Sep 22, 2014

BTS' First Album is "Dark & Wild"

The boys are certainly back in town, as hip hop group BTS continue on their rise to the top with the release of their first full length album. Prior to this, they have managed to put out 3 mini albums, two of which had 10 tracks, which is a lot for a mini album. It's fair to say then that this group is bursting with musicality and creativity, and I had a lot of anticipation for this release as I've grown to expect a lot from this 7-member group. 

The first track is the intro "What Am I To You?", aka the same song featured in their first teaser video, and it's a Rap Monster solo track accompanied by some lovely sounding string instruments that I find sound very pleasant to listen to. The song starts of all sweet and lovey-dovey, as he raps about the kind of love he feels for this special girl and how he wants to be the only one for her. As the track progresses though, it becomes more and more angry, confused and hurt, and it appears the relationship isn't as good as it seemed at first. The intro works well in many ways, as it both presents a recurring theme on the album and allows Rap Monster to really show off his chops. I personally enjoy this intro tremendously, as I both like the emotional shift towards the end as well as the strong delivery of the rapping. 

The title track on the other hand, "Danger", is not really working for me. The song is very interesting musically, as it features many different sounds and genres all combined into one melody, and I'm not sure yet whether I think it mixes well together or not. It's not brutally disjointed but there are parts that don't seem to fit as well with each other, such as Jin's R&B breakdown before the chorus. The lyrics are also a problem, as expressed in the video review, and are on of the reasons I can't seem to get into the song. They're basically about a girlfriend that gives off mixed signals and clearly isn't treating them very well, but the threatening undertone it gives off does in no way justify her behavior. Don't get me wrong, I understand that they're pissed because this girl seems to be a jerk, but lines such as "I'm warning you now, stop confusing me" and "You're in danger right now, stop testing me" along with the aggressive delivery makes me really uncomfortable. Surely, these are all thoughts in their heads and I don't think they would actually hurt anyone physically, but imagining hearing those words are really frightening. This is the second title track now where BTS have sung about this kind of subject, but while "Boy In Luv" was more an inner struggle of a teenage boy being confused about his feelings not being answered "Danger" is directly threatening. A group with this kind of influence should not be singing those kind of songs, and especially not when the members are so young, as maknae Jung Kook only just turned 17. 

The next song is called "Hormone War", and it's very much controversial too. Listening to the song alone without reading the lyrics is a great experience, because the sound of it so upbeat, fun and energetic with a lot of rockier influences, but one you take your time to see what they're actually singing about it's suddenly not as great anymore. Being teenagers, thinking about love and sex is definitely not a bad thing and neither is singing about how much you love girls, but these lyrics are really close to crossing the line of what's praising and objectifying. Some of the lyrics do not sit well with me, such as referring to the girls as "presents" and somewhat portraying them as something only to satisfy their horny behavior. It's not the worst I've seen, but it definitely brings the overall score down a notch.  

Following is "Hip-Hop Lover", which is pretty much what you might think it is: a celebration of the music genre itself. Not much of a surprise that the rappers are the main focuses of the song, as it's them whom I know actually has a lot of love and respect for the genre. I also know for a fact that this group wouldn't have existed if it wasn't for their CEO discovering Rap Monster and wanting to build a hip-hop group around him, so that he's devoted to his music isn't too shocking (he was involved in all the tracks except the interlude and outro). The song itself is a slightly weird mix, since the rapping parts are quite hard-hitting and aggressive but the actual chorus is really soft and features a lot of falsetto vocals, but I don't think it sounds bad in any way. 

"Let Me Know" is the next track, and this one is Suga's very own composition. Just like "Tomorrow" on the previous album, this one has a very distinct sound that seems to be a type of sound that he enjoys producing, and I'm not complaining. This song is by far my favorite on the album, and is really the only song I've had on repeat since it came out. It's painful, desperate and a whirlwind of emotions that go through your head as you face a harsh, silent break-up. The members' delivery is right on spot and matches the heartfelt lyrics, and I'm wondering as to why Suga isn't given even more influence over the group's music.

The following song "Rain" is just as miserable, if not even more since there's no apparent reason for all the emotions that's being sung about. Just like the weather condition itself, the song's mood is gray, cold and cloudy, and the lyrics take you through a not-so-sunny journey of a particular person's mind. I can definitely relate to everything that's going on, such as feeling down and empty, having nowhere to go and especially the part about repeatedly opening and closing the refrigerator which I always do when I'm bored or restless. The musical aspect of the song also fits well with the title, as it's more jazz influenced and goes on at a calm, peaceful pace, much like the feeling of rain falling down outside your window.

The rappers of the group go hard in this album's cypher: "Killer", which is always a nice re-occurrence on their albums as Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope all get to showcase their rapping. They also helped write and compose this song, and it's likely that they wrote their own raps as they usually do for their music. The lyrics are amazing, as the members rap about their skills, star power and realness, all in the name of hip-hop. I also really like the oriental-inspired instrumental and the harsh breakdown where the vocals turn almost into screaming, and you can really feel the power in their delivery. Up next is a 30 second interlude which I have really no intention of reviewing because it is, simply, only a mere half minute long. I'd like to see it as half-time break, as the first part of the album has finished and the second part is now ahead. I do think the latter half is a bit different musically, and the sound turns into a more relaxed, low-key hip-hop groove.

This can be heard with "Turn Off Your Cellphone", a song that is partly about cellphones and their place in today's society, but is disguised as a love story to mesh with the overall theme of this album. The promise is about dating gone wrong as the cellphone has become more and more prominent, and the actual interaction between people suffers because of this. BTS has a reputation of making tracks questioning society's norms, school systems and relations between people of different ranks and positions, so for them to write a song about how "Everyone says it's smart, but we're all getting dumber" feels very much like something they would do.

"Blanket Kick" is the next song, and it's a sweet love song about taking ones frustration out on a poor innocent blanket, something I'm sure most of us are familiar with. The lyrics talk about a childish type of love, and the inability to act on ones feelings and letting things getting in the way of progressing with the relationship. The overall musical sound is very soft and romantic, matching the song's theme with the addition of some jazzy brass instruments. Ultimately I don't think it leaves a great impression, but the chorus is really lovely and I adore the "pretty, pretty, pretty" parts a lot.

The tempo increases a bit with "24/7 = Heaven", and you could definitely call it a more upbeat track than it's precursor, but it's still has a relaxed vibe and atmosphere. This song, too, is about love and the excitement and anticipation of counting down the days until you get to see your girlfriend once again. The lyrics are really cute and I think pretty accurately describes that first feeling of falling in love with somebody and wanting to spend every single moment with them. There's really not much to say about the song musically, and while I don't think this one is that remarkable either it's still a serviceable track.

"Look Here" is definitely a more exciting track, which is much needed after a few songs that give very little variation. Lyrically it's another love inspired song, but here it's about the chase, about getting the girl who seems to show less interest. The boys are encouraging her to "look here" and give them a chance to prove their worth. Musically it is a more experimental attempt, and I don't know if it's intentional or not, but parts of it sound very 80's inspired. My instant associations are Michael Jackson and George Michael and some of the song's they've released, which I think I have because of the past paced instrumental and the breathy, falsetto-heavy vocals.

The second last song on the album is "2nd Grade", and this song catches my attention right from the beginning. It makes use of a lot of electronic sounds and effects to give it that unique feel that also makes it stand out a bit from the rest of the songs. It's certainly a more fun, energetic type of song that's still relatively laid-back, and feels like a great one to end the album on. The lyrics talk about the group's experience itself as they've now reached their second year in the industry, and how much they've accomplished yet still have a long way to go when comparing themselves to all their seniors. They discuss how fast time has passed and how much has changed, yet so many things are still the same. I feel like the meaning of the song can be applied to many situations, not only about careers but about student life, as I can relate to now that I'm in my final year of high school.

The outro of the album, "Do You Think It Makes Sense?" is a nice end to this up-and-down love story we've sat through. The vocalists really get a chance to shine in this sexy jam, and although this group honestly lacks on the vocal front, they all sound nice in this song.

To be honest, I had a hard time putting together this review. This album came out weeks ago and I doubted many times whether I was actually going to do it or not. I kind of felt obliged to just because I adore these boys so much, but now that school's started I couldn't find the time. It also didn't help that the album didn't impress me all too much, unfortunately. I admire and respect the members immensely and I'm amazingly proud of them, but this album really wasn't my cup of tea. From an objective point, it's a well-put-together album and has something for everyone, but majority of the songs just didn't stick with me. Still, I applaud them for doing what they do and I hope they can continue putting this amount effort and work into their music.

Highlights: "Hormone War", "Let Me Know"
Total Score: 3,7/5

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