Album Review — Map of the Soul: Persona


Media by BigHit Entertainment Company, Ltd.

My alarm sounded at 4 a.m. and I immediately woke up to refresh my YouTube app. At that moment, South Korean boy band BTS released their sixth EP, “Map of the Soul: Persona,” worldwide to much anticipation. As a major fan of BTS and the K-Pop genre as a whole, I was extremely excited for their newest release.

The mix of good songs in this EP is extremely vibrant. No matter what emotion or intensity, almost every song is memorable and interesting. The seven members of BTS and their producers found the balance between catchy repetition and unique sounds throughout the album.

Arguably the most anticipated song to come from this album was “Boy With Luv” featuring Halsey, because of the title’s reference to the 2014 BTS hit “Boy In Luv” and the A-List feature. As someone who despises Halsey’s dramatically-edgy singing style, I pleasantly found her inclusion in the chorus and adlibs to be very appealing. In a song all about sensitivity and vulnerability in a relationship, her voice added a sense of softness.

The title track “Intro: Persona,” as well as “Make it Right,” “HOME” and “Jamais Vu” also had excellent vocal performances. Each song went down a different avenue stylistically and used all of the members’ dynamic vocal ranges, but they work well together in succession, which is something I look for in an album.

All of the best songs on “Map of the Soul: Persona” venture away from the booming EDM theme of their last album “Love Yourself: Tear,” which came out in May of 2018 and was the first K-Pop album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. I fully expected BTS to play it safe and try to emulate their past success, but it makes sense that the tracks were toned down slightly to appeal to a larger audience.

There isn’t a song on this album that I think is bad, but there were a few that are definitely lacking in quality compared to the others.

As soon as I heard the arpeggiated, four-chord synth opening to “Mikrokosmos,” I knew it would sound like a cookie-cutter American pop song. It’s not a bad song by any means: “Mikrokosmos” is super catchy and the chorus is still stuck in my head despite listening to it less than the other cuts on this EP. The vocal performances by members Jungkook and V in the opening verse are nicely delivered in a soft and delicate fashion, but the progression is all too predictable.

Conversely, the closing song, “Dionysus,” is the exact opposite in that it’s a little too dissonant in context of the album as a whole. The hard hitting, horn blaring, almost punk rock banger follows the aforementioned soft-spoken “Jamais Vu,” creating somewhat of an untasteful contrast when listening to the songs back to back. But the mix of auto-tuned vocals, onomatopoeia, live and electronic instruments and squealing high notes in a rocker-like fashion somehow works to a certain degree. “Dionysus” sounds like if you took every song on this album, mashed it together and then cranked the tempo up. It’s not very easy on the ears for casual listening, but it’s certain to rumble arenas when performed live.

Ultimately, I feel as though this album completely met my expectations as a returning fan — a refreshing and quality release but with a slight lack of depth. Was “Map of the Soul: Persona” worth it to wake up so early in the morning to listen to? To me, absolutely. But did it make much of a global impact? Besides the record breaking 78 million YouTube views of the “Boy With Luv” music video in 24 hours, that has yet to be seen. Only the reception to radio play, their Saturday Night Live performance and their upcoming world tour will tell.