2016 has been a big year for BTS already. The Korean septet headlined major events on both U.S. coasts, released a bevy of new music in Korea and Japan, became the first K-pop group to receive their own Twitter emoji, saw artistic growth from individual members, and have continued to boost K-pop’s popularity around the globe. Now their newest single, “Blood Sweat & Tears,” introduces BTS’ most mature and versatile sound to come out of the group since their debut in 2013.
Released on Sunday (Monday in South Korea), “Blood Sweat & Tears” is the lead song from the group’s Wings album. Known initially as a youthful boy band with aggressive songs about empowerment, BTS began shifting gears earlier this year and the new single picks up where May’s tropical trap hybrid “Save Me” left off.
Featuring ethereal vocals and whirring, tropical house melodies resting upon pounding beats, “Blood Sweat & Tears” maintains BTS’ bombastic style even while shifting away from hip-hop and toward a more mainstream, Major Lazer-esque sound. The group’s rappers — Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope — co-wrote the song and have their chance to shine, but it’s BTS’ vocalists, Jimin in particular with his high notes, who bask in the spotlight in this game-changing single as they match their tones with the intense musical shifts.
The complexity of “Blood Sweat & Tears” comes from the multiple sonic elements layered atop of one another: gentle chimes, echoing sirens and synths, rhythmic claps and more all sit beneath the song’s forefront to create audible depth. The song’s chorus, cumulating in a two-word chant, is almost banal in comparison to the rest of the song’s production, but provides “Blood Sweat & Tears” with a steady hook upon which each verse builds up to.
“Blood Sweat & Tears” was released alongside a haunting music video that explores ideas of fate, reality, life and death, and falling from grace. The six-minute clip features the BTS members roaming through an echoing hall filled with classic sculptures and weeping angels and, alternatively, kept in dark spaces, tied up and trapped. Intermixed into the more classical imagery are bright, jarring sets and references to the afterlife, such as shrouds and veils. The video also featured an interruption to the song that does not appear on the album version of ”Blood Sweat & Tears,” featuring Rap Monster reciting from a passage of Hermann Hesse’s Demian, which acted as the the inspiration for the video’s concept.
Less than 2 days after being uploaded to YouTube, the music video was viewed more than 7 million times.
Wings is BTS’s second Korean studio album, and the first Korean album since the completion of BTS’s impressive Most Beautiful Moment In Life trilogy. (They released their second Japanese album Youth in September.) In addition to “Blood Sweat & Tears,” most of the songs on Wings were co-written by BTS members, with all members aside from Jungkook receiving production credit on the 15-track album.
Shortly after its release, Wings went to the top of the iTunes album chart, shifting Solange’s A Seat at the Table out of the number one slot, and is a contender to surpass the group’s previous rankings on various Billboard charts.
Watch the “Blood Sweat & Tears” video here: