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RM Enjoys the Creative Ride in “Right Place, Wrong Person” – Seoulbeats

I have to make a disclaimer before I start here: I am not on neutral ground. Not only was it BTS that got me into K-pop, but it was their leader, RM, who got me into BTS. I won’t go through a full fangirling history of my ultimate bias, but suffice to say I’ve always admired his work. As the face of the most successful K-pop group in history, and the English-speaking bridge for the group to become one of the most successful pop acts in the world, expectation and responsibility has always weighed heavily on his shoulders. 

As one of the group’s three founding rappers, RM’s hip-hop knowledge and cleverness with words has always been noteworthy (I’m trying not to fawn too much, I promise). His contributions to the lyrics and production of many of BTS’ songs have made it all the less surprising that he has one of the most prolific solo careers of the group. Beginning with mixtapes RM in 2015 and Mono in 2018, he debuted his first full studio album, Indigo, in 2022. Less than 18 months later, during his mandatory military enlistment, he has added to this discography with his most experimental work yet, Right Place, Wrong Person

Fitting this album into the cannon of BTS solo projects, Right Place is an explosion of jazz, funk, and R&B. It provides the best evidence yet that BTS have been given a greater freedom than almost any other idols in history. While it is absolutely the artsy cousin to Jungkook’s Golden and Jimin’s Face, and wears more of a smile (or perhaps a smirk?) than J-Hope’s Jack in the Box or Agust D/Suga’s D-Day, it shares their idiosyncrasies and relative openness of expression. Taking huge influences from jazz, much as did in Layover, RM uses his latest work to carve out his position as the most alternative member of the group. 

Right Place, Wrong Person, in its title, feels like it’s going to continue the themes of a love won and lost that were the centre of Indigo. In the 2022 album, there was a strong current of regret and bitterness that has not relented in 2024. In a continuing journey into his solo career, RM has only become more confident to play around with his uglier emotions. On the track “Nuts” there is a wild oscillation between nihilism—“love is for the freaks”—and resignation.

The monster hasn’t been me, I beg you, oh, baby, please

Forever, ever, ever wish you a true happiness, damn

These contrasting emotions, fiercer than in Indigo, flare up again in “out of love”, decorated by liberal swearing and growling distortion.  

Honesty’s always a crime

Just tell me if you need a dime

But I can’t give you my time

Can’t waste you my goddamn time

Whilst this particular struggle comes to an uneasy resolution in the album’s closer “Come back to me” (“You are my pain, divine, divine”), RM also gleefully branches out to other topics across the 11 tracks. “Groin” sees him squaring up to the expectations of being an idol in a world-leading group, and boy, is he tired of holding back: “I can’t be a monk, others’ words always misunderstand me/ Not a fucking diplomat”. “Domodachi” is slyer, using a mix of English, Korean and Japanese to possibly mock fake friends (“domo” comes from Japanese for “thanks”, and “tomodachi” means “friends”)

That is not to say that this is an album only founded on negative emotions. There is a persistent uncertainty and questioning underlying the whole work, but songs like “Lost” revel in having “never felt so free before”, whilst “Around the world in a day” has a relaxed, wise perspective on its own story: “only time will sort it out”. Even “Heaven”, while seeing him “collapse”, finds an ultimate peace in solitude. 

I’m feelin’ so good here with me

Feelin’ so full here with me

Everything’s untakeable

My peace is unbreakable

The lyrics and themes of Right Place are an intriguing expansion of those in Indigo, but the most exciting part of this album comes from the music itself. Whilst there was experimentation and collaboration on Indigo (almost every track had a featuring artist alongside RM), here he steps up to another level. The collaborations are fewer, but each one is a brilliant choice.

The rap mastery that Little Simz adds to the second verse of “Domodachi” is electrifying, and the jazz drums and keys backing up “Interlude” from DOMi & JD BECK is fresher than the standard computerised backdrop of most K-pop tracks. Moses Sumney is able to add a breathy, yet strong vocal flavour to “Around the world in a day” that really highlights RM’s own musical tastes. 

Speaking of the jazz instrumentation of “Interlude”, that certainly feels like the most influential genre at play here. There are complete changes of instruments and tempo in “Groin”. “Domadachi” opens with a low clarinet gently joined by shuffling snares. “Right People, Wrong Place” lays deep bass guitar over blurry synths and a skittering, irregularly occurring beat. These songs are a very deliberate side step from anything classically pop. 

Alongside the jazz elements, RM also emphasises the funk and R&B elements that had their moment in his previous album. As much as any of his collaborators, the bass is the other star in Right Place. Squelching under “Nuts”, it compliments RM’s strangely plodding singing rhythm. These basslines become fuzzier in “out of love”, and faster in “LOST!”, accompanied by groovy funk guitar. A similarly electric bass mimics RM’s own voice in “ㅠㅠ (Credit Roll)”. Whilst the music is more relaxed in “Come back to me” and “Around the world in a day”, the experimentation across the other tracks allows these moments to feel more like quiet moments of relaxation, rather than dropping momentum. 

These production choices, assisted by figures such as Balming Tiger’s San Yawn, show RM’s expression towards something truly creative and different from his work as a K-pop idol. To emphasise this difference, even the artwork around the album is starkly different to anything normally seen in K-pop spheres. Shot across Korea, the UK and Japan, it features low-fi, high exposure shots of RM in urban spaces, and among unknown groups of people celebrating everyday milestones such as weddings and family gatherings. As an accompaniment to the jazz and funk-based production style, these photos show an RM who is both artistic, and just one person among many, with normal emotions and life experiences that he, ironically, expresses in such an unusual way for his industry. 

This is the great success of Right Place, Wrong Person. Coming from the leader of BTS, and thus undoubtedly one of the most recognisable and successful idols in history, RM has been able to realise, through this, the potential that he holds. This is an album that engages with the pressure of his persona, as well as giving him the space to express things more personal than he could normally ever reveal. But, extending from this, he has also used the freedom given to him by his position in the HYBE hierarchy to truly play with the music he loves. 

In an industry where experimentation is often too much of a risk, RM uses his status to throw caution to the wind. This album is a distinct new step in his own discography, and a welcome new addition to the BTS solo canon. If this is a sign of the direction that he wants to take all his future work, group included, then we can expect even greater things from BTS once they reunite. 

(Yahoo. Images via Big Hit Music. Lyrics via Genius.)

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