RM’s Mono: A Mixtape for Your Heart and Mind
The BTS leader has solo work that shines.
Kim Namjoon (or RM, to use his stage name) is one of the most talented musicians working right now. Besides being the leader of South Korea’s megastar group BTS, he has just released his second mixtape, Mono. As expected, the seven track album is fantastic.
What’s unexpected is just how emotional and different the sound is from a typical rap album. To put it simply, listening to this album feels like getting a soft hug, or walking around in the fall wearing a nice fluffy sweater. It’s calming, a bit melancholy, hopeful, and remarkably soothing. There’s nothing too loud or brash about it, it’s just as gentle and intelligent as the man who made it.
The first song that introduces you to the album is “Tokyo,” a song that perfectly sets the tone. It starts with the faint sound of traffic and a quiet piano. You can just imagine looking out a city window on a cloudy day. RM uses his soft whisper-rap voice for the majority of the album, and this track is no different. He almost slurs his words in this track, which happens to be one in English. There aren’t too many lines, but it feels like a collection of thoughts RM had while feeling lonely and confused in a city away from home. The last lines reveal a sadness in his heart, with the RM musing, “I can’t sleep/ Homesick/ But I just wanna/ Stay right next to you/ If I could choose my dream/ I just wanna/ Stay right next to you.” RM has never been one to hide his feelings in his music. With his first song he expresses a vulnerability that brings you into his mind for the rest of the ride.
Following is another track named for a city, this one Korea’s own “Seoul.” This one is a bit more upbeat, but not by much. There’s a chill rap beat in the background and RM does a bit more rapping than he does in “Tokyo.” RM talks about how Seoul has become his home since going there for music. Though he loves it because of the way he’s become adjusted, that adjustment and sameness scares him. He doesn’t want to become grey and complacent. Seoul is like a love/hate relationship, it would seem, because love and hate are both similar in that both are strong emotions fueled by passion. It’s a nice duality and shows a lot of introspection on RM’s part. He isn’t afraid to admit sometimes he doesn’t like where he is despite his superstar status and all he’s achieved while being there. The honesty in his voice and lyrics comes through in his voice, and it makes for an easy listening experience no matter what your mood is.
“Moonchild” might be one of the most popular ones on the album within the first 24 hours of Mono’s release. "Moonchild" is a dedication to those who don’t exactly thrive in the sunlight. It’s for those who suffer but have to power through. Even though you might be active in the day, you will shine at night. You have your time even if it isn’t the same as everyone else. ARMYs have been tweeting about this song for its sentiment and the beautiful lyrics RM has to get his message across. Whether it’s the bridge of “We are each other’s night view, each other’s moon” or the chorus “Moonchild you shine/When you rise it’s your time… Moonchild don’t cry…Moonchild you shine/ When moon rise, it’s your time.” The song is gorgeous. It has a deep base behind it and a delicate electronic sound to match RM’s earnest vocals. He both sings and raps in this song, and overall it has such a dreamy quality to it. You feel like you’re up in the stars floating with RM.
The middle song in the seven is “Badbye.” This one acts almost like an interlude and is a natural middle point for the album. At just under two minutes long, “Badbye” consists of mostly repeated lyrics. It’s such a sad song and so so lonely. RM doesn’t want to say goodbye, to whom or what we don’t really know, but it’s something that’s hurting him horribly. He sings alongside indie artist eAeon, “Kill me kill me softly/ Please break me into little pieces.” There’s a super heavy bass in the background and the voices song almost creepy and frightening. It’s one of the songs that’s just so sad to listen to and makes you realize how much RM is opening his heart to his listeners. Though the lyrics are scary, he’s at a point where he can trust himself to share these thoughts and be in a place where he doesn’t feel so isolated. It’s one of the more depressing songs, but you can’t help but feel you are there with RM, that the feelings may be bad but at least listener and artist is together.
The next song, “uhgood” is one that deals with something RM has been candid about for a while; finding his identity. In previous songs and in his UN speech, RM has been open about having issues finding who the real him is and how he can learn to love himself. He acknowledges the dark thoughts in his head like, “You have to be more superb/ Rather die than lose/ You have to win.” So much of this song includes his stress and worry about not being true to himself, but it’s not all despair. RM also says, “I can’t let go of me who I know as myself” and “I want to reach me/ The real me.” Everything about the beat and his voice speaks of determination. There’s a conviction of RM to be the real him and keep going on that path. This feels a little more like the RM we know today, which is a step in the right direction for a man on the path to better love himself.
What comes next might be the catchiest song for me, “everythinggoes.” This song is so beautiful and optimistic. The synth in the background feels like it keeps climbing to impossible heights along with RM repeatedly declaring, “It passes eventually, clearly, certainly.” This is the RM we want to see, bold and confident. He and the featured artist NELL’s also repeat, “Everything everything everything goes.” It feels almost meditative to listen to over and over again, as I did on the train today. It’s like a refrain to go back to when things get tough and you have to remember that it will get better. RM also has a rap toward the end to elaborate on this feeling, saying, “Instead of the cloudy words ‘be strong’ instead of the lie that ‘everyone is like that,’ pray that this wind will pass like all winds do/ It passes.” The slight uncertainty of whether or not the stress and fear will pass is answered with “It passes,” as if RM is talking to a younger version of himself. Of course he’s still scared of the world and being in the spotlight, but he knows that eventually all of that passes and he’ll be okay.
The last song is the one with a stunning monochromatic music video to accompany it. “forever rain” has an animated video of RM walking through the rain while others with umbrellas and distorted faces walk around him. It’s a little surreal to watch, but certainly worth it for how artistic it is. Like many songs off Mono, there is a delicate balance between melancholy and optimism. Though he wants it to rain because “I’d like someone to cry for me” and “people wouldn’t stare at me,” there is an upside to the rain. There is a hope for connection in his despair, because, “I’m not lonely when you’re pouring. Please stay by my side.” He feels a chance for something better, like he can reach out and end the path of isolation that he feels he’s on. There is a bit of hope, as he asks “If I could kiss, the whole world so hard, would someone welcome me.” If the success he’s found with his six brothers has anything to say in the matter, RM is more than welcome.
As the leader of BTS and the core that the group was originally built around, he’s already embraced the world and helped countless fans to love themselves and others. He’s created a network of people who would love to see him happy and do anything to lift him up. In a way, RM is in fact surrounded by raindrops, each being a person in this world he’s affected and touched for the better.