RM shows his deepest colors on Indigo


Promotional image for RM's album Indigo. RM sits leaned back at a table. A work by Korean Painter Yun Hyong-keun hangs on a white wall behind him. Sun streams diagonally into the room from out-of-frame windows.

Recommended Tracks: “Still Life,” “Hectic,” and “Wild Flower”

Artists You May Like: DPR IAN, Before You Exit, Tablo

What is the purpose of art? Is art created to make you feel something? To make money? To inspire people and give them a way to express themselves?

The reality is that art is ambiguous. Its creation can be for all of the above—and so much more. Art is a moment captured permanently in an ever-changing world, but it can also be a trend that changes throughout history or even a season. Art is a representation of the human psyche, spirit, and struggle, and it goes beyond that to form unexpected connections. Indigo is the art gallery of someone who shot for the stars and realized how cold outer space really is. In “Yun” (with Erykah Badu), RM reaffirms continually, “I wanna be a human ‘fore I do some art.” He references personal identity struggles between being a rapper who focuses on the ranking of technique, skill, and agility versus being someone who uses their creativity to connect with others before seeing them as competition. Anecdotal admission of this is what makes his writing so impactful: it’s not just a fairy tale, it’s his story.

“Still Life (with Anderson .Paak)” manages to escape the confines of just your headphones, turning the funky, punchy rhythms and horns into a full body experience. It’s easy to feel trapped by what people expect of you, and it must be to an entirely different degree with millions of eyes on you. Yet, RM seems to have come to a point where it’s easier to embrace his own life and motivations and take that energy outside of the expectations placed on him. Similarly, it’s hard not to find “All Day (with Tablo)” groovy, but the lyrical implorations to get people to fight presumptions and regulations aren’t just a smooth message. An amalgamation of off-kilter electronic jazz and unhinged influences, “Change pt. 2” turns a cynical eye to those same shackling expectations. With a barren, cybernetic undertone it almost feels as if it doesn’t fit with the album. Looking at it through the lens of the album as emotions, it’s right on par, though. It’s the desolation of never really escaping the version of yourself that existed ten years ago, a year ago, or even yesterday. You’re forever set in peoples’ minds, so there’s no room for you to grow or “change.” But it can still happen nonetheless, albeit with glass underfoot.

Stripping away even more layers, the acoustic “Forg_tful (with Kim Sawol)” feels organic in its gentle strums, vocals, and whistles. The song portrays listlessness amidst day-to-day activities and exchanges is a universal experience. It’s hard to regain footing in that minutiae and sometimes the best thing to do is just to acknowledge the way you feel. “Closer (with Paul Blanco, Mahalia)” raises the production level back up, but keeps the same sincerity. It features one of my favorite lines from the album: “If this is all we can do/yeah, just looking at you/there’s gon’ be no take two/stay where you are.” Where he wants to freeze time, his words capture moments, people, and self in a way that memory can’t.

That raw, yet succinct lyricism continues in “Lonely” with RM lamenting, “I’m trapped in myself.” The expansive chorus builds with what almost sounds like cheering crowds or firework whistles, then is sucked back into the controlled vacuum of the verses. It’s an enticing dynamic, the balance between both of those realities coexisting. On the one hand, there is being yourself in a crowd, or in RM’s case, a stadium of thousands. Then, there is another version that exists as the person who goes back and clicks on the lights to an empty room, audience of one. Mirroring that juxtaposition musically feels akin to the push and pull of tides; it’s hard to find bearings in a back-and-forth world, let alone yourself. Restless monotony plagues both body and mind and finding a reason to stay motivated is exhausting. RM is searching for that reason every day on “Hectic” (with Colde) and shows how difficult finding that inspiration really is. The inter-spliced trumpet and synth pair well with thrumming ad-libs that fill chorus and verse alike. Pushing forward like its title and subject matter, the song amplifies the yearning for going from necessity to hopefully finding something “romantic.”

One of the best songs to come from RM’s repertoire, “Wild Flower (with youjeen)” is a song of grief, yet it fills a room like an anthem. Does ambition never swallow someone whole? What happens when your dream takes on a life of its own, but doesn’t take all of you with it? He sings of his struggle in finding his way back to the ground after a whirlwind of stardom and chasing after what he thought he wanted. That desire changed its course, and he declares that, “Amongst the flowers without names, [he] can’t go to the stars again, [he] can’t.” It resonates so heavily because it’s hard to love yourself through a time when disappointment and confusion wrack your ego and well-being. The closing of the album is an answer to that, as well as its own love song. “No.2 (with parkjiyoon)” is RM’s testament to protect himself from playing the “what-if” game or ruminating over past mistakes and regrets. It’s also an admittance to his own pride and letting it go: “I smile/that I ain’t gotta prove myself.” Self-recognition and -actualization in those short candid lines translates to millennia in real self-growth. The relaxed nature of the track effectually says, “It was obvious, wasn’t it? The truth was here the whole time.” In healing and growing purposefully, though, that self-awareness takes time and continual effort. RM’s bubble may have burst, but he’s using his own falling to lift others up—that’s about as human as it gets.

Stay up-to-date with RM: Instagram

Listen to Indigo on Spotify.

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