Album Review: BTS – ‘Love Yourself: Tear’
Written by Chyenne Tatum on June 13, 2018
Album: Love Yourself: Tear
Label: BigHit Entertainment
Release Date: May 18, 2018
Shattering records and taking names –that has become the motto for powerhouse group, BTS over the past year. The dedicated ARMY knew what they were in for when BigHit dropped “Euphoria” back in April, but the rest of the world remains dazed and confused as to how a group of seven very good-looking South Korean men has been able to turn all their ideas and expectations of music upside down and make it look so effortless. That is, until now.
Setting the record for the first Asian album to sit at #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart, Love Yourself: Tear is the group’s third full-length Korean album. Composed of 11 tracks, the album deals with a range of themes such as the pain of separating from a loved one and “the dark, sad sides of love”, as leader RM mentioned in several interviews while promoting in the U.S.
In my last BTS review for Love Yourself: Her, I mentioned how it felt like the boys had taken one step back from their previous albums, as opposed to moving forward in their musical journey. And although I love that album very much, Tear is the body of work that I wished Her had been and the one I’ve been waiting so patiently for. It takes the listener on a massive adventure, switching up each track with refreshing new sounds and even throwing in a few old-school Bangtan vibes along the way. I can never fully express the way I feel about an album in three paragraphs, so sit tight and prepare yourself.
Tear’s lead single, “Fake Love”, made its world premiere on this year’s Billboard Music Awards in which BTS performed on stage and recently debuted in the top 10 on the US Billboard 100. The song is considered an electro-pop/hip-hop track, which sounds awesome on paper but I’m not going to lie…this is actually my least favorite title track that they’ve released so far.
During my first listen, the first verse between RM and J-Hope had me really hyped for the chorus. But when the chorus and even pre-chorus hit, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to my expectations. Considering BTS sits on a higher standard on my list of K-pop boy groups, “Fake Love” almost seemed a bit too bland in terms of its melody and vocal arrangements. However, what I can appreciate is the level of consistency that the group’s rap line holds. It was the brilliant flows of RM, J-Hope, and Suga that held my interest for where the song would whisk me off to next.
Although my first impression of “Fake Love” wasn’t what I expected, I will admit that it has grown on me since then and might actually earn a place in my heart someday.
My opinions on “Airplane Pt. 2” on the other hand, are the polar opposite. Ever since “Despacito” and “Havana” became worldwide phenomenons in 2017, we’ve slowly started to see more Latin influence seep into the K-pop world with songs like SF9’s “O Sole Mio”, Block B’s “Shall We Dance” and more recently, Super Junior’s immensely innovative crossover, “Lo Siento” featuring Latin pop singer Leslie Grace. This time, it’s BTS’ turn and I’m pretty sure no one expected such a tune to come out of this album with so much flavor. The song is a continuation of J-Hope’s initial “Airplane” track from his Hope World mixtape, which he released earlier this year and even used one of his verses on top of the new beat in part two.
The “tango-esque” feel of the song is exquisite to the ear, as Jungkook sings in a charming tone that’s sure to have every girl wrapped around his finger. After listening to the infectious chorus with the lines, “we’re going from NY to Cali, London to Paris, anywhere we go it’s a party, El Mariachi”, I was hooked. And if the song itself didn’t kill me enough, the live performances are a doozy. The boys look and move just as suave as they sound. Each member takes a turn singing or rapping into one mic stand in which they share and bounce off of each other during their parts. It’s all seems so simple and laid-back, yet the choreography is intricately timed and calculated in a way that fits the Spanish beat and makes you feel like you’ve just landed on an exotic trip with BTS….Mexico City, anyone?
Another instant favorite of mine is none other than the mighty “Anpanman” –a brand new anthem for fans to scream at the top of their lungs in the car, the shower, or on the “Love Yourself” tour kicking off later this year. “Anpanman” delivers that core BTS sound that I’ve been craving, while also using the same fun-loving party elements from “Go Go” (my favorite track from Love Yourself: Her). While watching the lyric video on YouTube, I saw a comment that described the song as if “Mic Drop’ and “Go-Go” had a child –this is true. The mentions of superheroes in the song ignited a curiosity in me to find out what the meaning of “Anpanman” really stood for. That’s when I discovered Anpanman is actually an animated Japanese superhero with one of the most popular anime series for young children in Japan. Anpan is a bean-filled pastry and ‘pan’ means bread in Japanese, which is where Anpanman gets his name considering his head is made out of bread. Translated into English, it means “Bread Bun Man” –not as catchy as Anpanman, right?
The track starts off with V singing, “waiting for your Anpanman” in a wailing-like voice; the other vocalists also sing this part throughout the song, but I definitely think it fits his voice the best. Once again, the drumbeat in the chorus is infectious and I love the way they rhyme Anpanman with Bangtan. Other than the cute choreography that BTS executes with little effort, the lyrics hide a deeper meaning behind their quirkiness and delve into a topic that you wouldn’t even think about when hearing a song like this.
Anpanman is known as a character who always helps those in need and since his head was edible, he would help anyone suffering from hunger and gives them a piece of his head to provide them with strength. In exchange for making someone else stronger, it would also make Anpanman weaker, yet he never complained or denied anyone his aid. Besides, he would always just have another head made by Uncle Jam, the baker in the story. It wasn’t until I read the lyrics and theories, that I realized this could double as a metaphor for BTS’ lives. During the bridge, Jungkook sings, “to be honest, I’m scared of falling and of turning you down, but even if it takes up all my strength, I will be sure that I stay by your side.”
What I’ve gathered and taken away from this section in particular, is that BTS consider themselves to be Anpanman (or heroes) for their ARMY and are scared of letting their fans down or seeing them hurt. Every day, all seven members give so much of themselves –their time, their privacy, their most private thoughts– to their listeners in hopes that it makes them stronger, more powerful and more resilient, even if it weakens them in the process. No matter how many bruises or wounds the industry leaves on the group, they will always be there when the ARMY calls. In a heart-wrenching way, it’s actually really beautiful how they used a fun cartoon character to convey such deep emotions within an exhilarating composition.
All in all, the Bangtan boys continue to step up their game with each release both musically and popularity wise. And if their discography was a Monopoly game, Tear just hit the jackpot and transported straight to “GO”. BTS will take their $200 (million) now, please.
Top 5 Favorite Tracks:
- “Airplane Pt. 2”
- “The Truth Untold”
- “Love Maze”