BTS “BE” album review: A warm sonic hug in the cold darkness of 2020

Lischa Mears, Reporter

“BE,” the album self-produced by BTS, is a warm sonic hug that gives listeners hope for the future in the cold darkness of 2020. 

BTS is a South Korean boyband that consists of seven members: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook. 

Since 2013, BTS has consecutively made history by originating from the humble beginnings of a small label to topping the charts and expanding their music to a global listenership. 

This groundbreaking history is reflected by the individual talent and unique personality of each member that contributes to the essence of the group and their style of music. 

Through demonstrations of hard work and meaningful themes instilled in the band’s music, such as the prioritization of mental health, BTS has formed a strong connection with countless individuals around the globe known as ARMY or Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth. 

Following the onset of the global pandemic and the postponement of their world tour, for the previous album “Map of the Soul: 7,” the members of BTS have utilized their time to ascend their artistry by documenting the creation of “BE.” 

Over a period of seven months, various livestreams were released on YouTube to provide viewers with an in-depth look of the album-making process as each member held their own role in crafting the album. 

In creating personal music that motivates listeners to move forward, BTS has presented the idea that music transcends language and provides comfort in times of hopelessness. 

This idea is further elucidated by the eight tracks of “BE” that was released on Nov. 20. 

Consisting of various genres, from alternative hip-hop to acoustic ballads and electronic dance music, the diverse sounds of the tracks highlight the central theme of perseverance in the face of great devastation. 

This theme is portrayed by the strategic sequence of the album that reflects the fluctuating feelings of experiencing a global pandemic. 

Beginning with the title track “Life Goes On,” BTS describes the new normality of the world and expresses that, despite the life-changing severities of the pandemic, life will continue towards a brighter future. 

As listeners reflect with BTS on the current state of the world, they will feel a great sense of comfort in the stunning vocals of the band and impactful message of looking toward the future. 

In “Fly to My Room,” the band conveys the restrictive feeling of being trapped in your room during lockdown. As the song reaches its climax, the members highlight the optimism of the situation in feeling safe, creative and enjoying delivered food. 

The uplifting beat of this track will encourage listeners to see the bright side in staying home while dancing the feelings of sorrow away. 

In the following song “Blue & Grey,” BTS are transparent in the difficulties of suffering from anxiety and depression. As members lament about the crushing weight of sadness and mental illness, the captivating chorus transitions to a hopeful outlook of acknowledging the true state of their feelings in the future to avoid suppression. 

In making this transition to an emotive, acoustic ballad, listeners will cease their dancing and experience a tsunami of tears while collectively finding comfort in the song’s final chorus. 

As the album progresses to the songs “Telepathy” and “Stay,” the members sonically express the eternal connection with their fans. 

“We are far apart physically but we always stay together. That’s the message we wanted to put into this song,” said Jungkook in a global press conference at Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza. 

With this message in mind, the two songs include upbeat sounds of retro pop and electronic dance that encourage listeners to lift their spirits and find solace in the members as they overcome difficulty together. 

In the song “Dis-ease,” BTS utilizes word play to emphasize the widespread reality of mental illness and the pressure to relentlessly work during the pandemic. 

In a similar manner to previous tracks, the hip-hop beat shifts in the final bridge with a positive message of waking up each day to fight and become stronger with each passing day. 

“‘BE’ is both a proclamation and a promise. It’s okay to rest, it says: to simply exist, to survive, to be,” critic Aja Romano wrote in her review on Vox. 

As the album reaches its conclusion with “Dynamite,” the record-breaking single released in the summer, listeners are left with an internalized hope for the future. 

Through the creative applications of self-production, diverse genres, a strategic sequence of tracks and essential themes, BTS take listeners on a journey that extends beyond the confines of their homes with music that touches the soul. 

The thematic message of simply ‘being’ and persevering through devastation diminishes feelings of helplessness and gives listeners hope with a warm, sonic hug of comfort. 

As listeners experience this emotive journey, the cold darkness of 2020 will appear as a growing light as BTS encourage listeners to reach toward the future.