After BTS scored a long-awaited Number One single in the US with the glittery disco-pop cut “Dynamite,” you might expect the Korean group to keep the party going and double down on their chart-topping formula. But instead of an album decked with dancefloor stompers, the septet use their latest release BE to offer something more intimate, comforting and honest, but no less uplifting.
From its initial teases, BE seemed likely to be the BTS LP with the most creative involvement yet from the group’s members — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin and Jungkook. While BTS have been contributing songwriters since their debut album in 2013, the guys were now actively taking fans through the process of making the record, sharing through frequent live stream broadcast chats how they were overseeing and project-managing not just the music, but the visuals, storytelling, genres, music videos and even the number of tracks. What comes across is something that feels more mature but also wholly relatable to their listeners.
The folky production of the single “Life Goes On” opens the album, easing us into this next era of BTS. It doesn’t pack the same synth-y, first-note punch of their recent singles but instead recalls their slow-burning 2017 hit “Spring Day,” a sentimental hip-hop/pop-rock cut that has become a favorite of fans as well as the Korean public. Where “Spring Day” used seasonal metaphors to speak to the inevitable warmer months on their way during a time of darkness, “Life Goes On” does the same by recognizing that while there’s seemingly no end to our current strife, strength can come from within oneself. The acrobatic vocals and harmonies on the chorus, ending with the lyric “Yeah, life goes on / Like this again,” drive home the song’s message of hope.
BE explores the different highs and lows BTS is feeling throughout this strange, difficult time. “Fly to My Room” (featuring just Suga, J-Hope, Jimin and V) argues that while travel has been impacted during Covid, and will likely change forever, people should still try to have fun and “fly” to new more private destinations; “get me outta my blues,” they sing. That song is followed by the sparse-yet-tender standout “Blue & Grey” (co-produced by V), which uses colors to represent depression and anxiety. The guys plead, “I just want to be happier” while wondering if even that’s too greedy of a request these days.
As the record continues, the mood brightens while still staying realistic. The funky and fun “Telepathy” (the closest thing to BTS’ next “Dynamite”) has the group sing-rapping directly to their fans through clever wordplay, describing a connection one can feel from someone even when they’re not physically close. “Dis-ease” uses a vintage hip-hop vibe as it reflects the trying times artists are going through during the pandemic, even as its ending encourages the listener to move fearlessly forward.
“Stay” is the final new song on BE (coming before the band ends this brief eight-song set with “Dynamite.”); it’s a stadium-ready EDM track that acts as one lasting reminder for fans to hold on to even as distance keeps them apart. “Yeah, I know you’ll always stay,” Jungkook sings on the hook, and RM cleverly declaims the way technology keeps the band and us in constant communication (“We connect to 7G”), making for a poignant moment that’s sure to elicit both fireworks and tears whenever it can be performed on tour again.
At the beginning of the “Life Goes On” music video, the logo of BTS’ Korean record label Big Hit Entertainment is displayed with the label’s the tagline “Artist & Music for Healing.” In that sense, BE may be the most on-brand album BTS has ever made, recognizing hardship while offering healing and hope and a way to look past our current pain. It’s what BTS has been about since the start of their career.