(Reuploaded to remove bots + further analysis)
The South Korean sensation BTS (방탄소년단) is back, with BE: a simple title on the surface, but take a look at the Korean characters for Bang (방) and Tan (탄). Spot something? Anyway, with a colossal catalog of seventeen commercial records, three of them reaching the top of the American charts, BTS have been able to capture the hearts of youths across the world, with songs that explore various personal troubles, life lessons, and social issues. Even though many of the group's adventures have left me quite unsatisfied, BTS have proven time after time that they're serious about the art they produce, with the consistent improvement they make with each consecutive release. Even years after BTS' creative streak ended, it continues to amaze me that they were able to bounce back from the nearly worthless 2 Cool 4 Skool and were able to release the nearly perfect Love Yourself 轉 'Tear' only a few years later.
And every aspect of BE seemed to be a great change of pace from 2020's MAP OF THE SOUL : 7, the group's most monetized and monotone record to date. BE's lack of overbearing advertisement and western support was super exciting, and the barren cover, short runtime, standalone nature, and boast of having "the most BTS-esque music to date" seemed to be very referential of Wings, a super personal release for BTS that also boasts some of the most BTS-esque music to date, but unfortunately wasn't able to capitalize off of that. So for BE to promise both a short runtime AND the most BTS-esque music to date got my hopes up that BE could be the more concise and consistent version of Wings I wanted.
And after two long months of waiting, we have BE.
And... it's good. Great actually.
Against all odds, BE ended up being BTS' most concise and consistent record yet. Whereas many other conceptual BTS releases are stuffed with tracks that contributed little to the overall story and message (even Love Yourself 轉 'Tear' is guilty of this), BE's eight tracks (even the Skit) are all vital to the record's story and message. BE starts with the title track Life Goes On, which perfectly spells out the record's overarching theme of, "even during times of despair, life goes on, and we must move forward". And with it's breathtaking vocal performances and super heartwarming instrumental, it's also able to sonically reassure anyone who may be having a particularly tough time and needs some comfort.
As the record progresses, it lyrically and instrumentally does so as well, shifting from slow-but-beautiful ballads discussing the negative aspects of this year, to the kooky bops discussing the positives of the situation and the promise of the next year to come, in a super natural way might I add. BTS projects often shift between sounds and lyrical themes at breakneck speeds, so the smooth transition between (for example) Blue & Grey, the Skit, and Telepathy is a breath of fresh air. After soothing anyone in need of the troubles of the past year, BTS gradually become more and more energetic with each consecutive song, revisiting the different sounds they've used on previous records such as Dark & Wild, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Pt. 1, and Love Yourself 承 'Her', until they finish the record with the feel-good fireworks show that is Dynamite. By then, both BTS and (hopefully) the audience have left 2020 in the dust and are ready to celebrate life again.
A lot of the universally panned aspects of this record ended up just not bothering me very much. For example, many of the reviews here complained about the overuse of autotune and vocal processing, and though I similarly had contempt for those aspects at first, the more and more I heard the autotune the less and less I cared. The autotune grew on me super hard, and now I can't imagine songs such as Telepathy without it. I was also super concerned about the placement of Dynamite as the closer, as Stay seemed to be the perfect choice for a closer, but that concern washed away pretty quickly as well. The goal of Stay was to end the record on a positive note, with it's high danceability and cheerful theme, and Dynamite's further triumphant sound accomplishes that even better.
I guess my only real gripe with BE (besides Blue & Grey and Dis-ease not being the greatest of songs) are the odd instrumental breakdowns or change-ups that tracks such as Fly to My Room have. I don't despise them nearly as much as I had initially, but I still do wish they were incorporated better and weren't as breakneck and out of place as they are.
But overall, BE is for sure a top tier BTS project. Many of BTS' releases lack cohesion and are all over the place lyrically and sonically and end up working better as background fodder rather than commercial records that are meant to be heard from front to back. But BE's simple story of moving on is executed superbly, with a lack of filler and a short runtime to boot. It's certainly BTS' most concise record to date and the group's first major W since Love Yourself 結 'Answer'.
Unfortunately, with that being said, I really wouldn't recommend this unless you're part of the super specific group of people this record caters to, that being the BTS fanbase. If you don't already fuck with BTS, you are probably not getting much out of this record. The comforting nature and nostalgic sound of this record is something only ARMYs would get a kick out of, as BE lacks the uber-catchy and surprisingly fresh singles of past BTS records such as FAKE LOVE, on top of being the group's simplest and most stripped-down record to date. Of course, if you DO get a kick out of this record, then great! You'd probably get a kick out of the three Love Yourself projects, Her, Tear, and Answer. That's the good stuff, trust me.
Favorite Track(s): Life Goes On, Fly to My Room, Telepathy, Stay, Dynamite
Least Favorite Track: Blue & Grey