South Korean superstars BTS, who are fresh off the heels of their colossal summer single “Dynamite” (which shattered records, climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and had the world dancing to their tune), released BE on November 20th, along with the accompanying single “Life Goes On”, which went on to achieve over 85 million views in the first 24 hours!
BE is an exercise in beautiful restraint, as the septet strip away their recently perfected bubblegum pop sheen, and embrace a more lo-fi, emotionally centered sound. Is BE for everyone? Fans who fell in love with the group’s slickly produced pop hits may not relate to the heavy subject matter and neo-soul sounds that are present through the album. If anything, this album is purely for the Grown Folks, and BTS is here to let the world know that they are not some flash-in-the-pan teeny-bopper boy band. However, BE has become my favorite album entry out of the groups entire catalog, and it feels like a deeply personal gift to ARMY. Here is my official album review!
Track 1: “Life Goes On”
This emotionally cathartic track is probably my favorite BTS comeback single of all time. Let’s face it: COVID-19 hit all of us hard. The world as a whole has faced loss and complete changes to our daily norm as a result of it. “Life Goes On” encapsulates the effect the pandemic has had on all of us, with Jungkook stating “One day the world stopped without warning…” in the track’s opening lines. This alternative hip-hop/acoustic pop track is hauntingly beautiful, and quite poetic as the group gives us a glimpse into their mundane daily routine that the pandemic has caused. The track ends with vocal line member Taehyung repeating “I remember”, ostensibly referring to their memories of performing in front of their beloved ARMY. The accompanying video of “Life Goes On” really nailed the vibe of the song, as the group are shown quarantined in their shared home, or driving past (and staring wistfully) at the stadium that would have been the home of their tour. This track is a clear 10/10.
*RM, Suga, and J-Hope all have writer’s credits for “Life Goes On”
Check out my official reaction to “Life Goes On on YouTube!
Track 2: “Fly To My Room“
“Fly To My Room” is a standout track and one of my personal favorites. Supported by a steadily thumping back beat, and the rich sounds of organ riffs, this track gives off a gospel meets neo-soul vibe that is perfectly suited to the vocals of Jimin and Taehyung, and the rap stylings of Suga and J-Hope. The lyrics again address the impact of the current pandemic, with the first verse opening with:
It’s so frustrating, it’s driving me crazy
Feel like it’s still day one
Somebody turn back the clock
The entire year got stolen…
One of BTS’ biggest selling points, in my opinion, has been their ability to maintain the image of “the average young adult” despite being global superstars. The imagery of BTS feeling just like the rest of us, stuck in the house with nowhere to go or nothing to do, should really resonate with ARMY worldwide, who have faced the same circumstances.
*RM, Suga, and J-Hope all have writer’s credits for “Fly To My Room”
Track 3: “Blue & Grey“
“Blue & Grey” at first listen is a ballad that moves beyond being merely emotional: It has a sort of fragility to it that is almost gut wrenching. Vocalist Kim Taehyung begins the ballad with his trademark smokey vocals, asking “where is my angel…someone come and save me please.” Throughout the verses, the group discuss their battles with depression, anxiety and loneliness, and each chorus finds them plaintively stating “I just want to be happier.” It doesn’t end with doom and gloom however, as the group acknowledges that in the future, they will smile again. This is a very introspective, well written song that is performed beautifully by each member.
*RM, Suga, J-Hope, and V all have writer’s credits for “Blue & Grey”
*V has a producer credit for “Blue & Grey”
Track 4: “Skit“
You may not speak Korean, but you’ll still find yourself hard pressed to not laugh along with BTS, who are at their hilarious best on “Skit.” On this interlude track, the members refer to themselves as “Billboard No. 1 Singers”, wish Jungkook a happy birthday, and discuss how hitting the top of the Billboard Hot100 was the greatest gift they’ve received. Before fading out, RM asks “…don’t you think this is what happiness is like?” Indeed!
BTS (7) have sole writing and production credits for “Skit”
Track 5: “Telepathy“
As the beginning to what I call “the upbeat half” of the album, “Telepathy” is a solid track that has a total 80s throwback vibe, with a drum driven beat. The rap line is at their best here, with Yoongi in exceptionally fine form. The synth heavy beats and “crowd like” shouts in the background add to the feel good party vibe of this track. Park Jimin mentioned that “Telepathy” is inspired in part by the thought that they have a telepathic connection with ARMY, and I am beginning to believe that this might just be true.
*Jungkook, RM, and Suga all have writer’s credits for “Telepathy”
Track 6: “Dis-Ease“
HANDS DOWN my favorite track of BE, “Dis-ease” is a straight bop with a fun throwback hip-hop vibe, and the bridge before the final choruses is the stuff of LIFE!!!! J-Hope starts the song with his easy breezy flow, discussing his love-hate relationship with work, while RM and Suga attack their verses with bravado and swagger. The vocal line hugs the choruses and flow over the beats like honey, all leading up to the standout bridge, written by Jimin. Musically, this track is a 10/10, but the lyrics are classic BTS: heavy on substance and wordplay. J-Hope, who wrote most of “Dis-ease” utilized two concepts: literal disease (the pandemic), and dis-ease (as in, uncomfortableness). BTS always bring a message of hope, and they assure ARMY that despite their stress and anxiety, they’ll make it through the fire!
*J-Hope, Jimin, RM, and Suga all have writer’s credits for “Dis-ease”
Track 7: “Stay”
BTS never fail to make at least one album track in which they don’t discuss their love for ARMY, and this EDM banger talks about BTS missing ARMY and not being able to do live performances as a result of the pandemic. Still, despite the circumstances that kept BTS and ARMY apart, the members have faith that ARMY will always stay.
*Jin, Jungkook, and RM all have writer’s credits for “Stay”
Track 8: “Dynamite”
BE ends with “Dynamite”, the group’s massive summer hit that as of the time of this review, has been NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance!!!!! “Dynamite”, which was proclaimed as a gift to ARMY to spread a little happiness, was well received by American media, not just for the English lyrics, but as a result of the charisma and exceptional performance ability of each member of BTS. “Dynamite” is fun, infectious, and a total throwback to the carefree disco days of the 70s.
BE is a solid album that feels cohesive and well structured. Although BE did not include individual solos from the members, it works to give the album a clear, and balanced vision of life during COVID-19, and what lies ahead. Each member had a specified role in the production of the album, and as a result BE feels very uniquely BTS.