Map of the Soul: Persona

by: BTS

Launching a new era, K-pop powerhouse BTS unveiled the first installment of a series, Map of the Soul: Persona, in 2019. Streamlined for the mainstream and instantly accessible, the effort focused mainly on vibrant pop with bursts of rap and some R&B throwbacks, allowing each member a moment to highlight his individual style. Leader RM kicks off the seven-song set with a ferocious solo turn on the spiritual sequel to 2014's "Intro: Skool Luv Affair," "Persona." Referencing Carl Jung's ideas of self and a bevy of Psych 101 topics for fans to pore over, the hungry rapper spits "Who the hell am I?" while delving into the struggle between the darkness within and a manicured outer image. From there, the rest of BTS -- Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook -- join Persona, bringing American singer Halsey along for the shimmering "Boy with Luv." Her vocals add an extra layer of brightness to the track -- without stealing the spotlight -- and it's the group's clearest bid for an international radio hit to date. As on past releases, BTS deftly balance the extroverted and the insular, so while the middle stretch blends joyous pop ("Mikrokosmos") and smooth soul ("HOME"), "Jamais Vu" offers deep introspection as they are forced to "deal with this real world," begging for someone to "please give me a remedy." For fans of the group's more raucous singles, the explosive "Dionysus" is the closest Persona comes to the thrills of tracks such as "IDOL," "Fire," or "Not Today," and it does not disappoint. Although the album is only the first piece of the puzzle, on its own, Map of the Soul: Persona is a fitting celebration for a group at the top of their game. ~ Neil Z. Yeung

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