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Celebrate RM of BTS’s Birthday with These 10 Songs

The best leader around turns 28 today

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RM BTS birthday playlist
RM, photo courtesy of BIGHIT MUSIC/Illustration by Steven Fiche

    Happy birthday to RM, the intrepid leader of BTS! The rapper, songwriter, and art lover turns 28 today, September 12th — what better way to celebrate than by rounding up some songs that highlight his work?

    With that being said, trying to narrow down RM’s discography to just 10 songs is an enormous challenge. In many ways, he is BTS — he’s written nearly 200 songs (the most recent count in the Korean Music Copyright Association has him clocking in at 199), and, as a fluent English speaker, often acts as the translator for the group when overseas.

    BTS was built over a decade ago around the artist born Kim Namjoon. Then an underground rapper in the Korean hip-hop space, HYBE’s Bang Si-Hyuk spotted something special in the wickedly sharp teenager and set out to build a crew around him — now, a few Grammy nominations, six Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 tracks, and countless broken records later, the rest is history (in the making).

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    To celebrate RM’s birthday, we’ve rounded up ten of our favorite songs that highlight his skills as a writer, rapper, and leader of the group. Also be sure to play the accompanying playlist below, maybe while taking a walk or soaking up some time in nature — it’s what Namjoon would want.


    “Trivia: Love”

    As an already talented and clever songwriter, RM really flexes his multilingual abilities with some of the wordplay employed on “Trivia: Love.” This solo track off the wonderful Love Yourself: Answer is such a gem — sonically, the syncopated piano and romantic strings succeed in capturing the feeling the title suggests. It’s in the lyrics, though, that RM really shines: “You erode all my edges and make me into love” is a delightful sentiment on its own, but RM is actually referencing the shapes of the hangul, Korean characters, that make up those words.

    Softening the hard cornered edges of the character ‘ㅁ,’ found in the Korean word for human, turns it into the round ‘ㅇ’ in the Korean word for love. “Saram” becomes “sarang” — RM, then, goes from a person to someone living with love. The layers! The cleverness! The multilingual skills needed to understand it! It’s one line of many that demonstrates his attention to detail when writing for BTS.

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    “Intro: Persona”

    The intro track from BTS’s Map of the Soul: Persona, which doubled as an appropriately explosive introduction to the sweeping Map of the Soul: 7, sees RM completely in his bag. His deep voice, rapid flow, and confidence is overflowing in this rock-heavy solo song, which samples audio from the group’s own “Intro: Skool Luv Affair.” “Intro: Persona” offers a window into RM’s reflective mindset — he often seems consumed by identity and legacy, as demonstrated in “Airplane Pt. 2” with the line, “Who should I live as today? Kim Namjoon or RM?”

    “Who the hell am I?” is the question that persists on “Intro: Persona,” which also ties into Map of the Soul: 7‘s overarching exploration of Carl Jung’s Map of the Soul. The visual accompaniment for the track could be discussed in a whole essay itself.

    “seoul” (prod. HONNE)

    There’s a vulnerability to a lot of RM’s music, and no where more so than in his 2018 mixtape mono. The tracks in the slight EP, which he prefers described as a playlist of sorts, contain lyrics that unravel like pieces of poetry. “If love and hate are the same words, I love you, Seoul/ If love and hate are the same words, I hate you, Seoul,” he confesses on the mixtape’s second track. Naturally, Seoul is also a homonym for soul, giving the deceivingly sparse track a second layer to peel back.

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    “DDAENG”

    Is it a blessing or a curse that this legendary rapline offering is an elusive Bangtan Soundcloud exclusive? This 2018 Festa gift highlights quite a few hallmarks of a great BTS track — clever usage of traditional Korean instruments, a killer beat, layers on layers of wordplay, and a healthy heaping of flexing from RM, Suga, and j-hope (as they should). We won’t take up too much of RM’s birthday explaining the countless uses of the word “ddaeng” employed by BTS’s rappers — jump over to the song’s Genius page for full breakdowns — but it’s definitely worth mentioning that the song completely shifts on its axis by the time RM’s verse arrives.

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