Drawing inspiration from their momentous career, their fandom — known as ARMY — and the world around them, Tear is a darker, sophisticated look at themes previously explored on their albums.
Released today, BTS’ highly-anticipated Love Yourself: Tear is the group’s third LP, and the second part of their Love Yourself series. It follow last year’s record-breaking Love Yourself: Her EP, which landed the boy band at the No. 7 on the Billboard 200, making them the highest-ranked Korean group to date.
The first two songs on Tear open up the work with a sense of melancholy. Up first is “Singularity,” an intro track sung solely by V that was released earlier this month. It’s an alt-R&B tune full of echoing synths, sleek bass and breathy, deep singing from the BTS member, and leads into the similarly-toned opening of “Fake Love.” Serving as Tear’s single, the song thematically expresses the idea that true love can only be felt after a person loves themselves. Dominated by rock instrumentals, trap beats, and emo hip-hop, it depicts a sort of mellow desperation through stoic raps, ambient synth quirks, and dreamy, echoing verses in a push towards the frenzied anguish of the choral cry of “I’m so sick of this fake love.”
Tear’s third track may come as the biggest surprise to many: pop ballad “The Truth Untold” features Steve Aoki but is a complete about-face from last year’s “Mic Drop,” which the producer remixed for the group ahead of it becoming the group’s highest-ranking song ever on the Billboard Hot 100. Fronted by a gentle piano melody and featuring only BTS’ singers — Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, and V — “The Truth Untold” is one of the rawest moments on the album, and serves as a follow up to “Fake Love” with its creeping despair and the refrain of “but I still want you.”
Though the album is draped in sonic moodiness, it’s not without lighter moments. Things take a jazzy turn with “134340,” a lo-fi track that references the minor-planet designation of Pluto; rhythmic percussion, reedy flutes — which recall Her’s “Pied Piper” — twinkling synths, and soft harmonizing spur on the tune. The next song “Paradise” soars with falsetto and swaggering raps as it tells listeners that it’s okay to not have dreams in this competitive world, while the smooth, ‘90s-infused R&B and trap vibe of “Love Maze” describes the relationship between BTS and ARMY, with lyrics reflecting the desire to help one another through the complexity of life and love.
Another song dedicated to ARMY, “Magic Shop,” was co-produced by Jungkook and was introduced as a theme of the album in the first “Fake Love” teaser video. With a snapping beat and lilting synths, the uplifting future bass track is an expressive high point of Tear, and was inspired by stories fans have told the group. It leads into two of the most upbeat moments of the album: “Airplane pt. 2,” and “Anpanman.”
A sequel to “Airplane” off of J-Hope’s Hope World mixtape from earlier this year, “Airplane pt. 2” draws on Latin pop and incorporates tango-style instrumentals to provide a backdrop for the members to relay their feelings about being able to travel the world as pop stars. Meanwhile, “Anpanman” is the most playful track on the album with its riotous, tropical-leaning beats and distorted, Auto-Tuned raps. It compares the group to the titular Japanese children’s superhero, whose head is made out of a red-bean bun, and describes how they hope to inspire people through their music as a “new superhero” like Anpanman.
Coming off the festive mood of “Anpanman,” Love Yourself: Tear goes straight into a pump-up EDM party track in the form of “So What” before ending off with the somber hip-hop ballad, “Outro: Tear.” Beginning with melancholic piano before turning towards symphonic instrumentals and powerful beats that serve as a backdrop to dynamic raps from RM, J-Hope, and Suga, the song plays up the dual meaning of “tear,” expressing both sorrow and revolving around the physical act of tearing. It is, notably, the longest outro on any BTS album since “Outro: Circle Room Cypher” on their debut album 2 Cool 4 Skool back in 2013.
Unlike the majority of BTS albums, Love Yourself: Tear does not feature any bonus hidden tracks, which are typically available only on physical copies of their albums.
Suga, RM, J-Hope, and Jungkook each had a hand in the album’s production. Along with Steve Aoki and BTS’ Big Hit Entertainment team, album tracks were also written by Charlie J. Perry (“Singularity), Lophiile and MNEK (“Paradise”), Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young (“Love Maze,” “Magic Shop”), Ali Tamposi and Jaycen Joshua (“Airplane pt. 2”), and DOCSKIM and Shin Myung Soo (“Outro: Tear”).
Coming amid momentous success for the Korean act that has seen BTS become the first true K-pop crossover into the mainstream music industry, Tear preorders topped 1.44 million copies, surpassing last year’s Her‘s total sales in pre-release sales alone.
BTS will perform “Fake Love” at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday, May 20. They are nominated for their second Top Social Artist award.
Stream Love Yourself: Tear below.