‘Indigo’ by RM: Coming-of-age In Adulthood
As BTS’ leader, RM (Kim Namjoon) has always been both grounding anchor and forward motion for the group, the conduit between the group’s unique internal dynamic and the global stage they’ve since found themselves on.
This is perhaps what best describes the atmosphere of his debut album, Indigo, an exploration of the distance between one stage of life to another, when ideas shift and mature as one grows into a new phase. And there are few artists more capable of cataloging that transition in minute, poetic detail than RM.
As a writer, this fascination to detail has always been one of RM’s hallmarks, coupled with interrogations on grander themes and ideas, often involving identity crises. In Indigo, all of these culminate together in harmony, showing RM at his most honest, self-aware, and explorative, drawing from a varied pool of collaborators like a master painter with a palette. The album, is, after all, named “Indigo”— the culmination of all colors.
But underneath his blunt confessionals is an undeniable undercurrent of hope. No matter how explicit and forthright Namjoon’s lyrics run, his backing tracks are unflinchingly wide, earnest, and hopeful — most of all on title track ‘Wildflower’ with youjeen, and the exuberant ‘Still Life’, with Anderson Paak. Meanwhile, ‘Change Pt. 2’, a sequel to his 2017 Wale collaboration, has one of the most exciting productions of a song I’ve heard from the band’s discography. Indigo is confessional hip-hop over BTS’ signature ambitious, earnest, polished pop.
But there’s melancholy in these tracks too, as expressed in the mellow R&B hooks of ‘Yun’, with Erykah Badu, reminiscent of something out of Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon or Arlo Parks’ Collapsed in Sunbeams. It’s in these tracks that RM asks his most existential questions, and when spoken against soft programmed beats and a muted-down production, they feel all the more insistent and urgent. The pandemic, after all, has forced many of us (particularly young adults) to confront some of the hardest truths and tragedies in the confines of our rooms.
Indigo is well-crafted and fine-tuned to a point. It’s introspective enough to cement RM’s status as one of K-Pop’s finest lyricists, and it’s expansive enough for both long-term followers of BTS’ music and new listeners from global audiences.
But it’s also a deeply personal exercise of coming into terms with the crossroads RM finds himself in at the moment: the intersections between national recognition and global understanding, the transitions between companionship and solitude, from coming-of-age to growing into maturity.
And with Indigo, it’s not such a bad space to be in after all. It might even be beautiful. There is poetry to be found in the fine print of the world, there is quiet beauty in the liminal spaces in between transitions. In many ways we are always coming of age, even in adulthood, all throughout our lives. Hope springs like wildflowers in even the most war-torn of spaces, gentle and stubborn in its own quiet defiance to exist in the world. Most times it is the best we have.