V – “Stigma” Review

(Audio)

V (from BTS) – Stigma

Reviewed
on January 24, 2017

image

And
so, although “Stigma” faces the stigma of being a slower, dramatic song and
thus is disliked by many fans because of such, I argue the song is actually an
excellent one. If we are critical and listen beyond the song’s style and begin
attempting to understand why certain
compositions are in place, we will find that “Stigma”—despite being “boring” or
“too slow”—has many creative, efficient, and stunning points.  

Personal Message:
As perhaps readers can guess, I am
back at university and somehow already quite busy. Although this semester
appears to be quite challenging, I am expecting it to be “easier” than the last
as I have multiple two hour breaks in between classes and thus, my tendency to
procrastinate is greatly minimized. Personally a huge issue with last
semester—and this relating to the lack of reviews during that period—was squeezing
all of my classes back-to-back and as a result, despite many hours of free time
afterwards, I ended up wasting them away with distracting tasks. Perhaps this
could be a scheduling tip to readers who, like me, are not as disciplined.

On topic with this review, I would
like to thank a reader for sending in this request. I greatly apologize for not
getting to it sooner, but I hope this review is still enjoyable and
thought-provoking. I personally have been anticipating writing a review for this
song as there is so much to discuss in terms of music. As the requester
addressed, many fans struggle to listen to “Stigma”—a song that is not a
title/comeback song and instead is a song included in one of BTS’ albums.
Furthermore, the artist singing is just BTS’ V and thus, this creates more
difficulties as it is not the usual of every member participating. But of
course, the true problem is not the technicalities with members and “Stigma” not
being a title song; the issue is that musically
the song is hard to “enjoy.” It is not upbeat and within the pop genre as is,
say, the group’s “Blood Sweat & Tears,” nor does it involve powerful
dancing and a flashy music video. “Stigma” is the opposite: it is a soulful,
R&B song (if correct on the genre) that—while possessing a short music
video—is predominantly meant to be consumed sonically. However, given the
incredibly slower pacing of the song, a lack of visual aid, seemingly overly
dramatic vocals and instrumental, and a composition that appears to be quite
stagnant, it truly is understandable on why fans find “Stigma” a difficult
song.

Because of this interesting
background, this review will be more than just reviewing the song: I hope this
review becomes an example of how a
listener can learn to reap enjoyment from analyzing what she is listening
to—especially with a song that she may not personally prefer. Even if a
listener dislikes “Stigma” ‘s style (as in my case), I hope he will still
realize that at least appreciation is
possible if not genuine enjoyment. And so, although “Stigma” faces the stigma
of being a slower, dramatic song and thus is disliked by many fans because of
such, I argue the song is actually an excellent one. If we are critical and
listen beyond the song’s style and begin attempting to understand why certain compositions are in place,
we will find that “Stigma”—despite being “boring” or “too slow”—has many
creative, efficient, and stunning points.  

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.75/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 7/10


Sections: 6/10
(6.00/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Conclusion (Chorus)

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Pre-Chorus: 6/10

4.     Chorus: 6/10

5.     Bridge: 6/10

6.     Conclusion (Chorus): 6/10


Instrumental: 7/10


Lyrics: 7/10

I’ve been hiding it
I tell you something
just to leave it buried
Now I can’t endure it anymore
Why couldn’t I say it then?
I have been hurting anyway
Really I won’t be able to endure it

Now cry
It’s only that I’m very sorry towards you
Again, cry
Because I couldn’t protect you

Deeper, deeper, the wound just gets deeper,
like pieces of broken glass that I can’t reverse
Deeper, it’s just the heart that hurts every day
You who was punished in my stead
You who were only delicate and fragile

Stop crying, tell me something
Try talking to me who had no courage
Why did you do that to me then?
Sorry
Forget it
What right do I have,
to tell you to do this or that?

Deeper, deeper, the wound just gets deeper,
like pieces of broken glass that I can’t reverse
Deeper, it’s just the heart that hurts every day
You who was punished in my stead
You who were only delicate and fragile

I’m sorry, I’m sorry
I’m sorry, my brother
Even if I try to hide i or conceal it,
it can’t be erased
Are you calling me a sinner?
What more do I have to say?
I’m sorry, I’m sorry
I’m sorry, my sister
Even if I try to hide it or conceal it,
it can’t be erased
So cry
Please dry my eyes

That light, that light, please illuminate my sins
Where I can’t turn back, the red blood is flowing down
Deeper, I feel like dying every day
Please let me be punished
Please forgive me for my sins
I beg

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: For
a side note, while the given ratings appear to be straightforward, I do wish
for readers to know that the process to reach these ratings was far from such.
I devoted much time to understanding this song (and admittedly to push aside
much of my own personal biases). Also to note, this review will most likely be
shorter than intended due to how busy I currently am (and on top of that, I am
down with a cold).

Onto
the review, as the ratings unveil, “Stigma” is an incredibly well-rounded song
statistically. There are no immediate, impairing points and at worst the
sections—this category having the lowest ratings—is still decent. But, of
course, ratings are meaningless without explanations and more so with
considering how many find the song difficult to listen to, so let us proceed
with actual analysis.

With
the lyrics, this category should be the most straightforward to understand. However
that said, it is worth clarifying why the lyrics have scored well. As the
requester of this review mentions, the background to this song is complex: it
may be a part of BTS’ ongoing, fictional story or it might very much be
something personal from V or perhaps even both. While all these points are
interesting, these are not criterion I use for grading lyrics; instead, the lyrics
have earned their higher score by being distinctive in its details—word choice,
variety, imagery—and by differing with its plot. Overall, I will not spend too
much time in this song’s aspect as the more intriguing discussion is towards
the musical aspect.

With
that covered, let us focus on the vocals and instrumental. I bring up these two
aspects and not individually because both ultimately utilize similar strategies
and forms, but furthermore, both are quite misunderstood by many fans. After
all, the difficult aspect in the song may not be so much on how it is
structured with the sections but rather how it sounds within the sections—these sounds being the vocals and instrumental.

One
of the most impressive aspects to the two is how well they complement each
other so that their perceived downsides are covered. Before explaining that,
though, let us return once more to current perceptions on the vocals and
instrumental. On a more superficial hearing, the vocals are not impressive: the
vocals carry a sluggish, dragged pacing; many of the beltings are overly
emphasized and dramatized and thus, the extreme pitch shifts render
unappealingly—even if the singing itself is skillful; and lastly, the singing
simply comes off as monotonous considering there are few changes throughout. Similarly,
the instrumental can also be critiqued with those reasons: the instrumental is
too plain, dull, and provides nothing more than just background.

While
these are all viable points, I challenge fans to realize that these supposed
weaknesses are actually, realized or not, addressed in the vocals and
instrumental themselves. For example, the vocals’ slower pacing is paired with
a bass line that strengthens at moments where V provides beltings. The result,
then, is not vocals that are sluggish or an instrumental that remains dull; the
result is that both combined lead to a rhythmic, balanced flow that sounds
excellent. Another example is when considering the instrumental’s beats in
relation to V’s vocals at the first verse. Both in of themselves appear to be
incredibly vexing: the vocals are minimal in tune and the instrumental itself
provides nothing more than just the mere foundation of the song. However, when
considering how both sound when taken into account as a single unit, we realize
the vocals act as a pseudo-beat and equally the beats are akin to background
vocals. Lastly to note on a more technical side, another interesting composing
decision about the instrumental and vocals is that both physically complement
each other’s sounds. In clearer terms, I am referring to the actual pitch range
covered. During moments where the vocals are adopting a middle pitch, we
realize the instrumental “balances” out such by providing sounds slightly above
that pitch or slightly below it. Expectedly for moments when V is singing in a
higher pitch, the instrumental still “balances” out the overall sound by then
providing much lower pitches—this being the most explicit example as we can
hear the much deeper bass line coming in during these moments. Again, this is a
minor aspect but one I find quite creative and ultimately appealing especially
as “Stigma” ‘s style beckons careful, methodical listening.

Finally
discussing the sections, since we have already indirectly discussed some of
this through the discussion above regarding the vocals and instrumental working
together, let us instead turn to addressing why—despite the solid chemistry of
the vocals and instrumental—that the sections still all earn a six. Ultimately,
though the sections sound fantastic and that even the progression to the
entirety of “Stigma” is fluent and coherent, the main flaw remaining is that
the sections lack incredibly distinctive points. And of course, I do not
necessarily mean distinctive as in each section has to sound different from one another—as numerously said,
“Stigma” does follow a linear format—but in terms of what each section provides
for the song, there is nothing distinctive in this sense. For example, both the
introduction and conclusion suffice in their roles, but in doing so neither is
that stunning. Even in, for example, the choruses where the vocals
are—especially in the song’s context—diverse and the instrumental is impressive
with complementing such along with meshing the bass with the beats, the
choruses are not composed to the point that their very composition consists of
striking ideas and techniques. Now this is not to say the sections are bad at
all; all the sections hold a decent score, but overall, the structure to the
song individually and in whole merely provide the foundation to the song versus
being the aspects that carry forth the song.

All
in all, “Stigma” is definitely an above average song if we are able to pay
attention to how the vocals and instrumental work. Stylistically, I do agree
with many that the song is difficult to listen to and to even enjoy, but given
the nature of it, I do urge fans to find enjoyment from it through analyzing it versus just listening to
it. Unlike the typical pop song that is fun and easy to listen to due to being
able to predict its flow or simply how upbeat and tuneful it is, “Stigma” is a
song that requires one to actually pay attention to what is occurring with its
sections, vocals, instrumental, and so forth. Once a listener pays close attention,
most likely she will find it to be quite impressive in terms of the song’s
inner workings—and if not that, at least in his attempt I hope that the song
becomes worthwhile.

_______________________________________________________

To
the requester, huge apologies for the delay and for poorly writing the review.
I feel that I have failed to truly bring insight as to why “Stigma” is a
fascinating and solid song, but I hope in the end that the review is
interesting and gives some ideas as to what one could look for when listening
to a difficult yet charming song. In terms of the next review, look forward to
another requested review. And though this sounds silly, I will have to end this
review here as I do have class quite soon—perhaps “writing-on-the-go” is not
the most optimal idea, after all. Look forward to Uhm Junghwa’s “Dreamer” and
until then, “I’m very sorry towards you” for not being as diligent, but I will
do my best to catch up on reviews.