BTS’ rapper Suga (real name Min Yoongi) wears many hats–performer, “Suchwita” program host, “SUGA | Agust D Radio” radio host, producer, ambassador for NBA and Valentino–but, as the new documentary SUGA: Road to D-Day proves, he is first and foremost a musician. The 30-year-old international star is currently on the road (no pun intended) for his first international solo tour, just days after the release of his latest album, D-Day, and the aforementioned companion documentary. The 80-minute film, now available on Disney+, consists of interviews, vlog-esque footage, guest appearances, and exclusive live performances, and it provides a personal, unfiltered perspective into the rapper-producer’s innermost thoughts during the album preparation process. In the film, as in his lyrics, he’s not afraid to delve into heavier topics about society, mental health, and musings on life, and this depth gives viewers a glimpse of the emotional and psychological context behind the songs in his latest album.
Suga is candid about his struggles on topics typically considered taboo in the K-pop industry, openly talking about burnout and loss of self-identity in the documentary. It’s another way for him to push back against the expectations and strive towards “liberation from all that’s forbidden” (lyrics from “Haegeum”), a theme that runs through this latest album and the film. It’s refreshing for the viewers too, to be able to hear such unfiltered thoughts, and we realize that, despite all the fame and success Suga has achieved, he still wrestles with the same questions around purpose, self-identity, and work as the rest of us. It’s a bit sad, especially for ARMYs, to hear Suga admit that he’s lost parts of his self-identity along the way, but viewers also get to see him rediscovering himself and finding genuine connections with friends and colleagues.
The documentary shows Suga not only growing in his craft but also re-evaluating his relationship to music making as work and as his passion. On the one hand, the film shows how making music is often a draining, tiresome process, especially when inspiration is hard to come by–it also doesn’t help that Suga is quite the workaholic–but at the same time, it shows that the toiling musician finds deep satisfaction and, at times, solace through creating meaningful songs. Suga’s hip-hop roots continue to inform his astringent songwriting style even as he folds in sounds from traditional folk instruments, pop, and trap. Continuing the trend set from the earliest BTS albums, his lyrics offer a scathing commentary on the hypocrisies of modern society, particularly those around freedom and self-expression. Whether or not you enjoy his musical style, there is something to be said for songs with strong messages, and the live performances in the film allow viewers to fully appreciate the messages behind Suga’s lyrics.
The film is chock full of profound quotes from Suga (“Was it because so many of my dreams came to fruition that I couldn’t think of any more stories to tell, dreams to dream?”), but it doesn’t dwell on any one idea for long. The first two-thirds of the film spotlights Suga’s worries and uncertainties, especially around musical inspiration and career, and the last third teases out the fulfilling and healing aspects of music making. The ending scene mirrors the opening scene of Suga driving down a desert highway, evoking the sense that his road to D-Day is but one piece in the journey of life. The voiceover at the end gives a neat resolution, maybe too neat, especially in light of the deeper questions of meaning and self-identity that were explored earlier, and there was an opportunity for the film to more fully lean into uncertainty.
Overall, the film will give both long-time ARMYs and new fans a renewed (or newfound) appreciation for Suga’s artistry and his attitude toward his craft. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows, though, then again, nobody’s life is. It’s more interesting and relatable precisely because it’s not sugar coated (Suga-coated?). By the end of the film, if Suga’s captivating stage presence and clever songwriting aren’t enough to land him on your bias list, his quiet charisma and wry humor will.