There are musicians whose music is basically our entire playlist. We listen to it on loop, doing that thing where we start it again if we have not paid attention the first time around. One of those names is Grammy-nominated artist Kim Namjoon, aka RM of BTS. Namjoon started his journey as an underground rapper from Seoul (known by various stage names: Largo, The Nexist, Stealo, and Runch Randa) who wanted to make his mark on the radar, but he went on to become one of the icons of K-pop, some would say the reason K-pop has become a global phenomenon.
His current popularity is testament to the fact that Namjoon is the backbone of the world’s biggest boy band at the moment. It is said that back when he was approached to go solo in his career or choose BTS, he immediately chose BTS. Although it was a prank, this single incident answered everyone’s question about his loyalty to his group members. His band members are never shy about expressing their love for him, who has always put the group first, be it handling rude interviewers or negative comments from haters.
A Lyrical Genius
Namjoon plays a major role in BTS’s discography as well as some of the member’s solo projects. Namjoon has a strong hold on creative wordplay that has been showcased in numerous songs in BTS’ catalog. For instance, a classic example can be these lyrics from We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2: Told me it’s impossible but, look carefully, I put a period in impossible, I’m possible.
And the wordplay isn’t limited to his music. It transcends to other areas of his life as well. His Instagram username rkive, which is cheeky because it reads as RM’s archives.
One of my personal favourite songs is Seoul, where he opens up about his love-hate relationship with the place he calls home, which he introduces as having a “harmony” that’s “familiar to me, or projecting his torn feelings towards the South Korean capital. “I already love even your fumes and the nastiness.” The lyrics hit home.
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With his debut album, Indigo, he set a new record as the longest-charting album by a Korean soloist in Billboard history. Described as “the last archive” of Namjoon’s twenties, ‘Indigo’ wholeheartedly and imaginatively captures the uncertainties and unpredictability of life while celebrating it.
Art and Literature Advocate: Namjooning
What is Namjooning? A non-army might be confused, but fans know that it’s a simple act of appreciating art, visiting museums, reading, communicating with nature, taking other forms of self-care, and being kind to people you love without sacrificing yourself. RM is an art enthusiast.
He has donated several times to Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Foundation to support the printing of rare and out-of-print art books. The money was used to print and reissue books on Korean modern and contemporary art and distribute them to about 400 public libraries and schools throughout the country.
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In addition to his foreign tours and commercial appearances, the K-pop star is a well-known art enthusiast who routinely visits museums and galleries and shares images of himself with artwork on social media. His visits to art institutions have created this whole phenomenon of museum visits among BTS fans, who tour the locations after viewing RM’s social media posts. RM was first drawn to the art and literature world because of boredom, which he explains in a thoughtful podcast episode of Intersections: The Art Basel Podcast.
When it comes to his love for books, Namjoon’s list is an eclectic mix, featuring genres from fictional novels to romance to poetry and timeless classics to self-improvement essays. Namjoon was also recently announced as the first celebrity ambassador of the luxury fashion maison Bottega Veneta.
Feminist Icon In The Making
South Korea is a considerably conservative country where undermining women or casual sexism is quite common. When BTS released War of Hormone during their debut days, it consisted the generic and sexist trope of objectifying women, painfully common in pop culture. In an interview, Namjoon voiced that he realised was being part of the problem his country was facing, reinforcing stereotypes. Sure the threat of being cancelled but loomed large but there was more to this than just bad press. What won hearts is that he looked for sources to unlearn on how all these years of misogyny in society work inside a man’s mind. And he actively took steps to correct it.
“Love, not just between the man and women, or genders.” pic.twitter.com/yyGSZChEjh
— rest (@RMMUSlC) March 20, 2020
In an industry that conveniently distances itself from sexist or misogynistic accusations without actual work, this was a breath of fresh air. Namjoon took this issue head on and admitted that the band now runs the lyrics of all their new songs past feminist professors of gender studies to make sure that they don’t repeat their past mistakes.
Namjoon got a lot of heat for promoting the book Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, which is considered one of the best feminist books to come out of South Korea. He was listed under the celebrity feminist list, where a bunch of men trash celebrities for promoting feminist agendas.
When BTS joined the United Nations to promote the launch of the “Love Myself” campaign, Namjoon gave an eye-opening speech tracing his journey around self-love and gender equality, offering a glimpse into Namjoon’s persona. This pop icon from Korea is getting ready for his new lyrical era before his official military enlistment and comeback with the group in 2025.