From humble beginnings to worldwide dominance, the seven-piece supergroup BTS has gone through an incredible ride as they celebrate their ten-year anniversary. It was just last year that they announced a hiatus to allow for members to both serve their compulsory military enlistment — required of all Korean men — as well as work on their own solo releases. It’s been an interesting ride for fans and the members themselves, as we watch them play within the confines their notoriety builds while they actively push against the boxes people have placed them in.
Since their hiatus announcement, J-Hope, RM, Suga, and Jimin have all released full albums or EPs, with Jin releasing a single, “The Astronaut” with Coldplay, all to varying degrees of (still immense) success. Jin and J-Hope both started their enlistment, while Jungkook and V gear up for their own solo releases later this year — with some reports stating Jungkook’s could come as early as next month.
With the band not scheduled to reunite as the full seven until 2025, their solo releases are going to be the main points of celebration for fans and the artists themselves. From this past year and before, here are the ten best solo releases of the band thus far, all of which indicate greater things in their future as they continue to develop their own, individualistic sounds.
Sometimes you need to fully embrace a different era of songwriting and “Wildflower” achieves just that by dipping heavily into early to mid-2000s emo and alternative rock (a bizarre bridge between Evanescence and Flyleaf.) RM’s first official release Indigo plays better as an experiment, hosting a number of high-profile collaborations with artists such as Anderson. Paak and Erykah Badu. It’s less a cohesive project as it is a jam session caught on tape. It’s why “Wildflower,” featuring singer Youjeen’s piercing and emotive vocals, works so disconcertingly well because it still is a mismatch of tone and genres, RM’s melodic rap in complete dissonance with Yougeen’s wails. It’s an odd single on an odd album, but one that serves as a reminder that RM is in constant flux as an artist, with this song, in particular, striking a chord through its abrasive, throw-it-all-at-the-wall execution.
“Like Crazy,” Jimin
Jimin’s first EP’s shining spot was his second single, the club synth-heavy “Like Crazy.” The dance-pop number leans into The Weekend style production, with catchy refrains and smooth, layered, vocals. His distinct vocals are perfectly suited for this style of song, with flourishes and elements which allow him to dip into his lower register. Inspired by the 2011 film of the same name, the synth-pop track deals with themes such as loss of self and first loves while maintaining a level of lyrical escapism.
“Blue Side,” J-Hope
Originally the outro for his first album Hope World, the fan-favorite song was developed as a full-length release. This beat-heavy and rhythmic number allows the rapper to grow subdued in his delivery, his elasticity as a dancer bleeding into his vocals, evident even in his slower tracks. The song shines brightest though in the rich production that ebbs and flows in tandem with the lyrical delivery.
“Sweet Night,” V
BTS vocalist V delivers a sweet and soulful ballad in “Sweet Night,” released as an OST for the immensely popular K-Drama Itaewon Class. The song is a triumph due to its understanding of the singer’s strengths, allowing the vocalist to utilize his husky, deep tone and emotive delivery. The haunting vocals serve as a reminder of the singer’s range while remaining a strong accompaniment to the Netflix series, matching up with the tone and experiences the characters are going through. He may have risen to popularity in a group where upbeat pop songs were the priority, but V’s voice is tailor-made for ballads.
“Still With You,” Jungkook
As we eagerly anticipate the singer’s first solo album, it’s would be easy to to pick some of his bigger collaboration releases. From “Dreamers” which played at 2022’s World Cup opening ceremony, to the summer hit “Left and Right” with Charlie Puth, he’s participated in definite hits. That said, “Still With You,” released as a gift for fans a few years ago, remains a highlight of his solo, non-BTS release-related discography. His sweet vocals stretch across an eclectic number, which bounces between R&B and jazz motifs, delicate and soulful.
“Forever Rain,” RM
Melodic and melancholy, “Forever Rain” remains RM’s strongest solo number because it weaponizes the BTS leader’s greatest strength – his writing abilities. The song is then heightened by introducing elements outside of his standard comfort zone. The thoughtful musings over a soft beat in the first half work so well because they crescendo into a back half that’s more reminiscent of emo-rap than what’s in the usual K-Pop rotation. The synths in particular which become more prominent throughout add to what already was a cinematic sound.
At just under twenty minutes, J-Hope’s debut album Jack in the Box might be brief, but the impact is considerable. It’s a clear announcement to showcase his versatility and deluge of talents. “Future” is one of the major highlights as it plays with his smooth vocals and loose rapping style, the words all but tripping out of his mouth. The playful stylings mirror the performer behind it, electric and in constant motion, the fluid delivery both in pronunciation, style, and tone, distinctly his own.
Jin’s voice was made for rock power ballads, evident in his last year’s collaboration with Coldplay for “The Astronaut.” While he’s showcased this strength often over the years with many of his solo numbers under the BTS banner, “Abyss,” a surprise release, was one of the first that was demonstrative of his considerable depth, singing of a yearning for wholeness as his insecurities over music and burnout fatigue him. Layered over a piano and acoustic guitar, it’s as emotive as his voice has ever been and a testament to his evolving artistry.
“What do you think?” Agust D
Suga’s sophomore album under the Agust D moniker, D-2, was a declaration of artistic intent as he wove through multiple genres, sometimes in the same song, and announced himself as a solo force to be reckoned with in the industry. Much of his strength this time around was found in biting, blistering lyrics that zeroed in on BTS’s naysayers. In “What do you think?”, his most damning number on the album, he sings “Crazy that you’d think that my success has a connection to your failure/Your delusions are first-rate, fuck you.”
“Amygdala,” Agust D
In all honesty, it’s difficult picking just one song from Suga’s latest album as Agust D, D-Day. The strongest solo release of the band thus far, displaying the rapper and songwriter’s innate understanding of how to weave music as a means to track his own growth, it’s a confident release, self-assured in an appealing manner that suggests an artist who fully knows himself and his strengths.
“Polar Night,” and “Life Goes On” are other contenders, but “Amygdala” is his calling card, a song that announces both a separation of eras while bridging pieces of elements of his previous releases. Brutal honesty and self-reflection permeate throughout the song as he details hardships in his life that have paved the way to where he is, a reminder that success can’t do away with painful memories and the potential for personal loss. The guitar-heavy number with layered vocal harmonies and distortions pack a wallop, the buzzy inflections creating sonic disturbances that play right into the lyrics.
Featured Image Courtesy of BigHit Music