V (BTS): Singularity Review

Still a week and a half till Bangtan’s comeback, and the hype is already unbearable. As per tradition, BTS have teased their upcoming album release with an official “comeback trailer” that features a solo track by a single member. In the past, these solos functioned as short introductory tracks to the album, each with one extensively developed verse and one chorus. The new song is a bit different. Lead vocalist V’s solo “Singularity” is not a short intro clip, but a full song with multiple verses and choruses. The dark, languorous R&B may seem like a step out of BTS’s habitual realm of operation, but member V is in his element here.

“Singularity” harkens back to V’s album track “Stigma” from past album “WINGS,” taking several elements of the 2016 song—the plunking bass guitar, the dissonant and often ominous melodies, the swaying triple time—and exaggerating them, drawing them out, so that the melodies are even more ominous and the rhythm even more swayable. “Singularity,” however, has more robust composition that guides the listener through highs and lows despite never making significant changes to the beat or the instrumental arrangement. Its verses trawl through tentative, wandering phrases that almost tease at a solid melodic character until finally the chorus delivers what we’ve been half-consciously waiting for: a defined, memorable tune with pathos and poise. In this way, the fragment-like melodies of the verses give the hook a high-impact factor that such a slow, dreamy chorus couldn’t otherwise have. The electronic bass ends the chorus on a subtle major chord, fully rounding out the otherwise minor-filled composition with a slightly strange and ultimately beguiling resolution. What seals the song’s success, however, is not the composition but V’s voice, whose vividly expressive timbre adds as much eloquence to the song as the lyrics themselves. I know I already mentioned this while I was discussing “Crystal Snow,” but it really is painful to see BTS’s title tracks fail to fully utilize V’s incredibly unique tone over and over. “Singularity” feels like the pushback against that failure that BigHit has been patiently waiting to deliver.

BTS comeback trailers are a fascinating little anomaly. Few other K-pop acts release anything like them, but BigHit Entertainment is notorious for their extensive teaser cycles that unroll upwards of ten minutes’ worth of promotional film material before the comeback has even begun. The comeback trailers are almost like a tracker for Bangtan’s steeply angled rise to success, starting with the low-budget trailer for 2014 album “Dark & Wild” that featured RM’s “What Am I to You,” moving through cartoon sequences like that of Suga’s 2015 trailer featuring “Never Mind” and finally culminating in the past year’s mini-films full of sweeping cinematography, symbolism and aesthetics whose production value surpasses most other groups’ actual music videos. What’s most interesting to me, though, is that the solos featured in the trailers are always among the best songs on the album. I mean, think about it: “What Am I to You” and “Never Mind” are absolutely unbelievable; “Boy Meets Evil” and “Serendipity” blew the majority of their respective albums out of the water. It makes sense that BigHit would put extra work into a song meant to drive up hype for the comeback, but it’s striking that the members’ solos are often better than their full-group songs. Is that because the members’ individual characters shape the musical identity of their solos in a way that is impossible in other BTS tracks? Judging by the incontrovertible V-ness of “Singularity,” maybe that’s true. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the album, “Love Yourself: Tear,” measures up on May 18.

 

SINGULARITY: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Oh, bop, of course.


Take a look at V’s “Singularity” comeback trailer MV below:

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