Monday, April 29th, 2019

BTS ft. Halsey – Boy With Luv

We’re prepping the comment section for ARMYs as we speak…


Ashley Bardhan: This is kind of sick, like, the good kind. I resent Halsey because when I was 13 I got annoyed that her name is Ashley (my name), but she made it Halsey (different name). I really can’t stand the flow of the rap sections in this song. Triplet, triplet flow. This song reminds me of mayo. Take from that what you will. 

Iris Xie: Tastes like Melona-flavored soft chews, chased down with mini matcha Kit-Kats. The “ooh-wahs,” the clipped melodies, and the gentle and easy “oh my my” hook, combined with Halsey living out her K-pop girl group dreams with her exclamations (“I want it!”) is a breezy, sugary, feel-good mixture. This results in something that sounds both like a throwback to older K-pop (Sweetune’s guitar-heavy productions and the chewy, brusque-lite rapping style come to mind here), but it also sounds slightly newer, since the production decides to go for relaxed, airy grooves to balance out the hooks instead of 2011-style pop maximalism. The only thing missing that would elevate the song is a reworking of the rap flow so that it would sound less like an intrusive interruption that competes with the song’s hooks, which hold it back from launching all the way into its 2019 vibe. The summer songs are blooming and ready for the picking, and “Boy With Luv” is prepared to launch for your next pool party. 

Alfred Soto: The lilt in the chorus is closer to Latin pop circa 2000, which shows BTS’s stylistic fungibility. Meanwhile, an organ whistle adds a welcome note of discordance. 

Thomas Inskeep: They can do better, they’ve done better, I expect better, and they really don’t need Halsey.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: A poorly mixed and awkwardly shoehorned rap break. Extremely basic disco-lite instrumentation that K-pop has been doing for ages (and with far more gusto). A totally unnecessary Halsey feature that only exists to perpetuate BTS’s continued reign in the West. It turns out the nondescript title is perfect: this is innocuous, confectionery pop that appeals to the masses because it doesn’t have the guts to double down on anything particularly interesting. Even if you didn’t like “Fake Love” and “Idol,” you couldn’t complain that they sounded so devoid of ambition.

Katie Gill: It’s a very ballsy move for Halsey to attach her name to a song where she might as well be a session singer and a music video where all the BTS boys blow her out of the water with their dancing skills, but a paycheck is a paycheck. At least she’ll get a cut out of the proceedings when ARMY spams this play-by-numbers, middle-of-the-road song all over the internet, turning something just okay into something annoyingly inescapable.

Katherine St Asaph: For the past several days, BTS stans have been tweeting furiously at me, and I assume other music writers, despite my having written literally nothing about their new material except a joke about the acronym “behind the scenes.” There’s currently a flare-up of Discourse about musicians vs. critics, but it doesn’t account for the confusing but ongoing scenario of being yelled at about a review I didn’t write. So it comes as an actual relief that this is a very enjoyable neo-disco song, and I can honestly tack a nice, reassuring big number on to this blurb. May whatever applicable god please accept this sacrifice to restore my mentions.

Hannah Jocelyn: After the past week, I am afraid of BTS stans, so I’m very glad I like this. The guitar line reminds me a lot of early 2010s pop, but the rest of the production has the restraint inherent in this part of the decade. Genius tells me this is like a victory lap after their earlier song “Boy in Luv,” and as someone who is a sucker for meta-references, I can get behind that.

Jessica Doyle: On first listen this was a hard [0], Jimin’s Cathy Dennis channeling notwithstanding. There’s fanservice, and then there’s publicly disavowing your previous save-the-world ambitions to better love ARMYs, which rings thoroughly hollow. There’s fanservice, and then there’s trying so hard — grins, winks, pastels, trap interludes, even Jin cooing “Come be my teacher,” for Christ’s sake — that it ends up calling attention to the very set of circumstances it may be designed to obscure, which is that BTS has become the best-known product of an industry steeped in corruption, exploitation, and rape. (To preempt the reply: no, the guys haven’t been accused of anything, and no evidence has surfaced against them. But if they really are worth billions to the South Korean economy, then a lot of people have a lot of incentive to block even innocuous reports about them, let alone the potentially truly horrifying.) Having read more — though I haven’t gotten to RM’s breakdown of the lyrics yet — I don’t think the most cynical reading is the best one. I think BTS is trying to convince themselves as much as their audience. “Boy With Luv,” while still not my style, feels less now like a total misfire and more an effortful, deliberate commitment. (Meanwhile I choose to believe they’re not all sadistic rapists using the group chat to make fun of the women they brutalized. But then, I would.)

Alex Clifton: I saw BTS last October and ended up having a very expensive panic attack. It wasn’t my first BTS show, but my friends and I bought pit tickets together and we were all determined to have an Extravagantly Good Time. Between purchase and show, though, I went through a bout of extreme depression. I cared about running, petting stray cats, and making it to the end of each day, in that order. Listening to music was particularly painful, as my brain punished me by taking away the one thing in life that has always kept me afloat. I forced myself to go because I’d spent so much money already, figuring going through the motions might help me feel better. In the pit, though, I left my body; I was surrounded by people who were incandescent with excitement while I couldn’t conjure any joy. I saw doom lurking in every face around me, telling me you’re not a real fan if you’re not excited, you don’t deserve to be here, how dare you even show up, you ought to be ashamed. I considered leaving the show but stayed (again, money) and spent the entire time numb, observing rather than participating. For me, the most devastating part was thinking I could never love music — or anything — again. BTS had seen me through a depressive spell in 2017, and suddenly one of the brightest things in my life was slipping out of my grasp. It was a scary, weird night. But I’ve been doing better since October. I’m on different meds. I stopped insulting myself constantly. Music no longer makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I was wary of listening to “Boy With Luv” as the first single After the show; some BTS songs can still trigger anxiety responses and teleport me back to a bad time. I prepared myself for disappointment. But for the first time in months, I woke up with excitement at 5 a.m. to watch the video as it premiered, actual butterflies in my stomach. And I fell in love with this song. I love the “oh my my my” hook. I love the disco-funk. I love how it makes my heart light up like summer. I love the fact that Halsey sings in Korean (!!!) so this isn’t a Justin Bieber “burrito/Dorito” “Despacito” disaster. I love that this is a counter to “Boy In Luv” which is such a macho take on impressing girls when “Boy With Luv” shows that the strongest relationship happens when you love yourself. Most of all, I love the fact that I can hear a song and feel happy once more. It’s the greatest gift I could ever receive.

Reader average: [7.25] (8 votes)

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7 Responses to “BTS ft. Halsey – Boy With Luv”

  1. Alex that blurb is just incredible (and I’m very happy you could rediscover joy in music!)

  2. Alex, that blurb was stunning. i’m so ecstatic you found your love for music again but most importantly, learning to find the love within yourself. you are such an incredible, angelic soul. i honestly teared up while reading your section, you are magnificent and deserve the best in life for as long as possible

  3. I have struggled with depression for many years. K-pop and particularly BTS have been a major source of comfort in my darkest hours.

    Alex, I don’t know you but I hope you are doing well and I hope music continues to bring you joy. Thank you for writing that.

  4. waking up every day to people harassing me and other journalists for the crime of existing — just existing! not even writing anything at all! — is the opposite of comforting

  5. <3 <3 <3 thanks y'all, it means a lot

  6. Katherine: Every fandom has toxic people. BTS’ fans have been through a lot of sh*t over the years, so we can get VERY defensive. Some of us are very immature and sometimes cross the line. Personal attacks are never ok though, that kind of behaviour is definitely not encouraged. I am so sorry you are going through that. We are not all like that, believe me. Block, mute, ignore. They will eventually move on. I’m sorry :(

  7. “Boy with Luv” is an okay song. The real stunner from this EP is “HOME”, easily one of the best R&B tunes of the year. The vocals and rapping interplay is just smooth as hell.