Article. Kang Myungseok
Photo Credit. BIGHIT MUSIC
First, there’s SUGA, the BTS member. When SUGA produces music for an artist other than BTS or himself, the song’s title is followed by his producer credit: “Prod. SUGA.” And then there’s Agust D, his alter ego that’s made an appearance for his two mixtapes, Agust D and D-2, as well as his album D-DAY, due to be released on April 21. As Agust D, he creates a full record of his life as SUGA the BTS member, SUGA the producer and Min Yoongi, the everyday man. In 2016, just after BTS began their runaway success with the 2015 release The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, SUGA put out Agust D, where he examined his life from his “arrival in Seoul on November 7, 2010” (“724148”) until he found “success even my family couldn’t have foreseen” (“give it to me”). By the time he put out D-2 four years later he had become a global superstar and labelled himself someone who could be “born in a ditch but rise up a dragon” (“Daechwita”). In the span of that time—back in the early hours of May 3, 2014, before The Most Beautiful Moment in Life had yet to come—SUGA, as Agust D, spoke to “pretending not to feel lonely, not to feel bothered, just fine, make it look like I’m extra tough, while there’s a wall in my way” (“140503 at dawn”). He had arrived at his D-2 era: a time when “change comes to all,” including himself, in “a void I felt because I fly so high” (“Moonlight”)—a level of popularity that had no end in sight. SUGA takes a good look at himself in all his albums as Agust D—albums that ultimately chart where he got his start and who he’s becoming.
“There are times you’re worn out and having a hard time,” SUGA says when talking about the track “People” off D-2 in the documentary SUGA: Road to D-DAY, coming to Disney+ and Weverse on April 21. “And that's when I listen to the song. And I cry a lot.” SUGA’s journey from Agust D to D-2, and especially “People” during it, stands as testament to the changes his life underwent during that time. He confesses in “The Last” off Agust D that he suffered from “self-hatred and depression that’s come back around” dealing with his “accident as a delivery boy” as he “debuted clutching my f*cking shattered shoulder.” It’s just like when SUGA mentions in the documentary that he “expressed things I was really anxious about” in Agust D. Though his dreams of success seemed to be right within his reach, his shoulder continued to pain him, and all the hurt that he carried from the time of his debut until he found success may have contributed to, in his words, being “anxious.” But by the time he writes “People,” he’s sounding much lighter: “Why so serious? … I’m so serious?” Your troubles don’t disappear even when you become famous: “Sometimes it does hurt, sometimes I’m so upset I could cry.” But what’s changed is that SUGA now embraces that “there’s lots of different views” and that he’s “just another person” even with his immense success. He has attained the fame he longed for but now grasps how “we’re all gonna fade” and “nothing in this world lasts forever.”
“People” marks an important turning point in the Agust D trilogy. Following “People” and two more songs including “Interlude: Set me free” is the final track off D-2, “Dear my friend,” a sad story that took place between him and a friend. Here he’s less focused on spilling his heart out about the past as he did on Agust D, instead rapping, “I still f*cking hate you,” against a calm, contemplative keyboard. In D-2, SUGA literally draws on the word “People” and both understands and accepts them through his own particular perspective, and at the same time no longer looks back on the past in anger. He went a step further and realized that, despite his soaring popularity, it might not last forever, and that’s allowed him to take a more levelheaded look at himself. Road to D-DAY is both an exploration of the music SUGA worked on while making the album and a search for a greater truth. He worries about what he’ll talk about on the album that will go on to become D-DAY. But he continues to make music throughout and looks to meet the late Ryuichi Sakamoto to find his way as a musician. Why does he still seek to be an artist when he’s achieved virtually everything that could be considered success in the world? SUGA has gone from reckoning with his past in Agust D, to finding a new perspective on himself and the world in D-2, to questioning the very nature of music itself from an artist’s perspective in D-DAY. And it seems part of the answer is in “People Pt.2” featuring IU, the first track released ahead of the album, on April 7:
“If you can’t hold back, it’s okay to cry.”
SUGA talked about the relationship between a person and other people and the world as a whole in “People” (“Everybody changes / Just like I changed”); part two takes the form of something like a conversation between himself and IU, who “dreamt of a future together” but “who tore down the sand castle.” The first “People” was actually singular, but “Pt.2” is indeed plural. Love becomes possible in a relationship of plurals, meaning “endless people” can make “love that has passed by,” with many questions arising as a result: “Is love wholly perfect on its own? … Selflessness can actually be selfish too.” Still, “they say life’s a struggle between resistance and submission / I say it’s a struggle against loneliness,” and so people love others. What changed in the time “People” and “People Pt.2” is that the musician behind them has developed a greater interest in, and affection for, other people and the world they live in. He’s learned to call himself “just another person” as he sees the whole world that surrounds him but goes even further to contemplate how it is that people can keep on loving despite their inner pain. SUGA, the musician who pushed his way through all his pain and healed himself in Agust D and continued on with D-2 now comes to us with D-DAY as someone who is able to talk about loving others. On the long, difficult road called life, some people find love the way only a musician can.
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