The cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone features RM and Pharrell as part of their Musicians on Musicians issue. This is a meeting between two prolific and highly successful producer-performers, one who has already been through multiple stages in his career and another who’s in the process of transitioning between his first chapter and his second. 


As we all know by now, RM and the other members of BTS are all currently focusing on solo work ahead of their mandatory military enlistment. It was just confirmed today that RM’s debut album will be released later this month. During this interview with Rolling Stone, both RM and Pharrell also confirm that BTS will be featured on Pharrell’s upcoming album, Phriends. 


But this joint interview is so much more than just two artists hyping up what’s coming next. In fact, those revelations are probably the smallest part of their conversation. This is a discussion between equals – creative talents who’ve been wildly successful at what they do, sharing stories and experiences. Pharrell, for example, for all his achievements, hasn’t quite occupied the cultural space that RM has with BTS. Which is why RM tells Pharrell about the pleasure and the pain of holding that much responsibility, Pharrell responds with empathy and curiosity: 

“It’s too heavy, man. It’s too much of a responsibility. That’s why I really revere people like yourself and your band members and other artists like Bey and Jay and even Kanye — like, man, what y’all go out there and go face every night on that stage? It is humbling and it’s overwhelming. And sometimes your nervous system has got to be built for that. Let me ask you this, how do you deal after you come off the stage, feeling electrified and shocked every night, how do you decompress?”

Interesting here that he cites Kanye, because there’s an example of someone who holds some f-cked up views and who has been doing and saying some f-cked up sh-t, which means he hasn’t been responsible with his power. You can’t be responsible with power if you don’t respect the power – as in understand the nature of power; being respectful of power is incumbent on people who hold it. This is basically the thesis, the preoccupation, of every superhero story. 


It's what RM is wrestling with now, openly. He’s sharing these thoughts in progress with Pharrell, who he sees as a mentor. He’s asking questions of those who’ve been around longer than he has, he’s asking questions of himself. And he’s trying to figure out where music fits into all of this. In real time. 

“Sometimes as I grow up — and I’m between my chapter one and two, like I said, the group and solo; maybe I’m between music and maybe [visual] art, between that. So sometimes I really feel afraid, like, “What if I don’t like music anymore?” I love art. But it’s somewhat different.

And for RM, his artistic pursuits have become more than just the music. What’s complicated is that, well, his music did what it’s supposed to do. They always say “music brings people together”, and that’s exactly what BTS’s music has done. But when that happens, the people who make the music end up taking on more than they ever expected. 

“After 10 years, I think it was not our intention, but we actually became a sort of a social figure, and we took it. So a K-pop band going to have a speech at the U.N. or meeting the president, I think I was really confused and I’m like, “What am I, a diplomat or what?”

It all comes back to identity. Every person, no matter what they do, struggles with identity. For RM right now, he’s working through his personal identity and his artistic identity. And he’ll likely be putting that into his art – on this album that’s coming soon – but he’s also expressing it with his fans; he’d previously touched on this during BTS’s FESTA gathering in June that was posted on YouTube. That video ended up making more headlines for the “hiatus” comments that become widely misinterpreted and in all of that noise, what was lost was a vulnerable conversation between seven band members speaking honestly about their insecurities and their doubts and their confusion and their hopes. 


RM comes to Pharrell with the same energy – and I got the sense that it disarmed him. Especially because this was on camera, and I’m not sure that Pharrell is accustomed to talking to a peer so candidly in the media, or that RM was comfortable presenting such a raw version of himself in public. But that only made for a better discussion between artists which is not typically the case when one celebrity interviews another.