Why K-pop group BTS's new album is likely to be their most successful in the US

Kpop boyband BTS.
Kpop boyband BTS. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

(NYTimes) - The best song on Love Yourself: Seung Her, the new EP from the K-pop stars BTS, isn't the main single, DNA, with its shuddering club-music drops and urgent Shawn Mendes-esque guitar intro. Nor is it Best Of Me, which was written in part by Andrew Taggart, of the dim pop-EDM outfit The Chainsmokers, and fits neatly into that duo's litany of songs that swell and throb yet still feel like dirges.

Rather, it's the more humble Pied Piper, a sort of slow disco number that's emphatic in its relaxation. While BTS - a seven-man boy band that has been among the brightest lights in the genre, and has been rising quickly over the past year - is capable of the flamboyance and sometimes manic energy that can dominate and typify much of K-pop, it's just as comfortable with a more tranquil approach.

Ease is the most striking aspect of Love Yourself: Seung Her (Big Hit Entertainment), which is likely to be this group's most successful release to date in the United States. (Earlier this year, BTS won a Billboard Music Award for top social artist, and it has already placed several releases in the Billboard album chart.) More than any other K-pop group, it is primed to benefit from the retreat of BigBang, whose members are moving toward solo projects and mandatory military conscription.

The members of BTS - Suga, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V, Jungkook and Jin - have a range of complementary skills. Jimin is a lithe singer in the Justin Bieber vein, as heard on Intro: Serendipity. On some songs, like Best Of Me, he and Jungkook sing back to back, two shades of tender in a tug of war.

But it is BTS' rappers who often dictate the group's sound, especially Rap Monster, who is gruff without being aggressive. They're showcased on two songs near the end of this EP: Mic Drop, which has a fantastically squelchy beat (produced by Pdogg), and the closing track, Outro: Her, in which the group's three rapping members - Rap Monster, Suga and J-Hope - take turns with extended verses, a rarity for a group that often trades off every four lines, or less.

The beat here, produced by Suga and Slow Rabbit, is lush with instrumentation, and moves with a casual saunter reminiscent of the mid-1990s. And each rapper showcases a different approach: Rap Monster with bluster, Suga with slick talk and J-Hope with tricky double-time rhymes. But there's no sense of muscling for turf - just the easy swagger of artists who know they're in control.