Those unfamiliar with Agust D (the solo moniker of BTS’s SUGA) would likely expect a K-pop idol, and certainly one-seventh of the behemoth BTS, to present a carefully crafted image. Instead, as is characteristic of Agust D’s repertoire, the searingly honest lyricism that encapsulates his torment, anxieties, hardships and introspection, tells the story of a talented young rapper, composer, producer and writer, deeply reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future.
His anguish is palpable in Amygdala. Amygdala is the part of the human brain which stores unpleasant memories and brings them up as a reminder or a warning for the future. The song opens with Agust D melodically rapping, “How are you feeling these days? I don’t know your name, your name, your name Travelling to my memories/Things you want to erase/How are you feeling these days?”
He goes on to reference his mother’s heart surgery, his own accident and learning about his father’s liver cancer at work one day, and implores to be set free from his own trauma. “Uh-uh, in my ears, I hear the sound of my mom’s heart clock/Uh-uh, the news of my accident that I couldn’t tell you/And the phone that rang during my schedule and told me of my father’s liver cancer.”
Somebody Does Love or SDL, reminiscent of Seesaw, explores love and its transient state. On occasion, it is euphoric and the recipient feels engulfed in warmth, while on others, people hold on to a memory, an idea of love, unable to let go and look at romantic love through a nostalgic lens:
“Who do you love?Who else do you think [of]? Who else do you remember? Who else do you hate? Who do you live for? Who else are you smiling for?Who do you cry for? Could this be love? Thanks to the grandeur of the word love? What is easily forgotten and lived is called love/Is it you that you miss/ Or is it that time on the other side of glorified mеmory?
People Part 2, just like the original People, is a song that comforts and heals, while Huh? with bandmate J-Hope has the two rappers vehemently establishing and putting forth their viewpoints against prejudice and the rampant hate that they have received throughout their careers, telling haters that they have moved on : “Many articles and gossip, the villain in the information age/If reality is a gutter, get out of it/I pray that even you’ll do well.”
This album is Agust D’s first official album (Agust D and D 2 have both been classified as mixtapes) and as of writing this piece, D-DAY” by Agust D earned 20.030 million filtered streams on Spotify Global in its first day, becoming the second biggest album debut by K-Pop soloist in history.
Just like Daechwita in D-2, Haegeum also uses a Korean traditional instrument. Haegeum was a stringed popular instrument during the Joseon Dynasty era, used in many events like parades, festivals & royal ancestral rites. The word haegeum in Korean is a double entendre and means both a stringed instrument and liberation i.e., freedom from all kinds of bans and freedom from censorship. In this video too, there is a king (this time in police uniform) and a slave (this time a criminal). Knowing Agust D, it would not be a stretch to think that this may have been a subtle reference to police brutalities.
The chopsticks in haegeum also serve as a metaphor. Agust D uses it as a weapon to kill, and at the end of the video, the viewer watches him eat from the same chopstick. This is a thinly veiled commentary on capitalism. What used to be a weapon to critique and build a life for oneself (a life that allows for freedom of expression and opportunities) ultimately becomes a vessel of grandeur, where it becomes pivotal and almost obligatory to participate.
Reaping the fruits of capitalism also means to participate in the way it asks one to comply, thereby stripping one of their individual freedoms: “Endless influx of information prohibits freedom of imagination, and seeks conformity of thought/ All these painful noises blind you, and/Now it even infringes on freedom of thought.”
At one point in the music video, Agust D is seen smoking a cigarette, consciously trying to renege against the perception of manufactured youtube plays and instead, presents his work as an organic expression of freedom, when he raps:
“Really, what is it exactly that’s been restricting us? Maybe we do it to ourselves /Slaves to capitalism, slaves to money/Slaves to hatred and prejudice/ Slaves to YouTube, slaves to flexin’/ Selfishness and greed have gone off the rails/I close my eyes and it’s easy, it’s all so obvious/Opinions clearly split depending on what’s to gain/Everyone’s been blinded by envy and jealousy/Without realising that they’re putting shackles on each other.”
Snooze is a velvety ballad interspersed with barely audible rap featuring K-rock band, The Roses frontman Kim Woosung and the legendary Japanese composer, the Late Ryuichi Sakamoto. The song is a message that Agust D would like to convey to younger musicians, so it is only fitting that his childhood idol be a featuring artist :
“It may be very difficult, this road I’ve walked on/It may have looked like a flower road, but enemies everywhеre/Know that it was a thorny road before you start/I hopе you never forget the one who scatters flowers on the road/Don’t forget the one who cries when you’re laughing/Cause they live a day on your smile.”
In his musical documentary Suga : Road to D-Day, SUGA sheds light on his admiration for Sakamoto and shares a story about how as a young child, he heard the soundtrack for the Last Emperor at a tiny 50-seater theatre in his hometown of Daegu. Suga has since said that he would want to continue to make music well into his twilight years, and finds older musicians an exemplar of the life path he would choose.
The track Life Goes On breaks the fourth wall between Agust D and Suga and while the original, featured on the BTS album BE is bright and full of hope, this version is doubtful and desolate : “ This moment when everyone fallen apart/Our relationship is getting farther than yesterday/Life goes on, life goes on/Life goes on, life goes on.
The soft and steady track, Polar Night is an incisive take on polarising viewpoints and the harsh judgements meted out: If you’re not on my side/you’re all my enemies/An extreme choice to become/Political correctness is also my cup of tea/Keep your mouth shut about troublesome problems/Selective hypocrisy and uncomfortable attitude/That interpretation that only suits my mood
D-Day’s Interlude: Dawn, also has no vocals or rap, and is an instrumental track, a first for Agust D.
The Agust D in D-day is much mellower, with his sharp edges and embers of rage gradually dissipating. To that end, it makes sense as to why it would be the final chapter in the anthology. D-Day is thus a disruptive anti-theatre critiquing a cruel and farcical system, a paradox that SUGA the superstar, and Agust D the outlier have to navigate.
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