방탄소년단 (BTS) have come back with their second full-length album, Wings, proving that they intend to fly even higher this time around. Released on October 6, 2016, Wings has already dominated South Korean music charts Melon and Naver, with all 15 tracks claiming the Top 15 one hour after the album’s release, as well as topping iTunes album charts in 27 different countries. BTS’ popularity across the globe continues to grow as they became the first South Korean boy group to make it into the Official UK Album charts.
Listeners can immediately see a change in tone and style from the title track Blood, Sweat and Tears. Enchanting in its allusions to Hesse’s Demian, Icarus and the Fall of the Rebel Angels with Nietzchean undertones, Blood, Sweat and Tears will have listeners simultaneously wanting to dance and shiver with anticipation at the same time.
This album is particularly special, not only because it’s the second full-length album after Dark&Wild (2014), but because every member gets a solo track.
In Begin, the slow R&B and EDM-influenced track perfectly highlights Jungkook’s superb vocals with lyrics that underlines his growth, both as an individual and as a singer.
In Lie, Jimin fans are finally granted a solo. With a shifting beat, orchestral violins and occasional echoing screams in the background, coupled with Jimin’s sultry voice, Lie is eerily beautiful and haunting.
Described by V himself as ‘neo-soul’, Stigma perfectly captures V’s vocal range – at times reaching a murmuring low, only to rise higher and effortlessly hitting whistle tones. The moment where he whispers ‘Are you calling me a sinner?’ in that deep whisper will send shivers down your spine.
In First Love, Suga’s calming timbre starts off soft and slow. Yet, in true Min Yoongi fashion, his words become more passionate until he reaches an aggressive crescendo. Capturing both the strength of his past solos like Never Mind and the raw honesty that paints the tracks from his mixtape like The Last, First Love is but another piece of the lyrical puzzle that is Min Yoongi.
Mirroring Rap Monster’s own character, Reflection is an introspective musing about life and living: ‘I know every life’s a movie, we got different stars and stories,’ – a calming song that incorporates the murmurings of the city, Reflection will, indeed, make you think.
Mama captures J-hope’s upbeat and quirky presence using old-school beats and saxophones, giving the song a jazzy vibe, hiding the depths of the lyrics as he reminisces the beginnings of his dreams, thanking his mother who supported him all the way. J-Hope also holds the first song in the album, Intro: Boy Meets Evil. A song that combines J-Hope’s passionate rap and Jungkook’s soft voice, the very contrast captures BTS’ exploration of co-existing duality in this album. J-Hope’s intro is both sinister and enticing – beckoning us to listen, tempting us to dance.
Co-written and produced by Jin himself, Awake is his first attempt at composing and the product spoke of melancholy and hope. Showcasing Jin’s vocals that have so far been obscured by lack of lines in the last few albums, Awake will tug at your heartstrings, while the lyrics will unravel the rest.
Lost is the vocal-line’s song (Jin, Jimin, V, Jungkook). With a carefree and upbeat instrumental, it delivers an optimistic message towards its listeners as, in a building crescendo, Jungkook reaffirms ‘I will never lose my dream.’
Cypher pt.4 is the rappers’ track (Rap Monster, J-Hope, Suga) and continues from Cypher pt.2 and 3 in the last few albums. Combining an old-school hip hop and retro feel, Cypher pt.4 is different in both tone and style from past Cyphers yet maintains the same charisma as the rappers speak of their successes. There’s something satisfying as they repeat ‘I love I love I love myself’ in the chorus – a sense of self-confidence in their own abilities despite what others say.
Despite the funky beat and sassy chorus of Am I Wrong, the lyrics speaks volumes. Calling out the apathy of society today, lyrics include ‘you have ears but don’t listen, you have eyes but don’t see’. With the majority of the fan-base being in their teens and early-20s, BTS acknowledges how powerful words can be and the influence they wield with their songs. It is not only Am I Wrong that speaks about societal issues, but past songs such as Spine Breaker and No More Dream, and it’s great to see artists use their lyrical influence to increase societal awareness and acknowledge the issues that the youth face today.
21st Century Girl is all about self-confidence and women empowerment – ‘no matter what anyone says, you’re okay, you’re strong,’ while Two! Three! (Dreaming of Better Days) is dedicated to the fans. A song filled with honesty, hope and gratitude for those who supported them all this time.
From songs filled with melancholy to songs that inspire, Interlude:Wings is a light-hearted end to a beautiful album. A retro dance and EDM-inspired track, it’s all about believing in yourself and following your dreams despite the obstacles and discouragement that may come your way.
Wings is definitely different from past BTS albums in both form and content, carrying with it new sounds and styles. With a tracklist that showcases BTS’ strength both as a group and individually, their second full-length album also highlights the group’s growth as musicians. If BTS aimed to soar with Wings, then they have surely broken through the rain-filled clouds of idol discrimination and stereotypes, and flown ‘higher than the sky.’