LOS ANGELES (AP) — A lot can go wrong when a performer endeavors outside of the group that made their career. In the case of BTS baritone V, a lot can go right, as well.
“Layover,” the first solo album from V, is moody, smooth alt-R&B, a collection of songs that feels true to the performer — and offers a glimpse into his oft-considered mysterious interiority.
First came the two singles, the bilingual “Love Me Again” and “Rainy Days” — the former, languid pop with V’s voice high in the mix, the latter, a syrupy, lo-fi post-breakup ballad. “Blue” and “For Us” connect the two. “Slow Dancing” is a standout, with its impromptu flute solo at the song’s coda.
“Layover” is V’s first solo album, but BTS ARMY know this is in no way his first solo experience: he’s released a few with the band, including 2016’s “Stigma” and 2020’s “Inner Child.”
But it is “Singularity,” V’s opening cut from BTS’s 2018 album “Love Yourself: Tear,” that stands out. “The illusions that torture me are still the same,” V sings. “Did I lose myself, or did I gain you?”
At the time, critics theorized that V was referencing the Greek myth of Narcissus — it certainly wouldn’t be the first time this K-pop group pulled out an academic reference point — but all seemed to agree that when given the opportunity to perform on his own, V has a particular musical magic, a kind of soulful, sensual approach to R&B. Where harmonies dominate, his husky tone cuts through, demanding attention. In that way, “Singularity” is the antecedent of “Layover.”
Historically, when an artist goes solo, it is symbolic of a new chapter. Maybe it’s a boy band member leaving to become a man-musician, individuating beyond the support network that built them, not unlike a child leaving home in young adulthood. Maybe it’s a cry for creative freedom — to no longer feel their identity is tied to their fellow performers.
But the members of BTS, history-makers and record-breakers that they are, offer an alternative. They’re not on hiatus; nor have they broken up. While its seven members take turns fulfilling South Korea’s mandatory military service ( Jin and J-hope have enlisted; Suga has begun the process ) the others will release their own individual records, allowing fans to spend more time with them in the process.
In the case of V, it’s an opportunity to experiment — and it’s yielding great results.