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Album review: K-pop phenomenon BTS’s Map Of The Soul: Persona

THE BIG RELEASE

BTS — Map Of The Soul: Persona

Big Hit ★★★✩✩

IF K-POP is a phenomenon, then boy band BTS are that phenomenon’s phenomenon, scaling heights of global fame likened to those experienced by The Beatles in their touring heyday. The comparison isn’t facile: these seven mop-tops rival the Fab Four in productivity, work rate, marketing (with albums reconfigured to suit different regions) and a level of hysteria that extends well beyond their core teen audience.

Like The Beatles, they are noted for having more creative control than their peers — not over their music, which is produced to order, but over their vital social media presence.

Their latest EP, Map Of The Soul: Persona, is their third release to hit number one on the US album chart within 12 months, and K-pop’s first album-chart-topper in the UK. Seven tracks and 26 minutes long, it encapsulates the group’s appeal: it is an urgent, glistening, super-slick cocktail of Western pop style, Korean lyrics and brilliant branding.

Artistically, BTS’s strongest suit is their extraordinary videos, which can send you down YouTube’s rabbit hole for hours of dazzlement. For anyone far past their teens, this EP is best heard as a vehicle for such fun rather than an end in itself.