RM, the South Korean rapper and the leader of the group BTS, has finally released his playlist “Mono”. The playlist is accompanied with the release of the music video for his single “Forever Rain”.
RM – mono.
— ????? (@BTS_twt) October 22, 2018
The rapper, songwriter, and producer flabbergasted everyone when he first announced the release date of the playlist. With just two days to prepare, fans came together to interpret the title and RM’s choice to give up on the “mixtape”.
Mono, which as a word signifies “single”, could have meant playlist “owned” by a single person or a playlist about being “alone”, an alternative interpretation of the term. Now as the rapper has released the playlist, the interpretation leans more towards the latter. In this review piece, we’ve tried to analyse each track and place them within the theme of the playlist.
Rain as an event has a dual connotation. For some, rain brings moments of relief as it symbolises life but for others, it acts as a catalyst to the melancholic temperament. For RM, it signifies something in between.
As rain makes its way to our place and knocks on our windows to announce its arrival, it becomes company to people who otherwise finds it difficult to vent out their feelings. Personifying rain as a non judgemental friend, RM expresses a wish to become one someday.
Disfigured faces with him being completely faceless, RM has portrayed his character as an “everyday” man. It seems to be a deliberate move on the part of the rapper as he has tried to present his song as a voice of anyone and everyone who has found themselves “alone” at some point during their lives.
The playlist puts forth three aspects of the artist – that of, the writer, the singer, and the rapper. Offering a space in each single for his vocals, RM has beautifully blended his husky vocals with his rap. When compared to his first mixtape, this playlist definitely shows his evolution as a rapper and conceptualiser.
With an improved vision and an enhanced sensibility, “Mono” is a wonderful showcase of RM’s ability as a “musician” who has been able to brilliantly convey a variety of emotions. Mono therefore, is a tapestry on which the artist has weaved his emotions with an aim to offer different kinds of narratives and reflections to different kinds of listeners.
In terms of musicality, the music of the playlist is soothing and contemplative. Making an effective use of digital arrangement and electronic music, the team has created a monochromatic vibe for the playlist. The sound is “spatial” and time specific as it leans more towards silent brooding through the night time and resonates well with the title and the theme of the playlist.
Produced by RM and Supreme Boi, the track is the first single on the playlist. The background music places the song “spatially” in Tokyo but like “Forever Rain”, the song is a personal reflection on one’s woes and dilemmas. The sense of brooding is evident from the incessant whistling that signifies the act of thinking but this act has yet not resulted in a concrete conclusion.
As RM reflects on life as “Namjoon”, he places his voice during that moment when the difference between the positive and the negative is unclear. If we needed a song to express the woes of adulthood, “Tokyo” would have been the perfect selection.
Seoul (Prod. HONNE)
Comprising of James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck, Honne is an English electronic duo specialising in futuristic soul music whose EP “Coastal Love” and subsequent works garnered a huge attention amongst the music listeners, especially in South Korea.
Musically, “Seoul” stands in contrast to “Tokyo” as the former has a comparatively positive vibe. The song talks about RM’s fascination with the “city”. As he equates Seoul with “soul”, he talks about the harmony that the place stands for – an equilibrium between happiness and sadness and between “love” and “hate”. Similar to the technique used by Haruki Murakami in his novels to describe Japan using the most mundane elements of life, RM talks about his everyday experience “in” and “of” the city.
The collaboration with Honne turned out to be a great decision as the duo adds their own unique flavour to the track.
Being a conscious individual who has always made a point of talking about his roots, RM has shown why we need to trace “back” our journey and embrace places that become a foundation for our character. “Seoul” is therefore, a calculative appreciation of the place and as a track, it offers us a subjective opinion of the artist.
This has to be our favourite track from the playlist. With some of the sickest drops and one of the only songs in the playlist that puts RM’s vocals at the forefront, the artist has been able to attain a balance between his outburst and music, a method used to convey that outburst.
In astrological terms, Moonchild refers to the person born under the sign of moon, a representative of the zodiac sign “Cancer”. Cancerians by nature are perceived to be overly caring and emotional people who don’t really showcase their own pain in public. In other words, they are silent sufferers. The song is dedicated to such moonchild(s) who suffer alone but also rise during those extreme moments of crisis.
Reminding people that it’s okay to feel sad, RM reiterates the fact that sunrise need not be an answer to everyone’s problems and sometimes, people find their moments of awakening during the darkest period of their lives. The dichotomy between light and darkness has been presented both lyrically and musically therefore, the interpretation is inevitable.
Badbye (with eAeon)
More like an interlude, “Badbye” is one of the shortest songs in “Mono”. Produced by RM and El Capitan, the single is the opposite of a happy farewell. While the title and the lyrics might surprise listeners, a closer look at the theme of the playlist shows that it’s a perfect track for the series.
The constant emphasis on “loneliness” and the resultant culmination of being is the natural flow of the narrative. The song has a dark ambience, a perfect complement to the topic that it deals with. The lyrics are explicit which makes the track a transition point between the first half of the playlist and the latter half.
Produced by Sam Klempner and RM, the song is a musical form of Namjoon’s speech at the United Nations. A honest confession of living as the one he does not identify with, Namjoon expresses a wish to reach the self that resides within him, that untainted self which he recognises as his own.
Putting forth the struggle of embracing one’s self and the uselessness of the saturated message “you’re enough”, Namjoon displays the irony and a difference between one’s wishful thinking and the reality. In hindsight, he emphasises the importance of embarking on the journey of self discovery. The belief can only be turned into the reality if the person strives to turn it into one. Without sugarcoating, Namjoon has put across his message, in the most clear terms possible.
Everything goes (with NELL)
“It’ll pass”. Robert Frost in one of his works said that the only constant thing about life is that “it goes on”. As Namjoon progresses in his playlist, he is moving towards the positive side of his message, the side that emphasises on the comforting aspects of his reflection.
RM has been one of those artists who has openly shared his mental struggle with his fans. From self-doubt to self-love, his journey is most relatable as he has not just learned to embrace himself but has also helped his countless fans in embracing their own selves. The music of this track is driven by the “fast movement” that also goes on to signify the non-stop flow of life. Thematically, the song gels well with the rest of the tracks but musically, it stands out from the rest.
No matter how we perceive it, time and life does not stop for anyone. An acceptance of the fact will help anyone get through the tough times.
It would actually be a surprise if “Mono” does not go on to become one of the top playlists of the year 2018. Musically, lyrically, and thematically, it is one of the best works by RM and also, a commendable piece of work by any artist in the year 2018. The growing sensibility of an individual named Namjoon is clearly visible, making it a brilliant coming of age playlist of our time.
If one wants to see BTS beyond the frame of “social artists”, now is the good opportunity to do so. We’re completely floored. What about you? Share your thoughts via tweet @CelebMix.