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Be (BTS album)

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Be
BTS - Be Cover.png
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 20, 2020 (2020-11-20)
Recorded2020
Genre
Length28:30
Label
Producer
BTS chronology
Map of the Soul: 7 – The Journey
(2020)
Be
(2020)
Singles from Be
  1. "Life Goes On"
    Released: November 20, 2020

Be (stylized in all caps) is the fifth Korean-language (ninth overall) studio album by South Korean boy band BTS. It was released on November 20, 2020, through Big Hit Entertainment and Columbia Records, nine months after its predecessor, Map of the Soul: 7 (2020). Created in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Be is inspired by the thoughts and feelings that BTS were experiencing during the conception of the project. The record sees the band members contributing to various aspects of the album including songwriting, development, production, visual aspects, and direction.

Be is primarily a pop record, encompassing hip hop, EDM, and disco genres with elements of synth-pop, neo soul, funk, R&B, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2010s. Described by BTS as "a letter of hope", Be touches upon themes of comfort, loneliness, anxiety, depression, frustration, restlessness, sadness, hope, connection, and joy.

Be was supported by the lead single "Life Goes On" which debuted at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming BTS' third consecutive number-one song and entered the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart. Be received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised the album for its authenticity and simplicity while a few had somewhat mixed feelings and found it unadventurous.

Be was BTS' fifth album to debut at number one on the US Billboard 200, making BTS the fastest group to earn five chart-topping albums since the Beatles. BTS also became the only act besides Taylor Swift to debut atop Hot 100 and Billboard 200 simultaneously. The album was also a chart-topper in Canada, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and the Flemish region of Belgium, while top five positions attained in 12 countries including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Background

The pandemic unexpectedly put a lot of our original plans to a halt. However it provided us an opportunity to step back and focus on ourselves as well as our music. We reflected the emotions that we felt during this unprecedented period into this album. We were also able to take a step further by taking roles in overall production, such as concept development, composition and visual design.

BTS released their fourth Korean-language studio album Map of the Soul: 7 in February 2020, to critical and commercial acclaim.[2][3] In support of the album, the band was slated to begin their fourth worldwide concert tour, Map of the Soul Tour in April 2020, which was eventually postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] On April 17, 2020, RM confirmed that the band was working on a new album during a live broadcast on YouTube.[5] He hinted that they would be sharing the preparation process of the forthcoming album through subsequent self-documented videos as part of their "StayConnected" and "CarryOn" initiative to interact with the fans during the lockdown.[6]

On April 24, Suga teased the album in another broadcast: "Before we started, we decided who was in charge of what. Who would oversee everything, who would oversee the visuals, who would oversee the music—we split that up. We discussed it amongst ourselves and made the decision."[7][8] During a YouTube livestream on May 1, Jimin revealed that he was assigned as the music project manager and admitted that the forthcoming album would be self-produced. Talking about his role, Jimin explained, "I don’t know yet how exactly I will proceed, but I am working hard in order to be of help. As PM, what I can do now is ask the members how they want to work, what story they want to tell, how many songs they want to do, what style of song, what the composition will be, which members will be suitable for what, and communicate this to the label."[9]

On May 7, V, J-Hope and RM revealed that the former of the three had been assigned the role of visual project manager and they discussed the album concept, jacket photos and styling during the broadcast.[10] On June 16, Jimin revealed about the writing and recording sessions for the album.[11] On August 13, Big Hit Entertainment held a corporate briefing where the agency confirmed that BTS' new album would be released in the fourth quarter of 2020.[12][13] Speaking about the album in an interview with Teen Vogue, BTS stated: "An increase of direct participation in the album-making process allowed us to explore more aspects of our music and creativity. Because all the members are involved in the album somehow, there are more last minute changes being made than before, which leads to more uncertainties surrounding the finalization of the release date."[14] According to a press release, the album "imparts a message of healing to the world by declaring, 'Even in the face of this new normality, our life goes on'", and "reflects the thoughts, emotions and deepest ruminations of BTS while working on the album. This new project offers an even richer musical spectrum experience as well as the most 'BTS-ish' music yet."[15]

Music and lyrics

Be is primarily a pop record,[16] encompassing hip hop, EDM,[17] and disco genres[18] with synth-pop, neo soul,[19] funk,[20] R&B,[21][22] 1970s,[23][24] 1980s,[25] 1990s,[26] and 2010s mainstream music elements.[27] Vox called Be "a loudly retro mix of pop sounds ranging from frothy to funky, melancholic to mellow, filtered through a lens of determined positivity."[16] The album is 28 minutes and 30 seconds long and features eight songs.[28][29] The album makes heavy use of acoustic guitars,[19] pianos,[18] funk bass,[20][30] drum machines, horns,[16] and sentimental string instruments.[17][23][24] Be eschews the vast "soundscapes and psychoanalytical concepts" of the band's previous works.[31] The record starts off slow with "warm, soothing ballad-esque comforts,"[32][33] before picking up pace in the second half with "some of the band’s more refined, savvy and uplifting pop yet."[20] Lyrically inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic,[20] BTS described the album as "a letter of hope" during the quarantine era.[16][34] The album expands on a wide-range of emotions,[35] exploring themes of comfort, loneliness,[16] anxiety,[36] depression, burn-out,[37] fear,[20] frustration, restlessness, sadness,[26] hope, connection,[32] resolve, and joy.[38] NME observed that "Be cycles through the various ever-changing moods the pandemic has made a constant in our lives."[18] Rolling Stone noted that the record "explores the different highs and lows BTS is feeling throughout this strange, difficult time."[36] The Atlantic summarised Be as "a kind of musical document of the members’ thoughts and feelings about losing a year to the pandemic."[31]

This album is like a page in our diary of the times we are currently living in. The album title 'BE' represents 'being' and captures the honest thoughts and emotions we are feeling at the moment. We've included a lot of chill and laid-back songs that anyone can enjoy, so we hope many people can find comfort through this album. I think this album will give us an opportunity to grow further as artists who can represent the current times through music.

— Jin on the album's direction.[1]

Songs

The album opens with the ruminative "Life Goes On",[39] a midtempo alternative hip hop and synth-pop song underlaid with an acoustic guitar.[28][40][19] Pertaining to a mellow vibe,[17] the production of the song is folksy[39] and features electronic beats,[22] 808 drums,[37] melodic rhymes,[32] over a "stripped-back" sound[31] accompanied by "acrobatic" vocals and harmonies on the chorus.[36] Its lyrics deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and speaks of being hopeful for better times.[17][23] RM said that the song has "a simple message but a profound truth."[23] Rolling Stone compared the track to the band's slow-burning 2017 single, "Spring Day".[36] The second track, "Fly To My Room" is a 1990s-inspired R&B,[21] neo soul,[19] and pop song with gospel[22] and synth-pop elements.[17] Performed by Jimin, V, J-Hope, and Suga, the vulnerable track features "breathy" vocals and falsettos with the former two switching back and forth in the verses and chorus, and the latter two rapping in a "sing-song" style.[21][41] The song relies on a "sparse, laid-back production" for which '70s piano,[18] funky keyboards,[41] and trap programmed drum beats[22] provide minimalist instrumentation.[23] Sporting a staccato-style melody, it starts off "slow and suave", before progressing to a crescendo.[41] Stereogum compared the chord progression to the older works of Mariah Carey.[22] Lyrically, the track addresses loneliness and confinement speaking about mentally being able to escape the monotony of quarantine life.[16][33] The melancholic, slow-jam number "Blue & Grey" is a soft pop ballad[19] that uses colors to illustrate depression and anxiety.[23][36] Set in a cinematic arrangement of minor chords[22] that includes acoustic guitar,[17] twinkling pianos, and wistful strings,[30] the emotional track[23] makes use of "breathy" and "crooning" vocals to confess about fear, depression, burn-out, and pandemic-induced loneliness.[16][26][37] Los Angeles Times labelled it as "one of the exemplary songs of the 'pandemic-pop' era" that acts as "a ribbon of immaculate bedroom emo, gorgeously harmonized but never show-offy or overpowering."[20]

The fourth track is a non-musical spoken worded "Skit" about BTS' first number one song on the US Billboard Hot 100, which serves an interlude to separate the album into two parts.[17][33] "Telepathy" is a playful 1980s-inflected disco and funk song that makes use of an electronic production.[17][18][25] The song is driven by '70s beats,[24] Auto-Tuned vocals,[23] G-funk whistles,[30] a groovy bassline,[32] synth bass, "stacked-up" vocal harmonies, a cowbell,[42] and jam band percussion.[43] Its lyrics detail the connection that one can feel from someone despite physical distance and sees BTS admitting to the disorientation caused by excessive free time.[24][36] Slant Magazine compared the track to the works of Bruno Mars.[27] The old-school hip hop number "Dis-ease", accompanied by funk-laced horns and guitars, delivers a message of strength and contains puns on the different forms of illnesses such as, BTS' addiction to work.[16][18][24] The production utilises brassy instrumentals, bold drums and a sparse jarring scratching sound.[21][23] The song begins with a jazz guitar, shifting into a chopped and screwed drum breakdown, and advances into a climax of "grandiose" trumpets.[27] The seventh track, "Stay", performed by Jungkook, Jin, and RM, is a future house,[18] dance-pop,[17] and EDM song[36] with 1990s[16] and 2010s influences.[27][25] Incorporating heavy bass[24] and an instrumental chorus,[23] the song references how technology binds the band together with listeners.[39] The album closes with the summer anthem,[41] "Dynamite", a 1970s-flavoured disco-pop[44][45][46] song with elements of funk, soul[47] and bubblegum pop.[48] The upbeat production consists of "snapping" handclaps, bounces, grooves and "infectious" beats.[49][50] The track features a funky bassline accompanied by vocal harmonies, falsetto hooks and a disco rhythm that is includes blaring brass, lush keyboard chords, palm-muted guitar sound.[51][22] The "layered vocals, echo-y synth, and celebratory horns" are used to recreate the '70s retro sound[44] and lyrically talks about the joy and appreciation of little things that makes life valuable.[52][53][54]

Release and promotion

On September 27, 2020, Big Hit uploaded a teaser poster with the album's name, also announcing the release date.[55] Preorders for the deluxe edition began the following day.[56] On October 30, BTS teased the title of the album's lead single "Life Goes On" on Twitter.[57] On November 10, the band posted the album's track list and digital cover.[58] On November 13, they held an unboxing session of the album which was broadcast live on their YouTube channel.[59] Nine months after Map of the Soul: 7, Be was released worldwide on November 20, 2020, through Big Hit and Columbia in conjunction with the music video for "Life Goes On".[40] On November 22, the band performed "Life Goes On" for the first time at the American Music Awards of 2020, alongside "Dynamite".[60] The band performed it from the Seoul Olympic Stadium in matching black and white outfits.[61][62] The following day, they performed "Life Goes On" on Good Morning America and The Late Late Show with James Corden.[63][64]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.3/10[65]
Metacritic81/100[66]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[32]
Clash7/10[39]
Consequence of SoundB+[26]
Exclaim!9/10[37]
The Independent4/5 stars[21]
Los Angeles Times4/5 stars[67]
NME4/5 stars[18]
The Quietus4/5 stars[68]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[36]
Slant Magazine3/5 stars[27]

Be received generally positive reviews from music critics; most of them praised the album's authenticity while a few also found it unadventurous.[69] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has an average score of 81 based on 10 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim."[66] Aggregator AnyDecentMusic? gave it 7.3 out of 10, based on their assessment of the critical consensus.[65]

Writing for NME, Rhian Daly described Be as the "most accurate musical encapsulation of the rollercoaster that is pandemic life so far" and that the group strikes a "perfect balance between encouragement and reassurance."[18] In an enthusiastic review, AllMusic's critic Neil Z. Yeung deemed the album as "a heartfelt and inspiring soundtrack" praising BTS' "vulnerability and intimacy" and wrote that "despite its brief runtime, Be is an expert snapshot of time and place, a document of a worldwide event that manages to strengthen their connection to their listeners and push their songcraft forward with focus, heart, and humanity."[32] Jochan Embley of Evening Standard called the album "exquisitely produced" with "near faultless" vocal performances, and opined that although it "doesn't take many risks" it works as "a thing of comfort for millions."[30] Reviewing for Rolling Stone, Jeff Benjamin described Be as "the most on-brand album BTS has ever made, recognizing hardship while offering healing and hope and a way to look past our current pain."[36] Lenika Cruz of The Atlantic considered Be as "a carefully composed eight-track album of intimate and stylistically diverse songs."[31]

In Los Angeles Times, August Brown wrote that Be is "the band's most overt attempt to ascend the U.S. pop charts" and "a trim, reflective and modest LP about resilience, written to meet a weary global mood", which captures "something about the totality of BTS fans' life in a pandemic: bored, scared and lonely, then resolved and raring to see what comes next."[20] Raisa Bruner from Time deemed the album as "short and sweet" that is filled with "a dose of escapist melodies, thoughtful lyrics and strong personality."[23] NBC News' Lexi Lane said that Be "shines through as their brightest and most unifying album yet."[33] In her review for MTV News, Emma Saletta said that the album "channel[s] the members' own fears and anxieties [...], as well as a steadfast determination to overcome," and ultimately delivers "a profound beacon of hope for the future."[17] Describing the album as an "oasis", Katie Goh of i-D magazine wrote that Be is "the intimate, introspective lockdown project" that "embodies the emotional turmoil most of us have been through during 2020, and speaks, frankly, directly and unapologetically, to the current moment."[24] Annabel Nugent of The Independent praised the album for experimenting with various musical styles and stated that it "avoids the pitfall of sounding like a checklist."[21]

Consequence of Sound's Mary Siroky dubbed the album as "the cozy comedown" which "brings the listener home in every sense, inviting us into the world of these seven young men in a way none of their other albums have so far."[26] Stereogum reviewer Chris DeVille considered the album as "a soothing sound for a pandemic-racked year" in which "BTS remain maximalists at heart."[22] Similarly, Verónica A. Bastardo of The Quietus opined that Be "offers an introspective chronicle about isolation, quarantine and finding a safe middle between sorrow and hope."[68] Vox's Aja Romano described Be as a "sublime" album full of "seamless litany of bops intended to commemorate and celebrate getting through the Covid-19 pandemic."[16] Exclaim! writer Eva Zhu stated "While Be is a slight departure from BTS's usual offerings, its more matter-of-fact and laidback vibe could pull in new fans who are looking for music to relate to in this crappy year."[37] In a review published by The Arts Desk, Peter Quinn lauded the album's production and BTS' vocal palette for "switch[ing] from rap to angelic falsetto in the blink of an eye."[42] For Clash, Malvika Padin asserted that the album is "far simpler" than the band's past releases "yet equally comforting" but argued it's lack of appeal to the casual listeners.[39] In a more critical review, Slant Magazine's Sophia Ordaz acknowledged the album for its simple and lucid message, however criticized it for "trading in overstimulating spectacle for low-key introspection."[27]

Commercial performance

Be debuted atop the US Billboard 200 with 242,000 album-equivalent units, including 177,000 sales, becoming BTS's fifth number-one album in the United States. As a result, BTS became the fastest group to earn five number-one albums since the Beatles between 1966 and 1968. BTS also became the first group to have two chart-topping albums in the country in 2020, and the second act overall following YoungBoy Never Broke Again.[70] It's lead single "Life Goes On" debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 with 150,000 downloads and 14.9 million U.S. streams, becoming BTS' third number-one song following "Dynamite" and "Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat)" remix. With this, BTS became the fastest group in over 42 years to earn three number-one songs in a span of three months, since the Bee Gees. The band became the second act following Ariana Grande to score three Hot 100 entries in 2020, and also became the first group to land two number-one debuts on the chart. "Life Goes On" marked the first song not sung in an English language to debut atop the chart.[71] BTS became only the second act in history besides Taylor Swift to debut at number one on the Hot 100 and Billboard 200 simultaneously.[72] They also became the first group and ninth overall act to prevail on top of the Artist 100, Hot 100, and Billboard 200 charts simultaneously.[73] Seven tracks from the album charted simultaneously on the Hot 100 chart, with "Life Goes On" and "Dynamite" in the top-10, "Blue & Grey" in the top-20, and "Stay" in the top-40. This stood as the most number of simultaneous entries on the Hot 100 chart by a Korean act.[74] In Canada, Be arrived at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, giving BTS their fourth number-one album in the country.[75] Seven tracks of the album entered the Canadian Hot 100, with "Dynamite" peaking at number two and "Life Goes On" at number eight.[76]

Be debuted at number one on South Korea's Gaon Album Chart with first week sales of 2.274 million copies on Hanteo Chart, representing the second-highest first sales figures in the chart's history, behind Map of the Soul: 7.[77][78] With it, Be became BTS' eighth consecutive million seller in the country.[79] In Japan, Be entered at number one on the Oricon Albums Chart, selling 191,208 copies in its first week.[80] Be debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart behind Michael Ball and Alfie Boe's Together At Christmas. This became BTS' fourth top ten album in the United Kingdom.[81] Three songs from the album charted on the UK Singles Chart, with "Life Goes On" opening at number 10, giving BTS' their second top 10 song in the UK.[82][83] In Ireland, the album topped the Irish Albums Chart, becoming the band's second chart-topper in the country following Map of the Soul: 7. By doing so, BTS became the first group in eight years to have two number-one albums in the same calendar year since One Direction in 2012, and also the first act since Ed Sheeran in 2017.[84] The album was also a chart-topper on the New Zealand Albums chart, giving BTS their third number one album in New Zealand.[85] By reaching the same position on the Norwegian Albums Chart, Be became BTS' first number one album in the country.[86] In the Flemish region of Belgium, Be attained number one on the Ultratop 200 Albums chart, becoming the band's chart-topping album in the country.[87] In Australia, Be entered at number two on the ARIA Albums chart, giving BTS their seventh top ten album in the country.[88] The album also attained number two position in Finland,[89] France, Italy,[90] Netherlands,[91] and Switzerland.[92] Similarly, Be reached number three in Sweden and Wallonia region of Belgium.[93][94] The album also entered Germany's Offizielle Top 100 at number four,[95] and the Czech Albums at number five.[96]

Track listing

Be track listing
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Life Goes On"
Pdogg3:27
2."Fly to My Room" (내 방을 여행하는 법; Nae bang-eul yeohaenghaneun beob [lit. "How to travel in my room"], performed by Suga, V, J-Hope, and Jimin)
Cosmo's Midnight3:42
3."Blue & Grey"
  • Hiss Noise
  • J-Hope
  • Ji Soo Park
  • Levi
  • Metaphor
  • RM
  • Suga
  • V
  • Ji Soo Park
  • Levi
  • V
  • Hiss Noise
4:15
4."Skit"
  • RM
  • Jin
  • Suga
  • J-Hope
  • Jimin
  • V
  • Jung Kook
3:00
5."Telepathy" (잠시; Jamsi [lit. "For a moment"])
  • El Capitxn
  • Hiss Noise
  • Jung Kook
  • RM
  • Suga
  • El Capitxn
  • Hiss Noise
3:22
6."Dis-ease" (; Byeong [lit. "Illness"])
Brasstracks4:00
7."Stay" (performed by RM, Jin, and Jungkook)
  • Arston
  • Jin
  • Jung Kook
  • RM
Arston3:25
8."Dynamite"
  • David Stewart
  • Jessica Agombar
Stewart3:19
Total length:28:30

Personnel

Credits adapted from Big Hit's website and Tidal.[97][98]

Charts

Chart performance of Be
Chart (2020) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[88] 2
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[99] 4
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[87] 3
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[94] 1
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[75] 1
Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)[96] 5
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[100] 1
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[91] 2
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[89] 2
French Albums (SNEP)[101] 2
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[95] 4
Icelandic Albums (Tónlist)[102] 14
Irish Albums (OCC)[103] 1
Italian Albums (FIMI)[90] 2
Japan Hot Albums (Billboard Japan)[104] 1
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[80] 1
Lithuanian Albums (AGATA)[105] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[85] 1
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[86] 1
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[106] 1
Scottish Albums (OCC)[107] 5
South Korean Albums (Gaon)[108] 1
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[93] 3
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[92] 2
UK Albums (OCC)[109] 2
US Billboard 200[110] 1

Certifications and sales

Sales certifications for Be
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States 177,000[70]

Release history

Release formats for Be
Region Date Format Label Ref.
Various November 20, 2020 [55]

See also

References

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