‘D-Day’ Is Suga’s Declaration Of Freedom
Stop trying to contain him.
In 2020, Suga sang a plea of ‘Set Me Free’ — and with his first official album D-Day, he got his wish.
D-Day is here — the first official release from Agust D, a.k.a. Suga of BTS a.k.a Min Yoon-gi, who has been releasing music under the alternate stage name since 2016. Although D-Day is his official solo debut (as part of BTS’s “Chapter Two”, in which the band focuses primarily on individual rather than group activities), it’s actually the final album in a trilogy that began with 2016’s mixtape Agust D and continued with another mixtape, D-2, in 2020.
D-Day opens with a trio of explosive bangers — the titular ‘D-Day’, main track ‘Haegeum’, and ‘HUH?!’, a collaboration with fellow BTS member j-hope, which together introduce the overall theme of the album: freedom. The choice to make ‘Haegeum’ the lead single is a powerful statement, thanks especially to the title’s double meaning. It’s both a Korean string instrument — building on the traditional Korean sounds used in D-2 title track ‘Daechwita’ — and an act of liberation. ‘This song is a haegeum’, Yoon-gi repeats in the chorus, making the song itself — along with the rest of the album — a declaration of freedom.
The fourth track on the album, ‘AMYGDALA’, offers a mild reset. A softer sound provides the backdrop for some deeply introspective and personal lyrics which reveal hardships Yoon-gi has never mentioned publicly before, such as his dad’s liver cancer diagnosis. The song acts as a turning point, sending the album into broader ruminations on love, the human condition, and modern life in tracks ‘SDL’, ‘People Pt. 2 (featuring IU)’, and ‘Polar Night’.
The instrumental ‘Interlude : Dawn’ provides another transition, bringing the vibe to an even calmer place before the album heads into a big finish.
The compassionate ‘Snooze’ (featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto and Woosung of The Rose) is a pledge of understanding, comfort and support to struggling younger artists (and, perhaps, Yoon-gi’s own former self). ‘Life Goes On’ is Yoon-gi’s own version of BTS’s 2020 hit that was intended as a salve for the pandemic. Here, the new take on the track sums up the ultimate message of the album on both a narrative and meta level: that freedom can be found in experiencing the flow of life as it comes. It also expresses the way Yoon-gi is both a unique artist in his own right while honouring and consistently calling back to his place within BTS.
The sonic trajectory of D-Day, from explosive to introspective, mirrors the overall arc of Agust D’s album trilogy. D-Day can definitely be enjoyed on its own. After all, on top of being an incredible rapper and lyricist, Yoon-gi is a talented composer and producer with an impressive list of credits both within and outside of BTS to back it up. But it’s a much richer experience understood as the culmination of a journey.
Listening to Agust D, D-2 and D-Day in succession highlights Yoon-gi’s growth both as an artist and as a person. With each release, Yoon-gi has matured and so has his sound, becoming calmer but no less powerful — simply more self-assured. And while the trilogy explores one man’s very specific coming-of-age story, its message is relatable and comforting even if you didn’t happen to amass a fortune of millions or worldwide fame in your 20s (if you did… hey). That’s because what Yoon-gi perhaps does best is cut to the core of emotional truths with the clarity and insight of someone who has Done The Work.
Indeed, Agust D as a persona was created to be Yoon-gi’s vehicle for truth telling on his quest for freedom. While he is adamant about his commitment to BTS, there’s no doubt the nature of group work on top of being a K-pop idol has placed pressure and constraints on him both personally and professionally.
Agust D was born out of Yoon-gi’s desire to express what he felt he couldn’t as Suga of BTS. The mixtape burns with anger and ambition. The rap is rapid-fire and intense and the lyrics explore deep emotional pain. 2016 Yoon-gi was frustrated at the judgment and rejection of others — too much of an idol to create ‘legit’ hip-hop, but too hip-hop to be a perfect idol. More than anything, the album is big ‘fuck you’ to anyone who ever doubted him. But flowing through the bravado is an undercurrent of fear and vulnerability, as Yoon-gi explores his depression and anxiety as well as his ravenous hunger for wealth and success — and the fear that it will make him a monster.
Four years later, with D-2, Yoon-gi reckoned with that monster. By 2020, he — along with the rest of BTS — had achieved success and fame beyond their wildest dreams (and they hadn’t even released their first English single, ‘Dynamite’). On D-2, Yoon-gi dismisses the haters he was so angry at in Agust D — they literally don’t matter to him anymore. Instead, he must grapple with himself – who he is, how he’s changed, and what it is he really wants.
If Agust D captured a very early 20s me-against-the-world feeling, D-2 is about what it means to be of the world. It records that transitional period of your mid-20s when you’re growing up and figuring out how to be an actual person, desperately trying to find a way to reconcile the dreams and ideals of your childhood with the reality of your life and the things you can’t control. D-Day, then, is the end point of this journey – moving into your 30s and becoming a fully-fledged adult, with more understanding of yourself and the world. There’s more pain, perhaps, but also more healing.
Ultimately, if Agust D sought freedom from the world and from other people’s expectations and D-2 saw Yoon-gi searching for freedom from himself, D-Day IS that freedom. It’s the kind you can only gain from getting older, from giving less fucks, and from learning what really matters. It feels significant that Yoon-gi has suggested this will be the last time he releases work under the Agust D moniker, at least for the foreseeable future. With D-Day, his quest for freedom that began in 2016 has been fulfilled. He’s outgrown the need for the alternate persona (he seems to quite literally kill him in the ‘Haegeum’ music video).
D-Day presents Yoon-gi/Suga/Agust D as a whole person, providing a cathartic conclusion to an emotional journey. Bookended by the messages ‘Future’s gonna be okay’ (on ‘D-Day’) and ‘Life goes on’, it conveys security and strength, plus comfort within the idea that we don’t know what comes next. The world remains hard, pain and problems persist — and yet within that, you can find yourself. You can find freedom. And, of course, you can find killer music — which D-Day is, above all else.
This review is written by Jenna Guillaume, a Sydney-based writer who loves all things TV and pop culture. She tweets @JennaGuillaume.
Main image: Suga. Credit: HYBE