Music Opinion

RM’s Indigo is a lyrical masterpiece

The BTS member describes his internal struggles about his identity on his solo debut album

When K-pop superstars BTS declared that they were going to enlist into the military and focus on each of their solo projects until then, I knew that we were going to see a completely new side of them. From their debut in 2013 to now, the members have never had the time to focus on their individual pursuits due to the group’s hectic schedule. Although there were singles and mixtapes released every once in a while, none of the members released a solo album. So, when Indigo was first announced back in early November, fans were excited. 

RM has always incorporated incredible wordplay, poetic metaphors, and literary works into his music and rap (like in RM and Mono) to describe his concerns and confusion over his identity between “RM” — his persona as the leader of the most popular boy band in the world — and “Kim Namjoon” — a 28-year-old who grew up in South Korea and found himself thrust onto a world stage. From the beginning to the end of Indigo, RM reflects on the development of his career and who he is as a person, and as an artist.

Song lyrics are forms of poetry and storytelling. The best song lyrics should be able to connect with their audience on a deep emotional level, evoking feelings of contemplation, courage, and respect. The 10 tracks on Indigo have lyrics that inspire those emotions, making it one of the best albums ever. With linguistic duality and artistic references infused into each and every song, it is hard to not call this album’s songwriting a masterpiece.

Indigo opens up with “Yun,” which is based on Korean artist Yun Hyong-keun, whom RM deeply admires. Through the lyrics, RM expressed respect for the painter who lived a life that was not afraid to be true, no matter the cost.

Yun Hyongkeun was an activist. From a young age, he would attend protests, point out corruption, and raise voice against government injustice. For this, he was cast out, jailed, tortured, and almost executed at one point. Through this turmoil, he matured as a person and started creating his major works at the age of 45. RM sings, “I wanna be a human ‘fore I do some art.” That’s what Yun did. Before becoming an artist, he first learned what it meant to be human. He always put the human before art.

RM likely became painfully aware of the contrast to his own life of being a global superstar, a life of being on a path determined by others — others who try to convince him to stay the course. Like Yun, the idol direly wished to be true to himself, to be free not just as a creative but as a human being. In a way, RM probably felt that he became an artist before becoming a human, and now he wanted to change that.

F*** the trendsetter
I’mma turn back the time
Back the time, far to when I was nine
The time when there were only the good and the bad
I feel like the me of then was more human

To express gratitude and respect to someone who he viewed as a spiritual mentor, RM made “Yun” as tribute. RM exploring what a person should pursue until the day they die is something not commonly seen in the pop music industry, and yet he conveyed his thoughts with such passion and clarity.

In “Still Life”, the second track of the album, RM compared himself to still life paintings, which depict inanimate subject matter. The idol has put himself onto a canvas through his music, but rather than being trapped in that frame, he instead expresses he will continue moving forward. To the rapper, who is a non-native English speaker, read the phrase in the context of “It is still life, life still goes on.”

The concept of “still” appears every couple of lines, but alternates meaning each time, from stillness to still moving. “A still object that keeps on moving / I keep on blooming my flower”. These two lines refer to the genre of still life paintings, specifically of flowers. The flowers depicted in a still life painting were once alive, but when they’re painted onto a canvas, they become inanimate. They were life that’s now dead. RM sees himself like those flowers. However, he will not stay put and become still. He will proceed onward, never looking back.

“I’m still life, but I’m movin’”. I am still life, meaning I’ve stopped, but yet I’m moving. Instead of understanding the term “still life” as alive now dead, RM viewed the two words as still alive. Through RM’s interpretation of still life, the flowers that were painted years ago may have already died, but here, it’s still living. The flowers, like the idol, will keep blooming towards that blazing sun.

All throughout RM’s 20s, the idol had been a public figure with his life laid bare for everyone to see: “My life that continues to be on display”. People are always watching and looking at him as if he is an art piece in a gallery. “Still Life” talks about how RM’s life is drawn onto a canvas like a still life, but he won’t stop, and instead continuously improve and change. Through “Still Life”, the rapper reveals that he wants to break through the shackles that bind him from moving forward: “I want to escape the frame of this canvas.” 

The title track “Wild Flower” is 들꽃놀이 (deulkkotnori) in Korean, which rhymes with 불꽃놀이 (bulkkotnori) which is fireworks. Through “Wild Flower”, RM conveys the message that instead of fireworks, he wants to be a wildflower. The song describes his desire to live a simpler life after realizing that the limelight is not suited for him. If the exciting life of a star he dreamt of can be compared to fireworks, then RM compares himself to a wildflower who sings of silence in a world where the loudest voices are favoured: “The society that is for those with loud voice / And I still speak silence.”

RM tells his story of how he wanted to soar high up into the sky and become famous and successful. His wish did come true, but at an unexpected cost. “When all this fame turned into shackles / Please, take this greed away from me.” His dream, which was the very thing that led him to success, became something that made him lose sight of who he was. “Lying in a field, I cast my eyes upon the sky / Now I can’t remember what I had wanted.” 

“Wild Flower” details RM’s struggles with fame and the responsibilities that come with it, comparing that stardom to fireworks. Life as a star is one which shines and burns brightly against the night sky, but through this song, RM reveals that he wishes to stay grounded, then be up in the air.

I don’t enjoy you praising me and throwing me up in the air
My two feet stand on this ground
with flowers that don’t even have names
I can’t go up to the stars again, I can’t

RM has managed to verbalize himself through reflection in his lyrics and the resulting album is full of poetry and artistry. Good lyrics should be able to stand on their own without the music to tell a story, and Indigo has done just that. This album, which he has described as “the last archive of my 20s” deserves no less than to be called a masterpiece.

Cover Image: Weverse

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