RM’s new intro track “Persona” for BTS’s upcoming album Map of the Soul: Persona looks a lot like a throwback to the group’s earlier School trilogy, but this time with a bit of a Jungian twist.
The “Persona” music video dropped just yesterday, and it’s already seen an explosive response. There’s been news coverage from a slew of Western outlets (along with the usual Korean news coverage) as well as thousands upon thousands of tweets with #MAP_OF_THE_SOUL_PERSONA. Currently, the hashtag is still pulling in between 800-1500 tweets per hour. The music video peaked at #1 on YouTube’s U.S. trending page and, at the time of writing, has around 13 million views.
Many long-time fans were beyond pleased that “Persona” very clearly hearkens back to one of BTS’s early eras, Skool Luv Affair. The beginning of “Persona” samples BTS’s own “Skool Luv Affair” intro, bringing in the classic Bangtan style. The video also uses the same animations at the start, tying the two together visually.
The tracks diverge in terms of lyrics and composition beyond the sampling, and the video for “Persona” features Namjoon himself this time. There are scenes in a dilapidated classroom (which later appears again covered in graffiti), shots in front of a mirror, and shots with a crowd of mannequins. Though this video isn’t canon to the BU (BTS’s fictional universe), it’s interesting to note that Namjoon is shown in a classroom that could very well be a representation of the storage classroom from the BU storyline, which fans of the story will know is where it all “started.” Going back to an older era for this new series seems to be making much of the same statement: “everything started here.”
What’s really intriguing about the music video (beyond it being BTS-grade awesome as per usual) are the ties we can see to the work of Carl Jung. We’ve known since the release of the upcoming album name that we’d be getting something closely related to Jung’s psychology, and even prior to this, Dr. Murray Stein’s book Jung’s Map of the Soul was offered in a book bundle on Big Hit’s official shop, solidifying the ties.
Early on in the video we see a shot of a chalkboard, scribbled with terminology and quotes directly from Jung. By this point, fans know to pause the video and look at every detail — there’s often clues hiding in obscure locations. We see the words persona, shadow, and ego adorning the board repeatedly, along with dream, love, and happiness. Other phrases such as “map of the soul” and “Who am I?” appear too. A closer look at the quotes reveal words by Jung: “A dream is a small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego” and “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
Jung’s ideas of the persona, shadow, ego, and self will be hugely important for this series. Given that the first album’s title is “Persona,” we can expect that the next two albums in the trilogy may be “Shadow” and “Ego.” This leaves out the anima/animus portion of Jung’s model of the psyche, but it’s possible this will be handled in the form of a video entry, much like “Euphoria” served as the missing part of the 기승전결 progression of the previous Love Yourself trilogy.
The lyrics of “Persona” make it clear that Namjoon is interrogating himself, or even the many “selves” that reside within. He wrestles with identity, questioning “who am I?” and refers to his “shadow” (which he calls hesitation). Later, he refers to “the ‘me’ that I remember and people know,” “the ‘me’ that I created myself,” as well as the version of himself that he wants to be, versus the versions that others want him to be. As this is the final installment that we know of on BTS’s concept timeline, self identity and the struggle to find oneself is a logical thematic move in relation to the previous series.
It’s also possible to interpret the video for visual representation of Jung’s ideas. For example, we’re shown some cuts where Namjoon’s shadow is visible, as well as shots where he’s duplicated on the screen, either through editing or via mirrors. The idea of many selves, or parts of the self, can be represented by the many images of Namjoon that the mirrors create.
The shots that show Namjoon with the hordes of mannequins seem reminiscent of the idea of personas, or masks. It’s a theme we’ve seen before in the “Singularity” music video, some “Fake Love” stages, and in the lyrics of “The Truth Untold.” The imagery is strong here now that we’re diving headfirst into the idea of having a persona.
Another scene shows Namjoon face to face with a large CGI version of himself, which admittedly is a bit confusing at first. However, this could potentially be read as another representation of various selves or parts of the self, such as the true self or the ego speaking to the persona. Here the persona is larger than life, which could also be a comment on how, as an idol, Namjoon would have to reckon with his idol persona and global fame. Even previous release “Idol” contained a lyric where Namjoon questioned whether he should live as “Kim Namjoon” or “RM.”
The lyrics at the end of the track that stood out were “I just wanna give you all the voices till I die / I just wanna give you all the shoulders when you cry.” One interpretation here is that he wants to give you all of his “selves.”
Taking the shots below together, it’s possible to interpret the first as a persona, the second as the shadow, and the third as the ego. The first shot shows Namjoon among the mannequins in what appears to be a school uniform, a throwback to the group’s School trilogy as well as a “past self” of Namjoon. In the second, the run-down classroom is shown covered with graffiti, and Namjoon appears in streetwear with a mic as he raps, the scene literally cast in shadows. Finally, in a brightly-lit scene, Namjoon stands at a podium in the center of more mannequins, after they have shattered, leaving his true “self” alone and the center of attention.
The ending sequence that features all of the mannequins shattering to bits is quite powerful — this could be read as the self or ego standing amidst all the personas and finally destroying the masks, leaving the self out in the open.
Even though “Persona” is only a short intro music video, the cohesiveness between its themes, lyrics, and visual representation is solid. Peeling back the layers grants us an inside look of what’s to come from this series, which promises to tie BTS’s own stories and messages to Jung’s important work on the psyche and the self. Fans all around the world have been encouraged to study Jung’s work like never before, and getting so many people from so many backgrounds and walks of life interested in something they’d normally only read for a college class is a commendable feat. “Persona” continues to show the far-reaching impact that BTS can have, and there’s only more to come.