The Sands of Time: Agust D – “People Pt.2” (ft. IU) Song Review

“People Pt.2” (ft. IU) is the pre-release single from Agust D’s forthcoming ‘official’ debut album, D-Day, which will be released on 21st April. A prolific, versatile rapper and songwriter, Min Yoongi, has two nome de plume’s: Agust D and Suga (from BTS), and has collaborated with both Korean and Western musicians. “People Pt.2” is his second collaboration with IU, following “EIGHT” (2020). He has also released two mixtapes as Agust D, the first released in 2016 and the second in 2020 (Agust D and D-2). It seems likely that this forthcoming project will seek to reconcile these, sometimes, competing personas – but who will be left standing? Min Yoongi, Suga or Agust D, or perhaps give birth to someone new.

The rebellious Agust D who with his notorious tongue technology took no prisoners, is more muted, and even melancholic here. It is a reflective song, perhaps, for all of us, the pandemic has changed us in profound ways that many of us could never have conceptualised beforehand. After so many deaths, and so much trauma, the proliferation of online hate, particularly towards Asians, time needs to be understood differently, not as a trajectory to a known future, but rather as something to be appreciated within the dailiness that constitutes our everyday lives. We have to learn how to live in the world again.

IU is arguably, along with Boa, the most famous female K-pop idol. She is also an accomplished actress, both on the small and big screen, winning the best new actress award at the 27th Chunsa International Film Festival and the Korean Association of Film Critics Award for her role in Broker (Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2022). As they did with EIGHT, Agust D and IU meld well together, Agust D’s rap and IU’s vocals blend harmoniously in this fairly lo-fi hip-hop rap. There is something eminently listenable about it, while it doesn’t have the undercurrent of anger that defines much of Agust D’s work, it would be unfair to say that this should be seen as a negative. And indeed, like any work of art, the form it takes is inseparable from the message it communicates, thus the softer, more mellow approach taken by MinYoongi here. Perhaps big gestures are no longer possible, and instead of railing at the past, or ignoring the present for the future, we should concern ourselves with the present, just – this – minute – now. 

While this review is concerned with the track itself, the music video offers additional information which gives the song context. It begins and ends in black and white, in an empty room with a director’s chair in the centre and two indistinct framed pictures in the background, evenly distributed left and right. In the beginning, we see a part shot of Yoongi from the side,  and hear the sound of a camera whirring, before the actual song itself starts. At the end, Yoongi is centre stage in the chair, telling the viewer that the song was composed during the pandemic at a time when he thought he ‘had lost everything’. This codicil helps to reveal the multiple layers of meaning to the track, by offering both a personal and public framing to its inception. 

Agust D’s “People Pt.2” Official MV / MV © BIGHIT MUSIC

When you are young and providing plans for 5 years and 10 years as a mechanism through which to map out your future career trajectory, it all seems so simple. My life was derailed by chronic illness, I lost the ability to plan or even know the future, in more ways than one. The pandemic has done something similar for young people these days, it has removed certainty and the old adage that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. But as we have seen over the last three years, this is not true, as quickly as you grasp something, it can slip through your fingers. This makes sense of the metaphor of the sandcastles evoked through the song: sandcastles are something that we can spend hours building and perfecting, only to see them collapse as the tide comes in. As Agust D puts it: “Forever’s something like a sand castle, you know / It comes crumbling down at the calmest of waves / What is it about loss that makes us so sad / Really it’s the dread that makes us so sad”.

Loss is part of the circular nature of life, and also the loss of others, reminds us that one day, we ourselves will be lost. The dread of death is inseparable from the knowledge of loss. At the same time, Yoongi wonders whether love is enough to negotiate loss, to live through it, and come out the other side, asking what love is enough and when is it enough. There is a profundity in Yoongi’s reflection on the conditional nature of love, of those of us who feel that perhaps we are not good enough to be loved, or that we don’t live up to other people’s expectations. This is something that Yoongi has been talking about in his music from the very beginning, but maturity has brought greater awareness to those emotions.  

It is also possible to interpret this song to be about BTS’s decision to go on a hiatus as a group, as a result of Korea’s mandatory military regulations for young men, and the fear that choosing to do this (or being forced to do this) at the height of the group’s fame, may lead to the end of BTS: “To us that dreamt of a future together that is no more / We’re the ones that tore down the sand castle / They say there are no winners or losers in this game , but I’m always the loser / We said we’d give it our all, but we tore it down / and then we leave, both love and people are selfish.” It seems to me that there is a difference between choosing to be an idol or indeed any type of entertainer and needing to be one, to be compelled to share your work with the world, irrespective of its reception.

While Yoongi might consider what life would be like if he chooses to abandon music, being abandoned by music is much more frightening for him. His final lines: “They say life is a struggle between resistance and submission, I say it’s a struggle against loneliness, If you can’t hold it back, it’s okay to cry / You’re already more than enough to be loved.” It is difficult to find words that resonate across the world with people from all ages and all backgrounds, and yet with this final line he is able to offer self-validation to so many. At the end of the day, we can build our own sandcastles, take charge of our lives and be responsible for our own existence, and be at one with our daily lives. In 1945, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre remarked: “Man is not the sum of what he already has, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have” (1946). 

Here Yoongi has gifted the world with another beautiful track, while it might not set the charts on fire, that is not necessarily what music is about in the final analysis. 

*This review is written in recognition and remembrance of Ryuichi Sakamoto


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Written by Dr Colette Balmain

Featured Image © BIGHIT MUSIC

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.

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