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RM is an Uneasy Pop Titan on ‘Right Place, Wrong Person’

“I’ve been broken and then put back together so many times,” BTS leader RM told the fashion brand 032c in his final interview before enlisting in the Korean military last year. “I realized that the person I think I am doesn’t really exist.” On his heady second solo album, RM digs into that existential dilemma, interrogating the relationship between his world-conquering presented self and the “ordinary young man named Kim Namjoon” that he would be if he hadn’t taken the pop-star path.  

RM’s lyrical ride is made even more mind-expanding by the music laid down by RM and his collaborators, including San Yan of the K-hip-hop collective Balming Tiger and the Dallas duo DOMi and JD Beck. Building on the sonic palette of RM’s 2022 solo debut Indigo, Right Place, Wrong Person is psychedelia-tinged and soulful, its lyrics’ intense self-interrogation balanced by music that feels like an invite to further explorations.

“Right People, Wrong Place” kicks off the album on a leery note, RM turning over the title’s four words as if the right combination of them will unlock a core truth while claustrophobic synths close in on him. From there, RM digs in; “Nuts,” which pivots out of a blown-out robo-funk bass, finds RM in a stop-start seductive mode, wrestling between wanting someone and feeling down on love, while “Domodachi,” which features an assist from the British MC Little Simz, depicts RM and his friends closing ranks, with an insistent woodwind loop and a furious guitar riff acting as de facto clubhouse doors. 

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Even the more upbeat songs have a sense of unease about them. “Heaven,” has gauzy guitars and a steadily thudding bassline which cloak its unease; “Take my heaven/Oh, you ain’t invited/ Go grab your knife/ And watch me collapse,” he sings as backing vocals ooh and ahh around him, turning the idea of surrender into something startlingly beautiful. “LOST!” is peppy with a sticky-sweet hook, but RM’s proclamations of liberation are countered by admissions that he feels “lonely as fuck” and worried about how he’ll “never love while I’m low.” The Moses Sumney collaboration “Around the world in a day” is a stunner, blossoming from a tightly wound duet accompanied by an acoustic guitar into glitchy bedroom soul before taking full flight into fierce funk-rock, RM taking on all comers (including “digital trendsetters”) as he picks up the mic and throws down the gauntlet.    

“I’m a person who has so much dirt, filth, love, kindness, and consideration in me that I feel l would go insane if I didn’t bring it out candidly, into the world, in some way,” RM told 032c last year. Right Place, Wrong Person grapples with the inner and outer dualities RM sees and feels every day in fascinating fashion, its search for meaning coupled with music that’s as intensely curious as the man making it.

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