In one capacity or another, 방탄소년단 (BTS) is one of very few groups leading the way in what might be considered a K-Pop renaissance. In just a matter of a few years, BTS’ music has grown in such a fascinating way that they have successfully carved a niche for themselves much in the same way that notable veteran groups like BIGBANG did during K-Pop’s golden era. BTS have reached a degree of artistry that the greats eventually achieve, only at an accelerated rate; BTS have compounded thoughtful craftsmanship, high production value, and acumen (in respect to their performance, both sonically and visually) each step of their short career. And, once again, it all comes together admirably in their 2017 album You Never Walk Alone.
You Never Walk Alone (a repackage of 2016’s Wings album) is a manifestation of BTS’ ambition. They allude to as much in the album’s intro (“Boy Meets Evil”) and explore its close ties to greed and temptation in their hit single “Blood Sweat & Tears”. What’s interesting is BTS begin this aural journey together, but dedicate the majority of the album to branching off in separate paths, each member visiting both internal and external suffering before reuniting toward the tail end of the album.
BTS emphasize unity and fellowship quite profoundly on this record, and while it’s melodically not the group’s strongest collection, their delicate approach and lyricism are oftentimes just as engrossing to listen to. There’s a moment of gratitude from member Jungkook, for instance, that is particularly gut-wrenching:
“I feel like dying when my brother is sad,” Jungkook expresses in “Begin”. “I don’t know much about sadness, but I’m going to cry anyway, because you made me again, you make me begin.” It’s a moment of empathy that not only highlights the member’s maturity, but also a degree of selflessness. On the other hand, songs like “Lie” and “Reflection” invite listeners into the entanglement between oneself and our saboteurs, focusing largely on how self-awareness can lead to clarity and, most importantly, personal growth. Emotions are messy and BTS wallow in that messiness more than once on this album.
Much like the spokes on a wheel, every member means to pry their heart open in their individual tracks through their own life experiences, debilitating and confusing in some cases, but drive the message home that they are strongest as one. Together, they overcome and prevail, fight as a singular unit without limitations. By the time the album reaches “Spring Day”, BTS are standing in stillness at the center of that wheel, and together accelerate directly back to their ambition as artists in “Not Today”. This is the heart of You Never Walk Alone. We grow as individuals, each in our own way and on our own path, but in togetherness we create insuperable synergy.
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop, Ballad | Release Date: 02/13/17