Map Of The Soul: Persona
Big Hit Entertainment
The thing with a music act as big as BTS is that sometimes, it’s hard to discern hype from substance.
It doesn’t help that the sixth mini album from the global K-pop phenom is rife with cerebral allusions. Think Carl Jung’s psychological theories, Greek mythology and cinematic references.
On paper, all these sound terribly high brow — pretentious even. But when it comes to execution, Map Of The Soul: Persona has got to be the septet’s most polished and accessible work to date.
Part of that appeal lies in how digestible everything sounds on this seven-track collection. If anything, Persona is brazenly commercial; tailored to perfection for global listening pleasure.
Look no further than the collaborators that have been enlisted here. The mention of Halsey and Ed Sheeran alone are enough to do publicity groundwork in the hyper-competitive American music scene.
That isn’t to say that Persona is all propaganda. On the contrary, the substance — sonically, at least — is palpable here.
Lead single Boy With Luv, featuring indie pop cool girl Halsey, has all the makings of a summer banger. It is frothy and funky, with sleek synths delivering an infectious groove.
It’s also the most fun the boys have ever sounded. The opening verse by Jimin oozes disarming nonchalance while rapper Suga looks like he’s having a ball of a time.
That effortless easy-like-Sunday-morning vibe also translates well to tracks like the instrumentally layered Mikrokosmos and Make It Right, with its sexy R&B flourishes courtesy of vocalist V. Elsewhere, leader RM’s fierce raps are complemented by melodic rhythmic beats in opener Intro: Persona.
Meanwhile, the homage to fans Home proves to be the weakest link here. ARMYs, as BTS’ ardent fanbase are known, will no doubt be enamoured by the message. But for regular listeners, a forgettable 90s throwback melody and convenient Spanish lyrics make for a muddled listening experience.
All things considered, there’s just this nagging sense that the K-pop element has been heavily watered down in Persona’s pursuit of a more American radio-ready sound.
With the exception of rock-heavy closer Dionysus, the psychedelic sound of K-pop —the foundation whereby classics such as Blood Sweat & Tears, Dope and Fake Love are built upon — are largely absent from the record.
Longtime fans might feel alienated by this new sonic shift. But then again, Persona is supposed to herald a new musical chapter for BTS. And as the boys continue their ascent to the top, they are bound to win some and lose some.