In 2017, BTS boldly went where no K-Pop group had gone before, cracking the American Top 40 with a remix of their “Mic Drop” single featuring Steve Aoki and Desiigner. Love Yourself: Tear is the first all-new album from the seven-piece ensemble since this breakthrough. (April’s Face Yourself was mostly a repackaging of previously released songs for the Japanese market.) But crossing the ocean hasn’t altered BTS’ DNA. The boys still genre-hop with panache: You’ll find a convincingly breathy R&B ballad in 6/8 time (“Intro: Singularity”), shuddering post-Chainsmokers electronic pop (“Magic Shop”), a numbing house thumper (“So What”) and a clunky Fetty Wap imitation (“Anpanman”). They’re particularly adept when paying homage to hip-hop classics from the late Nineties and early 2000s. Echoes of Lil Kim’s classic “Crush on You” course through “Love Maze,” while “Airplane Pt. 2” – co-written by Ali Tamposi, who also penned Camila Cabello’s Number One smash “Havana,” among other U.S. hits – rejuvenates the swanky strut of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.”
Throughout it all, the members of BTS affect melodic sincerity, singing with intensity and melisma, rapping in tones that show their effort and strain, as if caring never went out of style. The overall effect is almost shocking in light of mainstream American pop’s current obsession with ennui and gloom. (See: Post Malone.) But it turns out BTS can brood, too: The single “Fake Love” is a jolt of angst-ridden, arena-ready rap-rock. In a just world, it will zip into the Top 40 – no remix required.