International pop stars Beyond the Scene, or BTS, released their sixth album, “MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA,” on April 12 and opened the door to a new genre of music for me. The seven member K-pop sensation followed up their albums from 2018, “Love Yourself: Tear” and “Love Yourself” before they go on the “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” world tour on May 4.
Because I had not listened to Korean pop music, popularly called K-pop, before, my first impression of BTS and this album was hinged on the cover art. The album cover features a white stencil drawn heart that is laid over a grid-like pattern. Two dots lie on different corners of the most central grid space and are labeled “MAP OF THE SOUL” and “PERSONA.” I found the grid pattern to be comparable to a street layout with the two dots being an origin and a destination. I made the connection that when navigating the map of one’s soul, in an effort to find a persona, it can sometimes be lined with fleeting love and passion.
Listening to K-Pop for the first time was a surprisingly pleasant experience. The first song in the album, “Intro : Persona,” was fast-paced and set the tone for the album as a whole. As someone who does not speak Korean, I was not able to understand more than a handful of the lyrics, but I still found myself thoroughly enjoying the songs’ rhythms, especially after reading the translated version of the lyrics.
Deeper into the album, “Make It Right,” the fourth song, switched up the tone and added a slower love song like feel, which gave the album variety but in my opinion was much less exciting than previous songs like “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey).” With this said, the songs “HOME” and “Jamais Vu” complimented “Make It Right” and gave the album a lot more emotion which I found to be more enjoyable after listening to the three songs in succession.
The finale of “MAP OF THE SOUL : PERSONA,” “Dionysus,” connected the emotional aspects of the second half of the album to the excitement that I felt from the first songs of the album. It felt powerful and had a sense of chaos that I was left wanting more of. I was curious and looked into the title a bit more and found that, Dionysus from Greek mythology, is the god of ritual madness and wine. In the song “Dionysus,” BTS compares art to alcohol, and repeated “Drink it up” in the refrain, which gave this song a much deeper meaning for me.
I think that what has allowed BTS to become so popular within K-Pop and especially in the U.S. is the collaboration with artists that make a variety of music and their lyrics. They featured Ed Sheeran and Halsey in this album, which appealed to the pop genre, yet still added to their unique variety and helped them reach a wider audience.
BTS’s translated lyrics gave me a greater understanding of the raw emotions expressed in their music. I would highly recommend listening to the song and reading the translated lyrics at the same time regardless of whether or not you are able to follow along. It became apparent to me what lyrics went with the corresponding part of the song and, in turn, left me fueled with passion while listening to “Dionysus” and filled with a shared regret when listening to “Make It Right.” For my first experience with K-Pop, I went through a whirlwind of confusion and excitement and ended up with a newfound enjoyment for the genre.