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The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. This is a familiar phenomenon for the members of BTS. Last year, when asked about the group’s global success, leader RM said, “Stepping higher is similar to how the shadow gets longer as you grow taller.” But the key to overcoming these shadows, he told Metro a few months later, isn’t to run away from them but to embrace them: “Sometimes it’s too much and too big for us, but to survive as an artist and human, we should be friends with the shadows.” In the first trailer for the Korean group’s upcoming album, Map of the Soul: 7, rapper Suga comes to an understanding with his shadow as he grapples with the fear that comes with this maelstrom of fame and success.
“No one told me how lonely it is up here,” he raps on the moody, introspective “Interlude: Shadow.” The raw track finds the emcee reflecting on his dreams — “I wanna be a rap star / I wanna be the top / I wanna be a rockstar / I want it all mine,” he raps in English — and the realization that no matter how tall he climbs or how high he flies “the shadow follows.”
The song also samples the group’s 2013 track INTRO : O!RUL8,2?, similar to how last year’s scorching “Intro: Persona” sampled their 2014 song, “Intro: Skool Luv Affair.” In this Map of the Soul era of BTS, it’s all about looking back to move forward.
The visual for “Interlude: Shadow” depicts these themes of light and shadow both literally (Suga’s shadow as he leans against the hotel door; the unforgiving gaze of cellphone light; faceless men cloaked in darkness) and figuratively (Suga on stage in the limelight, rapping in front of a crowd; shards of broken glass reflecting light). At one point, Suga is surrounded by bodies that grab and film him. According to a press release from Big Hit Entertainment, this crowd personifies his “multiple egos and desires” — or, the fame and recognition he seeks.
It’s then that the beat switches and the intensity builds as Suga seemingly starts rapping from the perspective of his shadow. “Succeed or fail, whichever way you flow / You can’t escape.” His shadow is his partner, a part of himself that is as integral to light as darkness.
In late 2018, during an episode of BTS’s weekly variety program Run BTS!, Suga read a self-penned poem to his members to celebrate five years since their 2013 debut. Titled “What A Relief,” it read, “Though we dreamt of a high sky, it is high here, and cold, and so hard to breathe / It is true that the more light that burns upon us, the more shadows appear / What a relief, that we are seven / What a relief, that we are together.”
With Map of the Soul: 7 set for release on February 21, the number seven is on every fan’s mind. Seven, of course, represents the seven members of BTS — a symbol of unity and togetherness. More so, it’s a statement: The shadows are dark, but they don’t have to face them alone.