The pandemic did a number on us all, and most of us are still processing it in one way or another. If you’re a world-famous member of superstar group BTS embarking on a solo chapter of your career for the first time, chances are, you’re going to process it through music. Jimin (full name Park Jimin) did just that through the creation of his first solo album, FACE — and now, thankfully, fans get to immerse themselves in his process.
Though the tracklist is short — six tracks in total, including one musical interlude and an English version of the title track, “Like Crazy” — FACE offers a cohesive narrative that takes the listener on an emotional journey with Jimin. As though moving through the stages of grief, we explore his anger, denial, and depression, before finally moving to acceptance and a determination to overcome.
“In order to stand at this new starting point and begin a new journey, I thought it would be necessary to look back at myself and face myself entirely,” Jimin told Rolling Stone. According to Jimin, the spark of the album ignited after BTS performed their Permission to Dance concerts in Las Vegas in 2022 where the group enjoyed some of the first crowd cheers they’d heard since the start of the pandemic. The members’ emotions tumbled out together as they wound down after the shows.
FACE offers a cohesive narrative that takes the listener on an emotional journey with Jimin
“While we were talking over drinks, I told them, ‘I don’t know if I’m doing well. I don’t even know what I’m doing.’ But the members said that it’s perfectly fine to feel that way, that it’s okay to feel lost sometimes. They suggested, ‘Why don’t you express these emotions through music?’” Jimin adds that this conversation made him feel less alone, saying “I thought I was the odd one out, so talking to them really helped me get back on my feet.”
It was this energy that Jimin channeled into FACE. The album opens with “Face-off”, which begins with carnival-like sounds that conjure visions of clowns, setting up the song’s theme of feeling like a fool in the face of heartbreak — whether that be at the hands of another person or, you know, a global catastrophe. Over a trap soul beat, Jimin’s often sultry voice takes on an angry and hardened edge, while the lyrics bubble with shock, outrage and despair (“Tonight I don’t wanna be sober/Pour it up, it’s all fucking over”).
The anger of “Face-Off” slides into the dreamy denial of title track “Like Crazy” by way of “Interlude: Dive”. The second track on the album acts as an instrumental bridge, featuring an array of everyday sounds — doors opening and closing, footsteps, the heavy breathing of someone running — juxtaposed with the almost haunting overlay of a crowd of tens of thousands cheering for Jimin at a concert as he introduces himself on stage. “Interlude: Dive” conveys an isolated, wistful, and anxious feeling that perfectly sets up for the true highlight of the album: “Like Crazy”.
The title track takes inspiration partly from the 2011 movie of the same name, in which a British woman (played by Felicity Jones) and an American man (the late, lovely Anton Yelchin) fall madly in love and go into denial about the difficult realities of their lives, only to have it all blow up in their faces.
It’s easy to see why Jimin wanted to use such a story to convey his own pandemic struggles and the very relatable urge to completely shut down and hide away from your feelings and the world. In dreamlike tones that meld beautifully into the synthy, upbeat track, Jimin sings of desperation: “Baby don’t think about it/there’s not a bad thing here tonight…I’d rather be lost in the lights/I’m outta my mind”.
These themes are really brought to life in the accompanying music video for “Like Crazy”, which Jimin had a hand in creatively. It opens with Jimin alone in a room at home, sitting completely still as suddenly he’s surrounded by sludge — like the aftermath of a flood, evocative, perhaps, of the murky undercurrent of Jimin’s emotions, lurking just below the surface he so desperately clings to.
Jimin is then pulled into a club setting by the muddy hand of a woman (who he later tries to meet up with, but who remains elusive), and amid a crowd of partiers, he lets loose. He drinks, dances, and smiles, but there’s still hints of his sadness, with shots of Jimin being jostled by the crowd, languishing alone, and finally standing in a corridor as sludge seeps in once again.
There’s a hazy, surreal quality to the whole thing. When it ends with Jimin back in the original room, this time with mud on his own hand, it seems to suggest that no matter how much Jimin wants to stay in that dream — to reach the joy that the woman he seeks represents — he’s can’t escape the darkness he’s become mired in.
FACE proves to the world — and hopefully, and perhaps most importantly, to himself — that Jimin truly is a solo artist worthy of the global stage he’s standing on.
“Like Crazy” is followed on FACE by “Alone”; the emotional low point of the album. The mood drops sonically into a breathy ballad while Jimin sings of his loneliness and frustration. It’s on this track that Jimin finally completes the mission of facing himself — and it’s a desolate vision he’s confronted with.
Of course, that’s not where the journey ends. “Set Me Free Pt 2”, which was pre-released as a single a week before the album dropped, acts as the grand finale. In the context of the album, the explosive track makes even more sense, speaking, as it does, of Jimin’s determination to overcome his demons and set himself free. “I won’t hide anymore/even if it hurts” Jimin cries, in what feels like a direct reference to the wilful numbness of “Like Crazy”.
It makes for a satisfying conclusion to the emotional and all-too-relatable arc of FACE. (The final track, an English version of “Like Crazy”, feels like a bonus, although there’s also a literal bonus track hidden on the physical edition called “Letter” — a love note just for fans). If the other BTS members made Jimin feel less alone in his emotions on that fateful night over drinks in Las Vegas, Jimin’s now passed that gift on to the many listeners of his album who will see themselves in his art.
In June 2022, when BTS announced they were taking a break from group activities in an emotional video released on their 9th anniversary, Jimin spoke with trepidation about embarking on this next chapter. “I’m not a solo artist, I’m a member of a group,” he insisted. And while he may be dedicated to BTS forever, FACE proves to the world — and hopefully, and perhaps most importantly, to himself — that he truly is a solo artist worthy of the global stage he’s standing on. Solo — but certainly not alone.
This review is written by Jenna Guillaume, a Sydney-based writer who loves all things TV and pop culture. She tweets @JennaGuillaume.
Hero image: Jimin. Credit: HYBE