BTS’s latest Map of the Soul release is a sincere summation of a seven-year journey full of doubt, fear, and unparalleled success. It’s centered around a phenomenon they’ve been grappling with for years, personally and creatively, as they continue to reach new heights as Korean artists and as pop’s most dazzling anomaly: “The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.” On Map Of The Soul: 7, the dynamic septet confronts their shadows head-on.
For rapper Suga, who takes the lead on the blistering interlude track “Shadow” — which he wrote and co-produced — these shadows manifest in surprising ways. “Please don’t let me shine,” he pleads. “Don’t let me fly.” The glare of the spotlight can be unforgiving and all-consuming, and the higher BTS ascends, the scarier it becomes.
“You may think our lives are really, glorious or really fancy and that we live the high life, but actually we also face our own shadows in our lives and in the work that we do,” Suga tells MTV News about the inspiration behind the album. “I think it’s the same with everybody. I think everybody goes through the same things.”
Throughout Map of the Soul: 7, the realization that no matter how tall you climb or how high you fly “the shadow follows” is an important one; it’s not about running from the shadows but embracing them. And that’s something that everyone can relate to, international superstar or not. Through their music, BTS has reached generations of people — from disaffected youths (“No More Dream,” “Dope”) to overworked adults (“Paradise,” “So What”) to frustrated creatives (“Sea,” “Black Swan”). Now, as adults in their mid-20s, the group is speaking directly to those wrestling with their own insecurities.
“We want to talk about how to overcome these shadows and how you can accept yourself,” Suga concludes. “That’s what we need to talk about at this point.”
And while the Map of the Soul era reconciles with the past, BTS is also looking ahead. When asked to share messages to their older selves seven years into the future, members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook answered earnestly — well, for the most part.
“34-year-old me, the old Namjoon, I’m asking, ‘Have you finally got your driver’s license?'” the lilac-haired leader jokes to MTV News. “I hope so!'”
Meanwhile, vocalist V hopes his future self has grown… just one more centimeter. “Taehyung, I hope seven years from now you may still be able to grow a little bit,” he says. “Maybe you’re a little taller than 180 centimeters. I hope. That’s what I want to tell myself.”
Jin, for his part, just hopes his knees are doing OK. “Seokjin, no dancing, please,” he pleads. “Your bones are so weak. No dancing, please.” But after some encouragement from dancers J-Hope and Jungkook, the oldest member relents: “Half and half.” Half dancing, half just standing there looking “worldwide handsome.” (Future BTS will take that into consideration, Jin.)
Members V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin, J-Hope / Courtesy of Big Hit EntertainmentThe other members emphasize their future selves’ happiness. Youngest Jungkook still laments his decision to not learn English earlier (“why didn’t you study English?”), before adding, “Please be happy.” J-Hope asks his older self, “Are you happy?” He adds, “Please, forever [be] happy. I hope that seven years from now you still love yourself.”
Jimin wants Future Jimin to know that he’s doing his best. “You’re always gonna be my role model,” the dancer says sweetly. “I’m doing the best I can and making great memories with these guys dear to my heart, so that I can one day be like you. Until then, I’ll always do my best.”
But it’s pensive lyricist Suga that has the most relatable message for his 35-year-old future self: “Drink a little less.”
“I hope you are a little bit more healthy,” he says. “I just hope you’re happy and healthy. I love you.”
Whatever the future holds for BTS — another No. 1 album is on the horizon — at least their priorities are in the right place.