Saturday, July 11, 2020

D-2 by Agust D

D-2 is the second solo album / mixtape (as you can get it for free on SoundCloud!) by Agust D. Augst D.’s real name is Min Yoongi, but he is best known as the rapper and award winning producer SUGA of the Korean music group BTS. The Agust D. pseudonym is solely used for his solo releases.
The album was released on May 22nd, 2020, four years after the first Agust D. mixtape. To Apple Music the artist said about the new album, “It’s a documentation of myself as a 28-year-old. This is the output of my time in quarantine. […] It was a time during which I was able to learn, again, the meaning of the phase ‘due to’. Serentiy. In general, I’ve loosened up, and it’s not a bad feeling.”
The album consists of ten tracks:

A great intro to the album, a track with a classic hip-hop vibe, where Agust D. raps about how many things have changed from his poor beginnings to now and how it sometimes feels so overwhelming that it is unbearable but at the same time everything stays the same, both the moments of self-doubt and the moonlight shining down on him. My favorite lines: Changes are fated to happen to everyone / Perhaps it is how we change that is our karma to bear.

The lead single of the album, inspired by traditional Korean storytelling and music. It is a mashup of trap music and traditional Korean music (Gugak) played on traditional Korean instruments like the taepyeongso, jing and yonggo. Daechwita is a kind of Korean traditional marching music for a king or an army, and it made the artist think of BTS and their fans who are called ARMY.
The lyrics refer to history naming Joseon Dynasty king Gwanghae as well as the rise of Agust D./SUGA who has climbed to the highest top as a musician and now wants to look down and put his feet on the ground.
An extremely cinematic music video accompanies this upbeat track where the old blond August D. from the first mixtape back in 2016 has now become a mad king and faces a new black haired Agust D.
In his almost two hours long review of the album on the broadcasting app Vlive, the artist said: There is another name for the blond Agust D. His other name is Anger. He then continued: There’s another name for the black haired Agust D. too. I’ll tell you in my next mixtape
We are waiting. You can find the Daechwita music video here

What Do You Think?
I guess this could be called aggressive trap. It is trap in more than one way as the artist describes this track as well as Daechwita as traps he set for his enemies to fall into and lyrics-wise the song is made to dare his haters.
In the aforementioned Vlive, Min Yoongi says that the lyrics were written in early 2018 when he was really angry about something. The original lyrics were a lot stronger, but he toned it down as to not shock anybody and besides, he doesn’t feel this kind of anger anymore.
The Jim Jones sample intro is a stroke of genius. Agust D. is not the first to sample the infamous cult leader Jim Jones, who caused the Jonestown massacre in 1979 where 900 people died, as artists such as Lana Del Rey, Post Malone and Foo Fighters have done it before, but it hits harder because Agust D. is South Korean.
Jones was a great admirer of dictators, among them the North Korean Kim Il Sung, who was his personal friend. Jones forced-fed his followers official North Korean propaganda as he saw North Korea as a model for Jonestown and he was anti-South Korea to the extend, that he adopted and brainwashed South Korean children. As such, the sample is used as an example of the cult-like mindset that breeds unexplained hatred like the one BTS has often faced due to their race and their rags to riches story
Unfortunately, this brilliant sample can only be heard in the original paid versions, not the free one on SoundCloud as a smear campaign organized by BTS-hating k-pop fans accused Agust D. of being a Jim Jones fan and insensitive to the mostly black victims of Jones. I wonder if the same people label Spielberg, Tarantino and Pakula as Nazis and insensitive to Jews for making movies about Hitler and the Holocaust!
Anyway, the hatred was so strong that it forced Agust D.’s record label to censor the song, remove the sample and apologize. I must say that I was shocked as censoring an artist like this is a step in a very wrong direction. With this the haters showed the exact same meaningless hate that Agust D. pointed out by using the sample!
Please, listen to the original track if possible. It is one of the best on the album and Agust D.’s repetition of 어떻게 생각해? (what do you think) is at times even hilarious.

This track that has been called both bluesy and trap features BTS leader, the rapper RM. The two colleagues deliver a sharp commentary on modern society and what we have come to see as normal such as economical inequality and how the truth doesn’t matter anymore: Polarization is the ugliest flower in the world. It's been long since the truth's been eaten away by the lies,

Smooth R&B track featuring Korean singer-songwriter NiiHWA. Here Agust D. reflects on his life as a 28-year-old (in Korean age) and his worries of having become an adult.

Burn It
This track is a collab with American singer-songwriter MAX, who wrote the English lyrics for the chorus that he sings. It’s a bit of an earworm where the artists reflect on burning down the old version of yourself, getting rid of jealousy, hate and the feeling of being inferior to see what will remain. In his Vlive, Min Yoongi called the song hard and intense, but this is in sharp contrast to MAX’ voice that sounds very pretty and much younger than its owner.

This hip-hop track is a fan favorite and also one of my favorites on the album. Here Agust D. raps about how everything changes over time as nothing is permanent in life: Everything is just a happening passing through. There is even a funny nod to Heath Ledger’s Joker as well.
The background vocalist is, by the way, Big Hit Entertainment producer ADORA.

Honsool is the Korean term for drinking alone. In his Vlive, Min Yoongi said that people thought the track was creepy and made them feel bad but that was also the intention. The sound is like how you feel when you are drunk and lonely and down, and that is also what the lyrics are about. The artist raps about the backside of fame, the silence and loneliness when a concert is over and another busy day has come to an end, and how he turns to alcohol in the hope of relaxing and falling asleep.

Interlude: Set Me Free
This dreamlike track is my all-time favorite on the album. Instead of rapping like he does on the other tracks, Agust D. sings during the entire number and his vocals are as soothing as the music. The lyrics are about wanting to escape the monotony of it all, perhaps influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, as originally – before the pandemic - the track was supposed to be instrumental. Luckily, Big Hit Entertainment’s founder, the producer and CEO Bang Shihyuk talked the artist into keeping the impressive vocal. Background vocal is once again by producer ADORA.
I love this track so much that I’ve decided that I want it played at my funeral! I’ve never felt that way about any other song I have ever heard.

Dear My Friend
This emotional rock ballad features Kim Jong Wan of Korean rock band Nell. It is a somewhat nostalgic and regretful song where Agust D. (or rather Min Yoongi) thinks back on a childhood friend who went to jail and then came out without having learned anything from it. He wonders if they would still have been friends, had he been able to stop his friend from taking drugs and admits that even though he now hates him, he still misses the friend he was before he went to jail. It is a very wistful end to a great album.

D-2 is an amazing album with not a single bad track. It is even one of these albums that gets better the more you listen to it and they are usually the best. It is not without reason that SUGA (August D.) is called a genius producer and music maker, so have a listen. Five out of five stars:*****

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Books I read in 2019

First of all I want to say sorry for being quiet all year. It wasn’t my intention, but I’ve had a tough time healthwise. I’ve had extreme difficulties in walking since the summer of 2019 and the painkillers I had to take made me drowsy 24/7. Eventually I ended up sleeping up to 19 hours a day.
Well, I had surgery for the fourth time in March and was released from hospital 1 day before Denmark locked down due to COVID-19. I’ve been in self-quarantine ever since, only venturing out when I had to see a doctor. I couldn’t get any rehabilitation training, though, due to the social distancing, so I’ve had to do it on my own. Now I’m a bit better and I got new medication that lets me stay awake during daytime and I’ve even been out once to visit a friend! Yay! Now I hope to get back to normal here on my blog, and my first thing is going to be my long overdue blogpost about the books I read in 2019:

Falkenberg, Lise Lyng: “Idyll”
Falkenberg, Lise Lyng: “Look Wot I Dun” (new paperback edition)
Harris, Joanne: “Tea with the Birds”
Kim, Youngdae; “BTS – The Review. A Comprehensive Look at the Music of BTS”
Le Guin, Ursula K.: “Sur”
花樣年華 - The Notes - The Most Beautiful Moment in Life 1” (by Big Hit Entertainment)
“Save Me” (webtoon by Big Hit Ent./LICO)
Vagnby, Jes: ”Yuka og det japanske hus”
Willumsen, Dorrit: “Manden som påskud” / “Programmeret til kærlighed”
Willumsen, Dorrit: “Suk hjerte”

As you can see, I didn’t read that many books, 10 in all, whereof two are my own new 2019-releases. I also read more Danish books as usual, especially by Dorrit Willumsen who is one of my favourite Danish female writers. The highlight was, however, “花樣年華 - The Notes - The Most Beautiful Moment in Life 1” and I can’t wait to read part 2.

I hope you are all happy and healthy and I look forward to interacting a bit more with you all during the rest of 2020.

Monday, December 23, 2019

BTS – The Review

I expected quite a lot of this Youngdae Kim’s book “BTS – The Review: A Comprehensive Look at the Music of BTS” as Youngdae Kim is a noted music critic and author who serves as a member of the Selection Committee for the Korean Music Awards. He is born and raised in South Korea but completed his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington and is currently living in the USA where he is a critical column writer for MTV and Vulture by New York Magazine among other things.

He has always been interested in and proud of BTS and I thought that with this book BTS would finally get what they deserve: a serious, scholarly look at their music from their debut in 2013 up onto early 2019 when the book was written. With the subtitle “A Comprehensive Look at the Music of BTS” it was what the book seemed to promise its reader, but I must say that I was somehow disappointed.

Yes, Kim does review every single BTS album and the mixtapes of the different members too, but the reviews are short and mostly concentrated on the ballads as that seems to be the genre that Kim prefers. By doing so, he neglects to give in-depths analyses of the backbone of BTS’ music production as BTS started out as a hip-hop team and it is still the three rappers who write the majority of songs that also include funk, r&b, jazz, Latin, EDM and many other genres. In the same way the rappers take a backseat to the vocalists in this book which is quite strange as the rappers are the fundament of the band that existed as a trainee group before any of the vocalists were added.

As you can probably see, I’m not that thrilled with the reviews, but then again, the reviews only make up one part of the book. The rest of it consists of interviews with people in and around the Korean music industry, whereof most of them have nothing to do with BTS. There is an interview with the Korean hip-hop journalist Bonghyeon Kim, the Literary Critic Hyeongcheol Shin, the Chairman of the KMA Selection Committee Changnam Kim, the popera tenor Hyungjoo Lim and Billboard’s K-pop columnist Jeff Benjamin who more or less backstabbed BTS as soon as he was paid to promote another Korean band. The composer brother Su is also interviewed and at least he worked with BTS especially in their early days, but he also worked with many other K-pop acts. Of course, the people interviewed mention BTS, but most of the interviews are about K-pop as such or about the interviewees. There are no interviews with BTS themselves, with the founder of their company Big Hit, Bang Sihyuk (Hitman Bang), or with their main producer Pdogg, which is very disappointing. After having read the book, I think the subtitle should have been, “A Comprehensive Look at K-pop and how BTS fit into it” instead. At least, that would have been closer to the truth!

Youngdae Kim also mentions the very unique relationship between BTS and their fans, ARMY, but throughout the book he insists that their fans are teenagers or people in their twenties and that they are all girls. In the last chapters of the book, he finally acknowledges that the band has middle-aged fans as well, but not that they have male fans. Seeing the latest Korean statistics that have been widely quoted in the western press too, at least 55% of BTS fans are 30+, and these statistics don’t include fans over 70, so the true number is probably 60%, which makes the core audience quite different from the general audience of other K-pop acts. Besides, about 20% are males of all ages, but they are hardly ever included in statistics.

All in all, I have to say that I think “BTS – the Review” is a rather misleading description of BTS and their music. Of course it is not as bad as what we are used to see written by people who don’t know anything about BTS, but at the same time it is also more annoying as the author should have known better than painting a picture of BTS as a band that is mostly carried by their ballads and their vocalists and that has mainly female teenage fans. I was very disappointed, even though Kim in the epilogue correctly concludes that the BTS phenomenon is a movement that BTS and ARMY created together.

Three out of five stars: ***


How come that I, a fifty-five year old Danish woman, is completely mad with “Hope World” by a twenty-four year old Korean guy named j-...