BTS returned Friday (Aug. 24) with the release of their Love Yourself: Answer album, bringing to a close one era of the South Korean act’s career in the most inspiring of ways. With expectations high for the follow-up to May’s historic Billboard 200 chart-topper Love Yourself: Tear, which was in turn preceded by last year’s record-breaking Love Yourself: Her, Answer features both new and old songs alike as it seeks to address how self-love is the key to finding one’s way through life and relationships.
Overflowing with positive messaging, Answer is a two-disc compilation album, known as a repackage in the Korean music industry, that kicks off with the ebullient “Euphoria.” A solo track with future bass leanings from Jungkook, it features lyrics by RM and was released earlier this year as the theme to the Love Yourself ? Wonder video. While a shorter version had previously been revealed in Wonder, Answer’s “Euphoria” ends on a high note, with BTS’ youngest member declaring the relationship described in the song has created a “utopia.” As an intro to Answer, it’s quite the statement, but sets the tone for the album’s overall optimistic tone.
Next is the first of three “Trivia” tracks from the rappers of BTS, each of which trisects the album into parts that correspond to the Love Yourself trilogy. “Trivia ?: Just Dance” from J-Hope is a funky hip-hop track that emulates the sounds he served up on his Hope World mixtape earlier this year, and represents the first part of the narrative that the septet began telling with Love Yourself: Her. Each “Trivia” track features a character of the four-part storytelling form known as Kiseungjeonkyeol (????) and written using Chinese characters (????); “Just Dance” is poised as the introductory part of the album, whereas RM’s “Trivia ?: Love” is tied to the development phase, and Suga’s “Trivia ?: Seesaw” serves as the turn. The album as a whole, plus closer “Answer: Love Myself,” acts as the final portion, the conclusion.
“Just Dance” is a song through which J-Hope uses the titular activity as a metaphor for love: “Turn on some music, set the right mood/ Stretch it out and get loose,” he suggests in the first verse. “I like how we dance together, you and me,” he says in the chorus. The romantic confessional fronts a section dedicated to Love Yourself: Her, beginning with a full-length version of Jimin’s solo “Serendipity,” which was featured on Her as a shortened intro. The tender pairing of the bright, whistling “DNA,” a single about fate, and the poignant future bass of “Dimple,” round out the first third of the album.
The Love Yourself: Tear portion of Answer leads off with RM’s “Trivia ?: Love,” a brassy, bouncing hip-hop track rife with wordplay. In it, the rapper muses about how two letters make the largest of differences, such as with “live” and “love” in English, and the Korean words for “love” (??) and “person (??),” and the latter with “wind (??),” etc. His “Trivia” leads into “Her,” a sweet, bouncing hip-hop perusal of what love is performed by the rappers and co-written by Suga. Originally featured on Love Yourself: Her not Tear, it binds the prior section with this one, drawing a connection between love and loss. V’s dramatic alt R&B solo “Singularity” is next, with his introspection leading into the desperate EDM & rap rock vibes of “Fake Love,” which debuted at No. 10 on the Hot 100 in June, and “The Truth Untold,” a sentimental tune from the group’s vocalists produced by Steve Aoki.
The album’s climax arrives in its final third with the majority of the new songs. Beginning with the groovy synth-pop and funk vibes of “Trivia ?: Seesaw,” which sees rapper Suga crooning about the ups-and-downs of romance, the conflicting feelings lead into the rap team’s aggressive “Tear,” originally featured as the outro track on that album, and a reflection on the anger that follows the end of the relationship.
With the next track, Jin’s “Epiphany,” Answer moves into the conclusion of the entire Love Yourself series, with each of the final four songs expressing that the path to happiness in any relationship begins with self-love. Evocative and rejuvenating, the concluding section starts with the uplifting solo, during which Jin comes to the realization of that very idea: “I’m the one I should love in this world/ Shining me, precious soul of mine/ I finally realized so I love me/ Not so perfect but so beautiful/ I’m the one I should love.”
Following the revelatory “Epiphany” is Answer’s response to desperation reflected upon by BTS ages ago: The conclusion of their Love Yourself series doesn’t only recall Her and Tear but also The Most Beautiful Moment in Life album series, with “I’m Fine” acting as a parallel track to 2016’s “Save Me” off of The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever, the compilation album of that series.
“I’m Fine” begins with the whirring synth melody of “Save Me” and turns into an euphoric EDM track propelled by vibrant beats and motivational lyrics that flip the prior song’s message, a reflection of how early Love Yourself imagery revealed that the phrases “Save Me” and “I’m Fine” could be read in the same graphic when flipped upside-down. Lyrically, the song is a confident declaration of self-reliance, and a high point on the album. “Even if I get unlimitedly crumpled/ Get my wings torn/ And someday I don’t get to be me/ That’s fine only I get to be the salvation for myself,” raps RM. “I’m feeling just fine, fine, fine/ I’ll let go of your hand now/ I know I’m all mine, mine, mine/ Cuz I’m just fine,” sing Jungkook and V in in the first halves of the choruses.
If “Epiphany” reflects the discovery of the need for self-love and “I’m Fine” acts as it being put into action, Answer’s single “Idol” (stylized “IDOL”) is a boisterous, Gqom-inspired track about taking ownership of and pride in one’s self through that love. Full of impassioned raps and dramatic elements ranging from traditional Korean instruments to piercing whistles, “Idol” is a celebration of BTS and all they’ve come to stand for. “You can call me artist,” RM leads off the track. “You can call me idol,” a reference to the K-pop industry title of “idol” being put the majority of young talents, “Or any other something you come up with/ I don’t care/ I’m proud of it/ I’m free.”
The sense of freedom pervades the track as it blends Korean and international sounds–Gqom-style house music originated in South Africa–, just as BTS themselves have come to reflect the bridging of different cultures. The song even incorporates traditional Korean pansori cries as a mainstay of the chorus: “Ulsoo it’s awesome/ You can’t stop me loving’ myself,” they declare. “Jeehwahjah it’s so awesome/ You can’t stop me lovin’ myself.”
The digital version of Love Yourself: Answer also features an alternative variant of “Idol” that includes Nicki Minaj. During her verse, the Queen rapper reflects on how she’s been her own “boss for my whole career” and can “press decline” on anyone “tryna come up off Nicki.”
After “Idol,” the first half of Love Yourself: Answer concludes with the uplifting finale in the form of the title-flipping “Answer: Love Myself,” which closes out the Love Yourself series with a positive message of self-love The atmospheric pop-rock track is impactful in its emotive, reverberating delivery of the song’s poetic lyrics, during which it revels in the explorative nature of the entire Love Yourself series. “Maybe getting yourself to love somebody/ Is not as hard as loving your own self,” raps Suga reflectively. “Admit it, let’s be honest about it/ The rules that you set are that much harsher for you.” With a spry, atmospheric melody, the song builds into the falsetto of the chorus performed by the group’s vocalists. “You’ve shown me I have reasons/ I should love myself,” they sing. The track then continues to muse on what the “Answer” to love actually is, and ends on a high, with V and Jungkook reflecting, “What I was then, what I am now, what I will be/ (I’m learning how to love myself)/ Every bit, each detail, all there is about me.”
As a finale, it doesn’t get much more poignant than “Answer: Love Myself,” but there’s still another section of Love Yourself: Answer on the second disc of the compilation album. Less directly tied into the series’ themes, it features “Magic Shop,” “Best Of Me,” “Airplane pt. 2,” “Go Go,” “Anpanman”–which was referenced during “Idol”– and “Mic Drop” in their prior versions that were found on Her and Tear, along with the addition of three remixes. A dramatic version of “DNA (Pedal 2 LA Mix)” that evokes nostalgia through a heavy rock sound is the only entirely new version, while the rock variant of “Fake Love” was released in June and the final track — aside from the Minaj digital bonus– is a full version of “Mic Drop” as remixed by Steve Aoki but without Desiigner’s rap, which was previously featured.
Coming amid high expectations to see what’s next for BTS after they went to No. 1 in June, Love Yourself: Answer reaffirms the act’s identity as a group of artists, or “Idols” or whatever, who thrive on the blend of powerful lyricism with diverse musicality. The compilation incorporates their past albums and new tunes together through the process of learning to love oneself and it results in a fitting capstone for the act’s multi-year Love Yourself narrative. A masterful culmination of years of work and rife with meaning, Answer is undeniably a magnum opus from BTS that that few other artists, boy bands or otherwise, ever can hope to achieve.