When seven boys from a small nation of South Korea transcend boundaries, break all barriers- from language to gender and bring a new meaning to Asian representation worldwide, it is hard not to take notice. It is a force one cannot and should not ignore. Somewhat like that started my journey of discovering BTS or Bangtan Sonyeondan, and who better than the leader himself to open the doors to a baby ARMY?
Even before listening to their chart-busters, record-breaking songs, it was the journey of Kim Namjoon or RM that made me realise the bond I’ll be sharing with this band will be very different from the one I share with, say a Pink Floyd or a Beatles.
One of the numerous links sent by fellow ARMYs (as they welcomed another one to their team happily) took me to an old YouTube video of RM reading out negative comments directed towards him. His response was not motivated out of anger or arrogance: it was a simple answer, “I’ll prove it to you all.” He proved it alright, but for a Butter era ARMY, you need a little more to put things into perspective.
Belonging to an Asian family, it is never easy to convince one’s parents that they want to choose their love and passion for music over academics, in which they already excel. RM’s background could serve as the perfect script of a Bollywood flick but there was more to discover. With high ambitions, and promising music skills, he became the first member of BTS but with this huge responsibility, came harsh criticism.
Being the leader of members older than him (Jin, Suga, J-Hope) wasn’t easy for him. In another interview, the rapper expressed his guilt for possibly being rude to Suga during their initial days. Moving on, not conforming to stereotypes assigned to their gender made them the subject of mockery. Also, achieving the global fame and stardom that hardly any Korean band had achieved before did not sit well with many. Being the leader, it fell on his shoulders to shield his bandmates from these harsh treatments. As I saw RM noticing the most trivial things about his members and attending to their every need, I instantly felt a connection to a man residing 4,899 km away that slowly and steadily rose against all the hatred, with love.
A couple of YouTube videos and articles later, I also discovered that he has an IQ of 148, loves nature and art, and donated a sizable amount to an art charity on his previous birthday.
It got me hooked to BTS, and I was yet to explore their discography.
Then came examples of him acknowledging the efforts of his band members, and who doesn’t appreciate that. Being the leader, humility never left him and on several occasions, he spoke about how J-Hope helps him “do half of the leader’s role.” In one of the episodes of Bon Voyage, he expressed that he is the front of BTS but it is J-Hope who holds them together as a group. He balances well between keeping up with Jin’s goofiness and giving Suga the space he needs, and with the Maknae line (Jimin, V, Jungkook), he is nothing short of a father. It was understandable to me as to why Jungkook is his biggest fan and turned down seven agencies at the age of 14 just to have RM as his leader.
This is a person who, on being asked whether he wants to move forward solo or continue with his band, chose Bangtan without a single sign of hesitation. The boys, too, left no stone unturned to let him know that they have got his back.
However, Namjoon’s qualities do not end with him being a supportive and humble leader. Growing up with heroes on screen who had very little to offer other than their toxic masculinity, highly sensitive egos and a misogynistic approach towards everything they did or said, these seven Asian men brought a wave of fresh air. Their UNICEF speech found its way to me next, where the K-pop idol used that platform to encourage people to ‘Speak Themselves’.
Personally, it was hopeful and overwhelming to see a man wear his heart on his sleeves, talk about his weakness, accept and learn from his mistakes, advocate mental health, have a pro-LGBTQ stance and do it all while rocking a black skirt. And these qualities extend to the rest of the members as well. They are not ashamed to hold each other’s hand and express love for one another openly; their friendship and bond is not the one where you pretend to be ‘tough’ on the exterior for the sake of it.
All these discoveries about RM but I still hadn’t scratched the surface of the songs he has written. When that happened, it opened up an entire dimension altogether. Before that, his compassion, strength and empathy were enough to convert another regular person to an ARMY. When Kim Namjoon said “Please use me, please use BTS to love yourself,” we took it to heart.