This is how Kim Taehyung painted the unique soundscape of his first solo song outside BTS, Scenery.
the photographer and his camera — the musical characters and choices in “scenery”
Scenery is Taehyung’s first solo track outside of the group’s name — an ambitious almost five-minute ballad that I feel has two main characters at the forefront: Taehyung’s vocals and the brandish piano melody. The latter, I like to believe, is also an extended representation of Taehyung’s film camera — two vintage things. It helps create Scenery’s nostalgic vibe. The image of the film camera is present not just in the flicks and gear works of the shutter and film advance that we hear, but also in the lyrics — the journey that Taehyung partook in Scenery.
It must be said that the choice of instruments is just as essential as Taehyung’s vocals here to paint Scenery’s soundscape. This vintage piano sound is likely the foundation of the song since this piano is also present in what seems to be the draft versions of Scenery.
We’ve also mentioned previously in our Sweet Night analysis that Taehyung’s vocals exist for more than just the act of singing. It is a musical instrument, and he treats it with such; so we must see it this way too, especially in this piece.
He puts a lot of breath tone as if the scenery before him overwhelms him — takes his breath away. I’ve mentioned about breathiness before and how it is a stylistic choice, and it works very well with Scenery to complete the atmosphere and nuance of his emotions. Listen to this clip where he mimics the breathy tone of the vocals recording:
You can hear the intensity of his breathy tone here compared to his usual. This is on purpose. The tone gives us feelings of vulnerability and subtle whimsy. This is a very difficult tone to produce as he puts more breath out there but take notice that Taehyung doesn’t lose his sound as he thins out. (Note: You need to be really good at managing your breath and swiftness in refilling air up.)
One of the most interesting reactions I encountered is how Scenery was likened to a waltz which was a time signature of ¾. This is a very interesting thing that I saw on Twitter! The popular opinion among musicians is that the time signature changes from ⁴⁄₄ to ¾ around the chorus. However, DOCSKIM’s piano sheet of Scenery has the composition in ⁴⁄₄. It could possibly be the clever rests and cadences that create an auditory-illusory change of the time signature. Perhaps this illusion is what singing in legato with tastefully placed rests can do. And the song does suit a ballroom dance, doesn’t it?
“scenery” as the story of the flâneur
If Taehyung’s cover image of Scenery hasn’t implied it enough, the music and lyrics of this song are heavily inspired by the concept of the flâneur. Many have their own interpretations and added their own politics to the term, but we will use the words from the originator himself, the French poet Charles Baudelaire, in The Artist, Man of the World:
“To be away from borne and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to he at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world — such are aft, of the slightest pleasures of those independent, passionate, impartial natures which the tongue ran but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family […] or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas […] He is an ‘I’ with an insatiable appetite for the ‘non-I’, at every instant rendering and explaining it in pictures more living than life itself, which is always unstable and fugitive.”
To simplify this, the character of the flâneur is he who makes a habit and/or takes pleasure in the melancholy of wandering around the city. It’s a very specific image, isn’t it? Taehyung has also mentioned that Midnight in Paris (2011) inspires him too, a film that follows a protagonist that indulges in the culture of flânerie.
With Taehyung also a known lover of Vincent Van Gogh’s work, I believe it is also partially through Van Gogh’s flaneur-influenced habits and paintings like Café Terrace at Night (1888) and Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888) in which we now see this concept seep into Taehyung’s aesthetic:
The first verse of Scenery is very much akin to the perspective of this passionate spectator — the flâneur. He is attuned to his surroundings but at the same time takes a passive role as an onlooker:
“On a street full of flowers, I see you, today as well,
would I be able to hold this scene in me?
I cradle what I feel now in a park where the morning moon has left,
this song goes towards you,
I hear the sound of the film reflected on the moon in the night sky,”
Taehyung also contoured the melody to give us the image of the movement of someone walking down of what seems like a snowy path. He pauses from time to time to take photographs as we hear flicks of the camera shutter and the film advance. This is heard again as the song progresses later on:
This is also the first time he began incorporating English lyrics in a non-BTS solo track, and he’s already done some wordplay with the words wonder and wander.
He is aware of the implications. Both words denote the ever-curious nature of his thoughts (wonder) and actions (wander):
“I still wonder wonder beautiful story,
still wonder wonder best part,
I still wander wander next story,
I want to make you mine.”
The chorus is sung in delicate, breathy falsetto, the dynamics on decrescendo. The cadence of his vocal melody for the first chorus gives a sense of abruptness when he sings “I want to make you mine”.
The flâneur’s strolling — his wondering and wandering — isn’t over yet as the piano takes over and we hear the film camera again.
Taehyung further expresses his disappointment but also anticipation to see the scenery he is looking for during the second verse. He has missed the scenery a while ago. His hope is stronger now too:
“My heart feels sad, having missed the very scene at the very moment,
I regret it and hope that the very moment comes again,
gathering the moonlight piece by piece,
I will make a lighting.
So, just like yesterday,
please come in front of me.”
Again, the song is a buildup, a journey to Taehyung’s desired “scenery” as he sings the second part of the second verse with a slightly less breathy tone — more contraction between the vocal folds — making his sound cleaner just as the piano becomes more prominent and the strings enter the soundscape. It makes a lot of sense with his vocal storytelling. His anticipation of getting there can be heard. The picture is getting clearer.
Taehyung sings the second chorus still in the same manner, but the piano and strings are now built up here than the first:
It’s implied he’s finally reached his destination by the second chorus because as soon he finishes, we get a beautiful vocal run of “Ahh”s from him, a very familiar interjection as to how we exclaim our wonder, the feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed, hitting 19 notes for this specific bridge. Not to mention Taehyung’s lovely vibrato that reverberates this overwhelming feeling.
And then we get our closure as he goes back to the chorus but this time the instrumentation is mostly taking over, and Tae’s thin falsetto become more and more like a musical instrument. Taehyung’s contentment of finally reaching the scenery is present:
He ends the song with a lovely outro for the vocal melody on his chest voice. It’s the lowest the song has ever gotten, and the dark coloration of the sound implies Taehyung’s melancholy. He sings, translated in English:
“If you leave,
leaving your footprints behind,
I will keep their warmth,
I will keep them in black and white.”
What he wants to be ‘mine’ is something he cannot fully have, so he settles for a photograph. We don’t take black and white photos as much as we do with color nowadays, but we use this monochromatic scheme when we want to imply the past. The bygone days. Taehyung particularly mentions this at the end and shows us his reason for having a film camera. To capture the fleeting moments. The moments became memories.
Taehyung is showing his “mono no aware [物の哀れ]” — a term for the sensitivity towards the beauty of impermanence and the fleeting. The sensitivity in which I believe Taehyung has and incorporates in his music as he often explores the passage of time as a theme.
So much also gets lost in translation. Taehyung’s words are more delicate and poetic in his mother tongue than what an English translation will provide. An example of this is how he uses a certain Korean word that has a softer nuance of the word ‘contain’.
“Throughout the song, V is a photographer, a stayer, and a protector, who contains the story, the memory, and the scenery in his photos (or in himself). A major challenge came from ‘담다.’ 담다 [damda] is a verb that means ‘to contain/put.’ 사진에 _(object)_ 을/를 담다 (to contain something in a photograph) therefore means ‘to take a photograph of something.’ The corresponding English words — put, contain, take, capture, shoot, etc. — are, however, against the gentle, soft, calm, static vibe of the song either in their pronunciation or somewhat violent and dynamic nature.” — cr. doolsetbangtan
And there are more of these nuances in Taehyung’s lyrics as translated and explained by doolsetbangtan.
Scenery is one of my favourite solo songs from Taehyung for the reason his profound musicality is showcased here. It’s not a piece where he flexes his being as a vocalist — but more of as a musician.
And I know I exhausted this in the past but the innate storyteller in Taehyung is once again present, not just vocally or musically, but through the usage of natural sounds we find every day, such as the wind chime, the footsteps, the breathing sounds. All of these help us create a very specific picture that Taehyung sees and what he wants us to see with our heads. Scenery is very synesthetic.
It’s all the more evident that this seems to come to him instinctively, the rare, artistic gift for using almost anything to communicate the stories he wants to share: and as his first debut with a solo song outside of BTS’ name, he came up with this Scenery to introduce himself as Kim Taehyung (not V), the musician and person who very much treats his camera as an extension of himself.
We can’t help but anticipate the artist behind the idol image he has as a member of BTS. Taehyung’s sense of individuality comes off strong in everything he does, but it is through his finesse, delicate musical sensibilities where he expresses himself the loudest.
Listen to V’s Scenery on Soundcloud: