“Love Yourself: Tear” is soulful and socially conscious

Rating: 4/5 stars

Since gaining U.S. recognition with its first Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist last year, seven-member Korean boy band BTS  has performed at the 2017 American Music Awards, appeared on countless talk shows and released its third Japanese studio album. On May 18, BTS released Love Yourself: Tear. It is the first full length album in the Love Yourself series, following the 2017 EP “Love Yourself: Her.”

With signature hip-hop beats, heartbreakingly raw ballads and socially conscious messages, BTS shows off its versatility and candor in Love Yourself: Tear. In several interviews, group leader RM said that Love Yourself: Tear would be about the complexities of  love, whether it be romantic, platonic or self-love.

For new ARMY members, the name of BTS’ fanbase, here’s the rundown: a new BTS album is not simply music. There are new hair colors, choreography and fan chants. BTS’ music follows a story arc — linked through music videos and album extras — so eagle-eyed fans must go back at least an album or two in order to appreciate the full masterpiece of a new one.

The album begins with “Intro: Singularity,” a soulful solo performance by V. The R&B-inspired track is reminiscent of V’s other solo “Stigma” on 2016 album Wings. On “Singularity,” the record’s  theme can be understood with lyrics such as “My voice was buried for you” and “Should I not have thrown myself away?” The eerie, intimate music video echoes these words with the recurring theme of masks.

Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment Co.

The music video for single “Fake Love,” which was released on the same day as the album, garnered 35.9 million views within  the first 24 hours of its release, becoming the third most viewed music video of all time on YouTube in 24 hours, behind Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and fellow Korean artist Psy’s “Gentleman.” With a bass-filled chorus and a simple chant, “Fake Love” is the kind of high-energy pop song that U.S. radio stations love. On Sunday, BTS graced the  Billboard Music Awards stage with a powerful performance of “Fake Love,” and the audience’s enthusiastic reaction may be a strong indicator of the song’s future impact on American pop radio.

Another standout track is “The Truth Untold,” a ballad featuring Steve Aoki, with whom BTS has previously collaborated. Above a simple piano melody, member Jungkook laments how hard it is to be vulnerable: “You know that I can’t show you me / Give you me.”

The storyline continues with “Anpanman,” as lively beats disguise emotional lyrics about a superhero who endures pain to save others. Closer “Outro: Tear” ties up BTS’ story by mixing in samples from their music videos with new raps from RM, Suga and J-Hope. The eleven-track album demonstrates  the depth and breadth of BTS’s socially aware music. Besides connecting with ARMY on Twitter, BTS has been inspiring youth all over the world as they, too, struggle through their own hardships in life.

Next, BTS will be promoting its album with a performance on The Ellen Show, Late Night with James Corden and an international broadcast live comeback show on Mnet, a South Korean music television channel.