Song Review: BTS RM’s “Wild Flower” (w/ Youjeen)

Admittedly, I was not a fan of any of the other songs on the album…until I stumbled on this one. As far as I’m concerned, “Wild Flower” stands head and shoulders above its brethren.

Let’s talk about the production and why this works. RM’s voice is best described as authoritative, rigid, and forward to the point of coming across irate and aggressive. To my ears at least, this does no favors with many other tracks on the album which seem more laidback (e.g.”Yun”) and have more conventional, hip-hop and rap inspired sound design. “Wild Flower” and its opening switches things up for something more mellow: RM enters from the side channels, at a distance, with faint humming in the backdrop. The sense of ambiance to the opening is a balancing act that gives listeners more time to ease into the track. By the time the drum machines enter and RM moves to center stage with his usual aggressive cadence, listeners are primed and not caught off guard.

Of course, we’ve just touched the surface of why this all works together; we need to talk about the featured singer, Youjeen. Youjeen is not your conventional female K-Pop artist (for which we generally observe an emphasis on brighter, smoother vocal timbre). No, she’s more of the rock persuasion, and there’s a breathy, strained quality to her voice that accentuates the more spacious nature of the track. Is this the best pairing with RM’s voice? That’s more debatable, but there is definitely some desirable juxtaposition between the two singers as they alternate between chorus and verse. I should note that “Wild Flower” is also pretty remarkable in terms of its pacing: at a total play time of just over four and a half minutes, the track sets itself up as being more than fleeting ear candy.

This partly lies in the complexity of the arrangement. I noted the track’s surprisingly strong ambiance earlier. A lot of this stems from the liberal use of vocals coming directly from the side channels, and the bridge to the final chorus is one of the best examples. Not only do we finally get both RM and Youjeen singing at the same time, but we hear RM’s voice coming from all three sides with a faint echo on the left and right channels. Listen even closer, and a general theme you’ll observe is that there’s some piano, violin, and synth sprinkled in that are used to offset the claustrophobia that the drum machines can create. Perhaps the most powerful effect of this whole arrangement is a sense of tension, that something monumental is happening. Admittedly, I do wish that there was more of a “payoff” to the outro – I honestly would not mind if this track was longer – but perhaps this is part of the track’s charm in that I can’t help but play it again, and again, in the hopes of hearing something more.

I generally don’t talk about lyrics, especially with K-Pop tracks, but they deserve some merit in “Wild Flower”. I think what I appreciate most on initial listen is that “Wild Flower” clearly isn’t just another track using the topic of love as a crutch. Granted, as with most things rap, there’s a lot of fluff and wasted verses. Still, I think RM does a good job of conveying the idea of someone who’s achieved success and fame, but still feels empty and like they’ve become someone they’re not. In one sense, the lyrics are powerful because he’s describing himself: RM is one of the leading figures on the K-Pop scene and that comes with enormous pressure to be perfect attached. Fame has become his shackles. Fame has taken the place of his dreams; it’s his identity, but it’s stolen his originality too. In another sense, to circle back on my comments on how I wish there was more “payoff” to the outro, but how that’s also the track’s charm, I like to juxtapose the track’s final chorus to the idea of fame that RM is trying to illustrate.

Open land, that’s where I’m at

No name, that’s what I have

No shame, I’m on my grave

The “no shame, I’m on my grave” lyrics is one of the best in my opinion. The scary thing about fame is that once it comes, it’s hard to let go of it. But when do you reach the point of “an end where I could applaud and smile” when fame is fleeting, it can all come tumbling down in an instant, and you’ll always want more? I think that’s the reason why the final chorus feels fleeting and cuts out abruptly. It keeps you wanting more from the track, but it also has to come to an end. This lyric is illustrating being able to let go; it’s a bit rough, but it comes across authentic as does most of RM’s rapping. Honestly, there’s something about RM’s performance that really hits home with this track. Maybe it’s the difference in mastering, but I enjoy the more breathy and slightly reserved characteristic to his voice on this track compared to the other ones on the album.

And sure, maybe that’s me reaching and giving more credit than is due to this track. But even if you’re not a fan of rap or K-Pop, I think there’s a little bit of something for everyone in “Wild Flower”. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks this year, and I can’t think of the last time I’ve had a track on repeat this many times.

Score: 8/10

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