Imagine a boyband so popular that their official fan club has a waiting list. So popular, that fans spend millions of won (Korean currency, friends) on merchandise and different editions of the same albums (some labels even hustle different cover art for each member of their biggest groups), and yet the majority of the Western music-listening population has no idea who they are. BTS, K-pop’s latest stars that break the barriers of language have released their sixth album titled Love Yourself: Tear. Exploring themes of separation and sorrow, the album surpassed their previous release Love Yourself: Her, as the most pre-ordered album in Korea with 1.44 million copies sold domestically. They are the first K-pop group to have multiple albums exceed one million copies.

At a basic level, BTS remains consistent in what they serve. A genre-hopping album that remains firmly marketed towards K-pop-loving fans first. Despite obvious calls for English releases, they decide to be honest to themselves and continue with what made them popular in the first place. A model that revolves around ‘K-pop but for Westerners’ doesn’t work. What does work is using Western producers like MNEK and Steve Aoki to add a finishing touch to their base Korean flavour.

Title track 'Fake Love' serves as the strongest single here. In a dark turn from last year’s 'DNA', it’s angsty, moody, and full of torment. It’s arena tour ready and a great addition to their discography. On the flip side, it doesn’t take flight over 'Blood, Sweat, and Tears' – a release from 2016. Of course, there are some memorable sections that elevate it above the rest. For example, the serpentine opening with its breathy vocals is much more memorable over the harder off-beat rap verses. In an effort to straddle the line between unfamiliar but not unrecognisable, 'Fake Love' just doesn’t carry the same punch as some of their older singles, but does show growth.

British singer-songwriter/ producer MNEK provides some R&B with 'Paradise' ('낙원'). The song teaches that it’s okay to not know what you want to do in life and to live your life without chasing a dream that isn’t yours. It’s a sweet message that is presented through modern R&B and clearly connects back to MNEK’s own style. What isn’t as clearly connected is Steve Aoki’s addition to the album. 'The Truth Untold' is an emotional ballad about fear in a relationship that shows off Jin, Jungkook, V, and Jimin’s delicate vocals. It’s hard to imagine where the electronic dance DJ played his part but it works. 'Airplane Pt. 2', co-written by Ali Tamposi, who also penned Camila Cabello's 'Havana', brings in some Latin influence. The single acts as a throwback to not only J-Hope’s mixtape track 'Airplane', but also as a look back to their successfully completed world tour.

Lyrically, despite many listeners not understanding what the seven-membered group are saying, Love Yourself: Tear shows some of BTS’ best work. The group has something to say and does so on a level that goes beyond any language barrier. They instead choose to connect through emotions and real-life pain translated into song. Love Yourself: Tear shows off each individual member’s qualities fairly and acts as a well-structured introduction to a wider global audience that is all too eager to pick out negatives. Still, for longtime fans it will perhaps fail to resonate like their 2015-2016 singles. Maybe expectations are too high. After all, how much higher can you go once you’re already at the top?