On 12th April 2019, South Korean boy group BTS, released their sixth extended play titled “Map of the Soul: Persona”. Juggling between their comeback goals and radio plays, BTS’ fans aka ARMYs are trying to decipher the narrative this most anticipated album seems to unfold. Perceived as a continuation of the “Love Yourself Era”, another trilogy is being speculated.
In an interview during their red carpet walk at the 61st Annual Grammy awards, BTS said that their new album will be about their fans. The same became evident when the members launched ARMYPEDIA and initiated conversations on social media with an intention to know more about their fans (#curiousaboutarmy).
What seemed like months narrowed down to weeks when RM dropped the comeback trailer for the new mini album. Titled “Map of the Soul: Persona”, fans instantly discovered a relationship between the track and Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology.
After the release of the album, listeners have been trying to connect the dots to determine if there is a relationship between Jung’s theories and the septet’s new album.
Indeed there is.
What seemed like a superficial association is actually a fully-fledged narrative that is centered around the idea of “identity”. In this piece, we have tried to review all seven tracks and explain how BTS used Jung’s theory of “Persona” and “Shadow” from Murray Stein’s book “Jung’s Map of the Soul: An Introduction”.
Murray Stein, in an interview with Laura London for her podcast “Speaking of Jung” explained Jung’s idea of “Persona”, “Shadow”, their relationship with each other and the method people can use to overcome the struggle of the identity crisis. Explained simply, Stein refers to Persona as a “mask” that allows an individual to play a social role and fit in the society. Each of us carries multiple personas, made evident from our ever-changing mannerisms and conduct in front of different people. There are a few individuals who struggle with this ever-changing nature of persona and are always in a quest to search for their real self. Alternatively, there are others who lose themselves by failing to create a distinction between their masked self and their real identity. Stein also introduced the idea of “Shadow” and by calling it a “counter persona”, the professor and the author explained how we, both constantly and unconsciously, work to suppress this shadow to put forth a reputable face.
The author referred to Namjoon’s speech at the United Nations and praised the artist for making a distinction between the boy he grew up as in his hometown and the artistic self he has been creating since his entry into the creative field. The question that remains is how these ideas and distinction have been used in the new album. For lyrical interpretation, we have taken the translation provided by Jayelle_Kdiamond on Twitter.
Read our detailed track-by-track analysis below to understand the association:
Intro – Comeback Trailer: Persona
While talking about the idea of “Persona” and “Shadow”, Stein explained how we spend most our lives making sure that we play our “social roles” well. But there are individuals who through self-introspection comes across the demarcation that has been both deliberately as well as unconsciously created between who they are and how they present themselves to be in the society or public sphere. By asking the question “Who am I”, such individuals embark on the journey of searching their real self and this initiation also becomes a starting point of their transformation into socially conscious beings who in turn, help other people understand the struggle between different selves and how the “wholeness” of identity can be eventually achieved.
“Who am I?”
RM’s intro in the comeback trailer begins with this question. The track portrays the artist’s transition from society’s understanding and the projection of its thought on him to the artist’s understanding and acceptance of his self. Using the metaphor of “pigs and dogs”, RM traces back to Am I Wrong, where BTS talked about the images people try to create – the jingoism of dogs and pigs who don’t understand the value of resources provided to them. In this track, RM talks about his confusion. Once seen as a “crow-tit”, the phrase that follows the metaphor in “Am I Wrong” too, RM confesses that he can never understand how people view him – sometimes calling BTS a “crow-tit” and at other times, putting a “pearl necklace” on them.
Highlighting the socioeconomic inequality which also gives us the glimpse into the effect fame can have on “people” or the “receiver” of social persona, RM sums up the transition in the reaction of people and the projection of their thoughts on BTS as the group continues to rise in the global music industry.
Amidst his struggle to find his real identity and the society’s constant pressure on the artist to act in a certain way, the music video brilliantly shows the transition between different selves of RM. As he sits in a classroom (2Cool4Skool), RM keeps on changing his identity with clothes but the turning point lies in the adornment of his “rapper” self. It is through this self that RM begins to talk about “Shadow”, an element that will bring together his different identities/personas. Using “hesitation” interchangeably with “shadow”, RM is talking about the anxiety that he has to constantly encounter whenever he adorns his stage persona. The reference to anxiety has been made in one of his earlier interviews where he talked about the relation between the height of his fame and his anxiety that brings him back to the question as to why he started his journey.
Stein in the podcast explained how tracing back the history help people achieve individuation which in turn helps them reach the core of their being. Using the letter “R” and the infamous phrase “But Namjoon”, RM is providing an answer to the question he asked in the video. The rapper self belongs to his pre-debut identity as Runch Randa, an underground rapper who made use of his medium to talk about the happenings in his society.
By tracing his journey to this starting point, RM is helping people see the different ways in which his art and artistic self has been perceived by the audience – unworthy of being a messenger, of being a muse, and of being an artist altogether.
Unlike the popular belief that RM is addressing the infamous phrase “But Namjoon” and calling out the haters, the rapper is instead using the phrase for telling why he started making music. By identifying with his shadow, the rapper has been able to hear his inner calling and embrace whatever he has learned through his journey. Moving on, he will be using this knowledge to impart the message of acceptance to his fans.
During his ending mentions at the Love Yourself concerts, the rapper emphasized on the phrase “use me”. Answering to one of the questions, Stein talked about what action people can take once they have identified the distinction between their persona and shadow. Responding to this question, the author said that once the identification has been achieved, the individual must help “self” and “others” by imparting the message of compassion and love so that people can learn to love themselves and avoid situations that can lead to dire consequences such as suicide (as the identification can also lead to identity crisis). Once RM achieves his identification, he uses his platform to help others “speak”, a message from his UN speech and BTS upcoming tour “Speak Yourself”.
By depicting the different selves he possesses, RM is offering them as options to his fans so that they can “use” him to comfort themselves with whichever self they identify with. The video ends with this desire to offer his shoulder and his “created self” for people to cry so that they too can embark on their journey of identification.
The intro is the perfect starting point of the transition that BTS is making in the later tracks.
(A Poem of Small Things) Boy With Luv feat. Halsey
Released yesterday, the music video for the title track is amazing. Vibrant, both in terms of setting and the lyrics, this is one of the most optimistic videos released by BTS. The genre of retro funk finds its place in the track as the group tries to create a dreamy landscape using the imagery of a theatre. Halsey, whose contribution to the track has been revealed in two parts – one via the video and the other via the track released on streaming platforms, has shown how artists can leverage the medium of music to bring different cultures together. Her decision to learn Korean lyrics is commendable as not only it helps achieve the motive of the track (“celebration”) but also shows the genuine interest she possesses for the boys as well as the South Korean culture.
“you making me in a boy with luv”
For older ARMYs, the track will bring “Boy in Luv” to mind. Boy In Luv talked about the idea of possessive affection that an individual showcases for their lover. The aggression is clearly evident in the lyrics as the protagonist wantsthe lover to succumb to their affection. In contrast or say rather in continuation to the track, Boy “with” Luv talks about the compassion that members now embody due to their fans. By constant learning and fans’ projection of their ideas on BTS (as they learned the value the group can provide to the listeners), the septet has learned the value love holds. Instead of relying on the external subject to provide them with love, these 7 men have understood that one can only find love in others when one begins to love themselves first. What culminated in Love Yourself: Answer becomes a turning point in “Boy With Luv”. The journey RM traces in the intro has been summed up in a single replacement – “in” to “with”.
Stein talked about the significance of this transition when he explained that when one has received compassion from the world (“reparation”), it is one’s duty to serve the world in return. BTS too are taking the turn by serving ARMYs. They are now able to understand the adrenaline rush fans get when they meet or listen to BTS. The idea of reciprocation has been depicted well.
Referring to the myth of “Icarus”, RM talks about the role ARMYs have played in keeping the group grounded. This point will be further discussed in “Home”. The “wings” that BTS received from their fans to fly high will now be used as a medium to return back to the ARMYs, the “center” of BTS Universe. The idea of the center came into being with Post-structuralism when the theorists talked about the relationship between the individuals in the society in terms of the center and the periphery (authority and the subjects).
Over the period of time, the transcendental center for BTS has acquired different elements – fame, money and much more but after realizing the hollow relationship between these elements, BTS is trying to re-establish the original owners of the center – ARMYs, the only elemental relationship that seems irreplacable. Seeking “love” stronger than a momentary love of fame, BTS has now diverted their focus on ARMYs and are making an attempt to learn about them.
Playing with homophone “microcosm” and “mikrokosmos”, BTS are offering another facet of their relationship with the ARMYs. Using the contrasting images of “building”, “city”, and “Starlight”, BTS is alluding to the term “microcosm”. The term as per the dictionary definition, refers to a small entity comprising of characteristics showcasing the larger picture.
Using the concept of “individuation” from Jung’s Map of Soul, BTS are referring back to their message at the United Nations. Stein explained that individuals can help others in society by giving away the idea of collective identity and moving towards individuation. What he meant by that was – by seeing people who they are as individuals, one can understand their struggles and why they are the way they exist in the world. This is one of the methods of teaching compassion to people who otherwise would use collective phrases taught by society (such as physical characteristics) to address others. By referring to their fans as “stars” and not constellation and emphasizing on the number (7 Billion), BTS are trying to reiterate their message that each individual comes with their own stories and must be respected for that. Individuation also helps people realize their potential and break away from society’s projection of its impression and insecurities.
The bonding between the viewer and the starlight is used to show the bonding between BTS and fans as each of them receives “value” and “light” from each other during the darkest nights.
In terms of message, the track resonates with “Magic Shop” and 2!3! as it offers a support system to listeners by consoling them that they must not give up. This track seems to pay condolence to the lives lost, now visible as stars, that could not be saved from the societal pressure. The usage of “K” can be deliberate to show how the group aims to achieve this objective – through music.
Make It Right
The fanbase of BTS is diverse. Comprising of people who identify themselves with different genders and who come from different walks of life, one can be easily intrigued to learn the group’s understanding and perception of their fanbase. In one of our earlier pieces, we have talked about the special relationship that BTS share with their fans, the one where the former is constantly listening and learning from the latter. In the last six years, the group has realized the influence of their fans, especially female fans. The female fans too have made a point of informing the group and holding them accountable for their work, actions, and conduct.
At first, the song might seem to pay homage to “Miss Right” which it does but only partially. The homage is an apology and contrary to the older track which tries to “possess” the love, the new track seeks “permission”: Can I Hold Your Hand?
The track also pays homage to “Sea”, the hidden track from “Love Yourself: Her”. Sea talked about the group’s conflicting thoughts about their success. Coming from a place where they were not even offered a justifiable “screentime”, the success seems to be a mirage which can fade away. Sea as a song primarily talked about the group’s struggles from the members’ perspective. In their new song “Make It Right”, the septet uses the technique of cyclical narrative to make an apology to fans who they could not include in “Sea”. This apology is a consequence of a realization that without their fans, the sea of success will still remain a “desert”. The song seems to seek a second chance where the group, after realizing their original “rehab” and “source” of happiness, wants to now chart their journey with ARMYs.
In their title track, “Boy With Luv”, RM says: “wings of Icarus, not towards the sun but you, let me fly”. This rock-influenced track which also takes a cue from Spanish tunes, talks about the foreboding that could have materialized into reality had BTS succumbed to the power of fame. Confessing their momentary narcissism through the lines “crazy for myself/ I could not even say goodbye”, the track shows the reason why the group might have demanded an apology in “Make It Right”. In other words, if “Make It Right” sounds apologetic, “Home” shares the reason why.
The boys have now understood the difference between “moment” love (used in “Boy With Luv”) of fame which is hollow and the loyalty that guarantees longevity and as a result of their realization, they are moving back to “mi casa”. Being conscious of their beginning where only their fans were able to see their value, the group seems to have recognized their original home. No matter the distance, the boys know that they have a home that they can return to, the home where they were “brought up”. As a listener who might not be a fan of BTS, this song talks about the importance of staying grounded.
Suga too seems to have come to full circle as the rapper shares how his ambition of “big cars, big house, and big dreams” was only a necessary validation he required to showcase the value of group in the eyes of others but in reality, the worth of BTS cannot be talked about, without the mention of ARMYs. Hence, he diverts the usage of the word “riches” and use it to refer to the fanbase.
The first sub-unit song and the only ballad track from the mini album, Jamais vu features Jin, Jungkook, and J-Hope. Seen as an opposite to deja vu, jamais vu refers to a phenomenon where one feels that a setting or situation witnessed has “never been seen” before so, even if the person or the circumstance is familiar, it might seem that something is happening for the very first time. Jamais vu seems to be the only visibly dark track from the album as it talks about the repeated struggles of the group, no matter what pedestal they reach in their life.
Creating a contrast between a game and life, BTS talk about their awareness and deliberate denial of the pain they have experienced in the last 6 years. Making “life” sounds like something that needs to be “dealt” with, the group is trying to deny to the repetition of painful events. Here, jamais vu does not refer to a circumstance presenting itself by its will but the vulnerability that the group has not been able to overcome even after six years in the industry. Seeking remedy, they are trying to face their past whose constant presence in the present makes it difficult for them to enjoy their success. Being monitored for their “every word” and “gesture”, the group knows that the world is waiting for them to make a mistake. But what is the remedy for such a painful realization? Is it a constant success so that the others are not able to call them “lucky” for tasting it once or is it their fans who provided them with the path towards their first remedy? The answer seems to lean towards the latter.
The song also hints towards the pressure these 7 young men feel and the constant urge of running away that they cannot give up. Referring back to “Sea” and “Make It Right”, BTS have posited their remedy in ARMYs and the latter has become their sole motivation of not giving up.
The release of the concept images was an exciting moment for art lovers and Greek Literature enthusiasts. Depicting the theme of extravagance, the group was seen adorning Gucci collection with Dionysus written over the accessories. The members were also seen eating grapes and strawberries, the symbols of fertility in Greek mythology and the symbols depiciting the character of Dinonysus.
The track is no different. Heavily influenced by Rock, the track celebrates art and the madness that results from it.
While talking about “Shadow”, Stein introduced the term as a “counter-culture”, space where “persona” becomes the “shadow” and unconventional is seen as conventional.
Calling themselves Dionysus, BTS have finally reached the starting point. Not respected in their domestic industry and seen as a mysterious “sensation” in the western media, BTS have always been the pallbearers of counter–culture. Questioning the conventional idea of music, success, and appearance, BTS is playing around the stereotype of culture by creating a counter space for themselves and their admirers. One can easily get Seo Taiji and Boys’ vibe, the group that is considered as the founders of modern KPOP in South Korea.
Calling their art “the flow of their generation” BTS wants to continue to induce “madness”. The madness which is usually used synonymously with “irrational” frenzy of ARMY is being picked up by the group to show that this frenzy is actually a celebration of culture that has been excluded from the conventional sphere. The group has used the symbols of myth to showcase the power of creation. Dionysus is the god of fertility, art, and the driving force behind the Greek theatre. Referring to symbols like Thyrsus and Wine Glass, BTS are trying to create an imaginary cult for their fans.
By using the popular imagery of communion between the living and dead, the group is showing the communion between fans and their art, inducing madness with their creativity to help themselves and their admirers reincarnate. The song resonates sonically with the intro but has a unique vibe of its own. It seems to be the perfect track for their upcoming Stadium tours.
During their performance at 2018’s Mnet Asian Music Awards, BTS showed an intro that hinted towards the theme of their new era. Love Yourself era helped the members realize their self-worth and their individual potential. Using this new era, the group seems to now embark on the journey of imparting their knowledge of love to their audiences. The message not only seems to be the most natural turning point but also a well-thought continuation for their “Speak Yourself” campaign with UNICEF.
Musically, BTS have maintained the sonic consistency but at the same time, they have experimented with both previously used and some new sounds which add to the authenticity of the album. While admiring the beauty of this mini album, we also need to give the due credit to the contributors who helped BTS create this record.
What do you think about the new mini album? Share your thoughts via tweet @CelebMix.