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K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop

BTS album Love Yourself: Answer review – Suga, J-Hope and Rap Monster solos, Korean drums, Nicki Minaj. BTS Army are gonna love this

K-pop rappers show their chops on solo tracks, band send a message to Korean youth about self-love, and single Idol sees them don traditional garb and blend pop with ancient percussion as Minaj joins in, on an album that cements BTS’ place as kings of the genre

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 5:19pm

BTS

Love Yourself: Answer

Big Hit Entertainment

4 stars

With the release of the “Love Yourself: Answer” album on Friday, K-pop giants BTS have closed a momentous chapter in their record-breaking career that has seen them become the biggest Korean act internationally.

The final release of the two-and-a-half-year-long “Love Yourself” album series, only seven of its 25 tracks are new, with the rest drawn from previous albums in the series. Despite being a largely repackaged album, it will satisfy diehard fans and pique the interest of those who are new to the group.

K-pop boy band BTS reveal full tracklist for Love Yourself: Answer

In particular, the boy band’s fans (known as the BTS Army) will be excited to hear solo tracks by band members who usually rap – Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope.

J-Hope’s Trivia: Just Dance is a fun bubblegum dance track about the excitement felt in the early stages of a romance. His line, “Even when I’m in the practice room/I’m happy because I’m with you” could be a nod to the huge number of fans worldwide watching BTS’ every move.

Trivia: Love showcases Rap Monster’s talents as vocalist as he skilfully pulls off an R&B love song. He employs some clever puns in Korean in his lyrics, although overseas fans will have to work these out for themselves.

Suga, who has often proven his skill at writing melancholy lyrics, does it again in Trivia: Seesaw, a fizzy, synthesiser-driven number which charts the end of a relationship. The vocalist laments he is now “alone on the see-saw” as the track draws to a close.

Epiphany, one of the album’s stand-out tracks, is a thought-provoking ballad. Sounding deceptively like a love song, it is actually about the importance of loving oneself – a message that hopefully will resonate in South Korea, a country where the number one cause of death among teenagers is suicide.

The new single Idol, on which band members are joined by US rapper/singer Nicki Minaj, is an intriguing mix of tribal dance beats and traditional Korean rhythms. BTS members grunt out centuries-old Korean “response words” (usually heard at traditional folk music performances to express the audience’s approval) in between singing about the woes of being international stars.

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In the accompanying video, BTS don traditional Korean garb, and the track itself features ancient Korean percussion instruments such as the ggwenggari, jing and janggu. Although this is not the first track to combine traditional Korean music with modern grooves – artist Seo Taeji did it in the early 1990s – BTS have taken it to the next level by bringing in Minaj and exposing Korean traditions to a huge global audience.

Although padded with plenty of previously released material, such as the earlier hits Fake Love and The Truth Untold (featuring US DJ Steve Aoki), the new album should ensure BTS’ reign as the kings of K-pop will continue.