Kim Namjoon also known by his stage name, RM, the leader of the International Korean Boy Band, BTS, just released his ‘playlist’ titled mono. mono is RM’s second solo project. His first solo project was his self-titled mixtape, RM, which came out in 2015. Mono this time around is not a mixtape but a playlist. The album cover for mono has the word ‘mixtape’ in the top right-hand corner crossed out and then in the bottom right-hand corner, it says ‘RM Playlist’ with mono underlined under it. Calling this work of art a playlist is such a smart decision done by RM. When someone makes a playlist, it usually follows a similar pattern in terms of the musicality of the songs as they all share the same vibe. A playlist is the embodiment of themes that are evident through the songs. RM’s mono is a playlist full of meaning, soul, love, and self-reflection with a poignant, soothing, and smooth feel to each of the tracks.
Track One: tokyo
The playlist starts with the track, tokyo. I describe “tokyo” as being eerily beautiful yet comforting at the same time. The choice of tokyo as the first song that starts the playlist fits incredibly well as “tokyo” has a melancholic feel. This combined with Namjoon’s deep, soothing and calm singing voice, makes it feel like you’re being guided through the playlist in its raw form. The song almost sounds like thoughts one may have at early hours of the morning when they are unable to fall asleep. In this song, Namjoon delves into an array of complex emotions. The lyrics, in the beginning, are questioning how sometimes we feel lost within ourselves, which causes a sense of confusion. “Do I miss myself?”, “I don’t know”. He mentions that he feels like it’s “time to go”, which could suggest a change in his life that he is aware of and feels as if it needs to be changed. He calls his former self, Pinocchio. “I see Pinocchio/Wearing a poncho/This me some time ago”. The use of the word “Pinocchio” suggests that RM is referring to his former self-being deceitful but also the fact that he tried to hide the realities of who he truly is as he’s “wearing a poncho” and does not want people to see his true self that is underneath the poncho and beneath all the lies. The lyrics “life is a word that sometimes you cannot say and ash is the thing that someday we all should be,” is an idea that RM has spoken about before. In an interview, RM said, “When we burn something, we always have ashes left. But sometimes we just forget. But there’s always the ashes, the black dark ashes.” Furthermore, there seems to be a sense of uncertainty about several things, about “tomorrow” and the desire for things to pause and to “stop and sit right next to you”. However, despite the uncertainty, there is something or someone that helps him feel less overwhelmed about the questions regarding uncertainty. This is evident in the line “I just want to stay right next to you”. At the end of the song, we are reminded of the eerie feeling that this song has with RM bringing it to a close with his whistling.
Track Two: seoul
The production of this song heightens the feelings that are portrayed in seoul. Honne, the English electronic music duo, collaborated with RM on this song. The upbeat yet calming production of the song, in conjunction with the lyrics, continue to bring to light the love/hate narrative of the song. It seems like even though RM is explicitly talking about his own experience with the city of Seoul, this song can relate to the lifestyle of cities in general. Through his lyrics, he plays with the concept of love and hate and how these two things are related to one another as well as showing us the dark and bright sides of Seoul. “I’m already too used to this city’s harmony/even if my childhood is distant and [the city] is full of buildings and cars, this is my home now”. At the beginning of the song, RM makes it clear how Seoul has changed him as a person and that his childhood is distant now. He’s lived in Seoul for so long, that he now sees Seoul as his home, especially with him being used to the harmony of the city. RM goes on to speak about Seoul in a somewhat negative light, which is present in the lyrics “seoul, seoul/ why is your pronunciation the same as ‘soul’?/ what soul do you have?”. These lyrics continue the questioning tone that was introduced in tokyo. “If love and hate are the same words, I love you seoul/If love and hate are the same words, I hate you seoul”. Whilst listening to this song when it first dropped, you can’t help but think about the places where all the members of BTS came from before moving to Seoul. None of them are from the city of Seoul. Namjoon is from Ilsan and although that is only about an hour or two away, Seoul is the heart of South Korea and it has a different lifestyle in comparison to any other village, town, or city in South Korea. Seoul is the land of opportunities, especially for a musician. Despite it being the land of opportunities for musicians, there is always the downside of living in a city.
Track Three: moonchild
When the tracklist was posted on BTS’s twitter account, I immediately knew that moonchild would be ‘that’ song that did it for me and I was not wrong. “moonchild” is a song that talks about how pain is a given in life and is something that can’t be avoided. As humans, we have to learn how to live through the pain and “dance in the pain”. RM seems to be speaking from the perspective of a moonchild but also to a moonchild. The lyrics of this song, although in the third person, can be said to be RM talking directly to himself as well as the others he includes in this entity. Not only is the moonchild a source of comfort but the moon is as well. The encouraging and comforting feeling is evident in the chorus “moonchild you shine/ when you rise, it’s your time/ moonchild don’t cry/ when moon rise, it’s your time”. After the first chorus, it is followed by verses that talk about being unable to escape despite wanting to; despite wanting to die, they end up working even harder than before and that thinking about not think is thinking on its own. This song is a song for anyone who may feel like this but it also shows the growth in Namjoon as an individual. In one of his pre-debut songs titled “Suicide,” he raps the lyrics, “honestly I’m falling up the ladder, maybe this song will be my last letter” and now he raps“If I want to die, I’ll strive to live as much as I want to die”. The lyrics in this song are not only insightful but also poetic. Listening to this song, I feel a sense of hope as well as comfort.
Track Four: badbye (with eAeon 이이언)
RM collaborated with longtime friend, 이이언 eAeon, on this track. As a fan of eAeon, when I listened to this song, I could immediately tell it incorporated his musical style. The song is very minimal in terms of lyrics and is the shortest song in the playlist, but despite this, it is so powerful. The word ‘badbye’ is the compounding of the words ‘bad’ and ‘goodbye’ which could suggest that something may have ended in the least ideal way. The production of the song makes it feel like this ‘badbye’ was something that was painful, which could suggest the use of the lyrics “kill me, kill me softly” being in the major key. The song has a very heavy feel to it as well as there being a sense of lack of closure due to the lingering of the song at the end.
Track Five: 어긋 uhgood
The song is titled “어긋 ” or as uhgood as it’s a play on words. uhgood is supposed to sound like the Korean word, 어긋 which roughly means to be out of place. With the use of lyrics “All I need is me, I know, I know, I know/All you need is you, you know, you know, you know,” this track reflects on the realization that at the end of the day, as long as we support and love ourselves, we will be fine. It incorporates the theme of loving yourself, a theme that BTS constantly advocates for. This track relays the message that you are the most important person to yourself and that you don’t need anyone else to be happy. Although we have that positive message, it is still painful and disappointing to watch expectations fail to fall into place in our own realities. RM raps about how he feels disappointment within himself and how he feels the need to do better. He asks himself in the lyricS “Is this all your worth?”. “To fall out of expectation is so painful/ If you don’t experience it, it’s something you cannot know/ My daily life is so far from reality/ But I’ll still cross the bridge, I want to go, to you/ To the real me”. It seems as though RM is trying to portray his glamorous lifestyle as an Idol which has now taken over his everyday life. This is essentially distant from the “reality” of how things actually are in life. In his reflection, he longs to go to the person who he actually is; the “real me,“ as he says. Bringing it back to the name of this track, the decision to spell 어긋 as uhgood can be viewed as RM trying to say that a lack of conformity is actually a strength. RM expresses his deepest thoughts in this song, which is centered around a mellow instrumental. This, in turn, creates a sad, but also a relaxed and chill tone to the track.
Track Six: 지나가 everythinggoes (with NELL)
As soon as the song starts, you immediately get that sense of warmth and comfort. The musicality of RM and JW of the Korean Indie-rock band, NELL, in this song is something I admire very much. We see the fluctuation of RM’s rap. It starts off being soft and soothing, then it becomes powerful and goes back to the soft and soothing rap flow. Reading the title of the song, I immediately thought of the saying “All things will pass,” which is evident in the lyrics “As night passes and morning comes/ As spring goes and summer comes/ As flowers fall and the summer sun rises/ Like so, everything needs pain in that way/ Breathe in the entire world.” In this track, RM talks about how we feel pain in this world, but despite this, we must also learn how to embrace this same world that we are living in. This track is ultimately about embracing the things that we have in this life, accepting everything, and taking in every single thing. RM also speaks about the goal to become a better person and to make the most of our time here on Earth because eventually, everything goes. Such is clear in the lines “Everyday I pray that I become a slightly better adult/ And every day I stay/ Since both people and pain will all die one day”. The track ends with the lyrics “It rains/It rains/ Everything/ Passes” and the sound of rain in the background which flows perfectly into the next and last song of the playlist, “forever rain.”
Track Seven: forever rain
“forever rain” marks the end of the playlist. This is a track where RM pours out an array of emotions in a simple but profound and striking manner. This is a track where I find it quite difficult to actually bring meaning to the lyrics that RM raps. The track is very simple but underneath the layers of simplicity are more layers that hold together the meaning of this track. The track is deeply poetic to the point where no analysis will do it justice, in my opinion.
From the moment, mono was dropped, it started breaking records on the charts. mono is currently tied with BTS’s Love Yourself Tear for the record of Korean album with the most #1’s on iTunes which is at 87 so far which also makes him the top Korean soloist for most #1’s on iTunes. There are a lot more achievements that RM’s playlist made today and it is important to note that this was an album that was distributed by BigHit Entertainment for free, as well as this playlist being a work of art that RM worked on solely by himself in terms of the lyrics, rap & vocal arrangement, and the recording engineering of the playlist.
mono is a playlist that millions of people all over the world can resonate with. It can be viewed as a comforting mechanism for people, especially those who feel the same as RM in these songs. I applaud RM for choosing to call this solo project a playlist. Not only because of the connotations of a playlist, but this playlist tells a story through each song. It starts off with the uncertainty and questioning of things in life and then expands onto the feelings of pain that we will have throughout our lives. It then ends on a more hopeful message that although one will go through trials and tribulations in life, these are things that will pass in life.
RM’s mono is available to buy and stream on multiple platforms.
Featured Image Via Naver x Dispatch