BTS Has Pioneered the Avant-Garde Boy Band Format


1000 percent Yes: BTS, “ON” – Boy bands, since their origin, have been highly visual entities—their music exists in an image industry as much as it does a sonic one. BTS has taken that idea and exploded it to previously uncharted territory. The latest music video from the K-pop group’s recently released album Map of the Soul: 7 is “ON,” is an avant-garde art flick in under five minutes. It’s a triumph in choreography and cinematography—things that for any other act would be ornamental, but for BTS, are at the heart of their work—and the clip leads me to believe they’ve pioneered a new realm of possibility for teen pop performers. Artiness is available to the mainstream. How big will BTS go? Nobody knows, but I can’t wait to find out. —Maria Sherman

Y: Monsta X, “Got My Number” – I love and appreciate any song that within the first two seconds recalls Vitamin C’s “Graduation,” but Monsta X’s “Got My Number” is endearing for elements that extend beyond the obvious derivative. It’s a heavily Anglophonic romantic ballad about wanting someone so badly, you’ll settle for a rebound. Of Western boy bands past and present, it most costly resembles ’NSYNC. That description alone should be enough to get you to press play. —MS

Also yes: Jay Som, “Can’t Sleep” – “Can’t Sleep” is about as lofi as Jay Som will get these days; written on instruments leftover in her childhood bedroom, it is the sound of the most mundane and therefore relatable frustration: insomnia. And I, for one, love the tension. —MS

Yup: Public Practice, “Compromised” – You can’t always get what you want, but then again, no one ever does. New York post-punks Public Practice’s new one, “Compromised,” is about the horrors of an average existence. Sacrifices are necessary for survival, so might as well single about living a lie or opting out. Either way, there are no answers here—just like in reality. —MS

YES, FINALLY: The Strokes, “Bad Decisions” – After being totally let down from their most recent single, “At the Door,” “Bad Decisions” feels like a return to form. Like, THIS was the band I fell in love with as a pimply teen, and I feel like I haven’t heard from them in well over a decade. It’s nostalgic without feeling like a cheap redux of their old shtick, and best of all… Julian Casablancas looks more like Ray Romano than ever in the ’70s-inspired video. —Ashley Reese

I don’t think so: Alanis Morrisette, “Smiling” – It makes sense that this song was originally written for the Jagged Little Pill musical because that is precisely what it sounds like: a big power ballad that would work best on stage and not on an album. However, this is going to appear on an album, so that’s cool for Alanis! There was a time in my life when the music of Alanis Morrisette would move me to tears, but that epoch has ended. Maybe it is just beginning for someone else. —Megan Reynolds

Ehh: The Weeknd, “After Hours” – Most of the Weeknd’s best and most intense material is behind him (see his Trilogy project way back featuring cuts like “What You Need” and “The Morning”), so I don’t expect much from his new releases, including this, where he’s singing on a track with cave-like acoustics and promising to do things he’ll never do, a man forever stuck on the treadmill of life. I assume his upcoming album (for which this is the title track) will continue this theme of his: evolving away from his empty weaknesses with songs halfway between dungeon and pop music. —Clover Hope

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