BTS introduced their upcoming album with a comeback trailer, and as expected, it’s filled with honest lyrics, powerful aesthetics, and BTS theories that will leave you shook.
Being famous is a double-edged sword: there are pinnacle moments of success but also, a darkness that most artists aren’t always open about. BTS is the exception.
On January 10 KST – the K-Pop group introduced their upcoming album Map of the Soul: 7 with solo track and music video “Interlude: Shadow” starring rapper of the group, Suga. Enveloped in a built-up rap instrumental, hip-hop ad libs, and eerily clashing chords, the song embodies misconceptions of being in the spotlight and supposedly “having it all”.
If you thought the up-beat pop production and sentimental aura of their last album Map of the Soul: Persona gave any hints to BTS new concept, think again. “Interlude: Shadow” is filled with stark contrasts of living in the grandeur of fame yet, quite simply put, living in your own shadows.
The opening lyrics convey Suga’s desires of reaching heights of success: “I wanna be the top”, “I wanna be rich” and “I wanna be the king”. The irony is that BTS has already checked off these boxes. Over the past couple of years, the group has not only gained an immense international fanbase, but has also broken the Western music industry’s glass ceiling, conquering many firsts as a K-Pop group – presenting at the Grammys, selling out a stadium concert at Citified, and performing on Saturday Night Live are only a few of their milestones.
Further into the song, Suga reveals the weight that all of this really has. “People say, ‘there’s splendor in that bright light/ But my growing shadow swallows me and becomes a monster” and “I’m afraid, flying high is terrifying/ No one told me how lonely it is up here” he raps as he runs away from black clothed figures that symbolize his vulnerability and fear.
In the chorus, Suga sings “The moment I face myself brought lowest/ It so happens I’m flying the highest” as we see him performing on an elevated, spotlighted stage. At this point, he’s surrounded by a sea of lit up phone screens held by the hooded figures.
It’s a representation of the media’s tendency to scrutinize BTS as their exposure continues to accelerate. It’s also an image that is strangely uncomfortable as a fan who’s been to their concert and tends to film almost the whole show. Even in a livestream on South Korean broadcasting app V Live, Suga prompted fans to be in the moment rather than their phones.
The latter half of the song takes a different direction with minor chords and accelerated flow as the camera pans down to Suga, who is now among the audience wearing the same uniform as them.
While he faces the opposite direction, the hooded figures keep an eye on the Suga on the stage. It parallels the tendency for audiences to solely focus on Suga’s stage persona as a member of BTS rather than him as an individual.
“We are one body sometime we will clash/ You can never break me off, this you must know”. They’re lyrics that mark a point of self-acceptance, even if that means facing his darkness amidst the chaos of his fame.
As expected, fans took to Twitter to analyze the meaning to all of this and came up with theories, possibly just as complex as the Game of Thrones plot.
There’s one that stands out the most: the lyrical and visual connection between the song and BTS’ past albums. Since their debut, BTS has meticulously weaved together their work to create what is ultimately a fictional BTS universe (this compilation of music videos and the abundance of speculations and conspiracies will help you out a bit).
The opening instrumental of “Interlude: Shadow” mirrors the one in “Intro: O!RUL8,2?”, a track on their second album of the same name. Throughout the video, the album’s logo even runs across the frame. Then, the appearance of a doodled crown and red light aesthetic allude to RM’s solo track “Intro: Persona” from their latest album while the lyrics “I’m you, you are me” and “You are me, I’m you” are close to the play on words heard in Jimin’s solo “Serendipity” in which he sings “You are me, I am you”. Definitely not a coincidence.
These may seem like obvious hints to fans, but even one as myself the whole storyline, as intricate and fascinating as it is, can get complex. In summary, be prepared to see some old school cross referencing within their new work as BTS continue to release tracks and projects leading up to the album drop. Map of the Soul: 7 is set to release on February 21.