An impeccable command of stage presence is one of the many reasons BTS are considered among the top-tier live performers in the music industry today. Though the members may have very different personalities in real life, when they set foot on the stage, they all embody the songs’ concepts like it’s second nature. This contrast between on and off-stage personality reflects very intensely in RM, who is known to be a quieter person in general but sets the stage on fire every time.
the duality namjoon had between soundcheck and concert pic.twitter.com/POEshUVEAH
— ✖ (@galleryofRM) October 24, 2021
But in his recent conversation with Pharrell Williams for Rolling Stone, RM revealed that this switch doesn’t happen as easily as it might look. Pharrell and RM connected over their mutual experience of how overwhelming it can be to encounter so many fans at once that you can’t even see individual faces but a mass.
Williams: 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?
— Rolling Stone
According to RM, when he started as an underground rapper performing in front of small crowds in clubs, he felt that he was not the star material. “I’m not one of these frontmen who could enjoy all this shit like Kurt Cobain or Mick Jagger. I’m just a human who loves writing music,” he said. Even now, when BTS are selling out stadium shows, RM said he gets nervous up until they start performing on stage. Before that, be it during rehearsals or while on the plane, he feels the weight of the responsibility as a musician who people from different parts of the world are paying to see on stage.
For example, we had these stadium shows in Las Vegas last April. It was four nights. But every night is a challenge. After we finish the first three songs and then we take out the earphones and we’re like, “We’re fucking back” — from that moment, there’s a different persona, a different me for the next two hours and a half. But before that, from the rehearsal and even in the plane, I got really, really nervous and [feel] so responsible, because I really am aware that fans buy the tickets and they come from Brazil, from Japan, Korea, from everywhere. They come there for just that one night.
— RM, Rolling Stone
RM elaborated that despite the pressure, he is able to handle it all because he feels genuine love from the fans and wants to give it back as sincerely as possible.
I love their love. Because I think love is really happening when we give to somebody, not when we take. So I just want to give back to them.
— RM, Rolling Stone
Even before this interview, RM had talked about his struggles to find a settling place between his two identities, Kim Namjoon and RM. In his “Proof of Inspiration” clip, RM said, “I have all these different ME’s…and at times I wonder who is the real me?”
— BIGHIT MUSIC (@BIGHIT_MUSIC) May 20, 2022
But he concludes the clip by saying that all of these different versions are, at the end of the day, an integral part of him. And the reason why he can achieve this synthesis of identities is that he has people who stick by his side through all the personas— ARMYs and BTS.
So, even if the pressure for meeting expectations creates a split between his off-stage and on-stage persona, it is the genuine support and love of and for fans that make RM keep it together.