It has been one year since BTS’ Map of the Soul: Persona — why it will forever remain iconic

It has been one year since BTS’ Map of the Soul: Persona — why it will forever remain iconic

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April 12, 2020 marks one year since the release of BTS? Map of the Soul: Persona, a pivotal moment in history for the ever-popular seven-piece from South Korea. A pink album, a Jungian persona concept, another journey through time and space with the one and only true seven. To commemorate this anniversary, Lily and I have once again teamed up to share our thoughts and favourite lyrics in the hope you, the reader, are able to fondly recall these tracks and perhaps go out to seek them afterward!


You give me love

Herein lies a pivotal moment in time, Persona marked the beginning of a new era for BTS. The first of the ?reboot? trilogy where songs from earlier in BTS? career were sampled as part of new releases. In this instance it was a sample from Skool Luv Affair which instantly triggered a deep rooted nostalgia in the ARMY collective. There?s something terrifyingly exhilarating about hearing an old, familiar song that has been the backbone to BTS? discography as part of a song we have never heard before. It was like we, the audience, as ARMY, were an elastic band which BTS pulled backward. So far back that we breathed in 2014 for a fraction of a second. Only for BTS to let go, flinging us far into the future by the time RM greeted the world with a ?yo?. It?s like the act of putting that sample at the beginning of the song served to help us experience a whole new world while we hurtled head first into the era of pink persona. This was BTS saying ?this is who we are, in many ways we are the same we have always been? but you need to know, you haven?t seen anything yet. Here, let us show you.? Buckle up, ARMY, it can be hard to tell if we?re about to break through the stratosphere or reach terminal velocity as we plummet towards the earth. Either way, we?re going fast, and there?s no stopping us now.

In Skool Luv Affair RM raps:

BTS, the way we loveWhether you?re in yourteens or twenties, love is all the sameRM, so now I?m telling you the storyI loved this much before, how about you?This is just an intro shouting boutmy whole mind and body

In Persona he continues this narrative of love, exploring a different kind of love which requires an ability to reflect on the inner workings of one?s own psyche. In many ways Persona is also just an intro about RM?s whole mind and body. In many ways, the lyrics of Skool Luv Affair set the tone for the rest of Map of the Soul: Persona. Regardless of age, love is all the same: Jungian edition.

Lyric translation by Doolset Bangtan

Boy With Luv

Oh my my my

The interesting thing about starting with a song like Persona is that it makes one wonder where exactly in the universe we are headed to next. It opens a new door in our minds to go wherever BTS direct us, are we going deeper and darker? or are we going to a pop-anthem that we will remember for the rest of our days? The latter, of course. And oh, what an anthem it is. This track took me by surprise as I sat at a bar on a Friday night, refreshing YouTube as it hit 6pm KST. At first I was thinking ?what the flip?? but then all I knew was that I wanted more. More of the bubbly care-free BTS I didn?t know I needed, but I so desperately craved. To me, this song represented a complete transition from Boy In Luv which in many ways stands in stark opposition to Boy With Luv. Even in terms of the video clips ? one is dark and angst-ridden, the other is bright and wholesome ? they are similar, but different. Both about love, but instead of a possessive ?I?m in love with you and I want you to love me back? it had matured into ?I have love, because I learnt to love myself, and now I love you? so let?s fly!?

In many ways this song acts as a persona for BTS, something cheery and bright. Ticking all the boxes of a smash hit that is relatively safe and can fit inside a K-pop box. When placed next to Persona it can?t help but be viewed as exactly that, just a particular mask BTS may wear; a role they play. Not only as a group, but perhaps in relationships too. Maybe it is what they feel is expected of them, or maybe it?s indicative of what we are told romantic relationships are through mass media. Something bright, bubbly and cheery. Something easy to consume. This is one of BTS? personas as a group, but it is not their only one. In just two tracks BTS has shown their diversity between light and shade, introspection and an outpouring of whimsical love; a love for others and a love for the self. This is a powerful display of a reflexive, evolving group identity, hidden beneath the facade of an easy going pop-song. They are shapeshifters, showing us that we cannot truly predict what they will do next. Boy With Love reminds us, once again, that BTS is the way we love, regardless of age. They are reflecting back to us the many facets, the many faces of love and identity clad in pink persona. BTS is the way we love, because they are just seven personified versions of us as ARMY. If they have love, then so do we.


In a dark night (don?t feel alone), Like stars (we shine)

When I first listened to MOTS: Persona, I must admit that this song did not catch my attention. However, my perspective changed after reading the lyrics and watching how the boys perform this song to bring their concerts to an end. There?s a very heart-warming feeling about this song when it is performed live. BTS and ARMYs come together to chant the chorus as they sway their hands along to the music.

The chorus of Mikrokosmos goes:

You got meSeeing you, I dreamI got youIn the pitch-black nights, we see each other?s lightWe were speaking the same thingThe starlight that shines more in the deepest night

The final line of the chorus, the starlight that shines more in the deepest night is repeated thrice. This lyric reminds me a lot of a lyric from SUGA?s Interlude that was released later in the year: Never forget that the stars you wish for, can only rise within the dark. This song seems to be a personal letter to the fans reminding them that even through the tough times, you are seen and you are heard. You shine brighter than anyone. Although things may not be smooth-sailing, you will grow through the struggle, you will get through it and we will always have each other?s back. This is further supported by the following lyric in Mikrokosmos: Don?t disappear because you are one great existence, Let us shine.

7 billion lives, the night scenery of a city is perhaps the night scenery of another city.

We are reminded that we are all connected, we share the same sky even if we are from different areas around the world or speaking different languages. This lyrics reminds me of RM?s ending ment during their concert at Rose Bowl, when he said:

?Wherever you?re from, whatever you speak, however old you are, in this Rose Bowl, tonight we are one. We speak the same thing. We speak the same voice. We speak the same language. This is community, what we call community.?

The term ?Mikrokosmos? is a reference to Greek philosophy. If you are interested in this topic, you can read more on the topic of microcosm.

Lyric translation by Doolset Bangtan

Make It Right

I know that the sea without you will eventually be the same as a desert

Although, on the surface Make It Right can seem like a simple love song of yearning, like so many of BTS? at first glance, it has deeper meaning. Scratch the surface and it bleeds; this is a song with a simple premise: I can make it right. But what lies beneath is far more, within these words are references to older songs, to BTS? journey as individuals and a group. Its meaning only grows over time, which reminds me of Lee Jiyoung?s concept of network image in her book BTS, Art Revolution. What Lee details is how BTS? content is cross-referential, meaning everything ever released by BTS sits within the one realm which encompasses all that ever has and all that ever will be. Songs refer to music videos, photoshoots refer to books? but all of this is only given meaning when shared with the audience, ARMY. It is their, our, interpretation that gives it meaning and life.

An example of this is seen with the lyric used above which refers to the sea. The metaphor of the sea refers to BTS? hidden track Sea where the ocean is a symbol of hope, finding water after being lost in the desert. But the kind of hope that cannot be possessed, not truly. For someone who is thirsty and lost in the desert shouldn?t drink sea water, it will not quench their thirst, quite the opposite. You can drown in your hope, if you do not treat it right, if you become greedy and try to possess it all at once. Similarly, you cannot possess the one you love; just like a flower you must let it rest on the palm of your hand so you do not damage its petals. Here we see that BTS? lyrics have referred back to their previous work, as part of a network image, and I, the audience, have given my own meaning to the metaphor. Mixed with Doolset Bangtan?s interpretation, I built on it to include my own views of non-possessive love. And finally, I bring it back to another BTS lyric which it reminds me of: only above the surface of the water do I breathe, and the interest in me ends from Whalien 52. For me, I see the use of an ocean in BTS? lyrics to represent life as an idol. In my book, I write that an idol must voluntarily drown themselves on the world?s stage for the general public to take interest. They must adapt to a new way of being to live life as a complex, inherently human, idol. But it comes at a cost; they cannot breathe, they cannot always truly be themselves beneath the surface of the water. So instead it is ARMY who stand ashore breathing in their place. Make It Right, as you can see when you take into account the music video, is BTS saying to ARMY that they have come all of this way together. That they have grown and traversed the expanse of the desert. ARMY breathe in BTS? place on the shoreline, and BTS are saying that they can, and will, make it right.

Make It Right is heavy with metaphors and strong on love and wanting with a slow, burning desire which reminds one of the beginning of Idol; it?s alluring. This song sneaks into one?s heart and makes a home. So it?s no mistake that the next song on the album is called just that: Home.

Lyric translation by Doolset Bangtan


Beyond the luxury and the recognition BTS have since earned, it is their ARMYs that makes BTS feel most at HOME. Their support spurs them on to fulfil their dream of creating music. HOME is an appreciation letter to their loyal fanbase, for providing them with love and support throughout the many years of their career.

After proclaiming how things will work out for them, this follows: I hope this mirage doesn?t end as a mere imagination. Once again referring to BTS? hidden track Sea, it details the journey of turning their mirage into their reality. While Sea details the journey towards finally achieving what they thought was impossible, this lyric in HOME addresses the fear of losing it.

Speaking of the old days, Suga raps that now they are able to have a big house, big cars, big rings in his verse. This pays homage to their song No More Dream, back when these things were just what they wished they could have. Despite reaching the level of success that they dreamed of, they sang: even if I have everything I want, something is still empty. What fills that emptiness? The boys remind us that it?s the motivation and support they receive from their ARMYs that keeps them going: ?I was able to smile when I thought of you, the place where you are.

Despite the worldwide fame they continue to attain, BTS has never shied away from their humble beginnings. A particular lyric in this track makes me reflect on how far they?ve come throughout their journey as BTS: You who acknowledged me even though I had nothing to prove myself. BTS were 7 idol trainees from a small company in Korea, facing countless hurdles on their path to success. Throughout the despair and trials they faced, they expressed their gratitude for the support they received, despite how undeserving they felt.

For BTS meme enthusiasts, V?s crazy for myself lyric originated from this song.

Lyric translation by @SpotlightBTS on Twitter

Jamais Vu

If this was a game, it would be all good if I load it again

This was the song that I (Lily) remembered most when I listened to MOTS: Persona. This track was sung by Jin, J-Hope, and Jungkook.

Firstly, what is ?jamais vu?? In psychology, this term is a French borrowing which translates to ?never seen?. Jamais vu is the phenomenon of experiencing the familiar, but having the illusion that you are encountering it for the first time. Though there is a longing towards this illusion, the lyrics themselves do admit: I guess I gotta deal with this real world. In the same track, the flip side of experiencing jamais vu was expressed: Though I?ve been telling myself that I?m used to this, it hurts every time as if it?s the first time. Is it ideal if I can restart and experience things as though it?s for the first time, or would it be better if I experienced it over and over until I would not hurt anymore?

The message of this track would be relatable to a lot of us, as its underlying tone referred to a lot of self-doubt and lamenting about what could have been better: I need to heal my medic, but I?m another star, blaming myself for not having been perfect.

The line brake in my head, brake in my step, always seems to express the obstacles we face, or our bad days. When we ?brake?, everything stills; it can either be an unexpected wrench in our plans, or we would need a breather to recover from the halt in our routine. This lyric could refer to the days when BTS don?t feel like themselves, as they share: I just wanted to do it well, I just wanted to make you smile. This similar lyric was also in their song 2! 3!.

I run again and fall again, Even if this repeats countlessly, I?ll run again.

This is a turning point in the song, from regretting about the past, they are now intent on looking forward and trying again each time. According to Doolset Bangtan, when comparing Jamais Vu to the rest of BTS? discography, it is reminiscent of a lyric from Epilogue: Young Forever: Even if I fall, get wounded, and it aches, I run endlessly towards my dream.r

Even if the constant trial and error hurts as much as it does the first time around, the song ends with these lyrics: Am I going to give up? No, not ever. I won?t give up.

Let?s not give up. Let?s keep going!

Lyric translation by Doolset Bangtan


Born as a K-pop idol, an artist who reincarnated

With the sentiments of Jamais Vu ringing in our ears we return to the same energy as Persona for the last track on the album. It?s big, it?s undeniable that BTS is making some huge claims with this song; they?re asserting who they are once again. It?s as if Persona posed the question who the hell am I? And Dionysus replied, an artist who reincarnated, of course. Not only that, Dionysus is not only a song of celebration, but also of an insatiable thirst. Not dissimilar to the concept of drinking ocean water we previously explored. So if we look at the lyric raise the glass of celebration (one shot) / I?m still thirsty, we can see that they have found the ocean after wandering in the desert; they are celebrating it. Not only that, but they are still idols, still drowning as they continue on their revolutionary trajectory. Drowning not only because they are artists, at this level, even art is like excessive drinking ? because their artform demands it of them ? but because they are still thirsty. They still desire more. Because, after all, what they are drinking is salt water; it will never quench their thirst. They are negotiating the balance of K-pop idol and artist, they are both; driven by their thirst for more, tormented by the pain of creating. This song is celebrating their lives as both idols and artists, while showing that the journey is far from over.

Image for postBTS Official Facebook

In many ways Map of the Soul: Persona is showing the many facets of BTS? public-facing selves. They, like their music, are unique, a blend of many styles and genres in a way that we have never seen before. They are bright and bubbly. They are raw and question society. They are supported by their ARMY, who were created in their image and now reflect the BTS persona back to the group in a variety of ways. They are still struggling, but the hardest struggles are now behind them as they continue to become increasingly self-actualised. This album holds within it much of their journey, held in single words that refer back to older tracks and moments in time. It is complex, but on the surface is easy to consume. Showing the duality of an artist ? complex ? and idol ? easy to consume. The most powerful part of this album lies within the name; this is a map of their psyche. Starting with persona, showing us what we ? and the rest of the world ? already know about them and their journey. It shows that as a group they are painfully aware of their idol personas, and the path that they must continue to walk. It shows that what is to come is an exploration of other aspects of the psyche, the ones that less of us have seen. That, perhaps, is the most exciting part of this album; that it?s telling us we haven?t seen it all yet. Another new beginning, we are hurtling head first into the stratosphere, into the universe. If we as humans are the microcosm of the universe; BTS are the microcosm of ARMY. This album was as much about our own personas as theirs. From these great new heights we are able to look down and surveil the planet where we started before pressing play on this album. BTS provides us with time and space for a new perspective. From up here, anything seems possible, and the path forward between BTS and ARMY shines bright. After all, just like we are tall trees growing in the same forest, we are also stars in the same constellation, shining brightly.

Written by Wallea Eaglehawk and Lily Low.


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