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Finding the Rhythm in Haegeum: SUGA’s Haegeum Review

With April showers come SUGA flowers, or is that how the saying goes? SUGA recently dropped his latest comeback through the guise of Agust D, his alter ego. The album, D-Day, has made Hanteo history as the highest-selling album on its first day, a record recently held by Jimin with his solo album debut, FACE.

The title track Haegeum is a hip hop song heavily laced with a message that fans have come to expect from Agust D. The name Haegeum comes from a Korean instrument of the same name. A haegeum is a two-stringed vertical fiddle used in traditional Korean music as well as in modern Korean pop songs. Haegeum in particular opens up using a haegeum stringing out the start before melting into the background of the rap-heavy track. The hip hop beat used throughout the song, along with the bass, is simple but still induces a head-banging rhythm, similar to that of a haegeum.

SUGA originally formed Agust D to differentiate the self that was separate from the collective image he and his band members had created as BTS. Using the pseudonym, he was able to express the individual thoughts and emotions he had experienced as a member of BTS and as a music producer searching for his claim to fame. For example, in Haegeum, he starts verse one with, “Interpretation is free for all,” and continues in verse two with, “Endless influx of information prohibits freedom of imagination,” showing that he’s not afraid to speak his mind about topics that weren’t often spoken about in Korean culture, especially his depression.On the other hand, the message in this song is also contradictory, as SUGA criticizes (and is criticized) for now being part of the system he once expressed opposition to.

Haegeum is also a Korean saying that means to “lift a ban and allow something that was once forbidden.” He raps, “This song’s simply about freeing what’s forbidden / But you must remember to differentiate freedom from self-indulgence.” He reiterates this message later in the song, “‘Cause we all differentiate freedom from self-indulgence.” But what are freedom and self-indulgence but two sides of the same coin?

SUGA understood the restrictions that he himself helped create by setting new standards through his own expression of freedom. Though his artistry was often criticized, it eventually became a norm that others had to reach. Thus he sees himself becoming self-indulgent, as if a “slave to capitalism, slave to money,” while contributing to the endless cycle of artists and creators searching for their artistic freedom. Though art can’t help but be influenced by one another, the drive to be different while wishing for the success others have already achieved overwhelms everyone with “envy and jealousy / without realizing that they’re putting shackles on each other,” as he declares.

The double-edged sword of freedom and self-indulgence can be seen in the music video in which the two Agust Ds battle one another to survive and come out on top. One Agust D is dressed in a black suit and can be seen around the police station, signifying his place of power. On the other hand, the other Agust D is in casual clothes and about to rob a hideout. The significance is that both represent Agust D’s fight for control, one through order and the other through chaos. Because both are Agust D, it’s up to the consumer to decide who they believe is fighting for order, and who for chaos – the conflict of freedom vs. self-indulgence in the lyrics – and what it really means when one overpowers the other.

This song packs a punch when it comes to SUGA’s usual dose of heavy hip hop composition along with his message to the world. No doubt, it is a great title track to round out the trilogy that makes up the persona of Agust D. SUGA once said that Agust D was created out of a place of anger, a place that SUGA is slowly transitioning from as he grows older, but who knows? Like a certain famous bat-shaped crusader, perhaps the persona will come back again when he’s called upon.

Written by: Rei

Edited by: Ren

Designed by: Achan

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