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Celebrating Kim Seokjin: Awake and Epiphany

Happy Birthday to BTS' Eldest Member

An amazing thing about BTS is that they have one of the most talented vocalists in the business who seems to get the least amount of lines. Kim Seokjin, the oldest member of the Korean boy band, is everything you could want in a person. He’s funny, thoughtful, a great cook, a talented singer, and of course, there’s his nickname Worldwide Handsome.

With his 26th birthday on December 4h, it’s only fitting to take a look at Jin’s two solo songs he’s released on BTS albums. Both songs, Awake and then Epiphany two years later, serve to show the incredible growth in Jin as a singer, writer, and performer.

2016’s Wings was a special BTS album for a lot of reasons. One of them is that each member got a solo song to shine. Jin’s may be the most remarkable because of his role in the BTS storyline. Since BTS’ Most Beautiful Moment in Life albums, released the year before Wings, the seven boys have been running with a storyline about youth and discovering oneself. One of the more puzzling aspects seems to be Jin’s separation from the rest of the group. His role seems to be the most introspective, leading to more theories from ARMY than you can imagine. A few different theories include the popular opinion that maybe Jin’s “character” is dead. Another involves time travel where he has to save his brothers from destroying themselves. With each new album, the theories shift around. However, Jin continues to be a centerpiece.

Wings was released with four different versions: W, I, N, and G. Each letter saw a member paired with another for a photoshoot. With there being seven members, one had to be solo. That member was Jin. In the W version, Jin gets his own set of photos. Along with this, BTS promoted the album with little shorts of each members' solo songs every week. Jin’s was the last to be released.

It’s fitting to put him in this spot. Though he doesn’t have the high notes of Jimin, the lead voice of Jungkook, or the smooth jazz tone of V, Jin has an incredible ability to hold notes and keep his voice stable. He can keep up with the pop and hip-hop that categorizes BTS’ music, but he also seems best made for slower songs. He’s an excellent balance in BTS’ already immensely talented vocal line-up. They’re all very strong in their own ways, and Jin is the perfect anchor to balance them out and end the solos on a slower, emotional note.

Awake is a ballad and a beautiful one at that. Jin has the kind of voice that would be perfect for any K-drama soundtrack. He gets to sing softly and then belt out some power notes toward the end. Matched with the violins and piano, Jin’s voice carries even more emotional weight. It isn’t too depressing, but instead more emotional. The violins are vibrant, and the music builds for a climactic ending. The abrupt ending shows the sadness and despair in the lyrics, like Jin put everything he had into it and just couldn’t continue, forcing the song to stop.

The lyrics for Awake are what really shine, and Jin had a hand in these as well. He helped to write and produce the song, no doubt helping it to play to his strengths. Because Wings is the darkest of BTS’ work so far, Awake fits perfectly into this mood and the theories of the sad fate of his character. In this song, Jin talks about how he knows he’s on a hopeless path but there’s still a piece of him that wants to keep fighting and hoping for something more. Awake is great for its simplicity. You already have Jin’s beautiful voice to carry the artistic and poetic dimensions of the song, so there’s no need for flowery language to complicate things. Immediately the first lyrics hit home, with Jin quietly singing:

“It’s not that I believe it, 
But that I want to try holding out, 
Because this is all that I can do.” 

It’s one of those songs that sounds gorgeous despite how upsetting it is.

In typical BTS fashion though, there is always hope and the possibility for something more. For every time Jin says something like “Maybe I, I can’t touch the sky,” there’s a moment of “Still, I hold the six flowers tightly in my hands.” He’ll never give up on his brothers, and as an extension, himself.

After the sadder tone of Awake, two years later, the solo songs for the newest Love Yourself series showed immense growth in all of the boys. Jin’s transition was a personal favorite. Again, the piano and strings accompanied his voice. This time, everything seemed to be in a higher key. Epiphany is a much more optimistic ballad. The short trailer for this song was also the last of the individual member’s teasers to come out. It was a gorgeous black and white teaser. Jin would do mundane things, like get up, look out the window, go in the closet, leave his room, and other activities. However, there were other versions of him repeating the same tasks with a blank expression on his face. The one moment of clarity for him comes when he steps out into the rain. This is the moment when everything turns to color, his epiphany.

Like the simplicity of Awake, and of the teaser, Epiphany's easy to understand lyrics are perfect for the emotion Jin wants to convey. The first lyrics signal just how different Jin’s mindset is. Instead of pushing himself for others, he gets “to fully reveal my true self under the smiling mask.” Instead of spending all his time and energy on others and trying to make them happy, Jin realizes it’s time for him to realize just how special he is. The chorus is so pretty and upbeat. Jin sings with perfect clarity, “I’m the one I should love in this world” and “Though I’m not perfect, I’m so beautiful, I’m the one I should love.” Jin gets to put one hundred percent into the slow lyrics and take his time singing them. He really feels them, and you can hear it in his voice. The long high note at the end is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.

Epiphany might be one of the most important songs for a lot of reasons. He sings the chorus in both English and Korean, so an even wider audience can listen and sing along. I was blessed enough to see BTS’ most recent Love Yourself World Tour in Newark, and it’s really something else to stand in a stadium of 20,000 people singing “I’m the one I should love in this world.” The lyrics are very aware and teach an important lesson. No matter how much you might love someone else, or how much you give to others, there’s nothing more important than giving yourself even more care. Self-care and self-esteem are vital to living a happy and fulfilling life, and clearly, Jin helps exemplify that. That’s why ARMY loves when he calls himself Worldwide Handsome and blows kisses at every camera he sees.

To talk about Epiphany live, I can honestly say it was my favorite of the solo performances. Yes, I may be a J-Hope bias, and V’s Singularity is a visual masterpiece, but at the end of the day, it was Jin’s final notes I was replaying on my iPhone when I got home that night. He even played the piano at the beginning while singing.

The growth from Awake to Epiphany is incredibly special, for both the BTS storyline and for fans to look at and learn from. Only Jin’s vocals could bring the lyrics to life and give them meaning. At only 26 years old, Jin has achieved international recognition for his talent. For someone like Kim Seokjin, it seems that the only direction he can go is up.

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