It would be a tough job to name every achievement that BTS has made. That is, it would be hard to pick more valuable ones out of its countless accomplishments.
Same goes true with choosing more outstanding members of BTS. Its seven members are contributing to the band with each one’s different abilities that are organically intermixed. When it comes to musicality only, however, who comes first to my mind is Suga. Besides as a member of BTS, Suga as a talented music producer is active in interacting with other musicians.
Playing different roles as Min Yoongi, a member of BTS and producer Agust D, he set many new records in the world’s largest music platform Spotify earlier this year. He has songs that have surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify under each stage name, which makes him the first Korean soloist ever to set such a record. His mixtape 《D-2》released in May 2020 easily passed 300 million streams on Spotify, in the shortest period among Korean soloists, and the title track Daechwita ranked second on Korea Spotify Viral 40 chart. More than that, Agust D has over 5 million followers on Spotify, with total streams surpassing 500 million.
Suga has proven his talent as a producer while collaborating with other musicians. He has worked with many top singers of Korea, including IU, Lee Sora, Epik High, Heize, and SURAN. IU’s eight in particular went viral, promoting that it was produced by Suga who also featured on the track.
He started working with other musicians beginning with SURAN’s Wine released in 2017 with rapper Changmo featuring and himself participating as a producer. Thanks to its solid musicality and Suga’s fame, the song swept various music charts in Korea though she was a rookie back then. Suga also worked with Epik High for the song Eternal Sunshine for composition and arrangement. Song Request that he collaborated with Lee Sora was successful, drawing even listeners of over 40s as well.
Suga as a producer has been also wanted from overseas. He has been active in promoting himself as a producer, as seen in American pop star Halsey’s song SUGA’s Interlude. He also participated in producing another American pop star Max’s new song Blueberry Eyes for the Korean part. Suga added Korean lyrics to the song that Max wrote for his pregnant wife. The Korean part Suga wrote goes ‘A line of light that shone on my shadow/ You changed my life of darkness/ I may be no one/ before meeting you, just an insignificant man,’ and it comes with Korean subtitles in the music video.
There is a misunderstanding that Suga is expanding his standing as a producer relying on BTS’s popularity. It was around 2017 that BTS came into the global spotlight charting on the US Billboard. Suga, however, released his debut mixtape 《Agust D》 comprising 10 tracks on SoundCloud in 2016. In this album, he expressed what he had felt before his debut as a member of BTS, the prejudices he had to endure as a boy band, and his efforts to build up his ego, not only satisfying the eyes and ears of his fans but touching their hearts. This album helped him stand out as a musician, not simply as a member of a boy band. His second mixtape 《D-2》 has already surpassed 300 million streams on Spotify in early September, expecting to reach 400 million soon.
Korea’s boy bands, often called ‘idol groups’ in the country, are unique and representative products of Korean music market. They are usually fostered under strictly planned training programs by music management agencies, thus often have to face the prejudice that boy bands can rarely be like underground rappers or producers which are considered more creative and independent than singers of boy bands.
Suga has been proving that those titles can go along together. It also explains the trend that boy bands who are also able to work as music producers are drawing more attention, creating the term ‘self-producing boy bands.’ Above all, Suga’s work is all the more meaningful in that he is contributing to open opportunities for all singers in boy bands to break the prejudice against them.
An Jin Yong
A reporter from Munhwa Ilbo. He wrote 〈The theory of Broadcast and Entertainment Industry〉.
Translated by Ok Eurom
* 《Cultura》 2021 November (Vol. 89) *