June 18th, 2024

Music Review: RM of BTS has a new solo album, ‘Right Place, Wrong Person,’ an elastic experiment

By Maria Sherman, The Associated Press on May 24, 2024.

This image released by BigHit shows “Right Place, Wrong Person” by RM. (BigHit via AP)

All seven members of BTS are currently serving South Korea’s compulsory enlistment for men of a certain age – and in what should feel like an absence, the K-pop boy band is keeping their fans occupied with a steady release schedule of eclectic solo material. Next up is rapper RM’s second solo full-length album, “Right Place, Wrong Person.”

The thoughtful leader of BTS, RM is usually philosophical in his solo work, often unafraid to take big sonic risks, sometimes with big rewards. On “Right Place, Wrong Person,” he continues to ask the big questions atop elastic, genre-averse production.

The title track opens the bilingual album, launching with RM repeating the album’s title over and over again in a deep, almost militaristic cadence – before exploding into asymmetrical production ornamented by his gothic baritone.

From there follows the wet, funky bass of “Nuts”; the avant-garde “Around the world in a day” with the inventive guitarist Moses Sumney; and the haunted hip-hop of “Domodachi.” featuring British rapper Little Simz with ferocious drums and jazz-like improvisational instrumentation, a sensibility that continues into the following “Interlude.” There are few genres that strike fear in RM.

Or maybe they do, and that’s the point: Thematically, the album centers on the artist considering his own identity – one of the most famous people on the planet expressing that he feels out of step with the world. Naturally, the music mirrors that frustration, curiosity and meditation. “Groin'” is frustrated, raw rap and perhaps the most profane he has been to date. “Heaven” is dreamy shoegaze; he’s a rapper who can live inside ’90s alternative rock and own it.

The album’s closer, “Come back to me,” is yet another demonstration of RM’s penchant for collaboration: Kuo from the Taiwanese band Sunset Rollercoaster plays guitar and bass on the laidback pop-rock song; OHHYUK from the South Korean band HYUKOH composed and arranged it. “Come back to me” is a whistle-along acoustic pop tune, but as the first song released off the album, it failed to encapsulate its maximalist spirit.

Perhaps “LOST!”, with its lightning-speed programmed synths, summertime riffs and soft, stacked harmonies, would’ve been a better choice for a first taste, effortlessly moving from pop, R&B, rap and electronic music with ease. It’s a deceptively optimistic listen with a different message from our narrator: “I’m goddamn lost,” a confused RM speak-sings. “I never been to club before.”

“Right Place, Wrong Time” benefits from RM’s big, existential questioning – and like the other pop philosophers that came before him, it doesn’t offer any answers. And it doesn’t sound like it is supposed to.

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