BTS Delivers a High Dose of Energetic K-Pop With ‘Love Yourself: Answer’
Korean boy band BTS may very well be the most shocking and entertaining poster child of a pop phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with K-pop, just imagine pop taken to the very extremes, to absolutely farcical degrees. It’s rather bizarre and alien in how absurd and over-the-top it is, and so, its USA appeal has been largely confined to the likes of teenage punk girls and exotic fetishists. Somehow though, BTS caught on huge. There were one of the biggest, most anticipated, and most applauded acts of this year’s Billboard awards. With painstakingly choreographed dances and an excessiveness of pop appeal so outlandish that it simply has to grab your attention, they managed to cross over to the states, and they’re here now with a new album, “Love Yourself: Answer,” and it’s everything you would expect, just even more of it, and more extreme, with a running time of an hour and forty-five minutes of nonstop ultra-sheened, caricatured pop theatrics.
“Euphoria” starts things off with a seemingly unironic crudeness of lyrics that has been traditionally limited to the hip-hop sphere. The main chorus line is “You fuck me right.” Now, maybe we could shrug this off as something lost in translation, being a Korean group and all. But that’s hardly a possibility, as some record exec or someone down the line would have surely said something. It seems like they just went with it, likely having a bit of a laugh on the way. Actually, however, you can view it as something of a breakthrough, as there’s actually no reason not to have such blatant lyrics. “Trivia: Just Dance,” a rather nonsensical titled song, brings hip-hop into the mix, of the most energetic, bouncy, playful type. “Serendipity” is a sappy number, with some gliding, sinuous notes in the chorus that make it one of the most memorable tracks.
“DNA” preceded the album, being one of the hits, which is a bit odd, as it’s, in many ways, less conventionally accessible than other songs here. Remember the game “telephone,” that you played as a child, in which you say things to each other, allowing them to get misheard along the way, until it gets humorously altered? BTS has done that with EDM. There are times where it sounds like bad karaoke, but moreover just Ultra music festival, in its present form, fitted neatly into a track, with an Asian spin.
While the record is all very exaggerated and bright, and gives across the feeling, occasionally, of listening to the same track on repeat, there’s actually considerable variety. “Singularity” sounds almost as if it were a D’angelo song, and seems so out of place that it shows that these guys aren’t just a bunch of jokers. They’re just doing what they do, and have the talent to switch into different styles and pull it off. They’re consummate artists, in their own right. “Trivia: Seesaw” is of the “slow jams” variety, but in a way that shows off the Korean sensibilities more than most others, making for an interesting take. “IDOL” is basically a Reggaeton track, undercover, and the style seems very appropriate, as the band already embodied all the flash and lunacy of that genre. There’s a second version of “IDOL” at the end featuring none other than Nicki Minaj, and she’s a perfect fit, with her cartoonish excess blending perfectly with BTS.
The problem with this record, arguably, is just that its quality doesn’t seem to warrant its length. It’s all very bright and fun a third of the way through, but after that, you would have to be someone who defies odds just to defy odds in order to not get a bit tired of it. On the other hand, you could see this also as the shining appeal of the album. Rather than follow dictates of “tastefulness,” it’s just a double-length onslaught of music that takes every current pop trend and saturates it, throwing all caution to the wind, and relishing the ridiculousness of it all.
“Love Yourself: Answer” is available Aug. 24 on Apple Music.