Anyone who is ARMY knows how hands-on BTS are with their music. They also know how involved leader Kim Namjoon AKA RM is with the work of not only the group’s, but his own solo material as well as having input in working on other artists’ songs, too. But, for those of you who don’t know or just need a reminder, let us run some facts.
Since a young age, even before debut, RM has proven himself as an extraordinary lyricist, where he wrote many songs for pre-debut BTS, as well as for artists including 2AM and GLAM. He was an impressive underground rapper in his teen years and worked under the moniker Runch Randa, where he released a number of tracks and collaborations with other underground rappers, including Block B’s Zico. At the time of writing this, RM has been attributed over 170 songs by the Korean Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) as a songwriter and composer. As of July 2021, he is the second and youngest most-credited songwriter in KOMCA’s history. Impressive right? So we thought we’d take a look at a small selection of his large category as examples of proof that RM is a lyrical genius.
If anyone knows how to use metaphors to perfection, it’s BTS and ‘Whalien 52’ is the perfect example. Co-written with his fellow rap line members, SUGA and j-hope, the 2015-released song references the loneliest whale in the world who is assumed to be the only whale in the world able to sing in 52 Hertz, which is a decibel much higher than what any other whale could possibly ever hear. The song uses the whale as a metaphor for BTS and their own artistry and facing the loneliness and the feeling of never being heard when talking, and being questioned though never understood. It’s also parallel to the struggles of youth and the lack of being heard or understood at a young age by the rest of society, a theme that’s prominent within BTS’s discography, making it extremely relatable for ARMY and other listeners around the world.
‘Everythingoes’ comes from RM’s second mixtape mono which dropped in 2018 and is a great comfort for ARMY. Enlisting South Korean alt-rock band Nell as a collab, RM chose minimalism for this track, with simple lyrics over complex beats, the song is a simple message which offers a perspective of everything in this life. Everything goes. No matter what you are dealing with, what is going on right now, it’s not permanent. Sometimes, intricate lyrics with subliminal messages aren’t needed to create something beautiful. It’s a simple but consoling track that many turn to when they’re in need of support.
‘Trivia 承 : Love’
Taken from the 2018 BTS repackage album Love Yourself: Answer, this solo song by RM is a celebration of love. In a VLIVE two years prior, he talked about how in Korean the words for ‘love,’ ‘live,’ and ‘human’ were all similar. “They sound similar too. As humans, we’re bound to love. Whether it be romantically or love for our parents, friends, and teachers. I think long ago when Korean was first made, human and love was made similarly on purpose— because you can’t live without love.” An analogy which made its way to a song (we truly love finding links like this, don’t you?) and through his intricate lyricism, RM used his smooth charm of loving confessions and a variety of wordplay. Though he begins with the struggle of trying to define love (because don’t we all?), he describes it as a natural cycle in this life that is practically inevitable, even if you don’t put any thought into it. How love softens his tough edges and exterior.
The world play comes in forms of both Korean and English too because our multilingual king is just that talented. He shares how he is a person (사람 saram) and how love (사랑 sarang) has changed him as a person. He also shares how the distance between I and U is long before crossing all the letters to be with “u.” Listen, this song has our hearts fluttering, okay? RM has a way with words and we refuse to accept any corny pickup line when there are people like him who are this smooth (like butter. Sorry.).
More of the metaphors now as we look at ‘Silver Spoon.’ The Korean name for this song is ‘뱁새’ (bepsae) which is a crow-tit, a bird species which is native to South Korea. Inspired by the famous South Korean proverb “when crow-tit walk like stork, its crotch will tear” which essentially talks about knowing your place in society and being a “try-hard,” and the societal spoon class theory that equates four different spoons to different wealth and social status, ‘Silver Spoon’ voices the frustration of the younger generations – typically born into the “dirt spoon” category – and calls out those who play a part in implementing an unnecessary narrative and labeling people’s worth. It addresses the problems of a society that impedes rage and resentment that causes psychological disorders through pressure. Though topics like this have proven controversial to older generations, BTS have never been afraid to speak up on the issues surrounding and RM captures the relatable and strong emotions young people deal with that are so commonly overlooked and disregarded within his lyrics.
‘0X01=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)’
When he’s not working on music for BTS or his solo projects, he’s working with other artists. His latest and highly successful contribution was for Tomorrow X Together‘s ‘0x1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You)‘ featuring Seori. Though he wasn’t the lead writer for this project, he definitely had a helping hand. Speaking on his involvement, Soobin said in a press conference: “Bang Si Hyuk PD had trouble with the lyrics for about three weeks before he asked RM for help. [RM] also helped with the title.” Huening Kai went on to add: “After I heard that he’d participated in writing the track, I met him in the practice room and he said, ‘It’s nothing, just sing it well.’ I want to take this chance to thank him again.” With TXT’s concepts surrounding youth much like BTS when they were that age, it was something RM for sure had plenty of experience with, making him the ideal collaborator for songwriting.
Throwing it back to RM’s debut solo mixtape, ‘Do You’ sees the artist sing about embracing individuality and putting your focus on yourself rather than how others perceive you. Whether you feel like you should follow trends or stand out from the crowd, it’s okay to do exactly that and there is no right or wrong in deciding who you should be. RM encourages the listener to think autonomously about how you should live your life. He also uses the song to share how he is also himself, not conforming to any category – or, in this case of an artist POV, any specific genre – but wants to be free to do whatever he pleases. With both BTS and RM having a plethora of releases since ‘Do You’ and his self-titled debut mixtape, it’s easy for newer fans to miss this gem, but if you’ve yet to discover this song or the record, we urge you to check it out. You know, once you’ve finished reading this, ofc.
Did you really think we wouldn’t include this fan-favorite? C’mon ARMY, we’re literally one of you! And we too are frustrated with the lack of live performances of this song, because it’s honestly everything. RM took to explaining the song on VLIVE (one of our absolute favorite things he does, tbh) and shared how it was also co-written with MNEK who began working on the song before sending it to BTS (speaking to Billboard, MNEK shared how “they changed it to like a self-help song. The original theme I talked about was much b*tchier.” Mood.). The song carries on the ongoing theme BTS have covered of not needing to have a dream.
“It’s not that you shouldn’t have a dream,” he shares, “but it’s… the term love and dream both have sociality. People say them over and over and the terms get extra meanings… They are being used by many people. Yes, they are precious terms, but I think the terms became too sacred. So we think love should be something beautiful and we always have to be giving and desperate about it. And dream too. We think we must have one. Based on those thoughts, I wrote the lyrics.” He also shared how Marxism (the political and economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles, to understand class relations and social conflict) played a part in the inspiration for ‘Paradise.’ “It’s also from Marxism… it reflects the reality and it’s about hope. I think the song itself is a dream. ‘Paradise’ is a sad song.” We love it and will keep it on top of our dream setlist forevermore (or until they give in and perform it. Muster 2022 maybe?).
With almost 200 songwriting credits to his name, we know there are so many more songs that we could explore, but we chose some of our faves here at THP for just a slither of RM’s monumental catalog. However, we think we’ve proved our point: Kim Namjoon = wisdomous wordsmith. Lyric genius. A true icon of his time.
What songs by RM are your faves? How about your favorite lyric? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @TheHoneyPOP!
Need more BTS in your life? we gotchu bb.
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Creative Director of The Honey POP. Disney and pop culture enthusiast.