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Humanizing an Icon: a review of ‘SUGA: Road to D-Day’

It makes you feel good after watching it and if you’re a fan of the group, it’ll just endear them to you more and if you’re just curious about them, then it will help sink the hooks deeper in.

While I am more familiar with the music of BTS, I know just enough about each members personalities and the stories about who they are to know that the documentary ‘SUGA: Road to D-Day’ is a rare treat: a peek into the mind and heart of Suga, one of the more low-key members of the Korean supergroup. It’s an intimate and personal look into his process in the making of his album called D-Day through his alias Agust D. 

While the documentary is really focused on the poetics: the work the artist has to go through in order to create – and in this case, it’s the time off from BTS that Suga got to do to work on finding inspiration to finish the songs on his album – and follows him through his travels to the US, Japan and back home in South Korea; there’s a whole lot more subtle textures that comes out from this movie.

For sure, we can be amazed by the sheer variety and star power of the people that Suga calls his friends – from Halsey, to DJ Steve Aoki, to Korean pop superstar IU, and even legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto – but it’s good to also focus on how warm and friendly they are to each other and despite Suga’s fame as a member of BTS, there’s no posturing on his part nor does he ever carry himself in an arrogant manner. There’s a groundedness in him that carries through and is even subverted into that of a fanboy when he comes to meet Sakamoto, whom he considers one of his idols and was instrumental into becoming a songwriter.

The documentary is also sectioned off with song numbers. Suga sings songs from the new album with a live band (and some from his previous mixtapes), as well as candid interviews (the idol is actually “barefaced” or isn’t wearing makeup for half the documentary and it really shows us a totally different side of him), and while all of this is really there to help promote the release of the album and the upcoming tour, it is also one of the many pre-recorded content made to keep fans hooked in while BTS is in hiatus.

But despite its very commercial agenda, there is a sincerity that surrounds Suga in the way with which he ruminates over such topics as success and where one takes their creativity when they’ve reached the heights of where a person like Suga has gone. This is not a relatable subject. After all, how many people can compare themselves with the sort of success the young rapper has achieved over the past years? But there’s an earnestness in the way Suga presents himself and in the way the documentary unfolds that dismantles the myth and presents to us an artist trying to put together an album at an interesting crossroad in his life.

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At this point in their career, BTS has broken records and captured the hearts of millions and millions of people around the world. They have nothing that they need to prove to anyone at this point but it is so encouraging to see in this documentary how hard Suga works in crafting this album and how tied this project is to his identity outside of the superstar idol group that has made him famous. It is so heartening to know that even successful people feel lost and that, as seen in one scene in the documentary, that it’s okay to just let loose and let go and have fun with it.

As a documentary, it is what we expect from a Disney+ produced and released documentary about a member of BTS, who is working on an album. It’s light. The stakes aren’t that high. It makes you feel good after watching it and if you’re a fan of the group, it’ll just endear them to you more and if you’re just curious about them, then it will help sink the hooks deeper in. But looking deeper, it’s really just an artist allowing himself to be vulnerable for an hour and twenty minutes while he’s at the height of his career and is trying to do something new and different and that’s what art is about.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review



Watch SUGA: Road to D-DAY on Disney+.

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