Where Melancholia Meets Yearning

Kim Taehyung, more commonly known as V of BTS, has always been perceived as a romantic old soul with a strong affinity towards jazz, old school RnB, and the classics. Hence, it came as no surprise when the baritone singer chose to depict a melancholic story of love and heartbreak to depict the emotional journey of loss, of love, of yearning, of denial, and acceptance, for his debut solo album Layover

By Dr Tajkia Mostafa Khadem

The husky mature vocals of V in this album are goosebump-inducing, for his voice seems to have been made just for this, narrating a story that is bound to play with the heartstrings, while he uses his gorgeous lower register, hitting the emotions (and, the notes) just right. Lyrically speaking, the record displays a very simple tale of heartbreak, the narrator desperately trying to adjust to a new reality while still trying to grasp onto the last remaining shards of a broken relationship. 

And, inevitably, this is where Taehyung shines the most, his vocal color mixing with the wondrous palette that this record is, creating a masterful piece of art.

We start our journey with the piano melody of Rainy days, transporting us straight to decades earlier painting a picture of a classic jazz scene in the 20s, absolutely on brand for the jazz-lover Kim Taehyung, but that ping of a message brings us right back to the present. The singer then continues to sing about how he is still the same person as ever, and wishes to find his way back to the muse, urging them to remember just how good it used to be, an attempt to make things right once again, ordaining them as a “four leaf clover,” his very own lucky charm.

The next track “Blue is quite clearly inspired by old school RnB, yet the production and vocal effects proceed to make the record sonically fresh, once again portraying a perfect amalgamation of the old and the new, much like the performer of the song himself. Here, V goes on a rant almost, listing the things he could do to keep this love alive and burning, how he could make it all new, in whatever way the muse would like it, asking them to confide it all in him, but sooner than later he realizes that no matter what he does, his lover is all blue and sad, and perhaps this is the first step of acceptance for him, that this love that they had is lost.

Love me again, a standout in the album, is captivating in its scintillating RnB influence. The content of this hauntingly beautiful track is much more honest, the baritone pleads here, at his most earnest, and God, can you just feel all that yearning in his voice with every part of your being? Taehyung confronts his lover on how it all could be that simple, if this relationship really wasn’t worth it.

“You left me
Took those memories with you
But even now, I can’t let you go, let you go
Is that all you have to say?
One word, that’s it?”

He doesn’t shy away from clearly admitting that he lied when he said he would be okay after, that he is lost without his “baby,” and he simply doesn’t want anyone else, and all of it just makes you want to root for him and his love, and that is just how magical this experience is.

We are introduced to the title track Slow dancing, a song that has influences from the 70s soul music scene. In its essence, this is the most Kim Taehyung-like track in the EP, a track filled with romance, a hearty soul, which gives off this sense of freedom, understanding, and escape. The three-minute track features a minute-long flute solo that underscore the beauty Taehyung’s vocals, which ties into the story as the narrator finally accepts the divine experience that love is, whether it lasts forever or not. 

Most things do not – and it’s completely fine to accept it and wonder about all the pretty experiences, as simple as “slow dancing” and “romancing” with your lover “till the morning” and “the night away.”

The album closer For us is structurally the most interesting addition, and a personal favorite with its Pop RnB influences, gorgeous synths, and the piano notes. The high-pitched introduction certainly captures your attention the moment you press play, a delightful choice that creates intrigue within the listener. As the ongoing track shifts to V’s natural baritone, it displays a natural ebb and flow in the story; you experience the acceptance in Taehyung’s vocal tone, a relationship where he gave his best shot, that he would still wait for his love, give it all up in a beat, to stay with them. You can feel that defeat in his voice, that this love affair truly is over, but there is still something irresistible about hoping for a win when it comes to love, in all its melancholic glory, an emotion that is most evident midway through the song, when the tape rewinds, and we shift to the vocalist’s silky raw vocals (personally, I could see the gates of heaven during this shift!), a perfect end to this musical journey.

As a bonus track, we are given a piano rendition of the title track Slow dancing,which is a delicious experience on its own, even though the original rendition seems a tad bit better than its piano counterpart. However, as a fan of the piano, I was personally glad to have this specific version of the said track, it felt like a nicely wrapped Christmas/Eid gift.

Another sublime aspect of Layover is the intricacies with which the music videos of the tracks were made, making it not only a pleasing sonic experience but a visual delight. These MVs also narrate a cohesive story where Taehyung himself stars as the main character, going through a journey of heartbreak, acceptance, closure, and finds his own utopia (in my opinion), because as you can guess, a lot of the interpretation depends on how you perceive his journey, and that’s just a fascinating experience to go through as a fan, or even as a first-time listener. 

Layover, in its literal sense, is “a period of rest or waiting before a further stage in a journey,” and for Kim Taehyung’s beginning as a full-fledged solo artist, the album title couldn’t have been more perfect. A new journey that was much looked forward to, after experiencing his Sound Cloud releases, such as “Snow flower”, “Scenery”, and “Winter bear.” This album truly was worth the wait, an apt beginning to an artist’s new identity, an experience that was timeless, and will be remembered for the coming years. Kim Taehyung, as a person has always felt like the embodiment of warmth, grace, home, and it really is no wonder that his debut album feels like a warm hug that makes you feel safe, and at home, leaving you with a feeling of contentment, despite going through a journey of heartbreak. So, here’s to seeing more of the multi-faceted and talented artist that V is!

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