Album Review: BTS – “Love Yourself: Her” (South Korea, 2017)

BTS are one of those rare bands that consistently and masterfully release dangerously addictive and extremely likeable hits; oozing profound charisma and extreme talent it is of little wonder why BTS have managed to maintain legions of adoring fans across the world.

Debuting in June of 2013, BTS have gone from strength to strength, becoming an unstoppable Korean Pop force. Releasing a long list of successive number one hits and winning an enviable trove of some of the most coveted awards in Asian Pop, the boys have boldly made their mark. Expanding in popularity over the past two years through the success of Blood, Sweat, and Tears and ‘Not Today’, further propelled by winning an award at the Billboard Music Awards, BTS faced the very difficult task of maintaining their incredible reputation.

Gaining momentum through a series of short videos in the lead up to the release, this album was sure to sell well. Indeed, according to Big Hit Entertainment, there were over 1.05 million copies of Love Yourself: Her pre-ordered as of last week. Each teaser video brought on waves of hysteria, and the release of audaciously colourful photos in the weeks leading up the release heightened the feverishness of which fans longed for the upcoming comeback.

Yesterday’s drop of Love Yourself: Her not only solidified their position as one of the biggest boy bands in the world, but catapulted the septet into a new era, proving once again that they can deliver where it matters, never once lacking in vigor and power. In less than six hours BTS had reached #1 across iTunes and Spotify albums charts around the world, including Australia.

The album begins with a familiar introduction that is short yet sweet. Serendipity was released a week ago featuring the adorable Jimin, complete with a full-video, as a teaser to the whole album. While it exists as preface, it is sophisticated enough that is is able to stand out all on its own; dreamy and gentle, dance-like, soft, and yet also unbelievably sexy, Jimin maintains a certain level of youthful playfulness and matches that with equal amounts of maturity and ability.

This is followed by the title track, DNA, which starts with a whistle that lays the foundation for the rest of the song. An acoustic guitar melody produces a laid-back, summer-like feel; it is catchy and immediately identifiable, threatening to stick in your memory for days. Indeed, I dare anyone not to find themselves whistling the distinct melody, the only feature which seems to be the only constant within the song.  At points it is almost as if the song goes in two different directions to a point where the drop in the chorus comes off as somewhat of a surprise. Melodic vocals add to complex dimension of the song; of note, V’s deep vanilla-smooth voice breaks up the intensity of the high-energy chorus. From here, the song builds up again as it runs boldly towards its conclusion.  And yet, altogether, these transitions are not disjointed. It all seamlessly comes together in digitally pixelated moments. This song is a triumphant display of their incredible diversity.

‘Best of Mewas the product of the much-hyped collaboration with The Chainsmokers, and it was just as much fun as one may have expected. Deep piano harmonies are matched with a driving drum beat and a delicate guitar riff, culminating in a bouncy electro-pop chorus that is fresh, fast, and infectiously joyous while simultaneously emotional.

The mid-tempo pop tracks continue with dimple, one of my own personal favourite tracks from the album. It is altogether graceful and delightfully charming, showcasing the vocal talents of Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, and V.  The song builds upon energetically lucid instrumentals that do not overwhelm the lyrics and vocals of the song. This allows for their voices to shine, which is important as each voice is so distinctly different, At the same time these voices seem to mix and melt into each other – a true testament to their talent. The lyrics are adorably romantic, and assuredly will stir a little something in the hearts of every single fan who has dimples. I have dimples, and when I first listened to the song I entertained the idea in my head that they (particularly Jin) had remembered me from our interview in Melbourne two years ago. Really. This was a thought I had in my twenty-five-year-old head. Regardless of whether you have dimples or not, the beat of this song will make you giddy enough to get up and dance.

Their fifth track Pied Piperreads as if it is a direct letter to fans. It is a personal warning, a reminder for fans to be cautious and not be overtaken by any obsession they may feel towards BTS. Rather than coming across as heedless or unappreciative, you can feel a certain level of apologetic regret that is being communicated through the lyrics. They are grateful for their fans, but are concerned that may be neglecting other important things in pursuit of their passion. The steady, pace-like beat draws you in; this is embellished by a pipe melody, a call to the title and, in turn, the folk-tale from which this song draws parallels to.

Significantly, this song is followed up by a clip of their Billboard Music Awards Speech. Let it be noted, the inclusion of this speech is more than a reminder of their win or a gratuitous display of fan service. It’s a one minute, forty-seven second pledge, a statement of gratitude to their fans. It is short, yes. Indeed, most BTS fans would have heard the speech before. However, its inclusion within the album is deliberate. With Blood, Sweat and Tears playing in the background, we are reminded of how far they have come. It marks a transition. Rap Monster teases, “Please ARMY, remember what we say: Love Myself, Love Yourself”. This is just the beginning for BTS. I, for one, am totally ready for what is yet to come.

No BTS album would be complete without a bit of Hip Hop, and ‘MIC Drop gives this to us. It is dirty, distorted, and punchy (and a whole lot of fun) – you will most definitely have this on repeat. My first impression of the song was that it felt rather nostalgic. At the heart of it, it is a track that is quintessentially BTS at their high-octane, hard-hitting best. They have not changed, they are just better.

Go Gois the penultimate track on the album and from the title, you would assume that it would be fast-paced. While it does remain energetic, the overall feel of the song is quite laidback, a direct comment on the subject of the lyrics – a comment on careless spending habits. The marimba and pan-flute bring a distinct reggae-like effect. This is contrasted with sharply accented vocals and a discerning hip-hop sound. The pan-flute, trap snare rolls, and marimba add an additional layer to this funky-track. It is fresh and achingly addictive.

If ‘Go Go’ was summer, ‘Her would be winter; the slow jazzy piano introduction is reminiscent of a cold, rainy day. A steady drum-kit helps kick up the pace, and the rap is so faultless that it becomes lyrical.

Their music is raw, their talent undeniable. It seems to me that being merely good enough is not close to being even remotely enough for BTS, a particular strength that makes them one of my own personal favourite male groups. Together, BTS are passionate, strong, and almost viciously dynamic; mature and robust, yet not insufferably excessive. Sharp, strong, and full of energy, they do not let go or give in, in a determined effort to push barriers of expectation.

Love Yourself: Her was full of an indescribable energy that the BTS boys seemed to sustain in abundance. Some songs are nostalgically Bangtan, others are refreshingly new; each song is bold and distinctively different. This album explores the complexity of the emotion of love, in all of its different forms. Delivering faultless and infectiously glorious musical diversity, including hip-hop and R&B inspired dance tracks, electro pop, and sweet mid-tempo pop ballads that never fail to impress, these men push the limits of what it truly means to be bulletproof.

Review Score: 9.0 out of 10