Any and everything that South Korean supergroup BTS do is highly anticipated by fans as well as the general public. So, when their latest album ‘BE’ was announced, it was obviously going to spark a lot of interest. Released on November 20th 2020, the album contains 8 tracks and is just under 30 minutes long.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I wasn’t also incredibly excited – especially given the fact I’ve been a fan of the group for over five years. As much as I’ve tried to keep this review somewhat objective, it’s also very much based on my own opinions of the songs and the group; so I’d highly recommend you go check out the album yourself before you hang onto every word I say!
The title track of the album is ‘Life Goes On’, a vibrant and pretty-sounding slow jam song with a sound that matches the group’s 2017 release ‘Spring Day‘. The music video, directed by the group’s youngest member Jungkook, follows the members in their dorms, on road trips, and performing in an empty stadium. I think particularly after the recent release of ‘Dynamite’, which was bright and pop-y, ‘Life Goes On’s’ more mellow atmosphere is just further testament to the group’s ability to play around with music styles and genres. The lyrics and title of ‘Life Goes On’ speak of a sense of solidarity and assurance between themselves and their fans; that no matter how hard today feels, there’s always hope for a better tomorrow. The band hoped this would act as a comforting message for fans in the uncertain times we all currently live in, highlighting how they too have been affected by the events of COVID 19 both personally and in terms of their activities as a group (particularly since their tour planned for this year had to be cancelled).
The second track is ‘Fly To My Room’, which is also a slower song with a heavy emphasis on vocal harmonies (specifically the harmonies between members Jimin and V, who along with Suga and J-Hope are the only members featured on this track), and even some hints of gospel influences in the later choruses. The lyrics directly reflect the groups’ feelings regarding COVID 19; the feeling of being trapped in one space, time an endless stream of unknown hours and unknown days, lying in bed for hours on end, and dreaming of being able to escape. As well as these, the song speaks of finding new things to be thankful for and to find joy in, small moments to cherish and how to make the best of a bad situation.
Coined by members as the ‘sad song’ on the album, ‘Blue & Grey’ is an emotional, acoustic-feeling track which really emphasises the emotion the vocal line can pour into their voices. Even the rappers of the group are given the opportunity to be much more understated in their performances (which is definitely something I appreciate as a big fan of their softer, more emotional songs). The song was originally written in English by BTS’ V, with the reference to ‘blue and grey’ being a reflection of his low mood at the time. The lyrics of this song also have a much more melancholic meaning to them than any of the other tracks. They speak of the group feeling unsure and fearful of themselves and their music, which is definitely something any person within the creative industries will relate to. Especially given how quick the band has grown in popularity in just a couple of years, the song speaks of their doubt when it comes to their work and fame, and how it has taken its toll on them.
The ‘Skits’ BTS usually put into their albums are always something I appreciate; despite the fact I never have a clue what they’re saying. It is nice that they’ve brought them back (since the last one was on their 2017 album ‘Love Yourself: Her’). This ‘Skit’ features the group laughing and chatting after hearing about their Number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
The fifth track called ‘Telepathy’ is a catchy, funk-inspired song. The lyrics are cheerful and feature the group wishing for a time when they can meet their fans again after the pandemic. (An important note before I continue, I am really not a fan of heavy use of autotune in pop songs, particular pop songs that have come out post-2010). However, as soon as I heard the first autotuned note of the chorus, my heart sank; particularly since I was already really loving the addictive beat in the background. I am also fully aware that this is entirely a personal choice, since I’ve seen many fans talk about how much they love this song. But honestly, what are reviews good for if not to be somewhat controversial? There isn’t an awful lot more that I can say about this song, since I’ve only listened to it twice and both times, I’ve just cringed at the autotune. BTS sound like they’re having fun with the song though, and overall it feels like it will be a good crowd-pleaser at concerts, so I suppose that’s all that matters!
For those who maybe aren’t as familiar with BTS’s earlier music, a lot of their influences were from 90’s and 00’s Hip-Hop artists (I’d really recommend their song ‘Hip Hop Lover’ if you want to hear more about those influences – also that song slaps!) and there’s definitely a sense they returned to that style in the sixth track on the album, ‘Dis-ease’. The lyrics feature many puns on being ‘sick’ (the good kind) and the member’s ‘addiction’ to their music and fans. I was really loving everything about this song- although the abrupt change of tone at the chorus really threw me off! Although, given that the title directly refers to a sense of unease, it was definitely intentional and fits with the overall theme of the song.
The second to last song on this album is called ‘Stay’ and I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one, it’s hands down my favourite song from the album. It’s not a particularly revolutionary sounding track, and it follows a catchy EDM sound. Despite this, the lyrics (which talk of the members missing performing and their fans) in conjunction with a fun building beat give this song such a vibrant vibe… Also, RM saying ‘we connect to 7G’ made me smile a lot! It’s really just such a high energy dance track that you can’t help to move your body to. My only complaint would probably be that it ended too soon… but that’s not really a complaint at all!
The last track is ‘Dynamite’, which has already been reviewed by Charlie Colville so definitely go check that out for more information on this song!
And thus, promptly ends this delve into BTS’s ‘BE’.
The thing about BTS’s music is that it’s never just about the music, not really. I remember when I first got into the group I was blown away by their lyricism and ability they had to dip their toes into a wide range of genres in order to tell a multitude of stories. But I also remember falling in love with the messages of hope and self-love that were interwoven into those stories. And this album is no different. Whether one track is more well received than another in the album is almost irrelevant, because BTS have created an album of sentimental, heart-warming and comforting songs that people can cherish, particularly now when tensions are high all across the world.
So, sometimes it is just nice to be reminded to simply… BE.
Written by Xanthe Russell
Source for information on the songs/translated lyrics: https://genius.com/albums/Genius-english-translations/Bts-be-english-translation