When RM dropped “Intro: Persona” last March, he hinted at what was to come. “The me that I remember and people know,” he rapped. “The me that I created myself to vent out… this is the map of my soul.” This confession set the tone for BTS‘s Map of the Soul era, a creative period centered on honesty and self-reflection. It continues with the release of “ON,” the latest single from the Korean artists off their new studio album, Map of the Soul: 7.
The song is an explosive rallying cry, complete with an entire marching band and a background chorus. There’s a steady refrain of “can’t hold me down ‘cuz you know I’m a fighter,” a sentiment that speaks to internal forces as much as they do external ones; after all, self-inflicted criticism cuts the deepest. Still, their resilience is front and center: “Bring the pain,” they sing. “Even if I fall, I come right up, scream,” Suga raps, translated to English. “That’s how we’ve always been.”
“ON” is the enlightenment that comes at the end of a seven-year journey.
“Of course I‘m not unafraid / Of course it’s not all OK,” RM raps. “But I know / Awkwardly I flow.” This sense of acceptance — knowing that it’s OK to not feel OK, it’s normal to be flawed, to fail — permeates the empowering track. And with it comes complete control. (Vocalist V has the words “the shadow like me” written on his cheek in the music video.) By admitting and accepting these parts of themselves, they’ve become whole. “Gotta go insane to stay sane,” Jungkook sings on the pre-chorus.
In many ways, it’s the perfect introduction to BTS; seven years of history effortlessly condensed to four minutes. On the bridge, haunting and sonically hollow, vocalist Jungkook makes a direct reference to their Wings-era track “Blood Sweat & Tears,” singing, “My blood and tears / Got no fears … I’m taking over.”
The bright and dynamic visual features a diverse group of dancers from creative agency The Lab and the Blue Devils marching band, invoking past music videos like “Not Today.” A version of “ON” featuring Sia is also available to stream in the U.S.
With “ON,” BTS wipes the slate clean. It’s reflective, yet propulsive at the same time. BTS continue to push forward, “going on and on and on and on.” It feels more like a beginning than an ending. Because with true acceptance comes peace of mind — a chance to start fresh. To fall again, and to get back up even stronger.