1. ‘Born Singer’
1. ‘Run BTS’ [NEW]
1. ‘Jump’ (Demo Ver.)
Back in 2013, BTS were just beginning their tenacious journey to stardom. Nine years have passed – so many songs were released, so many records were broken and so many tears were shed by their fans. And what better than an anthology album to commemorate that?
On June 10th 2022, BTS released a record titled Proof, containing 35 tracks in total on digital platforms (48 in the physical version), which consisted of some of their past career standouts, demos and four brand-new recordings. But while this record enables fans to revisit some of the group’s highs, it also includes some of their lows – and a ton of their mediums.
But without further ado, let’s first dive into the new songs together.
Yet To Come… indeed
The title track Yet To Come has the peculiarity of needing to be judged from two different perspectives – musical and emotional.
From a musical standpoint, the song is not that impressive. The melody is fine, the production is fine, the way vocals and rap verse are intertwined is fine… but that’s it, it doesn’t go much beyond being just ‘fine’.
With its nostalgic vibe and the laidback alt-pop instrumental, it is sufficient – but nothing overly transcendent or unforgettable. Truth be told, it feels rather tame at times, almost like it was constantly nearing being a great song, without ever crossing that line. But maybe that’s why the title seems to fit like a glove – it feels as if the best moment of the track is constantly yet to come.
However, Yet To Come warrants to be judged for its emotional meaning as well, and that’s where it all falls into place. The song is clearly a nod to BTS’s fanbase, with its lyrical references to the group’s past releases, and the nostalgic melody reminiscent of their 2016 hit Spring Day. It’s safe to say that the actual value of the song lies within, and can actually be rendered agnostic to the music. It’s all about the connection to the group, not what the track actually sounds like.
That is why I find Yet To Come to be the quintessential song for fans – those who have a connection to BTS can see the beauty in it, but for everyone else it’s a track that just comes and goes.
Run BTS and don’t look back
Despite it not being the peak of excitement (on the record but also in general), Run BTS is one of the most memorable new tracks of the album. Between the hard-hitting percussion and the thrilling electronic effects, the track has all the qualities of an earworm – it’s fun, fresh and catchy.
If I were to be truly nitpicky, I would say the production style doesn’t suit BTS all too well. Don’t get me wrong, the production is absolutely amazing, but their vocal colours don’t suit it that much in my opinion. With voices as frail as theirs, the instrumentals take over right from the beginning, and their vocals are engulfed by the edgy production. That’s not really a deal-breaker, but it does chip away something from the overall song.
For Youth & for fans
For Youth is very similar to Yet To Come, in that neither of them is anything groundbreaking in itself, but a BTS fan would see its beauty because of their connection to the artist.
The song is pretty decent, but it tends to feel very derivative and generic, and almost devoid of identity to the casual listener. The production moves really well with the strong piano notes, and the detail with the fans chanting ‘BTS’ Young Forever is a wonderful touch!
But maybe that’s why it works so well as the album closer, despite it not being an overly impressive track in itself – it says ‘This is for the fans, so music and quality can be put on a lower level’.
Born Singer – a lifeboat in a lukewarm sea
As most BTS enthusiasts already know, the song Born Singer is not actually a new song per se. It may have been released on official music platforms just now, but the song was actually first posted on YouTube and SoundCloud on July 11th, 2013, when the group was just fresh out of debut.
The song was actually adapted from J. Cole’s Born Sinner, and was released just digitally when the American artist granted them permission to use his composition. The original melody was kept but the lyrics were re-written by BTS members RM, SUGA and j-hope to narrate the group’s own story.
The melody is definitely catchy and memorable, and the R&B/Hip Hop style suits the boys incredibly well. But what drives the song home is the rawness that lies within, in a way that doesn’t require you to be a long-time fan or be fluent in Korean to feel the honesty and emotion behind their words.
It’s just an artist speaking from their heart, and that’s exactly what makes this track so special and makes it stand out in this record. In a lukewarm sea, there is still a lifeboat coming to you.
As the album opener, Born Singer is simply the perfect choice. Not only is it one of their first songs ever, but it dives into the group’s struggles and journey in a way that’s perfect as the beginning of an anthology. The track’s only drawback is that opening the album with such a strong note of R&B/Hip Hop just to not see the genre addressed as much throughout the rest of the record, feels rather bittersweet, almost like a reminder that those BTS are gone for good.
A ton of mediums, overall
The rest of the record consists of BTS’s past releases, all the way from the group’s debut track No More Dream to Butter (their latest single Permission To Dance was not included, thank God). It includes several of their hits, such as DNA, Fake Love and Dynamite, as well as some fan-favourite B-sides like Dimple and Filter.
However, it is somewhat of a shame how almost all B-sides are from recent albums (2017-onwards), while there is actually only one B-track from their R&B/Hip Hop rookie days. It makes it feel like this record is failing to do what it was supposed to do – that is, showcasing BTS’s discography in all its styles. And that is especially saddening when you consider that their earlier releases are some of their best work, whereas as time went by their tracks only became more generic and mediocre.
And that is blatant even when looking at the singles in Disk 1. It goes from RUN and Blood, Sweat & Tears (i.e., brilliant and striking songs) to Dynamite and Butter (which can only be described as ‘Forever21 music’). It’s a pity to see, and even worse to hear. But that’s why Proof does not seem like a collection of BTS’ greatest songs – it is just a compilation of a few highs, a few lows, and a ton of mediums.
What’s next for BTS?
Overall, the album is okay. It’s an anthology album and contains so many of their hits, so it would be impossible for it to fail.
Nevertheless, Proof ended up being rather puzzling to me, as it’s not clear what exactly they were trying to achieve with it. It’s not an adequately impactful goodbye or disbandment record for a group of the stature of BTS, nor does it feel like a fresh transition to new and exciting things for them. It’s not their epilogue, nor is it the beginning of a new chapter. When entering the album, you may be asking yourself, “What’s next for BTS?”, and this record offers no answers to that question.
But what’s even more bewildering to me about Proof is the choice to release it in the first place. After all, anthology albums are a last resort for artists when their careers are swimming with the fishes, so BTS releasing one now can be quite the eyebrow-raiser.
Maybe they are choosing to take some time off to relax and recharge, or maybe to start their military obligations? Or maybe they’re going to try and find their musical spark again (and I think they should since Permission To Dance was… whatever that was).
Their future is wide-open, as Proof does not offer any clear-cut direction for what BTS may do. If anything, it just made me eerily wonder, “Will there be a next for BTS?”
Verdict - 7.5/10