In 2020’s “People,” Agust D asked, “Why so serious? Why so serious?” The line comes from a now beloved cut off the second mixtape from SUGA of BTS, who records and performs music as an alter-ego known as Agust D when off-duty from band responsibilities. The question is immediately followed up with an admission that acts as the key to the rapper, producer, and songwriter’s solo work: “I’m so serious. I’m so serious.”
SUGA introduced the world to Agust D first back in 2016 with a mixtape of the same name. The EP, initially only released to Soundcloud, is brimming with anger and offers a marked contrast to the music BTS was putting out at the time as a group. In 2016, the septet was in the thick of working on and promoting The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever, a tender and nostalgic capsule of coming-of-age. In 2020, a second installment of SUGA’s solo series arrived in the form of D-2, a lyrically dense, deeply introspective 10-track collection that featured the aforementioned “People” and the earth-shaking “Daechwita.” BTS at the time was swiftly on the rise; this release was pre-“Dynamite,” but only by a hair.
SUGA has shared in the past that the Agust D series was designed to be a place where he could make the kind of music he was most interested in without the constraints or expectations of a traditional album structure. Today, April 21st, the trilogy comes to a conclusion with D-DAY, the first official full-length project in the series, and a journey that serves as the kind of goodbye the character of Agust D deserves.
SUGA has never been one to hold back from sharing what he believes. “I’ve got some real-ass karma coming back on me,” he yells in the energetic album opener, also titled “D-Day.” He follows this up with “Haegeum,” which strikes as something of a companion piece to 2020’s fiery “Daechwita” — “What is it, exactly, that’s been restricting us?/ Maybe we do it to ourselves,” he muses. “Slaves to capitalism, slaves to money, slaves to hatred and prejudice.”
The album’s standout track, arguably, is “AMYGDALA,” whose name references Sohn Won-Pyung’s 2017 novel Almond. The central character of the book was born with an underdeveloped amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear and memory. The guitar-laden, harmony-rich song is truly some of SUGA’s best work, and certainly his best work from a vocal perspective. Known for his expert flow as a rapper, SUGA leans all the way into vocalist mode with “AMYGDALA,” which, lyrically, is also one of his most personal tracks to date. He shares family stories that even the most dedicated of fans wouldn’t have had access to before — he discusses his mother undergoing heart surgery, a hospital visit just after he was born, his father being diagnosed with liver cancer, and an accident he couldn’t talk about. “Those things I never asked for/ Those things that are out of my hands/ Imma put it back,” he sings.
Another tender standout is “Snooze,” which features the late Oscar-winning composer and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto, one of SUGA’s musical heroes, and also enlists WOOSUNG of Korean rock group The Rose for vocal contributions. Here, again, SUGA offers a window into the more difficult sides of his story so far: “It might look like it was all flowers, but everywhere, foes.” Even on the less memorable parts of the album — “SDL” and pre-release track “People Pt.2” feat. IU don’t stick as much as others in the grand scheme of the record — the connecting thread is this idea of pushing forward through the difficult moments.