When people mention ARMY, the name fans of South Korean group BTS go by, they often make the mistake of reducing the fanbase to a group of “screaming teen girls.” That is a factually incorrect and sexist trope. It minimizes their impact. The fans have the on and offline organization of a presidential campaign staff, have raised millions for charity, and translated content in dozens of languages — all driven by the passion they feel for BTS's music.
But ARMY are also bonafide detectives who have expertly unraveled the mysterious narrative (known as the BTS Universe) that the group weaves into their music videos, diary entry-like album liner notes, and other content for years. They also are quick to pick up on the tiny hints that the group drops about what they’re up to — and this time is no different.
Big Hit Entertainment, BTS’s management company, announced that their forthcoming album, Map of the Soul: Persona, will be released on April 12. This album will begin a new chapter in the group’s discography, following last year’s Love Yourself trilogy, of which two albums landed No.1 spots on the Billboard 200.
ARMY already have their magnifying glasses out and theories are flying around about the subject of BTS’s next era. And it seems BTS has been planting clues for a very long time. Here’s what the fans have figured out so far.
BTS left clues during the 2017 Melon Music Awards for the Love Yourself trilogy. They did the same for their next chapter before the band’s performance at the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), a year later. “You gave me power, you gave me love. So now I’m a hero, a boy with love,” the video read in what seems to be a reference their 2014 single, “Boy In Luv.” “I’ll show you the map of the soul, I’ll show you the dream."
Kim Seokjin, who goes by “Jin” and is the group's oldest member, wore a shirt with the word "persona" on it in October 2017 during a performance of their single "DNA."
At the end of the 2018 video for "Epiphany," Jin's solo song and the introduction to Love Yourself: Answer, Korean text appears that reads, "At the end of the journey to find myself, the place I reached is, in fact, where I had already been. In the end, what I have to find that which is the beginning of all things, the milestone: the map of the soul. The which is with anyone, but cannot be found my simply anyone, I seek to begin searching for it from now."
The title may refer to Carl Jung's theories of psychology.
The guys in BTS aren't just pretty faces — they like to develop ideas based off the work of some great intellectual thinkers. BTS leader RM has noted some of Haruki Murakami's works as influences. The theme of BTS's Wings album was inspired by the Demian by Hermann Hesse. And some of Love Yourself: Tear can be tied to Into The Magic Shop by James R. Doty. The consensus is that the title of the next album refers to Jung’s Map Of The Soul by Murray Stein, which Big Hit has even been selling in its online store.
Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was the founder of analytical psychology and believed that there are four major archetypes of the human mind that make up one's personality as a whole: persona, shadow, anima/animus, and self.
He described the persona as our public image, or who we present ourselves to the world; the word derives from the Latin term that refers to masks worn by Etruscan mimes. BTS have included masks in much of their recent work, including their "Fake Love" and "Singularity" videos and in the 2018 MAMA intro video. The band has also previously discussed the importance of authenticity in their work, including how vital it is not conflate their identities as performers with their identities as people.
From here, ARMY seems to be split on the number of albums that will follow in the series.
Some believe that like the Love Yourself series, Map of the Soul will be a trilogy, with three chapters: Persona, Self, and Shadow (combined with Anima/Animus).
Then there are those who believe that Map of the Soul, and specifically Jung's theories, are tied to the Love Yourself series. Love Yourself: Her represents anima (the femininity embedded in men), as the videos that were released along with the album included different women (perhaps the members' female alter-egos). Love Yourself: Tear represents the shadow archetype, as it deals with dark, repressed feelings. Love Yourself: Answer would be self, as it describes self-acceptance and awareness.
Map of the Soul: Persona would deal with the next archetype, and be made up of seven albums for each letter of the word.
Since there are seven members of BTS, some also have theorized that each album could represent each of the members.
More broadly, fans are theorizing about Map of the Soul's place within BTS's discography as a whole. There's a hidden track on the band's debut album, 2 Cool 4 Skool, called "Path." In the song, the members talk about the roads that have led them to become singers and their fears that they're choosing the wrong careers. BTS's last few album titles spell out "path," which could represent that they now believe this is the definitive path for them to follow.
Since BTS was formed in 2013, the band has made music about the challenges and joys of coming of age, and April's release seems to fit right into the storyline they've created as the next step in growing up, coming to terms with your own identity, and learning to love yourself.