mono, the playlist of self-discovery
Comfort and love lyricized to make you feel less lonely, and much more understood.
There are two types of art in this world — the art you understand, and the art you don’t.
The art you understand, you appreciate it because it makes you feel less alone in your sea of emotions. You may also understand the art because you understand the circumstances under which the creator created the art.
On the other side of the spectrum is the art you don’t understand; you keep ruminating and wondering about it, but you know it doesn’t belong to your world, and the more you look at it, the more you misunderstand it, and the more you despise it, for not fitting in into your comfort bubble.
However, somewhere in the middle lies art that is so free from any preconceived notions that anyone and everyone can relate to it and understand it, even if they have never felt what the art is trying to make them feel.
In this grey area lies mono, a story of self realization, acceptance and healing, laid out across seven heart-wrenching and beautiful tracks, each with their own contribution to the story in focus.
The first and the most important thing about mono is how Namjoon has stylized it as a playlist instead of a mixtape. A playlist represents a certain mood, a certain expression of personal feelings. People make playlists for each other, to carry on with their daily tasks of driving, taking showers, cooking, healing from heartbreak.
By calling it a playlist, Namjoon has made it all the more personal and interpretative.
However, apart from being just personal, he presents the songs in such a way that they don’t feel detached from reality — in fact, the emotions expressed are those that many of us have felt, or have seen the people around us feel.
mono is built to represent a cycle of self-discovery, and each of its songs explore its stages in vivid detail — an awakening of self, understanding our roots and what’s shaped us in recent years, the death of an identity, rediscovery of the self’s new place in this world, and finally, healing to settle into our sense of self.
Part 1: awakening
The playlist is a journey, and it begins, metaphorically, in Tokyo, the first track.
Fully sung in English, the track describes mental and physical disorientation from waking up in a place you can’t call home; a place that makes you question your existence and identity.
Many of us have found ourselves defeated and lost, with no idea about who we are, what we have been doing all this time, and how did we even get to this point. As someone who has recently been through this, the song resonates familiarity, despite being about facing the unfamiliar.
This song is the first step into Namjoon’s self-realization, an awakening. He is willing to accept that the life he is leading at the present, is not his own wholly. It doesn’t represent him to the fullest, and he yearns for comfort from what his existence was in the past, not knowing yet, the solution to this disorientation (“Do I miss myself, Do I miss your face, I don’t know..”)
Part 2: roots
Seeking comfort from what he knows, in track 2, he turns to his current residence, where his current roots lie, in Seoul. He remarks in the beginning, that his life began somewhere else, but with the passing of his childhood, Seoul is what became his home.
We often have a love-hate relationship with the cities and places we live in. While they nurture and prosper us, they often help us see the things we’d rather not have; for Namjoon, while the city was the start of his artistic journey, it is also the capital of his country, home to glamourous entertainment industries, which he might have wanted to keep apart from him.
However, with the passing of days, he unknowingly has become a part of the very thing he wanted to exist away from — he questions the materiality of the city by asking if it even has a “soul” and why he has stuck with it for so long (“Why would it be that your pronunciation is similar to soul, What kind of soul is it that you possess..”) .
He answers his very own question in the second verse, describing the city to us with the little things that have now become a part of his life and existence, and so he concludes — he loves and hates the comfort of Seoul, the home he has been given and how it has changed his identity.
He ends the song with the lines — “I’m leaving you, I’m living you” — signifying that despite physically living out his existence in Seoul, he is ready to leave it behind, as he has accepted the need for the self-realization of his true identity.
With the next track, Moonchild, he unravels the truest facets of his persona. While many associate the night to be a time of darkness, negativity, and a held-back existence, Namjoon takes the support of the moon to accept that his hardships and failures were a part of his destiny to become the artist he has always wanted to be.
Moonchild is a conversation between Namjoon and the listeners of this song; with his words he aims to help people be kinder to themselves in times of pain and darkness, and accept this pain as a part of their journey to reaching their truest self.
Part 3: death
Serving as the perfect interlude from one half of the journey to another, badbye, a play on the word, “goodbye”, is sung with eAeon’s feature.
As the wordplay can indicate, the song plays out a painful farewell to an old self, a goodbye so permanent that no signs of the old self remain. (“..Kill me kill me softly, Shatter me into pieces..”)
With hauntingly echoing and beautiful vocals, the song expresses pain, but also forces along an acceptance from an old identity to the new; for the old self to be killed is necessary to move ahead and settle into our new selves and not return to who we were before.
Part 4: rediscovery
Solitude can be a blessing as well a curse, and for most of us, especially those who are yet to know ourselves inside out, it’s usually the latter.
Namjoon begins this phase of his journey by lamenting over how far apart his real self, and his ideal self stand, with uhgood. At a precipice of something new, having done away with his old self, he stands at square one, with his ideal self miles away, and no one to help him get there.
The song brings into focus what true loneliness feels like — a sinking despair, knowing that at the end, only I could bring myself the understanding I crave from the world, but I am unable to find any answers, relief or calm in myself.
An escape from this despair can only come with acceptance; acceptance of the flow of life, and readying ourselves best for all the good and bad it brings. Up next, with everythingoes, Namjoon uses the refrain of the phrase, “..everything, everything, everythingoes,” to chant and bring out to life the magic of an acceptance of life.
With acceptance, comes an acknowledgement of how harsh life can be, but it is also a source of hope, that it will always pass, as long as we know to expect the worst with the best life can offer.
Part 5: healing
It all ends at a process not many of us are able to pull off — healing. The world is fast and greedy and cruel, and it’s a herculean task to be able to tend to our own needs against what the world demands of us.
Namjoon brings an end to this journey by treasuring the time he takes to heal when the world seems to look away from him. Forever Rain is an ode to the magic of healing at our own pace, where Namjoon talks about how busy the world gets in themselves when it rains, thus giving him time to be slower and move as he likes.
This can have two perspectives — one, consider how, when it actually starts to rain, you can see people scurrying to find shelter, pull out their umbrellas, too busy in themselves to notice anyone else. Two, when Namjoon, as an idol, takes time away from the spotlight on him to pursue his hobbies in a space where he’s not being scrutinized, without every single step of his being watched, where he can breathe, explore, live at his terms, even for a little bit, he heals.
Namjoon began this cycle of self-discovery with a disorientation of the self, and ended it with a new sense of self, someone who accepts life as it goes, learns to live with themselves, and more important than anything, heal at their own pace.
I called this playlist a cycle, and not a path, because our identities are fluid; they change and change, and it is up to us to accept our identities as they die and be born again, and it is up to us to find better ways to live, love and heal every time this happens.
I hope that, with mono, this cycle is easier for you, and for me to bear. If you’d like to talk about mono or any other BTS song, you can find me on Twitter.
Thank you for reading this.