA. While not the strongest cut on the album, it’s easy to see its live appeal – complete with precision-cut costumes and bootcamp choreography.
The honour of the best song on Love Yourself: Her actually goes to Pied Piper. With its smooth disco connotations and a slightly more relaxed vibe, it shows what the boys can do when in their element. Next to the jarring sound of the record’s main single, Pied Piper is a deft rescue.
Elsewhere, the boys collaborate with The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggart on the electronic-heavy Best Of Me. Despite the shuddering baselines and throbbing beats, the song is somewhat derivative club-ready fare with the electronic elements its weakest link.
A brilliant display of artistry comes in the form of the only obvious rap number. MIC Drop is an explosive and menacing track with some dirty bass to boot. It would do the group some good to go further down the path of cyphers and gritty verses.
Then again, that might work better in international Brooklyn than native Busan. Though considering the boys’ current global appeal, that might not be such a bad crowd of listeners to impress.