RM delivers musical perfection with his debut album “Indigo”


Bighit Music

On the cover of his debut solo album “Indigo,” rapper-songwriter RM appears to be lost in thought as he sits beneath Dansaekhwa painter Yun Hyong-keun’s “Blue.” The late Korean modernist was one of RM’s biggest inspirations behind his December 2022 album. To the right, a pile of jeans rests atop a stool, symbolic of the worn-down love and warmth the rapper feels for his passing twenties.

Noelle Villaseñor, Assignment Editor

Released on Dec. 2, 2022 by Bighit Music, RM’s debut solo album “Indigo” is the definition of worlds colliding. The album features K-pop, hip-hop and R&B, Dansaekhwa art in addition to lyrical genius, a Grammy award-winning Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) alum and the leader of the world’s biggest boy band — this brilliantly methodical blend of genres and features makes “Indigo” one of 2022’s best musical deliveries. 

Despite “Indigo” being his debut solo album, RM (Kim Nam-joon) is no newcomer to the music industry. From his debut with BTS in 2013 until now, the rapper-songwriter has acquired over 200 credits on the Korean Music Copyright Association (KOMCA), making him the second-most credited artist in KOMCA history. Additionally, RM has already released two solo mixtapes (“RM” in 2015 and “mono.” in 2018) so it goes without saying that “Indigo” was met with high expectations from fans and critics alike. 

And oh, were those expectations exceeded. “Indigo” starts off with a bang as RM casually delivers his opening line in the first track “Yun” with Erykah Badu: “F*** the trendsetter, I’mma turn back the time.” Carried throughout the glittery and soothingly low-caliber track, this theme repeats itself throughout the album’s run. It samples the voice of Yun Hyong-keun a Korean modern artist who was the figurehead of the Dansaekhwa art movement and inspiration for the track’s title — whose speech solidifies RM’s statement of “I wanna be a human ‘fore I do some art.”

One reference to abstract art flows into another as we dive into the second track, “Still Life.” My personal favorite song on the album, it’s made in collaboration with Foothill Tech’s Grammy award-winning alum Anderson .Paak. If you’re familiar with .Paak’s work — both solo and with Bruno Mars as half of the iconic Silk Sonic duo — as well as RM’s chart-topping hits with BTS, then you won’t be surprised by how addicting their duet is. 

Two musical geniuses on one brilliantly bouncy and funky track make “Still Life” the song that will break replay buttons across streaming platforms. At the same time, it fills listeners’ ears with the deeply sentimental message of living day-to-day; as .Paak sings, “life is better than the death, I’ll prove it.” And as a Foothill Tech Dragon myself, it filled me with pride to know I was listening to such a flawlessly executed track whilst traversing the same halls .Paak did just over a decade ago. 

Next up on the album’s no-skip tracklist, “All Day” featuring TABLO delights with its exuberant beat and stylish, jazzy instrumentals. Some of my favorite lyrics on “Indigo” appear during TABLO’s verse: “we got dynamite in our DNA” gives a nod to two of BTS’ most noteworthy songs, and “they got you by your balls and your socioeconomics” along with “get yo ass off the bench, start warmin’ up” are such creative ways to diss the artists’ haters I can’t help but be humorously impressed.

For the most part, “Indigo” doesn’t stray too far from its realm of brightly blended pop, hip-hop and slow R&B. That is until about midway through listening, when you’re suddenly struck by the metallic, almost grating beat of “Change pt.2.” A followup to 2017’s “Change” featuring the rapper Wale, the song is so wildly different from its predecessor that it’s completely unrecognizable without the title. But this change of pace is anything but a miss — in fact, it’s exactly what the album needs to be taken to the next level. RM’s anger is palpable through his unsettlingly calm voice, which completely juxtaposes the song’s scratching, mechanical melody. It’s not what you’d expect from the bonsai-loving leader of BTS, but it reveals a side of him that is satisfyingly unnerving — it’s an experiment gone absolutely right.

Among its four remaining tracks, “Lonely,” “Hectic” with Colde and “Wild Flower” with youjeen stand out as the album’s strongest closers. “Lonely,” written in a Las Vegas hotel room during BTS’ April 2022 “Permission to Dance on Stage” tour, is gut-wrenching for any student looking at prospective colleges far away from home. “Hectic” is pop perfection — it feels like the perfect song to blast while driving alongside Ventura’s sparkling, sunlit coast. 

“Wild Flower,” the lead single on “Indigo,” takes stunning to another level. It swims in desperate nostalgia for the past, present and future, reminiscent of BTS’ “Sea” and RM’s own “tokyo” from his 2018 mixtape “mono.” It hammers home the idea that this album is “the last archive of [his] twenties” with the symbol of “flowerworks,” which the rapper explained as a contradiction between the quick disappearance of fireworks and the elongated, more peaceful existence of flowers in an interview with The Atlantic

Though RM is a world-famous figure with an ARMY (literally the name of BTS’ fanbase) of devoted fans, he also wishes for a calm existence like that of a wildflower. And “Indigo,” with all its plurality and various influences, proves just that — the firework of the BTS star RM can and does coexist beautifully with the wildflower that is Kim Nam-joon. 

Overall rating: 10/10

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