The international phenomenon that is Korean boy band BTS released the final album of its “Love Yourself” series, entitled “Love Yourself: Answer,” on Aug. 24 to critical acclaim. Marketed as a special repackaged album, “Answer” consists of two discs of music from the band’s previous two releases, “Love Yourself: Tear” (2018) and “Love Yourself: Her” (2017), as well as seven new tracks. “Answer” becomes the band’s second album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and this accomplishment comes just three months after “Love Yourself: Tear” achieved the same feat.
Much like in the band’s 2016 album “Wings,” each member of the band has a solo track in “Answer.” These include full versions of previously released songs, such as Jimin’s “Serendipity” (released as an introductory track on “Her”) and Jungkook’s “Euphoria” (released only on YouTube). The rappers’ individual tracks are also listed as “Trivia” tracks, with a corresponding Chinese character that together “refer to the storytelling form known in Korean as Kiseungjeonkyeol,” according to Billboard’s coverage of the album.
Meanwhile, the lead track on the album, “Idol,” debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of Sept. 8, marking the band’s second-highest Billboard chart position after “Fake Love” (No. 10). The “Idol” track has also been remixed to include a special appearance by Nicki Minaj. And while the song largely draws from South African dance music, it also includes traditional Korean folk elements in its beats and its lyrics, notably the use of pansori in its chorus.
“Idol” describes a rejection of the criticisms that the band has received, as its members instead choose to celebrate themselves. Suga raps that “I don’t care at all whatever the reason for your criticism is,” while Jimin reminds listeners that at the end of the day, no one “can’t stop me loving myself.” The song also pays homage to some of the band’s previously released songs, such as “Anpanman” (2018) and “Go Go” (2017), which further complement “Idol’s” narrative.
The music video for “Idol” was equally eclectic, blending traditional Korean symbols such as the tiger and the rabbit and traditional Korean dance moves with modern images and technology. The video also recreates some of their more iconic music videos, such as “Just One Day” (2014) and “Blood Sweat & Tears” (2016), demonstrating just how far the band has come since its debut in 2013.
But more importantly, the “Idol” video stays true to the song’s lyrics, even sharply rebuking some of the comments that might have been made by the band’s fanbase, known as ARMY. Leader RM deliberately chooses to use cute filters in an earlier part of the video, while member V dons glasses that he had previously received criticism for wearing on previous V-Live videos. Actively referencing these incidents further proves the band’s sharp honesty about its message, even if it comes at the expense of its adoring fans.
Response to the video was intense, as it recorded more than 45 million views within a day of its release, beating Taylor Swift’s record for the most watched music video in 24 hours. It also is one of the fastest videos to reach 100 million views, achieving the record in just under five days.
If BTS’ previous album series (entitled “Hwa Yang Yeon Hwa – The Most Beautiful Moment in Life”) questioned the fleeting nature of youth and the struggle to find oneself, then with “Answer,” the “Love Yourself” series charts the eventual growth of these young teenagers into self-confident men. Perhaps no other song on the album demonstrates this transformation better than “I’m Fine.” The track draws on the introduction of one of BTS’ previous songs, “Save Me” (2016), albeit at a higher pitch. Early promotional posters play with this “I’m Fine”/“Save Me” ambiguity. “Save Me” was a cry for someone to “give me your hand, save me, save me / [as] I need your love before I fall, fall.” In direct contrast, “I’m Fine” is a shoutout to the rest of the world that “I’m feeling just fine, fine, fine / I’ll let go of your hand now / I know I’m all mine.”
On the band’s sold-out “Love Yourself” World Tour, which includes 12 shows in the United States, it has often closed concerts with another of the album’s standout songs, “Answer: Love Myself,” perhaps an apt conclusion to the “Love Yourself” series.
As fans wander through the darkness of youth, the struggle for identity and love through BTS’ repertoire of music, including its previous single “Fake Love” (2018), “Answer: Love Myself” tells us of the importance of accepting one’s flaws and loving oneself, as all of our experiences make us unique. In the process of getting to this conclusion, Suga reminds everyone, referencing the band’s 2016 song “Spring Day,” that despite the struggles, “when winter passes, spring always comes.” RM proclaims that the “me who used to be sad, [the] me, who used to be hurt, it’ll make me more beautiful,” while the vocalists remind us that “even all the scars from your mistakes make up your constellation.”
While fans might be disappointed that the “Love Yourself” series has now come to an end, it is safe to say that the journey of self-discovery never does. Given the creative license and social consciousness that embodies the band’s music, fans can rightly be excited when its next series of albums drops. The “Love Yourself” series has once again demonstrated the band’s ability to tackle difficult and abstract topics, just one of the many reasons that makes BTS such a worldwide phenomenon.
Correction: This article has been updated to state that BTS’ new album, “Love Yourself: Answer,” contains seven new tracks. A previous version of this article had incorrectly stated that there are only six new tracks in the album. The Daily regrets this error.