I’m admittedly a fan of BTS‘s body of work to this point, but that can be a double-edged sword in a way, at least in the sense that expectations ride high when they release new music. While I try to temper those expectations for obvious reasons, thankfully there wasn’t much need for it with ‘Love Yourself: Tear‘.
1. “Intro: Singularity”
“Singularity” is solely sung by Taehyung (V) and it’s what I would expect from a solo of his. It’s pure atmospheric R&B, something that usually performs well in Korea, and it’s just very chill and relaxing. The minimalist instrumental is up my alley, but I get that it’s unlikely to be everyone’s cup of tea since BTS is more known for their upbeat bops in the mainstream. The main show of this track are Taehyung’s vocals, which carry all the soothing properties of aloe vera.
2. “Fake Love”
“Fake Love” is actually one of my favorite BTS singles of all time. It makes me particularly nostalgic for the sheer fact it reminds me of Eminem‘s rap-rock ballads, only with more trap infused, giving it a modern sound. It’s moody, like a lot of other BTS singles, but the guitar bits give it an extra flavor, making it refreshing for the group. The rapping and singing transition especially smoothly, helping to make “Fake Love” a stellar choice for a single.
3. “The Truth Untold”
Carried by the vocal line (Jin, Jimin, Taehyung, Jungkook), “The Truth Untold” is a one of those K-pop piano-driven power ballads that gets better when you know the lyrics. It’s slow but doesn’t drag on for too long, and the vocals flow with the music beautifully. If you hate K-pop ballads, this won’t make you change your opinion, but as far as K-pop ballads go, it’s perfectly fine.
4. “134340” (Pluto)
Another refreshing sound from the group is this bossa nova style song; it’s sensual and nearly otherworldly in its approach, both literally and figuratively. The lyrical play throughout consists of the members cleverly comparing themselves, their lovers, and their relationships to planets. The shift at 2:50 keeps the song from sounding a bit too repetitive, and also manages to switch up the rhythm without being too jarring, which is a major plus. “134340” is one of my favorite tracks from the album thanks to the bossa nova sound, and BTS’s execution of something that isn’t necessarily up their alley was impressive. Suga was the standout on the track; his voice and smooth rapping weave in especially effectively.
“Paradise” figures to get love from American fans since this type of sensual electro-R&B and rap is on trend. It fits well with the current direction BTS is going sound-wise, which is modern, slightly-futuristic hip-hop; and “Paradise” continues them in that direction.
6. “Love Maze”
“Love Maze” is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, and it will likely get some sort of comparison to “Paradise”. While “Love Maze” is a lot more hip-hop inspired than “Paradise”, it also features a less conventional instrumental and a lot more bass, which is what makes it a standout. Hoseok (J-Hope) really shines here, and the way his rapping comes in at the end was a great way to cap off the verses.
7. “Magic Shop”
“Magic Shop” was just sort of underwhelming, even if it serves as a transition of sorts for the mood of the album. The chorus is effective, but the verses are surprisingly meek. At least the lyrics and meaning of the song salvage some value from the effort, as it’s about self-care and giving to yourself as much as you give to others. Still, the instrumental just doesn’t do it for me, and it’s a bit too twee-sounding.
8. “Airplane Pt. 2”
An upbeat hip-hop tune with Spanish/Latin American/South American dance influences is just what the doctor ordered after “Magic Shop”. The quality lyrics explore their struggles in the early days, how they’re living their best lives now, and how they’re still intact with themselves despite being high-profile artists. “Airplane Pt. 2” is like candy to the ears, with Jimin and Jungkook’s voices especially sweet and Namjoon’s (RM) flow meshing especially well here.
Take every BTS bop you know, put it in a blender, and you have “Anpanman“. Think “Rise Of Bangtan“, “Go Go“, “Baepsae“, “War Of Hormone“, and “21 Century Girls“ level of energy. Pure greatness. The lyrics are also rather intriguing, as Anpanman is apparently a Japanese superhero who saves others, but in the process becomes weak. The only downside is that Taehyung and Jin’s vocals have been auto-tuned so heavy they sound like Fetty Wap at some points.
*Fun Fact: This track took me the longest to review because I kept replaying it.
10. “So What”
“So What” is a lot like “Wings” in that it’s a flawless, super uplifting club banger that closes out an album. Just great fun, and the bridge sung by Taehyung and Jin is truly ethereal, and the same can be said for the ending high notes. No complaints.
11. “Outro: Tear”
“Outro: Tear” is a badass rap song by the rap line, but contains a much more depressing streak than the last few songs on the albums. Fortunately, that doesn’t take away from the song, but rather adds to the intrigue. It’s one of those very dramatic rap tracks, reminiscent of “What Am I To You?“, even down to the lyrics being about love and breakups. A great, yet bleak way to end the album.
BTS’s albums have all been consistently quality, and ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ doesn’t break that mold. It’s an album to frequently put on repeat over the summer, as it’s chock full of great tracks and refreshing sounds. It effectively adds to the list of things BTS has tried, but doesn’t take away from what they’ve developed previously. Usually with K-pop albums (and albums in general), the beginning is the most energetic part, and by the third-to-last track things start to wing down; you get slower more intimate songs. In ‘Love Yourself: Tear’, it’s the opposite — the slower intimate songs are all in the first half with the exciting dance numbers being in the last half. Makes for a somewhat unexpected listening experience, which was a noteworthy change. Overall, ‘Love Yourself: Tear’ falls somewhere between ‘Dark & Wild’ and ‘Wings’, and it deserves the high praise it gets.
Favorite Tracks: “Anpanman”, “Airplane Pt. 2”, “Love Maze”, “Fake Love”, “1340340”, “Outro: Tear”, “Intro: Singularity”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Magic Shop”