Life after the ‘Answer’: BTS’ RM embraces uncertainty on ‘mono’

When Korean group BTS released Love Yourself: Answer, in late August 2018, completing an album trilogy that reflected a narrative of self-love discovery through romantic joys and deceptions, it seemed like the septet finally figured out the formula to be in peace with their true selves. “It’s alright, I am my own salvation / (…) My sky is clear / Say goodbye to the pain,” RM, the leader of the group, raps in “I’m Fine.”

But knowing the answer doesn’t mean it’s easy to put it in practice —and that’s what we experience with mono, the latest release of the leader, rapper, and songwriter, born Kim Namjoon.

Released on Oct. 23, only three days after announcing (and merely two months after BTS’ Love Yourself: Answer!) the mixtape —or playlist, as he calls it— is composed of seven tracks all written, composed, and co-produced by RM. He collaborated with artists such as English duo HONNE and Korean rock artists eAeon and NELL.

Playlist or Mixtape

The fact that mono is branded as a playlist instead of a mixtape connects with RM’s personal habit to share song recommendations with fans through Twitter. However, it might also have been a decision that shows RM’s awareness of where the music industry is heading to. It alludes to when Drake (RM has said many times he’s an inspiration) released More Life in 2017, which was labeled as a “playlist” in a move then considered innovative in a industry still based on album releases. (If there’s any truth in Drake having inspired RM, we may add to the list of coincidences the handwritten, black and white, minimalist design of the cover of mono which resembles the art cover of Drake’s 2015 If you’re reading this it’s too late).

At the time More Life was released, lots of music critics emphasized the significance of playlists in the era of music streaming. An album, the NY Times said, is:

[A] creator’s complete thought expressed in parts. A playlist in the streaming era, by contrast, is a collection of moods, impressions, influences and references; it’s a river that flows in one direction, ending somewhere far from the beginning (if it ends at all).

A mixtape, per se, strays from the sense of commitment that an album must have to a concept. So by nature, RM would be free from that commitment with a mixtape. But with a playlist, which theoretically allows even more freedom than a mixtape, it seems that it’s RM’s intention to release the pressure to deliver a work with any congruence at all. As if he just wants to be free to do whatever music he feels like doing.

But, curiously, what we get in mono actually is consistent in its inconsistency, both in sound and lyrics. All seven tracks share the same vibe and, indeed, compose a consistent frame. The sonority of it is more loungy and chill than we’d expect from the rapper. Even if hip-hop influences are present, the playlist flows between lo-fi and alternative genres, with a few (amazing) moments of synthpop, a genre RM has shown before to be perfectly compatible with, like his & BTS’ Jungkook’s cover of Troye Sivan’s “Fools.”

As for the lyrics, it makes sense to contextualize mono as a continuation of RM’s path along with BTS in the group’s previous works; there is a connection between everything. And because RM worked in the lyrics of everything he sang and rapped, then, all lyrics written by him can be used as material for us to ask: How is the leader’s life after he found the Answer?

Credits: Big Hit Entertainment


RM before “mono”

Who shall I be today: Kim Namjoon or RM?

Airplane pt. 2

The lyrics above came from one of BTS’ darkest albums, Love Yourself: Tear, in which the group addressed the deceptions faced after the happy-go-lucky illusions of the previous album, Love Yourself: Her. The Love Yourself trilogy was completed with Love Yourself: Answer, a more upbeat album in which BTS suggests to have finally learned that, in order to find love anywhere, you should first find love inside yourself. But would that lesson be enough to make them happy?

To be fair, it’s worth pointing out that in Answer: Love Myself, RM says: “Maybe there is no answer / Maybe this isn’t the answer either / (…) I’m still finding myself.” However, one could think he was content about that if things ended there. From the album design to the sound of all the original tracks, everything about Love Yourself: Answer is more about joy and lucidity than pain or sorrow. Even “Trivia: Love,” RM’s solo moment on the album, has a joyful vibe. If not having all the answers is the answer, then we’re ready to move on and live a happy life, right?

Life is not that simple to anyone, of course.

This leads us to mono. Interestingly enough, either sonically or lyrically, mono recalls more the RM of “Reflection” (the one who said “I wish I could love myself,” in BTS 2016 album “Wings”) than any other thing we’ve seen from him after that. So, was the whole path to the Answer not worth it then?

It’s not that it wasn’t worth it, it’s just that, from what it seems, it’s still not enough for RM. Understanding that it’s okay not to have all the answers is still not enough for him to be okay.

Journey from “Tokyo” to “forever rain”

The first two tracks of mono are named “Tokyo” and “Seoul,” making us feel as if RM is literally traveling, trying to find himself in different places.

A fun fact is that mono was released one day after BTS announced their partnership with the city of Seoul, in which each member has its own themed-playlist to represent what they most love about Korea’s capital. It’s not all love, though. In “Seoul,” produced by HONNE (a group who’s also familiar with the theme of seeking love in different places), RM, a native of Seoul-satellite Ilsan, seems overwhelmed by the city that became his home.

In clever wordplay (a tool RM is famous for), he sings: “If love and hate are the same words, I love you Seoul / If love and hate are the same words, I hate you Seoul.”

Ironically, “Seoul” is pronounced similarly to “so.” Then, by speaking out loud his love-hate relationship with the city, it’s almost as if he’s also speaking to himself, trying to find himself through the city.

Not having found himself in either Tokyo or Seoul, RM reaches for the moon in “moonchild,” a track that references the lyrics of “4 o’clock,” a song previously released on Soundcloud with his band mate V.

Some of the best lyrical moments from RM happen when he uses astronomy analogies (like “Magic Shop,”) and “moonchild” is indeed one of these moments: “We are each other’s night sceneries, we are each other’s moons.” Again, RM might be talking to himself the moon (him) is both the cause of his sadness (“born in the moonlight,” “born to be sad,” “all the pain, all the sorrow is your destiny”) and his relief (“only you, no one else, gives me that sense of comfort).

RM lands in “badbye,” another clever wordplay with the word “goodbye.” The depressive, short, repetitive lyrics suggests an RM falling into reality no more using Tokyo, Seoul or the moon to escape. He now has to face reality, kill the illusions and face himself: “Kill me softly / Make me into pieces of fragments,” he and aEeon sing. As the dark atmosphere of the song suggests, this process hurts. No wonder, the next track, “uhgood,” has the most painful lyrics: “All I need is me / All I need is me / I know, I know, I know / Then why do I feel lonely?” RM’s production skills also shine in “uhgood,” along with the touch of producer Sam Klempner (who previously worked with BTS in “Best of Me”). With mysterious synthesized sounds opening the song, the mood is set for RM to use his deep voice to lead us into an introspective experience, which the use of reverbs help make it even more ethereal.


The transition from “uhgood” to “everythingoes” is one of the most brilliant moments of mono: after telling himself some of the hardest-to-swallow truths, RM seeks to rebuild himself by saying that “everything goes, at one point, for sure… everything goes by.

The constant repetition of the line “everything goes,” through a four chord progression tailored in the technique of tension-release, summarizes the whole mood of the song: whether if you’re in the highest or lowest point of the curve, whatever you’re feeling shall pass one day. It’s all temporary.

And just like that, mono ends with “forever rain,” another great lyrical moment of RM justifying his love for the rain since it is both a friend who helps him hide (“In the rain, the umbrella covers my sad face” / “In the rain, people are busy minding themselves”) and be found (“When it rains, I get a feeling that I have a friend / That keeps knocking on my window, asking if I’m doing well.)” Just like in “moonchild,” in “forever rain” RM seeks to understand himself through events of nature. And, just like in all the other tracks that led to this one, we still don’t have any solid conclusions.

The overall mood of mono is one of uncertainty and solitude  not the type of solitude of not being surrounded by enough people, but the solitude felt between one’s many selves and conflicts. But it is also a mood of continuity.

From the lowercase stylized fonts, to the lyrics full of honesty about RM’s doubts, everything about mono reflects a journey that is still incomplete, towards finding identity, love, and acceptance a journey that could be anyone else’s.

The next steps of the journey will surely be portrayed in BTS’ upcoming works. In the meantime, we can appreciate mono not only for RM’s musical versatility, but also for his courage to expose, through so many beautiful songs of uncertainty, that knowing the “Answer” is way easier than knowing what to do with it.

[Lyric translation credit: SPOTLIGHTRM]

How did you like RM’s mono? Let us know your picks for fave songs and overall thoughts in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

10 Songs To Celebrate A Decade Of Super Junior

Super Junior "Sorry Sorry"After a special anniversary album (“Devil” and repackaged album (“Magic”) released earlier this year, it’s hard to believe that Super Junior’s anniversary hasn’t arrived yet but today’s the day. November 6, 2015 officially mark Super Junior’s decade in the K-pop music industry. As one of the longest running groups (and the personal favorite of several KultScene staff members,) here is a playlist of some of Super Junior’s best songs to help you celebrate.

Disclaimer: These songs are not listed in any order. If you have a problem with our choices, comment and tell us why.

1. “Miracle”

No song says it better. After years of struggling, scandals several line-up changes, a major lawsuit, members going in and out of military service, the fact that Super Junior is still around is shocking. Super Junior wasn’t supposed to survive and was originally built as a group where members would graduate after a certain time, but ten years later, the “Miracle” of Super Junior is still around, with all but two of its members still in the group.

2. “Sorry Sorry”

There’s no way this couldn’t be on the list. This is the song that made Super Junior who they are today. Every title song that Super Junior has released since has been compared to “Sorry Sorry,” and for good reason. The catchy dance song is iconic, and without it Super Junior may have very well fell by the wayside as just another K-pop act. But you know the dance, and you know the chorus, and you know that this is Super Junior at its best.

3. ”It’s You”

If “Sorry Sorry” showed off how good Super Junior was at doing the pop-dance tunes, “It’s You” really revealed how good Super Junior is at singing. While still a dance track, “It’s You” is the more heartfelt, more vocally expressive sibling track of “Sorry Sorry.” It was also the last music video that the group filmed with all thirteen members of the core group before Kim Kibum went on hiatus (he left the group formally earlier this year) and a lawsuit that resulted in Hankyung (Han Geng) leaving the group.

Also on Kultscene: Super Junior’s Music Video Evolution

4. ”Why I Like You”

Ask just about any long term Super Junior fan what their favorite songs are, and “Why I Like You” is likely to turn up. Something about “Why I Like You” resonates with fans as one of Super Junior’s most underrated songs. It’s from the same time period as “Sorry Sorry” and “It’s You,” and the dance-ballad expresses why a man loves a woman.

5.”Midnight Blues”

Super Junior’s “Midnight Blues” is a sultry song that helps the group show off their more mature side. The song’s R&B sound is just as sexy as the title suggests; in Korean, “Midnight Blues” is called “Dance the dance,” and the dance to match this song is absolutely perfect.

6. “Bittersweet”

A tender love song with the members singing about their “Bittersweet” love, the song makes the most of Super Junior’s more vocally inclined members, particularly the members of unit group K.R.Y, Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung. The lyrics are extremely touching and they are definitely the highlight of the touching song.

7. “Super Girl”

Super Junior-M’s “Super Girl” is one of the Chinese unit’s best songs to date, which makes sense considering it is one of their last songs with former leader Hankyung, Super Junior’s first Chinese member. Super Junior-M has always had a bit funkier, more fun songs than the main title tracks, and the catchy, electro-infused track “Super Girl” is definitely that.

Also on Kultscene: The Curious Case Of Super Junior Member Kim Kibum’s Quiet Departure From SM Entertainment

8. ”Marry U”

Maybe this isn’t Super Junior’s technically most perfect song, but it’s definitely one of their most poignant. The song is an early beauty from Super Junior, and just a beautiful ballad expressing the love of a man towards the woman he wants to marry.

9.”A Cha”

Another intense dance song from the group that finds it’s roots firmly in “Sorry Sorry,”
“A Cha” is a fun, powerful track that will get everyone moving. Every member of Super Junior is given their chance to shine in “A Cha,” as the song keeps Super Junior doing what it does best, a catchy tune with fun dance moves.

10. ”Stars Appear”

One of the songs from Super Junior’s special anniversary album, “Stars Appear” is a beautiful, building ballad. The song is also about Super Junior’s ten years together, comparing Super Junior’s fans, ELF (EverLasting Friends) to stars. “You are my light, like it always has been,” Super Junior sings, celebrating their survival in a whirlwind industry by expressing their love for the fans who have always been there for them.

What’s your favorite Super Junior song? Share your throughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Playlist Sunday: Boy Groups Covering Girl Groups


Fan service has to be the greatest invention in K-pop. For some reason, fans go especially crazy with the type of fan service where male idols act cute or dress up and dance to girl group songs. We can’t really explain the psychology behind it and won’t try to. Instead, we’re just going to list our favorite instances of boy groups covering female groups for this week’s playlist.

Putting together the divas of multiple K-pop groups and having them perform the biggest hit of the day is brilliant. Having a group of male idols from different groups perform one of the biggest Korean hits ever is pre-genius. Way back in the day, members of 2PM, Super Junior, SHINee, and 2AM performed Girls’ Generation’s Gee and it was fabulous. 2AM’s Jo Kwon and SHINee’s Key shone in their spastic dancing, while all the other performers also joined in on the fun. This is also a little bit poignant, as took place before Jay Park’s departure of 2PM.

— Tamar

It came as no surprise when I saw GOT7 cover A Pink’s Mr. Chu, which was titled Ms. Chu for their stage at Music Bank’s end of the year show in 2014, I was ecstatic. GOT7 is naturally cute, so it was only right that they covered this bubbly song. Not only did they stick to the original concept by keeping the performance delightful and youthful, they also incorporated their own charm into it: Jackson’s little sexy wave, Mark flying midair flip, and BamBam’s reference to their Stop Stop It choreography. It’s a shame the guys didn’t perform this at their recent stops on their fan meeting tour in the USA. I’m sure all the iGOT7’s (fan club name), would’ve all fallen over due to their bewitching charisma!


Jo Kwon’s second job is covering girl band songs, but that can’t be said for the rest of 2AM. When it comes to male groups covering the girl ones, you can’t expect them to take it completely seriously, especially when they do it for a variety show. That’s why their interpretation of miss A’s Bad Girl, Good Girl, but in this case Bad Boy, Good Boy, is awesome, because even if they wore similar outfits, sang, and did the choreography, they were acting a fool the whole way through. The cherry on top of the sundae? miss A was right there to watch them slay their song.

— Alexis

These two groups are popping out all throughout this playlist, but 2PM& 2AMare undeniably good at girl group covers. This parody/cover of Brown-Eyed Girls’ Abracadabra is hilarious, because the members of both groups really go all the way out in imitating BEG, be it in acting out the music video storyline or in the costumes that they don. They even went on to name themselves Dirty-Eyed Girls as a parody of BEG.


When your favorite boy band covers your favorite girl band it could be the most hilarious thing ever. Thankfully when BIGBANG covered 2NE1’s I Love You for the YG Family concert, they gave us a very funny rendition of the song. From their sexy girl dance moves to T.O.P.’s screams, the boys were having the best time of their lives. Taeyang’s vocals were so on point that it made us even want a real studio version of this cover. Since BIGBANG and 2NE1 are label mates and friends they weren’t afraid to make fun of the song and have a lot of fun with it. This is one of my favorites covers of all time.


Maybe I’m picking this cover because half of it is Girl’s Day performing Something as supremely as they usually do. Or maybe I’m picking Boy’s Day because it gives NU’EST’s Ren a chance to show off his true colours. I mean that boy is a beautiful woman, no doubt about it. The hair and makeup are flawless and the dress seems to fit his figure perfectly. Even his movements and expressions are quintessentially feminine. Ren completely outshines the rest of the boys which even includes VIXX’s Hongbin who is also known for looking pretty in drag. Unfortunately it is lip synched but at least it lets them concentrate on performing the dance.