Taking inspiration from the surprising source of Carl Jung, BTS’s ‘Map of the Soul’ takes us on a sometimes-catchy, sometimes-pensive journey of self-discovery.

With BTS’s buttery vocals, irresistible beats, and Carl Jung’s psychology in its mix (literally), Map of the Soul rocketed to success in spring 2019. At first listen, you might not expect the album to examine Jungian concepts. Just how psychological could tracks like “Boy With Luv” be?

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Yet for the BTS fan base (or “ARMY”), this connection is no surprise. After all, the band has been using music to inspire fans to better themselves, and defy cultural expectations, since their 2013 debut. But they are no strangers to weaving thoughtful literary references into their music.

After diving into their Love Yourself era (2017-2018), it seemed logical for BTS to move forward with exploring the self.

‘Map of the Soul: Persona’ Reflects Our Inner Struggles

Kim Namjoon, Korean male with blond hair, dressed in a white hoodie and tan jacket, reaches up to a camera out of frame.
Kim Namjoon on the set of ‘Intro: Persona.’

“Who am I? The question I had my whole life,” raps BTS leader Kim Namjoon in the opening track, “Intro: Persona.” According to Jung, a persona is the mask we don throughout life. While we might not be singing and dancing on a global stage, we all have behaviors we use to feel accepted. 

We all ask ourselves, “Who am I?” 

Dr. Murray Stein, author of Jung’s Map of the Soul, for which the album was named, observes how the album wrestles toward authenticity. It moves intensely, mirroring the band’s inner turmoil. 

Every track is infused with themes like self-worth, self-deprecation and belonging. In “Mikrokosmos,” one of many love letters to fans, the band sings about finding wonder in our humanity: “Perhaps the reason this night looks so beautiful / Is not because of these stars or lights, but us.” 

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Finally, Map of the Soul: Persona culminates in a chaotic track, “Dionysus,” which may seem like a detour from Jung into Greek mythology. Yet even this song points back to the persona. Some fans see “Dionysus” as BTS abandoning the mask because of how the Greek god casts away inhibitions. Meanwhile, others recall Dionysus as “the masked god,” or even an “outsider among gods.” These fans theorize BTS might feel similarly.

And in a cutthroat industry, and societal pressures blown up on a global scale, who could blame them for yearning to be real?

But what “being real” entails for BTS might feel more coherent in the second chapter of the Map of the Soul era.

How ‘Map of the Soul: 7’ Expands on Jungian Archetypes

Group photo of BTS with decorative doodles around all seven of them. They are all wearing leather jackets and sporting happy expressions.
(Image by: HYBE Corporation)

Released in early 2020, Map of the Soul: 7 is the follow-up album to MoTS: Persona, and even features the latter’s tracks. Unsurprisingly, this album also calls back to Jung’s work. 

The Jungian archetype “shadow” refers to our repressed desires and flaws — what might not be acceptable — while our “ego” is the conscious part of our psyche. In “Interlude: Shadow,” Suga raps about wanting it all. On the other hand, J-Hope raps about finally trusting himself in the introspective and joyful “Outro: Ego.” 

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The album’s duality results in a profound, nuanced glimpse of self-actualization. We are never all shadow, ego, or our persona. We exist in multiplicities. 

Likewise, songs like “Louder than bombs” and “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal,” which focus on the love between BTS and ARMY, underline the “collective unconscious,” which Carl Jung believed was a reservoir of the human experience and knowledge we all inherit. For instance, in “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal,” BTS details how they overcame their hardships together — as a band and as a collective with their fans. 

“We are not seven with you,” Jungkook sings as the song finishes, reminding listeners they’re never quite as alone as they might feel.

Why Navigating BTS’s ‘Map of the Soul’ Era Matters

BTS
(Image by: HYBE Corporation)

This era is iconic for many reasons, from stunning choreography and music to commemorating the septet’s seven years in the industry. Most importantly, though, Map of the Soul shows how defining yourself means facing your past. Real growth means talking about your feelings and what you’ve gone through.

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Both installments of MoTS reference BTS’s past music. “Boy With Luv (feat. Halsey)” is a response to “Boy in Luv.” The gentle vocals of “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal” juxtapose the more aggressive sound of “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2,” released in 2013. 

Rather than tear down their early concepts and music, BTS builds upon what’s familiar. With the help of Jung, they acknowledge the shadow, ego and persona they’ve constructed, and carve a new way forward from regret. A gorgeous experience, Map of the Soul reveals the turbulence of finding yourself and the marvel of embracing every aspect of your journey.

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