Stoned v. Sober: BTS chase their own tail on ‘Map of the Soul: Persona’

Henry Netherland

Courtesy of iTunes.

For a few years now, the seven-person K-pop boyband BTS has dominated the world’s intake of Korean pop music, breaking numerous music sales records with every new release.

The group is hard to pigeonhole genre-wise, since they take on so many different styles simultaneously, blending them with an unimaginable smoothness.


Since 2014, they’ve released a slew of projects ranging from extended plays to full-length albums, each coming with its own theme. Their new EP, “Map of the Soul: Persona” touches mostly on self-realization.

Sober listening:

“Intro: Persona” is actually an electric opener with an instrumental that sounds straight out of a rap-rock song from the early 2000s, but with more contemporary complexity in the beat in terms of rhythm and sampling. The song is rapped as a solo by RM, the band’s leader. RM’s rapping is fiery and confident, unlike other tracks on here which can come across as more goofy than impressive. The attempts at integrating English phrases into their lyrics seamlessly can be hit or miss due to the language barrier. Most of the time the subtle mistranslations can be ignored, but there are some moments that are unignorable.

“Boy with Luv” with Halsey was a song I was initially excited for. While I’m not the biggest Halsey fan, I still felt she could add a peppy, feminine perspective to the group’s dynamic, which she does. However, she’s mostly thrown into the backend of the chorus. I didn’t even notice her presence until at least three listens in. The rest of the song is okay, but nothing remarkable in the group’s overall discography.

On the chorus of “Mikrokosmos,” it feels like the chords and rhythm of an indie pop song, but with a much more electronic instrumental. It’s listenable, but kind of forgettable.

“Home” is the only song that I felt was truly stellar in the entire tracklist. It’s a high energy R&B influenced electropop cut with lovesick melodies and boyish singing. The instrumental sounds like a whirlwind of bliss. In contrast with the other songs, it’s incredibly vibrant and colorful. It’s the only song that’s truly emblematic of the bright and beautiful cover art.

One smoke session later …

“Make It Right” is decent, but it shares the same melody on the climax of the chorus as “Euphoria,” a song from their previous album, only with a much hollower instrumental follow-up. It also reminds me a bit of “Boy With Luv,” but not to a point where it feels like a ripoff. Other than that, there’s not a lot that really stands out to me.

I’ve listened to it several times and I still have no idea what to make heads or tails of the closing track, “Dionysus.” It opens with what almost sounds like the opening song of a buddy-cop movie from the ‘80s, but then it immediately transitions into an auto-tuned abomination. Even when I’m not wowed by most K-pop tracks, I can at least appreciate how well the multiple styles can be blended together. But on this track, they just sound like a directionless mess with uncoordinated layering and clunky transitions.


Unfortunately, from this project, I came away pretty disappointed at the group’s progression. Looking at the album cover for “Persona,” I was expecting a compilation of blissful, sugary K-pop tunes, but instead what came out was a mixed-bag of the group’s usual schtick.

Overall: 5/10

Favorite songs: “HOME,” “Boy With Luv” and “Intro : Persona”

Least favorite song: “Dionysus”

Henry Netherland can be reached at or on Twitter @NetherlandHenry.