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Agust D’s ‘AMYGDALA’: A Deep Dive Into His Painful Journey Towards Healing

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Editor’s Note: This article contains descriptions of self-harm, reader discretion is advised.

Under the moniker Agust D, BTS member Suga released his third music video “AMYGDALA” for the third installment of the “Agust D Trilogy” on April 24. Being part of his debut solo album “D-DAY,” this music video follows the release of “People Pt. 2 (feat. IU)” and “Haegeum,” and it gives a more mature perspective on the struggles the rapper has faced both personally and with his family. While Agust D has never shied away from discussing his own struggles with mental health in the past, this song brings to light the equally painful emotions tied to the ailments that one is incapable of preventing or controlling. 

Serving as the biggest symbol of this song, the amygdala is a part of the brain that acts as the center of memory, behavior and emotion. When presented with a highly emotional event — whether negative or positive — the amygdala stores that information as a means of aiding an individual in future, similar situations. When presented with a traumatic event, however, the amygdala tends to be more easily triggered by stimulus or situations that remind it of trauma, even if the situation is not dangerous.

In the “AMYGDALA” music video, we see that this traumatic event is a shoulder injury Suga sustained in a motorcycle accident he was involved in while working as a delivery boy pre-debut. The music video shows repeated clips of the rapper slamming into a car at an intersection and waking up, short-of-breath, on a gray couch, representing the repetitive nature of trauma and remembrance. 

This accident is well known to most BTS fans, or ARMYs, as the rapper had to take a two-month hiatus in 2020 to undergo shoulder surgery for persistently adverse effects from that accident. The accident was also a moment of shame for Suga. As he states in the song, he “couldn’t even mention” it to ARMY or the other members of BTS until the filming of their documentary “Burn the Stage”  almost six years later. 

The lyrics speak even deeper to the uncontrollable circumstances that Suga had to deal with and brings to light how he struggled to comprehend and cope with them. In the two verses, he mentions his “mother’s heart surgery,” “the sound of mom’s heart tickin’ away in my ears” and his “father’s liver cancer.” The way in which he simply lists out the hardships of his family rather than delve deeper into their emotional meanings is indicative of the lack of control he felt in his life, leading to a desensitization of his pain. This disconnect is expressed through his pleas to his amygdala to “please save [him]” and “please get [him] out.” In these pleas, he is begging for his brain to give him the resources he needs to emotionally acknowledge his pain or help him forget it altogether.

Throughout the music video, there is a sequence of repeating motifs, one of them being a handful of pills flashing between images of a handful of almonds. Incidentally, the amygdala gets its name from its resemblance to almonds. This motif might also be a nod towards the popular Korean novel “Almond” by Sohn Won-pyung — a novel about a young boy with an underdeveloped amygdala, which impairs his ability to understand or be aware of his emotions — which Suga was seen reading in BTS’s reality show “BTS In the Soop.” 

The final killing move of this music video is revealing the origin of the iconic Agust D eye scar, which was first seen in mixtape “D-2”’s title track music video “Daechwita.” While ARMY have been theorizing about its meaning since the release of “Daechwita” in 2020, most were surprised by the traumatizing story attached to the scar.

In an act of emotional desperation and self-injurious intent, Agust D takes a box cutter to his face, and a silhouette depiction of the rapper is seen painfully cutting into himself. While having a more metaphorical meaning in terms of Agust D’s fictional narrative, this imagery is also a callback to his song “The Last” from the mixtape “D-2” — specifically the lyrics “The doctor asks me if I’ve (censored) / I answered without any hesitation that I have.” While the exact wording is bleeped out in the song, there is a clear implication Suga was being asked if he had ever tried to self-harm or kill himself, to which he assents to with no hesitation.

A later shot shows Agust D slowly raising his head till he laughs ruefully into the camera — a facial expression commonly seen in the music videos of his previous two mixtapes. The identity of Agust D has always been an emotional outlet for Suga to express his frustrations and pain in a  more raw and less mainstream format. In his first eponymous mixtape, “Agust D,” the songs are rageful and cutting, expressing a deeply instilled anger towards the struggles he and his group BTS had to face against haters and K-pop naysayers.

In his second mixtape, “D-2,” that aggressiveness is still present, but with more self-confidence towards his art and stability in life. It is in “Daechwita” that the scar is first introduced, which “AMYGDALA” works as a prequel to, and “Haegeum” as a sequel. The nearly completely healed scar on “Haegeum”’s Agust D seems to point towards Suga’s current position in his healing journey where the scar — symbolizing his trauma — no longer affects him, but will always be a part of his identity.

The self-inflicted nature of the scar works as a physical manifestation of the trauma in which he keeps revisiting in the music video. Suga is a known critic of the hypocrisy within Korean society that views mental illness in a more stigmatized light to physical illness. In an interview with Teen Vogue, he explained “[p]eople won’t say you’re a weak person if your physical condition is not that good. It should be the same for the mental condition as well. Society should be more understanding.”

While the era of Agust D has come to a close and it is uncertain if Suga will ever take up the moniker again in the future, it is impossible not to feel grateful towards the vulnerability the rapper has openly expressed both to his fans and for himself. The Agust D trilogy provides emotional catharsis to all listeners, and “AMYGDALA” works as the perfect end to a brilliant chronicle of musical expression. 

Kaylie Harley is a 2022-2023 Copy Editor. She can be reached at copy@newuniversity.org.