Authors: Shreya Bose & Jonaki
In light of the stellar, record-shattering music they make as a group, one can overlook that each BTS member is an accomplished and talented artist in their own right. The songs here explore their individual visions, and reveal the extent of their creative calibre. Listen, revisit, be smitten.
RM – Change ft. Wale
BTS have always distinguished themselves by delving into musical themes that most idols wouldn’t touch. Nowhere is this more apparent than in group leader and rapper RM’s collaboration with Nigerian-American rapper Wale.
In Change, RM and Wale swap verses condemning the social ills of their respective countries. Wale rages against “alt-rights”, “racist police”, and declares “no faith in the government”. RM laments a world plagued by “mad teachers”, divided spaces” and those who “kill people with fingers on Twitter”. Swimming in old-school piano bars that punctuate a majestic, stomping beat, Change is emblematic of RM’s visionary musical prowess. He pens powerful words, raps admirably in English and makes crystal-clear the depth of his social, political, and cultural awareness.
Obviously, Change alludes to cross-cultural commonality : the world drives you down, no matter where you are. But at its heart, it portrays musical camaraderie between two people who have been knocked down, and keep getting back up.
Two hours before his 28th birthday, Jin released Abyss on BTS’s Soundcloud as well as the Bangtan TV Youtube channel. If his anthemic track, Epiphany from BTS’s Love Yourself album highlights his exemplary vocal control with its pop-rock glory, Abyss harnesses his vocal strengths as a natural tenor, with stable breath control and an impressive falsetto.
In his note to ARMY via Bangtan Blog, Jin explained how he had experienced “major burnout”, and battled feelings of inadequacy, questioning whether he deserved all the accolades that came with BTS topping Billboard Hot 100. His conversation with producer Bang Shi-Hyuk led him to collaborate with singer-songwriter Bumzu, and they co-wrote Abyss, with BTS leader RM contributing to the chorus.
The acoustic soundscape and the piano instrumental, teamed with Jin’s emotional and airy vocals when he sings, “With my breath held, I walk into my sea, I walk into it/ I face myself, [who is] crying beautifully and sorrowfully,” reveals the inner turmoil he is grappling with. Like Awake, Tonight and Moon(his other solo tracks), Abyss uses its rawness and vulnerability to attempt to comfort and heal.
Burn It – Suga/Agust D
Spitting majestic rhyme as Agust D, Suga embraces nihilism in his collaboration with MAX for his second mixtape. In brooding, beatific verse, he dives into his own demons and looks at the sides of himself he battles with as both artist and human:
“The me, who got to taste success, ey/What’s the difference from me back then? ey/Well, I don’t know, I’m not that much different, ey/ Let’s burn it, the me in the past“
But despite the turbulence of soul and mind, he erects a moment of positive assurance: “I hope that you won’t forget that giving up is also courage.” In true Suga fashion, he is deeply empathetic to the agony of internal conflict, and what it takes to resolve a dark night of the soul. To himself, and his listeners, he asserts that one has the choice to either decimate themselves or become a beacon, a “blazing sun” risen from the purge of one’s creative, spiritual, psychological dross.
The track is testament to Agust D’s self-awareness, the dexterity of his self-analysis, and the disarming vulnerability he brings to his art. With a chorus in MAX’s billowy voice, the song creates a sense of haunting. The sound denotes the sentiment, and the artist breaks himself to discover his own evolution.
J-Hope – 1 VERSE
We’ve all seen it: rapper J-Hope is love and light made manifest. Even RM said, during BTS’s 2018 Japanese Hulu special, We Love BTS, that, “J-Hope always lights up the atmosphere.”
When a man like that drops a diss track, it’s natural to think that’s an out-of-character move. Yet, when J-Hope dropped 1 VERSE in 2015, it made something rather clear – you don’t question Jung Ho-seok’s hip-hop cred.
Opening with a blustering brass war-cry, the track balances itself on trap beats while J-Hope lashes out at haters and drives home how irrelevant they really are: “I cut out the rotten parts, the lice that will fall eventually.” In the fiery breath of a man who has conquered the world, he buries his detractors by detailing exactly how successful he and his brothers from BTS are : “I make them unable to forget, crowd around me.” He goes hard, shifting his vocal texture to underline the various modes of defiance in this song. A bit of onomatopoeia (spitting) emphasizes how he “spit it on the ground“.
J-Hope takes no prisoners when he raps “To the haters I make them throw up/Retributive justice, you reap what you sow.” As early as 2015, 1 VERSE depicts that J-Hope’s hip-hop artistry is authentic and stands entirely on its own merit.
Jimin – Lie
Dedicated BTS fans know that there are two sides to vocalist and dancer Jimin. On one hand, he holds the world in thrall of his voice and his flawless en pointe. On the flipside, he is known for merciless perfectionism which had led to reports of him putting in gruelling practice and dealing with immense self-doubt. In RM’s Vlive on the Wings behind story, he revealed how Jimin often blamed himself for failures and inadequacies, frequently lapsing into the mindset of ‘I’m not good enough’.
Lie was written in this exact context. It is a glimmering, dark saga of a man torn between two sides of his soul. Jimin mourns the loss of “the me that was pure”, and claims that he is “caught in a lie“. Possibly struggling with the image of himself showcased to the world, he voices discomfort and anguish with who he has become, and who he yearns to be.
Lie is an exquisite display of Jimin’s heartrending tenor. Sharp violins, rumbling bass and stringent keys provide instrumental tapestry for his voice to shine. He ricochets between a rough almost-baritone and a soaring pitch emblematic of his repressed-and-finally-released agony. When he pleads “Pull me from this hell/ I can’t be free from this pain“, the heart all but breaks.
V- Sweet Night
Sweet Night by V was sung as the OST for Korean Drama, Itaewon class, a story about class struggle, love, loyalty, friendship and the dogged belief in oneself. Written, composed and produced by V, Sweet Night debuted at #1 on the US itunes, becoming the first Korean OST to do so. Most recently, it won best OST at the APAN Star awards 2020.
In December 2019, V told ARMYs on Vlive to watch the drama Itaewon Class and subsequently surprised them with this song.
The track directly refers to the Danbam pub (“Danbam” means “Sweet Night” in Korean) run by the protagonist Park Saeroyi (played by Park Seo-joon) and reveals the protagonist’s complicated feelings and the predicament he finds himself in. Sweet Night has V showcasing remarkable vocal prowess.The use of particular metaphors and imagery are also distinctive of his songwriting ethos, and in line with his melancholic-yet-healing inclinations.
On Sweet Night, V sings : “On my pillow / Can’t get me tired / Sharing my fragile truth / That I still hope the door is open / Cuz the window / Opened one time with you and me / Now my forever’s falling down,”.
His signature baritone, layered lyricism and empathetic storytelling stands tall in Sweet Night, just like V’s other solo tracks Stigma, Scenery, Singularity and Snow Flower.
Sung by BTS’s main vocal and golden maknae (youngest), Euphoria ensured that Jungkook became the longest-charting solo K-Pop artist on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart, staying there for 26 weeks straight, and was even featured on the HBO series Euphoria.
Co-Written by RM, “Hitman Bang”, (Producer Bang Shi-Hyuk, Chairman of Big Hit Entertainment, BTS’s label) and Adora, along with other collaborators, as mentioned in album credits, Euphoria is testament to Jungkook’s stable vocal control and stylistic finesse. Since Euphoria, he has sung numerous jazz-leaning, R&B-styles tracks. However, this song remains an ARMY favourite with Jungkook performing it in stadiums to the thunderous applause of enraptured crowds. He is often seen harmonizing with the other BTS members, the sophistry of which is evident in Euphoria.
Euphoria carries a dream-like quality, juxtaposing luminous imagery with Jungkook’s velvety vocals when he sings: “You are the sun that rose again in my life/ The return of my childhood dreams/ I don’t know what this feeling is/ Perhaps this is also in a dream.” The meaningful lyrics and the upbeat melody makes the composition joyous and is reflective of Jungkook’s unique vocal colour.