BTS’s Golden “Love Yourself” Era Comes to a Close
The much-awaited final installment of BTS’s LOVE YOURSELF series, LOVE YOURSELF 結 Answer, has finally been released and to no one’s surprise, the repackaged album is already breaking records left and right. As praises and accolades come in by the second, it’s clear this album will not only be a staple in the group’s career, but also in the K-Pop industry and quite possibly the music industry as a whole. Between a tracklist comprised of their biggest hits from the last year, eight new songs, a traditionally-influenced title track, and even a collaboration with Nicki Minaj, this is one album everyone, BTS ARMY or not, cannot miss.
From the moment the concept photos were released, fans went wild with theories as to what the theme of the third and final LOVE YOURSELF title would be. With pictures of the seven members surrounded by peering eyes, trapped in fairytale-like terrariums, and quite literally torn between the different sides of themselves, fans widely accepted this title could be a critique of the K-Pop industry and with the release of BTS’s newest song, “IDOL,” it looks like they were mostly right.
While sales and broken records make it seem like the Western music world has opened its arms wide to embrace BTS, the sad truth is that there is still a long way to go before K-Pop is truly accepted for what it is: Korean. While some in Western entertainment cultures continue to shun the group because of the otherness of their language and visuals, the group has also received its fair share of criticism within the K-Pop world with some claiming the group had become “too Westernized.” The new title track “IDOL,” an African-influenced, EDM dance track laden with traditional Korean sounds (yes, they successfully fused African and Korean styles), is BTS’s answer to these naysayers: they’re Korean, they’re here to dominate, and they’re here to stay.
The classic Korean influence in the song is undeniable, as the chorus itself is comprised of traditional Korean beats and phrases between powerful declarations of, “You can’t stop me loving myself.” RM’s and j-hope’s opening lines of the song set the tone strong:
“You can call me artist
You can call me idol
No matter what you call me
I don’t care
I’m proud of it
No more irony
Because I’ve always been just me”
Ever since the beginning of the LOVE YOURSELF series, BTS has pushed for the idea of self-love—especially in the face of adversity—and with “IDOL,” they’ve managed to create not only a hit song but also a self-love anthem. The surprise addition of Nicki Minaj in the bonus digital-only track adds to this: notably one of the most unashamedly confident women in the industry, Nicki’s characteristic spitfire serves as the perfect complement to the boys that will leave BTS fans, Nicki Minaj fans, and general listeners alike wondering how these two acts hadn’t come together before. All in all, “IDOL” is loud and proud; in fact, quite possibly the only thing louder and prouder than the song is its corresponding music video.
A Visual Experience
Admittedly, the video for “IDOL” is a little overwhelming upon first watch: bright colors flash across the screen in a psychedelic fashion reminiscent of the 1960s and there’s more CGI than the entire Matrix series combined. The editing is over the top and very in-your-face, constructed so carefully that it tiptoes the line of being unpleasant—all things that non-fans of K-Pop have come to associate with the industry; and therein, lies the true genius of the video. Between the wild colors and flashy graphics of “IDOL,” BTS weaves in their own critique of themselves, their industry, and how the outside world views both in a way that shows the members of BTS are truly, unapologetically themselves and no amount of fame nor criticism will change that.
Editing aside, the music video is a dazzling watch from beginning to end. The choreography, filled with moves similar to traditional Korean performance, is some of the group’s most explosive yet, even offering non-dance line members Jin, SUGA, and RM plenty of center time to prove that their dance skills are second-to-none. With a horde of backup dancers against bright backdrops, fans have even likened it to a Bollywood performance. One of the most refreshing aspects of the video may be the way the members break away from their idol personas and instead perform as themselves: fashion-forward member V is shown wearing his signature pair of large, retro-inspired glasses that a fan infamously criticized him for before. As a whole, the fashion is unforgettable, with members donning everything from neon, patterned suits to traditional hanbok—another clapback to those who find BTS simultaneously too and not enough Korean.
(Photo Credit: ibighit YouTube Channel)
BTS has always been known for their larger-than-life personalities and their eccentricities shine through in this video that’s fun and authentic from start to finish. Maybe it’s their constant calling for self-love or maybe it’s something else, but it’s clear that the group is feeling more confident than ever in this latest addition to their music video repertoire. But one thing is undeniable: BTS has mastered the art of entertainment. Watch the music video for “IDOL” below.
The LOVE YOURSELF Journey
Starting with their mini-album LOVE YOURSELF 承 Her back in September 2017, BTS embarked on an identity-seeking musical quest, crooning tales of happiness and predestined love in songs like “Serendipity” and “DNA,” before following up with a concept trailer featuring the lighthearted song “Euphoria,” sung by main vocalist Jungkook. In May of 2018, they released “Singularity” and “FAKE LOVE,” the intro and title track for LOVE YOURSELF 轉 Tear respectively, both of which spoke of sacrificing one’s identity for the sake of someone else. In comparison to the first mini-album, this full album took a much darker spin on things with everything from the lyrics to the members’ hair colors deepening in shade.
(Photo Credit: BigHit Entertainment)
While both of these albums are both outstanding pieces of work in their own right, the true artistry in this series comes through when the tracklists are rearranged into LOVE YOURSELF 結 Answer, a narrative that feels more like a personal journey of self-discovery rather than a collection of greatest hits. This is truly an album to be listened to from start to finish, as one can hear the growth of the group—both musically and emotionally—as the album progresses. Interestingly enough, older songs sound even better when juxtaposed against their newer counterparts. Furthermore, the story of self-acceptance is rounded out with eight new songs, including the previous video-only “Euphoria,” intro “Epiphany,” and even three new rap line solo tracks.
New tracks “I’m Fine” and “Answer : Love Myself” both preach similar messages of self-love and independence, albeit in different fashions. “I’m Fine,” an upbeat EDM track, harkens back to the group’s 2016 release “Save ME” and even samples music from the song. On the other hand, the softer, instrumentally-driven “Answer : Love Myself” feels like the inevitable culmination of this whole series, with vocalists Jimin, Jungkook, Jin, and V taking front and center with the repetition of the line, “I’m learning how to love myself.” The previously mentioned rap line tracks done by j-hope, RM, and SUGA are certainly stand-out songs on the album, notably SUGA’s funk-inspired “Trivia 轉: Seesaw,” which likens an imbalanced relationship to a seesaw and even features the talented rapper as a vocalist.
The album is further rounded out with an extended version of “Serendipity” and also several remixes of LOVE YOURSELF fan favorites.
LOVE YOURSELF 結 Answer and the entire LOVE YOURSELF series is the full package: it offers a story of growth in its music, in the group members themselves, and perhaps most importantly, instills a sense of pride in every listener. To have completed a project as ambitious as this and to have succeeded on such a grandiose scale is nothing short of impressive. Records, awards, and the like are wonderful, but with this latest release, BTS reminds us of the most important thing one can have for oneself: love.
“IDOL” Title Score: 9/10
Music Video Score: 8.5/10
LOVE YOURSELF 結 Answer Album Score: 10/10