If one wants to really understand the meaning behind the BTS’ songs, be it their group or solo projects, one must always pay attention to the lyrics. Sonically, one can trace the genre experimentation they apply to their music but it’s in lyrics that one encounters the depth and the meaning of the story they narrate, in reference to their own lives.
Their history, struggle, growth, and reflection are all situated in the words they put out.
Yes, language barriers might hold some people back but it’s the absence of ‘contextual barriers’ that really brings ARMY close. Look at the subtitles in the videos or translations from dedicated ARMY and you will understand that their experiences and musings are not very different from yours. This brings us back to Bong Joon Ho’s remarks:
The fans relate to their journey, contemplate, take lessons from it, share their own perspective, and move on together.
When Min Yoongi released his first mixtape in the year 2016 under this alter ego AGUSTD, he talked about his ambitions as an artist, his apprehensions with fame, and his mental struggles. With “So Far Away” which he tied with “First Love” during the live performance, the rapper concluded his story on a hopeful note.
While defining his vision as a rapper whose influence and inspiration is his lived experience, he emphasized that everyone must hold on to their hopes and dreams.
So, almost four years later, what is AGUSTD telling us?
In an interview, the rapper said that the new album is a “documentation of himself as a 28-year-old”. He uses this record to share his observations made along the way, as he broke several records with this group. But “D-2” is way more personal.
28, in this album, is the point of culmination but also a beginning for the new experiences. He looks back at the past experiences to re-share this perspective for the future. Subjective in his opinion on the industry, media response, capitalism, age, competition, and life, AGUSTD shares what all he has learned and what he is yet to find out.
The songs are specific in experience but open-ended for listeners to decide the takeaways. The only difference between the persona of Suga and AGUSTD is the tone. The latter is more straight-forward and aggressive. In terms of genre, the rapper has not shied away from experimenting with a mix of hip-hop, R&B, trap, including others.
Check out our track-by-track review for the album below. For this review, we have taken a translation reference from Doolset Bangtan’s website.
Produced by Agust D, GHSTLOOP
Written by Agust D, GHSTLOOP
This celestial object finds its way one way or the other in BTS’ works.
Drawing the parallels between the eternal and mortal, changeable, and not so seemingly changeable, AGUSTD is tracing his growth trajectory as an artist while looking back at things that still haven’t changed.
Laced with paradox in terms of the lightweight sound and the gravity of lyrics, the song talks about the distance he has covered from Namsandong to Hannam the Hill but how he still faces questions around his love for music, if he can write the next verse well or if he is receiving his rewards at ease or as a compensation for the hard work done.
What has also not changed is his mindset that still wants him to aim to be Peter Pan in the world of adults and his attitude, reminiscent of his words during Never Mind:
“If you are going to crash, accelerate even harder, you idiot.”
Unlike others who measure his growth with numbers, he instead talks about his ‘undertaking’ that focuses on aspects of his artistry that will continue to remain the same, just like the ‘moonlight’.
In ‘Moonlight’, AGUSTD shares why timelessness can be pressurizing, considering the expansive state it embodies. The feeling of sublime as symbolized by ‘success’ he has achieved, while exhilarating, can also become overwhelming. So, he instead, pays attention to his passion as a musician that has always remained the same.
This song talks about his journey but is itself complete as one.
Produced by Agust D, EL CAPITXN
Written by Agust D, EL CAPITXN
One of the most seething tracks from the album, Daechwita does not leave any room for politeness. Within 24 hours of its release, the video has already garnered over 22 million views and over 4 million likes on YouTube.
Daechwita is a genre of traditional Korean music used for marching. AGUSTD uses it to complement the king’s walk in the music video. But there’s more to it. In the lead single to the first mixtape, Yoongi sampled a track which also comprised of military music and used it to announce his entry into the music industry. The key difference lies in the phase when it was done. In the first mixtape, AGUSTD was still climbing the ladder in the industry but this time, when he asks to play the music loud, he is making a way into the industry as a successful rapper and a part of the best boy group.
When compared to the first mixtape, the track is quite similar in its message. Through this song, AGUSTD differentiates himself from other rappers. Using the trope of a period drama, the song seems to take its inspiration from Masquerade, a movie released in 2012. It shows a king placing his double on the throne to avoid the threat of assassination.
As Yoongi plays the role of both the king and his double, one can question why does he need to kill the latter? The scene shows that although equal in their skills and now the status, only the fittest will survive. Instead of a king who stays alone and ‘misuses’ his power to stay in the game, AGUSTD would rather rise amidst the people and win with their support. The scene can also be interpreted as a battle of personas with one kind winning over the other.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Produced by EL CAPITXN, GHSTLOOP
Written by Agust D, EL CAPITXN, GHSTLOOP
The title is a two-way question:
- A rhetorical response to those who did not believe his success
- A question asked to him for every topic raised around the group
Unabashed in his criticism for the naysayers, AGUSTD through his diss track, questions people about their opinion on BTS’ success and how will they respond if the group goes on to achieve more, for instance, Grammy. It’s similar to the question he raised in “The Rise of Bangtan”:
What will happen if Bangtan rises?
The tone, then and now, carries mockery and a threat to the critics.
Not only is AGUSTD unabashed in his criticism, but he also uses his track to provide a clear answer to the questions and comments that are generally dodged publicly. Similar to Daechwita, the tone adopted, is aggressive and unfiltered. Unlike the lead single which primarily talks about his art, this song talks about a specific type of response.
Using money as a metaphor for success, he emphasizes that if money has been the sole driver of discussion for everyone talking about the septet, considering Bangtan’s beginning as a group from a small company, how much money do naysayers have ‘now’?
In his response or rather a question, he draws a clear line.
Questioning the practice of favoring media for more screen time and the coattails who ride on group’s popularity, the rapper makes it clear that his success is a result of the trade he made with his youth, something he has earlier discussed in “The Last” and “140503 at Dawn”. This critique of unfair favoring has been earlier raised by the group members individually, wherein they’ve emphasized following fair practices in the industry to give everyone a fair chance.
He also picks on people who question idol music as if it’s not worth the attention, asking if music really needs compartmentalization. He also picks on people who attach the question of military enlistment, every time BTS is talked about. As an answer, he states that
“whatever you think, I am sorry but I don’t care at all”.
STRANGE (in collaboration with RM)
Produced by EL CAPITXN, GHSTLOOP
Written by Agust D, EL CAPITXN, GHSTLOOP, RM
If someone wants to understand the distinctive perspective, tone, and understanding that the rapline in BTS possesses, Strange is one of the best examples. For this song, AGUSTD collaborated with RM, the leader of BTS. In ‘Strange’, both the rappers adopt a conversational tone, something we saw in “Respect” too. So, while AGUSTD questions the world for its paradox, RM attempts to answer by reading between the lines.
The key theme is the perception.
Polemical yet introspective, the song talks about the world as a system of capitalism, driven by ‘polarization’. The kind in which the rich is able to grow their wealth while reaping benefits off poor, where hope is injected in youth but their dreams are taken away, and the kind where holding two ends of the ideology, the one whose eyes are open amidst the herd of sheep is being forced to become blind. Discussing if life is painful or happy, AGUSTD shares his dilemma on the ‘functioning’ of this system.
RM, in his song ‘Change’ talked about life being a taste and how different it is for everyone. In this collaboration, he points out that while it seems we are different in our choices, these preferences have been bestowed on us by the very same system that controls us. Everything is under control. Quite literally!
But somehow we live. Because, in this game of words, there is no correct answer to the paradoxes raised and we all must somehow work to live with it, ‘in our own chicken coop’.
Isn’t it strange? Yes it is.
In the description of the album on Apple, AGUSTD says,
“Regardless of who I am, whether it be SUGA or AGUSTD, I’ll keep moving towards the essence of life”.
This quest for the essence of life finds its place in all the songs on the album and “Strange” offers one kind of approach to questioning why we live, if we know we don’t have a choice. And, there is no correct answer to this.
28 (in collaboration with NiiHWA)
Produced by EL CAPITXN, Hiss noise
Written by Agust D, EL CAPITXN, Hiss noise
Unlike popular belief and understanding, aging is not a linear phenomenon. Sometimes, people age faster due to their experience and at other times, the timestamps fail to fulfill their function.
But what does it mean to grow up? What do we need to leave behind to move forward?
Sharing his dilemma for age, AGUSTD reflects on the “kind” of an adult he is becoming. Continuing with his perspective shared in ‘Moonlight’ (Peter Pan) and ‘Strange’ (dream as collateral), he contemplates if he is becoming someone who is giving up on his dreams, even if in fragments, like most adults do.
The lyrics of 28 mimic the feeling of anxiety one feels when they suddenly realize that they have ‘grown-up’ but fail to comprehend what that phrase must entail. Like AGUSTD and NiiHWA, we are left gasping for air.
The song brilliantly delivers the apprehensions and fears people feel. It offers a refreshing angle on the discourse of existential crisis which sometimes fails to take the pressure of adulting into consideration. Even when he has achieved what he wanted to achieve, what will make him an ‘adult’ but also, does he really wants to become one?
The song ends with a question mark, both for himself and the listeners.
BURN IT (in collaboration with MAX)
Produced by Agust D, GHSTLOOP
Written by Agust D, GHSTLOOP, MAX
The interaction between BTS and MAX dates back to Jungkook’s playlist when he first shared his liking for MAX’s song ‘Love Me Less’. Since the last few months, the singer had been teasing his fans and ARMY about his collaboration with Suga and we finally have the output.
For this collaboration, MAX offered his vocal and lyrical insight to the cryptic vibe of “Burn It”.
Bringing back the question raised in “Strange”, AGUSTD asks if the trade-off between dream and success has been fruitful? Young people are often told to burn like a candle to their optimal capacity in order to achieve their goals. But does this exercise result in a glow-up or a burn out? The answer varies from one individual to another. For some, the struggle ends up turning them into ashes while for others, they are able to retain the passion with which they embarked on their journey. Another way to look at it is to see burning as an exercise of rejuvenation.
“Burn It” offers us a sonic spectacle of a drama being played out between one’s past and the present. The song questions listeners to look into the mirror and see if we recognize the “self” we have become. And, if the answer is no, it’s better to burn it down and start over.
Although, the choice still lies with the listener, if they agree with the output or not.
While sharing the binary choices that one is forced to make, AGUSTD contemplates if one really needs to take either of them? In “Paradise” too, the group emphasised that rat race and your participation in it is not always the answer. And unlike the belief put forth by self-help moguls, giving up is not an act of cowardice.
Like all the songs in the album, “Burn It” ends with a cliffhanger but it does provide a comfort to the listener that no matter what choice they make, it will be respected, for we don’t live similar kinds of lives, so how can the decisions be similar.
Produced by Agust D, Pdogg
Written by Agust D, Pdogg
Master of wordplay, RM, J-Hope, and Min Yoongi are known for their lyrical genius. Not only do they incorporate the colloquial terms but also play around with one’s conventional understanding of well-known words to give listeners a new perspective. For instance, universe changing to YOUniverse to refer to the ARMY’s influence on BTS.
“People”, in that sense, is no different. Its wordplay on ‘life’ and ‘love’ takes cue from the Korean letter formation, something which RM also used in his song “Trivia: Love”.
One of the only songs in the album that gives us a proper chance of listening to Yoongi singing. “People” talks about everyone’s condition in life, wherein there is always a regret of not having something others have.
Who said that humans are the animals of wisdom/To my eyes, it’s certain that they are the animals of regret
We might regret being sad when others are happy, failing when others are succeeding, living normally when others are living with passion, and whatnot. Poetic in expression, the song brings back Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken” in mind but instead of settling with the poet’s conclusion that he embarked on the road less traveled by, AGUSTD instead emphasizes that one’s life in its particular condition is a wish for another. For a celebrity whose personal life is a public spectacle, a moment of relief from the camera is extraordinary, while fame that is often attributed to the success of a celebrity might be a factor of awe for someone else.
The only thing that is same for everyone is the transient nature of life. Like water, it flows and somewhere meets its end. It’s the same for the one living under the limelight or the one, living without it.
Like Yiruma who shared in “River Flows in You” that we all have the water of life within us that helps us thrive as long as it flows, it doesn’t matter what social position we choose to live in. What’s important is the ‘love’ for the ‘life’ within.
When AGUSTD said that his mood for the album is that of serenity, he explained that he has loosened up. The same understanding can be felt in ‘People’. As compared to the first half of the album, this song is more laid back in its tone, lyrics, and music.
Produced by Agust D, Pdogg
Written by Agust D, Pdogg
Mimicking the practice of drinking alone for some “me time”, the song offers us with the rapper’s personal insight on this journey when he is finally all by himself. It’s the second time after “Moonlight” that he is coming back on to the topic, making the album a circular narrative. Through this song, AGUSTD is debunking the perceived understanding of ‘success’. Honsool as a term is therefore synonymous with in vino veritas, which translates to one speaking the truth, under the influence of alcohol.
I thought I’d party every day when I become a superstar/But the ideal is slapping the reality in the back of its head/Well, it doesn’t matter anyway/Tomorrow will come and go again
Drawing a parallel between showering to get fresh and drinking to detoxify thoughts, AGUSTD shares that the ideal in his head is completely different from the reality he is living as a ‘superstar’. Tiring work schedules, which is a part of everyone’s life, is no different for him. The scale might differ but he is enduring as much as any other individual. Money or fame, while being a consequence of his efforts don’t ease anything. So, instead, he will sleep to start again tomorrow.
Honsool’s position in the album leans more towards the conclusion wherein, the rapper is accommodating the reality of his life while trying to understand his place in it as a human being. Shedding off his persona as a celebrity, he seems to make sense of his journey from the point of view of an individual who has been touched by some experiences while growing up and is now finding a way to move on to the next phase. The album like his life, is a work in progress.
SET ME FREE
Produced by Agust D, Pdogg
Written by Agust D, Pdogg
A snippet of his feeling from facing a surge of mixed emotions, ranging from melancholia to euphoria, the interlude shows us the vulnerable side of the rapper. This short track beautifully captures the cracks we live with, in our lives.
In his first mixtape, AGUSTD offered an explicit account of his mental struggles but here, he is sharing an experience of living through the uncontrollable void. The significance of the account is still the same but the method has changed.
The phrase “set me free” works in the synchrony of birds chirping in the background but the shivering tone that seems like pleading contradicts the wish of flight due to one’s lack of strength to really take the action. It’s a passing moment, something felt during a stream of consciousness and the song is able to deliver it, just as it is. Keeping the technique and the subject matter in mind, this has to be one of the most difficult and beautiful songs from the album for us.
DEAR MY FRIEND (in collaboration with Kim Jong Wan of NELL)
Produced by Agust D, JW of NELL, EL CAPITXN
Written by Agust D, JW of NELL, EL CAPITXN
Thematically, this song might not seem like the right fit for the album but it is. Very personal in its narrative, “Dear My Friend” is an epistolary track that shows the losses one makes in life. The other nine songs in the album talked about the gains and losses AGUSTD has made as a musician and as an individual, this song gives us a glimpse of ‘Yoongi’s’ life. The album might come from AGUSTD as a persona but this persona shares its life with both Suga of BTS and Yoongi from Daegu and all the songs from the first as well as second mixtape are colored with the lives of all the three personas. The lines are blurred, both deliberately and also naturally.
Laden with soft melodies and the heart wrenching vocals by Jong Wan, the song offers an unexpected conclusion to the album. But it seems more fitting, considering that throughout the album, the rapper has talked about the unreliable nature of life. It seems like the complete record was preparing the listener for this moment and still left us shocked.
“Dear My Friend” talks about a friend who was once a part of the rapper’s life. Instead of talking about how he was or how he is now, the song focuses on the loss of bonding that one held dearly at one point in time. It laments with “what if” scenarios and constantly comes back to ask if things would have been different had the rapper stopped his friend. The lines in the song are reminiscent of Spring Day, where we find Suga missing his friend and being angry about it. The love/hate relationship with the memory of loss adds to the pain of the narrative, complemented by the gripping sonic interval before AGUSTD comes back to the same question – would things have been different, had he and his friend acted differently.
The album is opinionated, honest, and highly introspective. There is no judgment for the external elements, beyond one’s control but instead an attempt to accommodate them in one’s ideology of their life. Compared to the first mixtape, D-2 is more mature in sound. It must be listened with the first mixtape to understand the rapper’s trajectory and psyche.
“D-2” in our opinion, will indeed emerge out as one of the best solo albums of 2020.
Three years were worth the wait. What do you think about the album? Share your thoughts via tweet @CelebMix.