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BTS returns with new chart-topping album in ode to fans
Having made an incredible splash on the music scene with the new chart-topping album “Map of the Soul: Persona,” BTS wants to delve into the power of love, which is what catapulted the band to global stardom, the band said Wednesday.

At a global press conference livestreamed on YouTube, the septet talked about their new music, their collaboration with pop heavyweights Halsey and Ed Sheeran, their upcoming sold-out stadium concerts, their recent “Saturday Night Live” appearance and the weight of stardom -- all while expressing love for their global fandom community, known as the BTS Army.

“For the past 2 1/2 years, we have been talking about how loving yourself is the start of true love through our ‘Love Yourself’ series. Thankfully, we received so much love and experienced and felt things that we have never imagined,” said leader RM. “So as we were deciding what to put in this album, we wanted to talk about the strength that brought us here, its source, as well as shadows. That power, ultimately is, (the power) of love from our fans.”

BTS poses before a press conference for “Map of the Soul: Persona,” in Seoul on Wednesday. From left are V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope. (Yonhap)
BTS poses before a press conference for “Map of the Soul: Persona,” in Seoul on Wednesday. From left are V, Suga, Jin, Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope. (Yonhap)

Jungkook also emphasized the unique relationship between BTS and its fandom community as the foundation of the new album.

“We became more curious about the Army, their life and feelings,” he said. “So we had a conversation about this with (Big Hit Entertainment CEO) Bang Si-hyuk and it developed and became the theme of the album. I felt the power of music, when hearing from fans that they received strength and comfort during difficult times through our music.”

The new seven-track album, released Friday, is already breaking records.

The EP is bound to top the Billboard 200 chart. It will be the third time the septet has made it to the top of that chart, having done so twice last year with “Love Yourself: Answer” and “Love Yourself: Tear.” The group is also set to top the UK’s Official Chart -- a first for BTS or for any Korean act.

The music video for the lead single, “Boy With Luv,” hit 100 million views on YouTube just 38 hours after its launch -- another worldwide first for any video on the platform. Meanwhile, the musicians just returned from their NBC “Saturday Night Live” debut -- another first for any Korean group -- where they delivered the global premiere of “Boy With Luv.”

When asked about these trailblazing feats, the bandmates said that behind the confident, self-assured performances they felt the weight of their stardom.

“We didn’t come to this position all of a sudden,” said Jin. “We are standing here today thanks to the road that was paved by many artists that came before us. It would be a lie if I said we don’t feel the pressure. But in order to brush that pressure away, we are focusing on our main job, which is music and performance.”

The lyrics of the new album also deal with this burden and with the negative side of the band’s massive popularity.

“As we go up and grow in height, our shadow gets longer,” said RM. “So the pressure is always there. At some point, I became scared of the shining lights and the spotlight audiences. The audience can see me in bright, and I couldn’t. There were times when I felt like I wanted to run away.

“But there are more things we want to achieve at this position. We have this energy that we receive from fans, and that is much more than the feeling of wanting to run away. We continue to hold onto this fear, because what we have is more precious than the weight.”

The new album is a star-studded one, with pop star Halsey collaborating on “Boy With Luv.” BTS will perform live with Halsey on May 1 at the Billboard Music Awards, where the band has been nominated in two categories: Top Social Artist and Top Duo/Group.

“As we were searching for an artist to collaborate with, we wanted an artist who could express a diverse emotional range and Halsey was a perfect fit,” said Suga. “We found many similarities with her in values and passion. And she was happy to join us, so we had a very good time filming the music video together in Namyangju, despite the cold weather.”

The band was also very satisfied at having teamed up with British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who wrote “Make It Right.”

“Ed Sheeran contacted us saying he wants to work with us, and of course we wanted to collaborate with him,” said J-Hope. “The song has a delicate sentimentality and a heart-wrenching melody, and RM’s lyrics match it perfectly.”

In terms of what’s next for BTS, the bandmates said they were excited about their upcoming stadium tour of major cities in the US, Europe and Japan, and about hopefully taking a trophy home at the Billboard Music Awards.
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