On Album ‘Love Yourself ‘Tear’, K Pop Group BTS’ Music Sounds Much Like The West’s Various Mainstream, Hip Hop, And Neo Soul

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 8 mins read

Perhaps switch out the Korean and Japanese language on album Love Yourself ‘Tear’ for English and you will have a standard mainstream album on your hands, incorporating familiar elements such as EDM Pop lite and international Latin Dance beats (think Despacito) and the infusion of certain Trap and R&B influences which have permeated into Pop. This is of course a smart business move from production company Big Hit Entertainment, with designs on world domination, and thus, there are plenty of expected flavors to choose from on this pretty decent album. I remain a little non-plussed though, not honestly on the same wave as everyone else out there, because at the end of the day, I’m less interested in albums designed by process of box checking what sounds various audiences will respond to. Alas, I’ll probably die penniless, whereas BTS will live a rich life indeed, already showing signs that they are currently the most popular and successful boy band since EXO. What works here are the slick and polished productions on each song, and additionally, the impressive rapping displayed herein. Vocals are pretty good too, yet perhaps unavoidably, there is some definite processing that can be heard here and there, plus the occasional unintentional comical phrasing of an English word which sort of snaps this American listener out of an almost seamless fantasy – which honestly would not even occur if K Pop groups would do the revolutionary thing and sing in all Korean, on all parts of all songs for an album. Now, would that even work, in an industry that is committed to being bilingual lyrically? On the subject of pronunciation, yes, BTS do a mostly fine job, but does anyone ever really stop and ask ‘why speak English’ and run the risk of not knowing what you are talking about, or, God forbid, mispronounce something pivotal which kills the vibe. I strongly feel I would like BTS and other K Pop groups even more if they would stop pretending so much to be something they are not and just give their own language a proper chance to shine in all its history and nuanced complexity. But it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon, and rather, that musical content of this genre will just get more and more Americanized.

A Linear Rundown Of The Album Showcases The Musical Flavors That Make Us Move

Things kick off in a ridiculously sexy way with the bedroom ready seduction of group member V’s steamy and soulful vocals on “Intro: Singularity” as he sings (translated) “a sound of something breaking / I awake from sleep / a sound full of unfamiliarity / try to cover my ears but can’t go to sleep.” What is intriguing here is that, while the beat is drawn out for every ounce of funk and eroticism, the actual meaning of the words is way more tame than the melody and rhythm here would suggest. How many countless other R&B artists, based in the U.S. or the UK, would go full on raunch over such a tune? This just goes to show, it is not what you say, but how you say it. What’s really crazy about the text within “Intro: Singularity” is that the lines are so metaphysical, poetically painting its primary conflict as one in which the singer wrestles with a pain in his throat and phantom voices which may or may not be his own. But trust me, the meaning here is unbelievably convoluted as the song progresses, which is an indication of either untranslatable language, or woefully pretentious prose. Personal judgement and unrequited love are expressed once again with a drastically different beat on “FAKE LOVE”, showing that the ambiguity which accompanies such songs is actually by design. To explain; because K Pop groups generally are discouraged from writing anything that is explicit about man/woman relationships, certain symbolism is used instead, where conflict comes in the form of ‘mirrors’ and the questions which arise while looking at one’s reflection, or hiding one’s true feelings out of an obligation for the other party’s feelings. Sounds frustrating and counterproductive according to my personal cultural norms. In other words, the songs, however intense, soft, adorable, or erotic they sound, most often seem to be about a certain concept; the trials and tribulations of suppressing true feelings – or in another interpretation – upholding the manly virtue of being perfect on the surface for your paramour by maintaining the right façade. When that façade becomes too much or inconsistent, the narrator then blames himself, and this becomes the conflict and drama central to these songs. By extension, fans feel sympathy for this narrator who is going through such an ordeal for the audience – with everyone keeping up the charade that the members are committed to this virginal relationship with each fan, careful to not identify, through song, specific physical features of women that the members of the band would gravitate towards (were they free to actually date), with designs to not alienate the physicality of any fan in particular.

BTS Prove They Are Beasts Of All Styles, Right Up To The End Of ‘Love Yourself ‘Tear’’

Steve Aoki’s producer’s touch on “The Truth Untold” is very light, as a large portion of the beginning of the song consists of traditional piano playing, and nothing even close to approaching EDM beat comes nearly 3 minutes into the song, and even then, it is very subtle. I find that this track does nothing for me either emotionally or rhythmically, and certainly found myself skipping over it in the interest of much hotter and captivating tracks. These include “134340” and it’s Jamiroquai style Nu-Disco jubilation, and “Paradise” with its very cute and sexy tropical snap patterns which transition to a stop and go funk beat that is truly out of this world. “Paradise” is a mix of several old-school and contemporary elements, from Timbaland production to the more modern production heard on Ty Dolla $ign beats, and also weaves the very adorable steel drum sound with harder Trap rhythms once the rapping starts picking up. “Love Maze” is nice throwback to the loving sound of old nineties R&B in the spirit of Lil Kim’s “Crush On you”, updated of course with Trap elements. Make sure to float to the acoustic and snap romance of the very ethereal and breathy R&B mid tempo groove “Magic Shop”, which manages to perfectly balance aggressive baritone rap verses with super sweet and innocent harmonies, all leading to the hugest electronica explosion on the album. What a great offering of several exciting and emotional styles on one song, whereas too man Pop numbers out there are content with just one style. While certainly not a bad song in and of itself, I can’t take “Airplane, Pt. 2”’s sound seriously, finding it to be too generic of an attempt to be the next “Despacito”, yet, to be fair, it is actually a much better song than “Despacito”, and perhaps if it hit the airwaves first and was sung entirely in Spanish, it could have been the superior mega-hit. “Anpanman” is another favorite because of its complete dedication attitude with absolutely no faltering anywhere whatsoever – amounting to probably the best Fetty Wap song you have ever heard (since “Trap Queen” of course). Honestly, the sound is epic and crystal clear hear, while the rapping is unbelievably authentic, with the same moaning auto tune made popular by Fetty Wap, plus much more, going above and beyond any Melodic Trap song on the market by having several beat switches and explosive measures. I really got my Electro Pop meets Trance fix with another dynamite hit, “So What”, a song perfect in every way, mixing rap with club pumping sound so much better than the best Pitbull or Flo Rida songs could ever accomplish. It is honestly that superior of an arrangement. Finishing the album experience with flying colors is such atmospheric and symphonic magic trick, as after an intricate opening, the song switches to an exciting and aggressive Rap track which reminds me just how dope BTS is operating in the realm of Hip Hop. To this last point, I have to add that in terms of Pop boy bands who Rap, accented missteps aside, BTS might be the best incorporators of Hip Hop in Pop at the moment – a certain testament to their continued talent.

2. Track List (11)

3. Official (11)

4. Live (3)

5. Featuring Remixes (8)

7. Similar Albums (1)

8. Similar Artists (11)

9. Album Info

Songwriter

  • BTS