“Fame is like a shadow,” BTS’ Suga told The Guardian just before the Korean superstars’ first UK shows in 2018. “There’s light and there’s darkness; it’s something that follows you constantly and not something you can run away from.”
This is an idea the seven-piece have returned to frequently in interviews over the last two years – the notion that the more successful you get and the more you achieve the goals you once dreamt of in your bedroom, then the more heightened your anxieties become. It makes sense then, that ‘Interlude: Shadow’ – the first taste of their new album ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’ – follows a similar narrative.
Where RM took the lead on ‘Intro: Persona’, the honour of beginning the journey to this new record falls to another member of the rapline. Suga delivers an intense, rapid-fire rush through the downfalls of success in a piece of fiery, bass-heavy emo-rap that suggests BTS are taking no prisoners on ‘MOTS: 7’.
“I wanna be a rap star/I wanna be the top,” he begins, laying out his end goal. But now the success the once-struggling producer longed for has well and truly been secured, he’s finding it’s not as rosy as he imagined. “I’m afraid, flying high is terrifying,” he admits. “No one told me how lonely it is up here.” Looping back to that idea of the titular shadow, he later raps from its perspective, warning himself: “We are one body, sometimes we will clash/You can never break me off, this you must know.”
You might be thinking you should be so lucky to have the fame and fortune that BTS have earned. But this is precisely the fearless honesty and candidness that’s connected with so many and driven the Korean group into the position they now find themselves in. It’s not an ungrateful moan, but a nail-on-head assessment of the mental toll of triumph – whether you’re succeeding on a very public stage or not. Oh, and it just so happens to absolutely slap.
In fact, ‘Interlude: Shadow’ might be one of the most inventive things BTS have released so far. Much as ‘Intro: Persona’ called back to ‘Intro: Skool Luv Affair’, it harks back to 2013’s ‘Intro: O!RUL8,2?’, utilising the moody, atmospheric instrumental from that track to create a slowly drifting opposite to the claustrophobic comment-on-fame scenes in the video. BTS haven’t run out of ideas though – far from it. Two minutes in, layers of nasty bass come thudding into play before things switch up once more as Suga goes full sicko mode, voice flipping between raspy low huffs, sing-song raps, and the high-pitched squeak that made the title track of his 2016 mixtape ‘Agust D’ so urgent.
If this is the sort of form BTS are on for the whole of ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’, Suga should prepare for their altitude to get even higher – ‘Interlude: Shadow’ says we’re going stratospheric.