Love Yourself: Answer by BTS
Big Hit Entertainment 2018
The new BTS compilation album (with 7 new tracks!) dropped August 24, and if you know even one person who’s a BTS fan, you knew about it probably a couple of weeks in advance because BTSers could not shut up. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure anticipation of the new album even brought one of my friends out of Twitter hibernation.
Until a few years ago, I was a high-school teacher, so I’ve seen boy-band crazes come and go, but there has never been anything like this BTS thing. Among those in my life who can’t stop are a retired middle-school teacher, the esteemed restaurant critic of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and one of my college friends who took her daughter (or daughters? I’m a bad friend) to Los Angeles to see the group in concert. I’m in my late 40s, and each of these women is in that neighborhood, something I only mention to highlight the fact that something very unusual is going on here. This did not happen with N*Sync.
I’ve heard snippets, you know? Never a whole song, but little bits of music in people’s Instagram stories, and nothing stood out for me. It was K-pop and it sounded like K-pop and it didn’t sound to me any better or worse than any other K-pop.
I get it. For those unfamiliar with a genre, it all sounds the same. I’m a metalhead and I realize that to casual observers, all my favorite metal bands sound the same (that is, mostly terrible) when nothing could be further from the truth.
These are people whose opinions I value on wide ranges of topics including music and art. One early-30s blogger I’ve become online acquaintances with turned me on to emo-screamo band Thursday, and I dig a lot of the music she likes, but now she’s all about BTS.
Two weekends ago I made a commitment to give it the fairest shot I could. I was going to listen to Love Yourself: Answer all weekend long, and only this album.
And I didn’t care for it, but by the end of the weekend, I could name (and even sing along with) a couple of tracks I actually like, and most of the time the rest of the songs weren’t bad.
“Anpanman” has a groove very reminiscent of Fergie’s “London Bridge,” a song I like. It caught my ear immediately because of this groove, and I admit I liked it right away.
“MIC Drop” (I’ve no idea why it’s capitalized this way) reminds me for good and for ill of New Kids on the Block’s “Hangin’ Tough.”
“Serendipity,” “Tear,” and “Answer: Love Myself” were tolerable but now I can’t remember a thing about any of them.
I listened to the entire collection all the way through at least seven times, about half the time not really interested at all, about a quarter of the time keenly interested, and about a quarter of the time wishing an anvil would drop from the sky and put me out of my misery.
There were several moments over the weekend when I felt like putting on some music, but remembering my commitment and not being in the mood for yet another spinning of “Euphoria,” I simply chose not to listen to anything. On the bus ride to see my parents, this wasn’t much of a sacrifice, but while trying to get some work done it totally was. For some kinds of writing, I need music in my ears to distract the distractible part of my brain so the writing part of my brain can stay on track. Not listening to anything made the work very difficult.
I still don’t understand why this boy band is so enormously popular. The boys are pretty, but they have an incredible sameness about them, a manufactured similarity in the way of Morning Musume and Girls Generation. I think those girls are cute too, but none of them is cute enough to make me want to listen to their music or fly to Los Angeles or come out of Twitter hibernation.
I’ll give them this: their music is harmless, the way most good pop music is harmless. I liked a couple of songs well enough that whenever the next studio album comes out, I’ll give it a fair, honest listen as well. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m certain I’ll be aware of it well in advance.