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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.

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Various Artists - BTS World: Original Soundtrack Music Album Reviews

The soundtrack to the superstar boy band’s mobile app game is the most inessential BTS-affiliated project to date.

Early in the decade, Akon, Snoop Dogg, and Kanye West all featured on woefully misguided K-pop songs, emblematic of how K-pop collaborations with Western artists weren’t always well thought through. There’s been marked improvement in the past couple years, and BTS have been crucial in making these cross-continental pairings—like their songs with Steve Aoki, Nicki Minaj, and Halsey—feel more sensible. Ahead of BTS WORLD, the group released a new collaboration every week. Those tracks are the most noteworthy ones here by a considerable margin.


Despite its title, BTS WORLD isn’t really a BTS album: It’s the soundtrack to a freemium mobile app game of the same name. Less than a third of the record’s 50-minute runtime is devoted to the boy band, and one would be hard-pressed to consider these four tracks among their best. Three collaborations only contain a few BTS members each, mixing and matching the group’s singers and rappers with suitable Western counterparts. While they aren’t as embarrassing as collaborations from K-pop’s yesteryear, they still fail to showcase the strengths of their respective artists.

On “Dream Glow,” Jin, Jimin, and Jungkook team up with Charli XCX for a diaphanous EDM song that’s in constant search of a satisfying climax. Its muted nature is intentional—the track is meant to serve as a mantra about following your dreams—but in the absence of any cathartic bombast, the vocal hook and lethargic production are a chore. At last, a song that embodies the tedious labor involved in reaching one’s goals.

The spacious and vaguely tropical “A Brand New Day,” featuring Zara Larsson, doesn’t fare much better. Producer Mura Masa throws in a daegeum—a Korean bamboo flute—but since it functions the same as any other flute loop we’ve heard in the past few years, it’s little more than a cute gesture. J-Hope’s shouted vocals are the only thing providing a semblance of personality. Juice WRLD exudes a fair amount of charm on “All Night,” ditching his lugubriousness for some slurred lines that pine for a girl. The relative sloppiness of his delivery proves a welcome contrast to RM and Suga’s prim rapping. Suga in particular is in prime form: He switches up his flow in meaningful ways, bringing to mind K-pop star Zico’s verse on “Oasis,” the very first time a Korean idol rapper adopted overtly ATL flows in a pop-rap single.

BTS WORLD’s main attraction is “Heartbeat,” the only song here to have a music video and all seven of the group’s members. It’s an emotive, stadium-ready ballad that recalls fan favorite single “Spring Day,” but its banal instrumentation renders it overwrought. With staid guitar strums, plodding drums, and a line like “My heart’s on fire for your love,” “Heartbeat” could easily be mistaken for Hillsong United’s tepid contemporary Christian music, albeit with a generous number of awkward percussive blips.

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The rest of BTS World is wholly disposable. Seven instrumentals serve as theme music for the group’s different members, and while a few are charming—Jimin’s theme, the quaint “Cake Waltz,” could soundtrack a Disney film—every track unwisely exceeds three minutes, and each eventually reveals itself as uninspired stock music. A twee folk song from indie-pop duo Okdal and an overly dramatic ballad by Big Hit Entertainment label-mate Lee Hyun round out the soundtrack. They’re a good sampling of the music that gains traction in Korea but not among international fans. Unfortunately, they’re as innocuous and frustratingly nondescript as the seven themes that precede them.

If you spend any time with the BTS WORLD game, you’ll quickly notice that it’s meant for a particular subset of fans. Players simulate life as the band’s manager, and the visual novel-style gameplay and aesthetics feel a lot like BTS fan fiction. While it’s never outright erotic, it’s meant to elicit some, well, affectionate reactions: In the first few levels of the game, RM “glistens with sweat,” you “lock eyes with a radiantly smiling Seok Jin,” and you can “feel the warmth of Yunki’s hand on [your] wrist.” (The game refers to the player only with she/her pronouns.) Like the game, the accompanying soundtrack is for die-hards only. But wherever you land on the BTS fan spectrum, BTS WORLD is the most inessential BTS-affiliated project to date.


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