BTS’s fearless leader Kim Namjoon- also known by his stage name RM- discusses his routines, his song writing and his artistic visions in his WeVerse Interview. His extraordinary intelligence (he has an IQ of 148) shines through as does his passion for music, writing and art as well as his adoration for his bicycle. Let’s take a look at what RM had to say and what we can ascertain about him as a person as well as an international superstar.
All Images Courtesy of WeVerse Magazine.
I always find it interesting to see what the daily routines of big name artists are for some reason. I just tend to wonder whether they have average, everyday habits underneath all of that stardom and infamy. RM goes into a little detail about his daily routine, including exercise (four times a week) which has become a bigger part of life over the last year. If you have seen RM as of late and you compare what he looks like now to around a year ago, you can see that he has definitely bulked up a lot. We stan a newly muscle bound boy. Jokes aside, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to make such a significant change to your body in a year. Yes, it is a lot easier to fit in regular exercise when you don’t have worries about money but there is a lot more to life to worry about than just finances and those worries- family, life, mental and physical health etc. – will never change no matter how much fame and money you have. With that in mind, you have to appreciate the muscle that RM has managed to gain in a short space of time, even if he is super modest about it. He also discusses his “clear cut” routine and how it has affected him as an artist,
“So is this how people live? I have to go to work and come home, then there are things I need to do there, and things I have to keep up with like exercise. And same for checking out exhibits. And so I thought my nature itself has changed a lot over the course of a year, but I don’t know whether it’s good for me as a creator”.
He goes on to say that this questioning of his routine came about because of BTS’s huge success. Whereas he would once obtain stimulus from other media, he tends to have more difficulty doing that now. BTS’s global success has affected his routine by making it more difficult to draw inspiration from his every day activities. When you become as massive across the world as BTS are, it must be hard to keep being inspired, particularly in an everyday routine situation. Despite this, it is certainly refreshing to see a star like RM be so open and honest about his concerns as a creator. This is honesty is a running theme throughout his interview.
RM is the first band member to reference the group’s loss at the Grammy Awards this year in their interview and he does this when he is asked how it was to maintain energy for their Grammy performance and for their performances of “Butter” later on. He displays an incredibly mature attitude towards the loss and it once again suggests that he is a very open and honest person who feels no need to hide his true feelings:
“It would’ve been better if we got a Grammy, but so what if we didn’t? In the end, getting it means you have one more trophy at home, and after that your daily routine repeats.”
RM acknowledges that he felt some disappointment but then he has an incredibly realistic and logical perspective, noting how a trophy is basically just that. It is a trophy. A material object. Sure, it’s a great one to have but when all is said and done it doesn’t really change anything. It doesn’t change the fact that you’re going to go to bed, wake up and go about your life the following day. I really liked this way of looking at the loss, suggesting a sense of maturity and a realistic attitude from the group’s leader.
The success of BTS’s second English single is discussed in the interview and RM doesn’t shy away from how happy he was at the response:
“I was really happy that we added one more thing to our list of accomplishments… And I want to thank ARMY above all others for making all of this possible. I’m Korean, so I’m no stranger to finding joy in accomplishment. (laughs) It was really satisfying and nice.”
The mention of his Korean heritage is important here as there is certainly a level of expectation placed upon young Koreans. Jin touched on this in his interview in regards to how there is always an expectation of young Koreans to keep achieving, with ridiculously high and unfair standards often being a burden on them. When you consider BTS, they are likely some of the highest achieving young Koreans in the entire country and yet they clearly still feel this pressure. RM’s joy at being able to add another accomplishment to his ever growing list suggests that he too is susceptible to these cultural expectations. Being proud of ones achievements- particularly when you’ve reached the heights that BTS has- is necessary but I think that Jin had the right idea when he argued that you don’t always have to be achieving. Some days we all just need to sit back, relax and enjoy doing nothing and I don’t think that should be any different for BTS.
RM goes on to discuss his contribution to the lyrics of “Butter” and how most of his contribution went into the small rap section towards the end of the song. He worked on this part longer and his involvement explains why this part of the song felt the most true to BTS as artists. RM goes on to note that the song wouldn’t feel quite right without this as it reflects their differences in comparison to American artists:
“That’s the part I spent the most time on. Even though the song’s in English, I thought we should make it feel like our own, so we kept the original but put a little of our own flavor in at the end…It’d feel like something’s missing if it weren’t there, right? (laughs) I felt like we absolutely had to have it in there. There’s something different about us from American pop stars. Our DNA is different.”
Again, RM’s honesty is what stands out when discussing his contributions to “Butter”. He is very aware of how they are sometimes considered “other” by the American music industry and rather than avoid that label, he embraces it and intertwines what makes BTS unique into their English music as well as their native Korean work. RM also discusses how there was a level of stress in the preparation for “Butter”, offering some insight behind the scenes of how the group works:
“When it came to “Butter,” I had to think about what we should show off and how I could do that. I’m always careful not to be a problem within the group dynamic”
It seems a bit ridiculous that any of the members would ever feel like they have to consider whether they are acting as a “problem” to the dynamic of the group as they work so well together but this statement is another suggestion of the huge pressure that the members put onto themselves.
Permission to Dance
Interestingly enough, RM discusses how there was talk of some rap going into the groups third English song, the happy go lucky and charming pop bop “Permission to Dance”. They agreed it would never work and I can’t help but feel the same way. Again, it’s another behind the scenes look at the creative process that doesn’t always get as much attention in certain interviews. RM also goes on to talk about how “Permission to Dance” was a sweet, fun song that he really enjoyed. Any BTS fan knows that RM is the rapper, writer and producer of the group rather than one of the main dancers and vocalists but here, we get an insight into how much he actually enjoys the singing and dancing aspects of their work:
“I have more fun when I’m singing and dancing than anything else. I think this song was one of the few times that I felt like I was just having fun while singing and dancing on it. It feels amazing to give into the song with your whole body and just laugh instead of thinking about it too much. I think that’s the power of the song.”
This is a fact that I personally didn’t really know about RM until reading this interview. It is kind of sweet that a guy who is so smart and has such amazing rapping and song writing skills actually takes the most joy in the fun, singing and dancing parts of being in a Korean idol group. I hope that doesn’t come across as patronising but I think that this adds a nice, personal element to the interview.
The Tough Times
Another element of RM’s honest nature comes when he responds to the interviewer querying him on when he discussed the difficult times that the group went through between 2015 and 2017. He responds saying that he wants to be able to express this difficulty honestly with his fans:
“I want to be as honest with ARMY as I can be, almost obsessively so. They say it can’t happen in the world of K-pop, and there’s an aspect of good faith to that because I don’t want to worry the fans, but I want to tell them about the things we’ve been through as much as I can. Another reason I talked about those times was that I wanted to pay off my debts to a lot of people. To pass over this story like it never happened would be like saying “that’s not us.” And because it’s in the past. I think that, since it’s in the past, and since we’re doing all right now, and since those days were clearly necessary, I think we have to be able to talk about just how difficult a time that was.”
There is a sense of humble acknowledgement towards the struggles that the group went through in RM’s words. He doesn’t want to shy away from the truth or pretend it never happened. He wants to embrace and share their difficulties and I feel that this is another way that BTS are so different in regards to how they treat and talk to their fans. There is an exposed and blunt honesty and whilst there are artists who have opened up about the difficulty of getting to where they are now with their followers, BTS always maintain a thoughtful nature towards their fans whilst doing so.
RM released a solo song- “Bicycle” during the 2021 FESTA event and the interviewer questions him on whether he thinks the song showcases who he is a person. RM notes that he considers “Bicycle” a “defiant” song- one that he says was inspired by the likes of Jeff Buckley, KIRINJI and Elliot Smith- as it doesn’t adhere to trends or his need to “be good at rapping” and gain “recognition”:
“the subject matter is really important to me specifically. Bicycles hold an important place in my heart, so that’s just what I ended up writing about. The song’s something like a compass, telling me where I’m at right now, I feel like. My present-day life is the input, so that was going to end up being the output one way or another.”
The song also reflects the broad spectrum of emotions that RM tends to feel whilst out on his bicycle (one of his favourite past times):
“My feelings kind of go to extremes whenever I ride my bike. My personality used to run to both extremes sometimes, but it also comes back to me again on its own when I ride a bike. When I ride my bike, I’m free from the pressure of the things I’m supposed to feel and think about. I don’t care if people recognize me, and that’s the closest I get to feeling free, mentally and physically—when I’m riding fast and feeling like I’m up on a cloud.”
Fans of BTS know how much RM loves his bike but this gives us more of an insight into how his bicycle is not only a hobby but also a massive source of inspiration for him (as well as art and literature). His feelings of freedom and of not caring if anyone recognises who is whilst he is riding his bike is also telling of the stress that he must at times feel from the idol lifestyle. His bicycle is his escape from the sometimes crushing pressure that the group must feel and the song “Bicycle” was a way of expressing his personal way of coping with the more difficult aspects of life. It is also, as he says so himself , just a nice song about his bicycle as made clear when he remembers what came to mind when he thought about doing a song for FESTA: “Let’s just do something about bikes.”
I feel like there is a hint of uncertainty within RM as a lyricist towards the end of the interview as he argues that he “can’t write lyrics as fast as I used to” and praises Yoongi (SUGA) for his ability to continuously write songs one after the other. He seems to consider his abilities “limited” and that he is “extremely slow” in comparison to his fellow producers and songwriters. It must be hard to keep feeling like you need to churn out music- of excellent quality of course- left, right and centre and I hope that this pressure hasn’t had an adverse effect on RM and his song writing skills. He is clearly incredibly talented and whilst his song writing methods might have changed over the years, it certainly does not make them any lesser. The little blip of doubt that is suggested by his words gives RM relatability as he obviously compares himself too much to others, which is something that we are all guilty of sometimes. It is refreshing to know that such a talented and famous artist does it too, even if he really doesn’t need to. That being said, he then goes on to talk about his collaboration with artist eAeon and how a long thought process about colour, waves and pebbles (it makes me feel like an idiot trying to decipher his artistic vision honestly!) combined with the music sent to him by eAeon led to an easier lyric writing process. I had to read this segment of the interview several times over just to get a bit of a grasp on his process and his intelligence and depth as a writer and artist becomes a little overwhelming for a mere mortal such as myself. Despite this brilliance, high intellect and ability to make connections with visual imagery within his mind to create lyrics, he still talks with a sense of insecurity in regards to his abilities. What hope we have if someone as smart as this doubts their skills???
The discussion of the ARMY fan base is sprinkled throughout RM’s interview with the most prominent points being those that I have already discussed: his need to be as open and honest with us as possible. Although he might consider his honesty to be bordering on “obsessive”, as a fan I can safely say that this level of openness is very much appreciated. You never want to cross the boundary into the invasion of someone’s personal life as a fan but if the person in question feels comfortable enough to discuss important events of their life with you, you can’t help but feel like you actually mean something to them. We are more than just a way to make money and keep gaining notoriety and clout. We actually mean something to BTS and RM’s interview clearly shows that this is how he feels about us.
Check out the rest of my deep dives into the BTS WeVerse interviews below and make sure to read the entire RM interview over on WeVerse Magazine here.