The term “layover” often describes a brief pause between two destinations. Most commonly, the term refers to the time we have to kill between two flights. On Sept. 8, 2023, Kim Tae-hyung, also known as V of BTS, released his album “Layover.” This marks his debut as a soloist while the popular South Korean band remains on hiatus until 2025 due to mandatory military service.
As a member of “BTS,” V is best known for his distinct baritone, reminiscent of the best from the old days of R&B. His voice captures his audience’s attention and holds them rapt until his last note is sung.
Over the course of BTS’ discography, V has been able to express his musicality on the occasional solo track, giving fans just a taste of his preference for R&B and jazz (for example, “Stigma” off of the album “Wings”). This time, V stepped outside his comfort zone of in-house producers to work with Min Hee-jin, producer and creative director of K-Pop girl group “NewJeans.”
Now, audiences can experience not just a preview but a full showcase of V’s artistry. The album tells the thoughts of someone after their relationship has ended and how sorrow becomes desperation, eventually veering towards hope. In a sense, V’s album is exactly what a layover is: a pause in a personal journey between the past and the next destination.
The first few notes of the album begin with muffled piano notes and the sound of rain pouring against a window. The chime of a phone accompanied by frantic texting follows. A television plays in the background as the ticking of a clock alludes to the interminable passage of time on a rainy day. “Rainy Days” is the first song on “Layover” and was one of the album’s two pre-releases.
Here, V reminisces on something — or rather — someone. He sings, “Time with you was so amazing / Haven’t changed, it’s still the same me,” and asks, almost as an afterthought, “Can we go back to that moment again?”
In the verses that follow, ebbs of nostalgia and flows of longing accompany V as he remembers the happier moments of a past relationship. In a brief interlude, the ticking of the clock gracefully decelerates as the intro notes of the piano return. The ‘swish’ of a text being sent sounds as the rain gets louder and the TV changes channels. The rainy day continues.
The second song on the album changes pace: still slow, but speeding up just enough to illustrate the desperation of feelings V has towards this relationship. In “Blue,” the repetition mixes with a desire to reconnect and relight the flame of a once-passionate bond. The lyrics, “swing my way, baby,” and “let the world move, fly away, fly away” indicate not only a want for a second chance but a craving for things to be different this time.
The longing in “Rainy Days” becomes bittersweet pleading in “Love Me Again.” As the first pre-release of the album, “Love Me Again” is one of the more upbeat songs on “Layover” and depicts the inability to settle and move on from what has ended in favor of wanting what once was. The clock still ticks, this time disguised as a muted yet steady percussion. The instrumental section can best be described as a moment of dissociation. The ad lib, “lost without you,” echoes, indicating that despite the passage of time and whatever has happened, V is not the same without this someone.
The album reaches a turning point during “Slow Dancing.” Wishing for what once was develops into hoping for what could be. V is no longer looking to the past with sadness, but he is now gazing towards a positive future. The topline for the song goes as follows: “Maybe we could be slow dancing till the morning / Maybe we could be romancing the night away.” The desire for passion and love that was illustrated in “Blue” is just as strong now as it was tracks ago. As a bonus, V also includes a slower, ballad-like piano version of the song at the very end of the album. While it still expresses the same message, the softer tone of V’s deep voice encapsulates what might have been left unsaid in the original version.
The final new song on the album, titled “For Us,” acts as an acceptance: “You went from my home to ‘it was nice to know you.’” As the songs move away from the past and V moves towards his next destination, he delivers some of the final lines of his album: “I got things to say, before I go” and “Need to let you know that I wish I could stay with you.”
Although V looks ahead, the lyrics are indicative of him not quite leaving the past behind, almost as though he
leaves a door ajar.
Closure comes in the form of an open ending, which is comparable to the brief pause of a layover. There is no explicit resolution but rather acknowledgment of what lies in the future.
Overall, “Layover” manages to capture V’s tastes in music genres and gives listeners a full showcase of what his occasional solo songs on BTS’ album have hinted at him doing. While the theme can be repetitive at times, “Layover” shows a new side of V. From his vocals to his lyricism to the story that it tells, this is a debut solo album done right.
While the storyline alludes to a past relationship, the artist himself has said this album is an ode to his youth, his bandmates and his fans. There is no true perfect place to listen to this work, but like “Rainy Days,” it captures the vibe of a slower day. Perhaps listen to it while studying, in a cafe, on an evening walk or even
during your next layover.