BTS' Jimin
BTS' Jimin turns 28 on October 13. Image Credit: @J.m/Instagram

It’s well-established fact in BTS lore, that whenever a fight, disagreement or unpleasant situation happens, there’s usually Jimin to cheer everyone up. When his band's youngest member Jungkook broke down crying after he supposedly made a mistake on stage, Jimin was the first to give him a tight and reassuring hug and told him that nobody knew he had made a mistake. When V and Jin had a heated and angry fight right before a crucial concert, Jimin went to check on Jin first. When an overwrought Suga kneeled on stage crying after seeing his parents for the first time at his concert, Jimin went to give him a hug and calm him down.

It’s no surprise because the gentlest of adjectives are always associated with Jimin by ARMY, the BTS fanbase as well his own team. “He really is the cutest thing in the world,” the band’s leader RM had once said, when Jimin expressed his support for him after RM was entangled in a controversy. 

On the face of it, Jimin spreads love unconditionally to ARMY and BTS. He's the goofy soul who messes up at games in Run BTS, endearing himself more to fans. But, beneath his seeming softness and gentle nature, there's more to him that he's been slowly trying to reveal.

Ironically, his journey to self-love has been fraught with much pain, crippling self-doubt, and darkness. He has always been driven by the desire to carve out his own individuality, afraid of lapsing into the mundane and ordinary. He has the distinct soft vocals that can swerve to angst and pain, but for Jimin, there's more to him.

Unlike Suga, who crafted an alter-ego and channelled his rage into his lyrics, Jimin has been quietly seeking an outlet for years. He has always wanted freedom of various kinds; from the perceptions people have had of him and from his own doubts and inferiorities that hounded him. It’s this emotion that reverberates through his song Set Me Free Pt 2, a raw, edgy track from his latest album. Pounding vocals with a frenzied choreography, Jimin demanded to be set free. It took a long time for Jimin to find his freedom, but he might have finally gotten a taste of it.

It has been a long journey. During the beginnings of BTS in 2013, Jimin was cruel to himself, by his own admission. Nothing about him seemed right according to him, be it his vocal skills or even his looks. He admitted rather shame-facedly that he felt rather insecure of Jin, occasionally, owing to his looks. “Our team’s Jin is the visual of our team because he’s very handsome. So, I get jealous of him sometimes," he once said. 

The feelings were later exacerbated when he came under scrutiny for his body image. He was trolled for ‘losing his abs’ after a performance; he had lost his "signature look" apparently. Jimin was particularly battered by these attacks and started starving himself, eating only small portions of food before rehearsals. During the Blood Sweat and Tears era, Jimin would go for days without eating, and refused to eat dinner with his band members, terrified that he would gain weight. Later, Jimin revealed that he fainted several times during rehearsals.

These thoughts of weight loss were wrapped in fears regarding his own craft too. Jimin’s a perfectionist; he makes no room for mistakes when it comes to himself. He never thought his singing was good enough, and would keep checking with Jungkook, especially, if he was singing properly. “How can I improve my singing? I think that’s the only thing I’ve been concerned about these days. That’s the reason I’m having such a hard time…because I think I can’t do it well. And hard as I try, I can’t do it well,” he once said in an old video.

During their Burn The Stage documentary, Jungkook had said, “He asks me a lot of questions about the vocal part. But the way that he sings, is very different from my singing. He feels bad after every performance. He says that he doesn’t know how to use his vocal chords. And I feel bad for him when I see him like that.”

However, his real fans refused to let him do this to himself during those years of 2016-2017, and often they would trend the hashtag #YouArePerfect to express their love and support for him. Jimin later said, “We were telling fans to ‘Love Yourself’, but I realised I wasn’t doing that myself, I criticised myself, wondering if I was doing good, and what I’m working so hard for.” He added, “There were times when I was myself in my room and had many thoughts, I realised that I had been mean to myself rather than growing up….” 

Perhaps it was the love of ARMYs, combined with his teammates, or the revelation at how much potential he had as a singer that got him through the harrowing times and loneliness as he describes in his song, Alone from the album Face. Little snatches of videos tell us how his brothers reassured him, including a concerned RM who noticed Jimin being visibly affected by haters comments during a Weverse Live.

It might have been all three and more, but Jimin gradually walked the path of self-love and acceptance, slowly realising what he was contributing to the band as well as his own worth, often expounding the importance of it. “The situation might be miserable, but let’s not make ourselves so miserable. I won’t insult myself. I don’t have to pretend. I can just be myself. I can talk about myself, without pretending anything,” he had once said. Now, he has the confidence to say proudly after a concert, “I killed it out there. I gave it my all.”

It’s still an ongoing process, as Jimin still gets visibly uncomfortable, if he thinks that he has made a mistake that only he has noticed. There’s always room for improvement, he feels. There’s always something more. In the 2021 Butter remix dance practice video with J-Hope and Jungkook, Jimin is rather upset, because he is sure that he isn't in sync with the other two. He is rather crestfallen, but still determined to reach his idea of perfection.

Yet, it’s Jimin’s drive for ‘something more’ that shows in his elegant choreography, experimental vocals ranging from soothing to aggression, which adds to the different synergies in the group. It's the choreography, in particular that sets him apart. Jungkook and J-Hope have the energy and force, yet Jimin, shows fluid emotions in each step. He brings an unusual grace. Blending contemporary with modern dance and hip-hop, Jimin displays an unusual mix of softness and aggression. His dances exude varying emotions of love, angst, disappointment, and fury. The gentleness and affability of Jimin slips away, and he melts into his own element. He hits out at haters with Mic Drop, but he can also display brokenness with the twirls and ballet movements in songs like Fake Love. It’s perhaps why he often has the final breakdance in most of the songs, including Fire, something that his fans eagerly wait for. The cheers boom through the stadium when Jimin takes over.

Jimin has showed bits and pieces of his life story and personality through his dances, one of them being the I Need U instrumental at the Melon Music Awards in 2017. Clad in white and without words, Jimin brought his character from the BTS Universe or HYYH era, showing his depression, resentment, yet with a powerful determination to live despite all odds. In 2020, Jimin did a solo performance for the song Black Swan, a track that explains BTS’s weariness with superstardom. Jimin portrayed his emotions with slight steps, body rolls, and with the help of acrobatic flips and flows.

Jimin might often worry what sets him apart, but his devoted ARMY doesn’t. They know he brings the storm, the summer drizzle, and the calm, all in one performance if needed. He won't be lost in the lights.