JIMIN - Set Me Free Pt 2
When Led Zeppelin’s brutish drummer Jon Bonham knocked out the rhythm to When The Levee Breaks in the stone walls of Headley Grange he would have probably thought someone had spiked his booze with acid if he had had a vision of where the basic beat would end up in the 21st century.
It’s a lumpy beat, referencing hiphop but lending well to the ersatz pomp so beloved of prefab singers when they want to express deep emotion.
The lyrics (according to the translations under the dance video) seem to be vaguely asserting some rights to just exist without something or other happening. Which is an ideal most of us can understand if not presume is pretty unlikely as, that’s life. The vagueness is important - it allows a lot of people to project their own, more specific grievances and feel represented. It’s hard to write lyrics like this. You try. I bet you’ll end up listing things like Aldi running out of unsweetened soya milk or, if you’re more the target audience, that no-one will ever understand your own, unique turmoil. Clever. Artful, even.
The dance video promoting the song features Jimin frothing in and out of a platoon of dancers in the normal, hurried choreography that sits between anyone-can-do-it school concerts and modern dance from about five, ten years ago. At least they’re not wearing fawn tights this time. Jimin’s expression throughout is that of someone with an important message to tell, very determined and committed, as he should be by now, as a seasoned pro from the stress-tested Korean boy band factory BTS.
I remember seeing Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and feeling a deep revulsion of the implied militaristic nature of the choreography. It wasn’t new, as such - Public Enemy’s Security Of The First World played with the nationalistic imagery associated with Marine Corps displays well before this, uniforms, boots n’all. But with the first Gulf War happening shortly afterwards, Reagan being replaced by a President who was previously head of the CIA and the thin burn of hope started in the 1960s fizzling out in the abhorrent 1990s it still feels prescient and I blame Janet for most of the USA-led bad shit that’s been happening for the past three decades.
Watching Set Me Free Pt.2 creates weird tensions. the vocal is absolute, pitch correction overload. As much an effect as the vocoder on a Kraftwerk tune. Bizarrely, I find it the most human element apparent, as the mimicking of human emotion at least allows for the existence of human emotion, unlike the rest of the production.
29 million views says that with, say, the 43 million Twix bars sold every year, we can’t expect everyone to agree with our taste. And it’s true there is a quick-fix sugar rush to the components of Jimin and co’s fodder. For someone like me, it’s fascinating in the same way that the clips of Russian tanks being blown up via drone that crop up on Twitter are - ‘that’s the truth of it, then,’ I think, and this is the truth of pop music in 2023.