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BTS returns with new chart-topping album in ode to fans

By Ahn Sung-mi

  • Published : Apr 17, 2019 - 17:07
  • Updated : Apr 17, 2019 - 17:07

From left: V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope. Big Hit Entertainment
Having made an incredible splash on the music scene with the new chart-topping album “Map of the Soul: Persona,” BTS wants to delve into the power of love, which is what catapulted the band to global stardom, the band said Wednesday.

At a global press conference livestreamed on YouTube, the septet talked about their new music, their collaboration with pop heavyweights Halsey and Ed Sheeran, their upcoming sold-out stadium concerts, their recent “Saturday Night Live” appearance and the weight of stardom -- all while expressing love for their global fandom community, known as the BTS Army.

“For the past 2 1/2 years, we have been talking about how loving yourself is the start of true love through our ‘Love Yourself’ series. Thankfully, we received so much love and experienced and felt things that we have never imagined,” said leader RM. “So as we were deciding what to put in this album, we wanted to talk about the strength that brought us here, its source, as well as shadows. That power, ultimately is, (the power) of love from our fans.”

Jungkook also emphasized the unique relationship between BTS and its fandom community as the foundation of the new album.

“We became more curious about the Army, their life and feelings,” he said. “So we had a conversation about this with (Big Hit Entertainment CEO) Bang Si-hyuk and it developed and became the theme of the album. I felt the power of music, when hearing from fans that they received strength and comfort during difficult times through our music.”

The new seven-track album, released Friday, is already breaking records.

BTS (Yonhap)

The EP is bound to top the Billboard 200 chart. It will be the third time the septet has made it to the top of that chart, having done so twice last year with “Love Yourself: Answer” and “Love Yourself: Tear.” The group is also set to top the UK’s Official Chart -- a first for BTS or for any Korean act.

The music video for the lead single, “Boy With Luv,” hit 100 million views on YouTube just 38 hours after its launch -- another worldwide first for any video on the platform. Meanwhile, the musicians just returned from their NBC “Saturday Night Live” debut -- another first for any Korean group -- where they delivered the global premiere of “Boy With Luv.”

When asked about these trailblazing feats, the bandmates, behind the confident, self-assured performances, said they felt the weight of their stardom.

“We didn’t come to this position all of a sudden,” said Jin. “We are standing here today thanks to the road that was paved by many artists that came before us. It would be a lie if I said we don’t feel the pressure. But in order to brush that pressure away, we are focusing on our main job, which is music and performance.”


The lyrics of the new album also deal with this burden and with the negative side of the band’s massive popularity.

“As we go up and grow in height, our shadow gets longer,” said RM. “So the pressure is always there. At some point, I became scared of the shining lights and the spotlight audiences. The audience can see me in bright, and I couldn’t. There were times when I felt like I wanted to run away.

“But there are more things we want to achieve at this position. We have this energy that we receive from fans, and that is much more than the feeling of wanting to run away. We continue to hold onto this fear, because what we have is more precious than the weight.”

The new album is a star-studded one, with pop star Halsey collaborating on “Boy With Luv.” BTS will perform live with Halsey on May 1 at the Billboard Music Awards, where the band has been nominated in two categories: Top Social Artist and Top Duo/Group.

“As we were searching for an artist to collaborate with, we wanted an artist who could express a diverse emotional range and Halsey was a perfect fit,” said Suga. “We found many similarities with her in values and passion. And she was happy to join us, so we had a very good time filming the music video together in Namyangju, despite the cold weather.”


The band was also very satisfied at having teamed up with British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who wrote “Make It Right.”

“Ed Sheeran contacted us saying he wants to work with us, and of course we wanted to collaborate with him,” said J-Hope. “The song has a delicate sentimentality and a heart-wrenching melody, and RM’s lyrics match it perfectly.”

In terms of what’s next for BTS, the bandmates said they were excited about their upcoming stadium tour of major cities in the US, Europe and Japan, and about hopefully taking a trophy home at the Billboard Music Awards.

Here is more from the press conference.

Q: Lead track “Boy With Luv” reminds one of 2014 song “Boy in Luv.” Why was it important to go back to this time?

Suga: “Boy With Luv,” for which the Korean title is “Poem for Small Things,” has a connection with “Boy in Luv,” which talked about young love. This song talks more about the joy and love for small and simple things. It’s fans that brought us to where we are today. The song was created when we started thinking about our first and the beginning.

Q: Why did you choose “Saturday Night Live” to debut the new album for BTS? What do you want the audience watching BTS for the first time to take away from the performance?

Jimin: We would like to thank everyone that made our “SNL” performance possible. The language is different, but I want (the listeners) to feel the sincerity that we put in the story and the music. I wanted (people) to know that BTS can enjoy the stage and are good performers.

“DNA” was first revealed at a special return show, while “Fake Love” was unveiled at the Billboard Music Awards. “Idol” was performed for the first time at our concert. We gave a lot of thought with the company into how we can give a great stage, as it is the first performance of the new album. And when the amazing opportunity came, we chose “SNL” without hesitation. It’s a place where many artists have performed, so we were really nervous. But it was a happy memory because there were many fans who came to see us at the site.


Q: How do you feel about selling out Wembley Stadium concerts for two days?

V: We want to say thank you to (our fan group) the Army. We always wanted to perform at all the stadiums, not only Wembley. I heard a lot of places sold out, and we are very excited and feel grateful to the Army who are coming. We will practice harder to put on a great performance.

Q: What does Army mean for BTS?

: They are everything that created today’s BTS. We became even more curious about Army, so we talked about this with (founder and co-CEO of Big Hit Entertainment) Bang PD. This conversation developed and became the theme of this album.

We heard that many of the global Army received strength and comfort during difficult times and changed their lives. We thought about how great the power of music is, and the connection between Army and BTS become even tighter. Army and BTS can never be separated.


Q: Suga’s previously stated goals, such as the Billboard charts, Grammy Awards attendance and a stadium tour, are becoming reality. What’s the next goal?

Jin: Personally, I think achieving goals is important, but we think we will have better results if many people can be happy through our music. This album is an album that we released to enjoy with fans. So if the fans can have fun with us, there is no other goal better than that.

Suga: A lot of things I said in the past were achieved, so I do feel the pressure. But there is still a lot left we want to further achieve. But we have to do well on what’s in front of us. We want to successfully complete our stadium tour first,

Also we received two nominations at the BBMA (Billboard Music Awards). It will be great to win both categories, but I don’t know if it is realistically possible. But we want to win at least one.


Q: How did you decide on the lead track?

RM: From the beginning, “Boy With Luv” was made with becoming the lead track in mind. It’s a song that expresses this album and the sentiment that we want to portray.

Q: Since its debut, BTS has been relatively scandal-free. Is there something that the bandmates have agreed upon?

Suga: We kind of made rules on managing ourselves and certain promises. Especially in the early days, we talked a lot about our influences on people that love us, as we are in this entertainment, and how we should live as musicians. It wasn’t to restrict, but more on how we should live as singers. So I think the promises were made naturally.

Jimin: There weren’t detailed promises, but the environment was created. Something we talked about a lot was that “whatever happens, let’s not get hurt, we are all on each other’s side.” And because of this, I think we always try to be more careful.

Q: What do you think is behind BTS topping major charts and becoming a global group? What can you tell idol-wannabes who want to become the “second BTS”?

Suga: I thought about this a lot. What is so special and different about BTS to receive so much love? I think a lot of things are different, but at the same time, a lot of things are the same. But most of all, the special fans we met, who responded to our music, are what make us special.
I don’t think there is “another BTS.” When we were young, we also had our own heroes, but we didn’t become them, but we became BTS. I think it will be a better picture to have more great artists, and not the second BTS.

Jungkook: When I think back, I don’t think I practiced hard before the debut. So I am regretting that. Because I didn’t know before the debut. But (trainees) these days know this well about themselves. So I think it will be best for them to use their time wisely.

V: I am not sure if I am in the position to say this. But I want to say, don’t get hurt or feel devastated by the failure or frustration that came while practicing and working hard. Don’t get hurt, I think that’s the way to walk up the stairs. The failure become good memory and a source to grow even higher.


Q: How was the “Jamais Vu” unit created?

Jin: When we were talking with the company, we wanted to come up with a new unit that hasn’t been done before. That was with Jungkook, J-Hope and Jin.

J-Hope: When this unit was decided, Jin worried a lot. I also thought this different combination was new and fresh. Through this music, it was fun to feel different charms of Jin and Jungkook.


Q: Did you read the “Map of the Persona” book? Can you give us some hints on how this series will continue?

RM: Frankly, I haven’t completed the entire book. But I watched YouTube and blogs on this book. It’s a theme that was recommended by the company. But because I am interested in psychology, I was familiar with psychologist (Carl) Jung, and the concept of persona. After the “Love Yourself” series, we were all curious what’s next. Can we do a story (better) than this one?

“Love Yourself” is more like a self-spell, while “The Map of the Soul” is searching for (your own) map of the soul. Before the album release, the bandmates individually have time to talk with producer Bang Si-hyuk to communicate on what we are interested in. And we also talked a lot among ourselves. Summing all up, this concept was created as the result of our continuous communication.

I cannot give you many hints on the next album -- only thing I can say is that we will talk about our strength and its foundation.

Q: What’s the foundation on showing a positive side to the fans?

Suga: I think it started from our genuineness. It was seven people who want to do music and want to be on the stage. The hardship period was very long, but we were able to manage ourselves and start again. I think lot of people received courage from that. When we thought of how we can repay the fans who are very proud of us, we wanted to spread that positive influence to many. Because we met the special fans, we were able to spread good influences.

Q: Why did you decide on the album color of pink?

Suga: The album talks about the joy of everyday life. In comparison to previous ones, the theme is less heavy. So we wanted to change the mood. As we kick off the new season of albums, we wanted to give a fresh start.


Q: Can you comment on a French photographer’s claim of plagiarism on the music video of “Blood, Sweat and Tears?”

Suga: All I can say is the company’s legal team is taking care of it.

Q: Overseas media have dubbed BTS the “21st century Beatles.” What do you think?

: I am a huge fan of the Beatles, and recently went to an exhibition on John Lennon. I am very humbled. It’s an honor. But what I want to say is BTS is a group that is actively working in Korea and we will go our way as BTS.

Q: What does hip-hop mean for BTS?

RM: It’s hard to define hip-hop. But it is something that I, and also the other bandmates, have loved from trainee days. It’s a genre that we still love and hold dear to.


Q: During the press conference, videos from early days were also revealed. What are your thoughts?

Jimin: One thing that comes to mind me when I think of past clips is our debut. I think of the small number of fans that came for our debut stage, when not many knew us. When I think of that time, I have to work harder.

Q: Do you have plans to release mixtapes?

Suga: We don’t have anything planned right now, but we are always working on it.

RM: There is no order for a mixtape. If someone wants to do it, the person has to do everything on their own, and then take it to the producer for evaluation. It needs to meet the quality.

Jungkook: Last year I said I will be releasing a mixtape. But I am really sorry. I don’t have the ability yet to create a mixtape on my own. I will work harder and practice to hopefully release one.

V: I hope the vocal members will also release mixtapes soon.

Q: Do you have plans on releasing an English-language album as well?

RM: We don’t have plans on releasing English albums specifically for the US market. But we will continue to do collaborations like remixing Korean songs, such as with Steve Aoki on “Waste It On Me.”

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)