Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

BTS – Blood Sweat & Tears

Hard work that pays off…


Madeleine Lee: Right now, BTS is the best boy band in K-pop (and therefore the world), and “Blood Sweat & Tears” is proof. The song’s of-the-moment tropical house sound is obviously meant to capitalize on current pop trends, but it still retains BTS’s unique character as a group by returning to the romantic, fatalistic mood of “I Need U” and “Run.” But where much of the appeal and atmosphere of those songs came from the beat, this time, in “Blood Sweat & Tears,” it’s the performances that make it. For instance, the slang J-Hope puts into “wonhae manhi manhi” does this same double duty, sounding like both an emulation of some American rappers’ voices and a howl of lonely desperation. The most crucial part, though, is the vocal line’s recurring chorus (“My blood, sweat and tears, my last dance, take it all away”), and Jimin and V in particular deliver each line like it’s the last moment before everything is lost, and they make you believe it. Like BTS, “Blood Sweat & Tears” is a song that tries to accomplish a lot of different things, and thanks to BTS, it does.

Lilly Gray: I listen to a lot of K-pop. I especially enjoy the thrill of comebacks, especially when big names are all stacked against each other, the promise and sugar rush of each batch of flashy, fun singles — but nothing made me lose my goddamn mind this comeback cycle like “Blood, Sweat & Tears.” I had been peripherally aware of BTS before, mostly because my students adored their baby faces, but nothing I had heard prepared me for this. This hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t believe it existed, that a pop song seemingly crafted to my exacting, bizarre expectations was available with a sumptuous, Secret History cosplay video to match. What I’m saying is that this has made me a crazy person, from the first desperate, breathy plead to the surprise Caribbean drums to the exuberant, crotch-grabbing dance moves and just the complete, wild weirdness of it. God! Someone save me from myself! I keep listening for the weak link vocal and there isn’t one; I keep replaying the two textured rap parts to see if there is one I prefer and it’s all just a seamless box. Help me! 

Cassy Gress: This is one of the flat-out sexiest songs/videos I’ve heard from a K-pop boy band. Lyrics about bondage, getting drunk on her, taking her deep down in his throat, addiction, and of course “wonhae manhi manhi.” To top it all off, Jimin there at the very end has a VERY strong falsetto, not breathy at all like a lot of falsettos are. Goodness gracious.

Will Rivitz: Breathy falsetto is always a precarious proposition in pop, as it’s always one move in any direction away from being unlistenable (think Joe Jonas, typically an excellent singer, on the chorus of “Cake By The Ocean”), but BTS nails the chorus here. I could do without the “Lean On” ripoff that follows, but it’s not a cardinal sin.

Will Adams: The chopped vocal hook is a nagging product of our time, but the rest actually brings to mind Stargate’s work at the turn of the decade. It’s a respectful bump that’s fine to listen to. Where BTS err is by adding in the falsetto.

Jessica Doyle: Yaoi stories have been in circulation in Japan since the mid-1970s, and I don’t know when or how that trend spread to Korea, or when K-pop managing companies discovered that particular female gaze as a potential market. But trust BTS to head, in the grandest way, back to the source material: Hermann Hesse’s work also inspired Tōma no Shinzō. Musically speaking, the meat of Wings is elsewhere: it makes sense to make the title track relatively thin song (it would be positively tubercular if not for J-Hope’s Wonhae manhi manhi; bless you, Hobi) with room for all those arrows and statues and blindfolds. Sensible, too, to include the unabashedly uplifting, aegyo-and-fire “21st Century Girl” in promotions: it adds up to BTS enthusiastically catering to their devoted, complicated, occasionally destructive, perpetually thirsty, female fanbase. But it’s one thing when the protagonist/object is Earl Dorian Red Gloria (whose adventures turned comic pretty quickly; but BTS has that ground covered too) and another when it’s real people (not to mention that “Jungkook, on a swing, with a lollipop” is the most corrupting game of Clue I’ve ever played). So, then: is this turn by a group that’s been grappling with expressions of just-post-adolescent masculinity a welcome embrace of a wider range of expressions of female sexuality, or just a slightly more novel method of cash-grabbing exploitation? Oh, hell, with this group, why not both?

Alfred Soto: The best of the K-pop bands babble about chocolates like Savage Garden mumbling about cherry cola in “I Want You,” and the guitars glisten over a reggeton beat. What the hell are BTS up to? Fuck knows. That’s why they never bore.

Reader average: [8.32] (31 votes)

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8 Responses to “BTS – Blood Sweat & Tears”

  1. Rating their worst single this year :'( #SaveMeforAmnesty

  2. Would Save Me be considered a single, as they didn’t really promote it besides the music video? KPop promotion’s got me all messed up. That said, it’s a great song so I’d be happy to see TSJ rate it.

  3. Totally didn’t expect BTS to release something like this. One of the best kpop comebacks from this year without a doubt.

  4. Save Me is a solid [7], Fire is a [5] max but I’m the only one I know who thinks so.

  5. Save Me has the tortured vocals that I crave and momentum that pulls it out of lonesome ballad territory, Fire only has the kinda Got7-sounding chorus (I would kill to know what to call the yo-yo-y ween ween weeenneerrr nrrrr noise that spikes right after they all yell FIIIIRE so if you know, hmu)

  6. I think you mean Got7 has the Fire-sounding chorus. Still lol’ing at their last comeback. BTS has JYPE all the way shook.

  7. yeahhhh will-e

  8. They got the acronym wrong.