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BE Verónica A. Bastardo , November 27th, 2020 09:14

The new album by Korea's biggest pop group offers an introspective chronicle about isolation, quarantine and finding a safe middle between sorrow and hope, finds Verónica A. Bastardo

Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단) – known as BTS – are more than a kpop act. Arguably, they are the biggest band in the pop scene since 2018. The group had their first number one song in the UK back in august with ‘Dynamite’, a funky disco-ish vocal track that celebrates happiness in the little things of life. You’ll find the song by the end of their first self-directed album, BE.

Like most of us, BTS had plans for 2020. Maybe we didn’t have a world tour but still, we had our goals. They had to quarantine and cancel all their concerts just after releasing Map of the Soul: 7 in February. Yet, in every hardship there’s a silver lining and that’s what the band tries to deliver here. BE, as the verb itself, is an invitation to exist and live. Even though the band participates in the production of their albums, this is the first time they take – almost – the full lead by directing the whole narrative (lyrics, music, track list and visuals).

Many artists saw this forced quarantine as an opportunity to create. Sasha Sloan recorded her debut album Only Child during quarantine. Taylor Swift, too, with her eighth album Folklore. Both have this chill-down and intimate sound, something you’ll also find in BE. Born because of the pandemic, the track list of BTS’s new release serves as a documentary of what life has been during 2020.

BE has a first half flooded with slow-tempo songs, warm voices and introspective lyrics that mirror the isolation of 2020’s lockdown months, like ‘Blue and Grey’, a cosy approach to anxiety where whispering voices sing rawly about depression while a bright piano plays at the back, reminiscing hopefully.

The ‘Skit’ marks the halfway point of BTS’s mini-album as well as their musical journey through the year. We hear a loud and emotional conversation apparently recorded after discovering ‘Dynamite’ had reached number one on the Billboard chart. That’s when the joy begins. Cheerful songs like ‘Telepathy’ that serves as a toast to those who - even at a distance – kept us happy through the rough times. The track easily transports you to a bright, glittering dance hall. With the dreamy and nostalgic intro synths, you can’t help but move your hips side to side to the pronounced hi-hat.

Deciding to reflect on states of mind some of us could resonate to – especially this year – BE serves as a chronicle of what 2020 has been during lockdown: a year of uncertainty, anxiety, depression and frustration. But it also delivers hope for the future. The opening track ‘Life Goes On’ captures perfectly the essence of the album: a bittersweet year with lots of loss but still moments of happiness and better days to come.