One Year With RM’s ‘Indigo’
Written by Mariana Hernandez on December 5, 2023
With the announcement of BTS’s hiatus, the seven members entered a period as official solo artists. Kim Namjoon, known by his stage name RM, was the third to have his solo debut with Indigo on December 2, 2022. I wanted to take the time to commemorate the album, as it’s my favorite from BTS’s official solo releases.
Indigo starts with “Yun”, the title derived from Korean painter Yun Hyong-keun. The song features Erykah Badu, the queen of neo-soul, and talks about how important it is for artists to be in touch with their human essence. The slow-bass hip-hop is soothing to listen to and allows for the listener to hone in on the two artists- RM’s low, sharp tone and Badu’s higher rasp. Just like it opened, the song ends with painter Yun speaking on what it may mean to be human- to rid oneself of greed and enter purity. The following track, “Still Life”, continues the hip-hop genre, but fuses in some R&B. Featuring Anderson .Paak, “Still Life” is relentlessly upbeat, and the energetic rhythm sports a great message: every day is like day one. RM and Paak encourage fans to move, take advantage!
“All Day” features Korean hip-hop legend Tablo of Epik High, who RM has quoted as being one of his biggest inspirations. Following the energy from “Still Life”, “All Day” is in your face and is all about finding the real you. The hip-hop-funk rhythm is paired with a steady beat, which gets me to subconsciously headnod. Hidden in Tablo’s verse is a callback to two BTS songs, which definitely gets a rise out of ARMY’s like me even a year later. Indigo gets a change of pace with the fourth song “Forg_tful”, featuring Korean folk singer Kim Sawol. RM starts with some soft singing, which is quite the contrast from his rap in the previous three songs, but goes well with Kim’s more delicate tone. There’s not much going on sonically, but the acoustic guitar is all it really needs.
A standout in this album, “Closer” is an R&B track featuring British R&B singer Mahalia and Korean-Canadian Paul Blanco. The three sing of a relationship gone sour, of never achieving the feeling of closeness even with physical proximity. Blanco’s verse is my favorite, as he has a very smooth, husky voice that is pleasing to the ear. RM goes on to the outro, telling his lover to “stay where you are”, which he repeats like a mantra until the song comes to an end. I understood the contrast between the title and the final line to mean that sometimes what we want isn’t always what we need.
This leads into “Change pt. 2” and “Lonely”, and fitting to their titles, are the only songs without features. “Change pt. 2” bursts in with a hyper-pop sound, only to shift mid-song into a jazzy-piano melody. It is easily the most unexpected song on Indigo. Like the past two songs, “Lonely” is a goodbye song rather than a breakup one. The relationship’s been over! Now it’s time for RM to actually separate his heart from it, which is a little harder. The pop song talks about feeling empty even when surrounded by friends. Track eight, “Hectic” featuring singer Colde, is a city pop track that builds on the message from “Lonely”, highlighting how disillusioned one can feel by previous relationships and how empty it makes even in a busy city like Seoul. The two end the track by saying “we still love and hate this city”, showing how they still have hope to feel as alive as their hometown again.
The lead single, “Wild Flower” is kept near the end of the album. The sound of the song itself is gorgeous, a constant drum and synth beats keep a steady pace, as featuring artist youjeen of Korean rock band Cherry Filter takes listeners on a roller coaster with her powerfully emotive voice. RM raps about his beginnings in music and staying true to himself in the face of fame. The final track is “No.2” with veteran K-Pop singer parkjiyoon. The lyrics state that the best version of yourself will always be the present version, no matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past. Although the song tiptoes into ballad territory, it makes use of a steady R&B beat, which eventually fades away to officially close out the album.
Littered with features, RM’s Indigo is an album I hold very close to my heart. As a long-time fan of the artist, the album marks not only the rapper’s growth, but mine as well. While this may be RM’s way of saying “goodbye” to his twenties, it’s how I’m saying “hello” to mine.