When my video name with Jungkook starts, he has the glance of any person roused too early from a just right sleep. On digicam, the youngest member of the South Korean pop team BTS is dressed in a black zip-up, hood pulled over his head in some way that means he’d revel in a snooze—just a little unexpected, given his popularity amongst enthusiasts as an indefatigable “energizer bunny.” We’re not up to two weeks clear of the discharge of his first solo album, Golden, and his days are filled with dance practices, rehearsals, video shoots, interviews with out of the country press. The onerous calls for of promotion aren’t new to him—he’s been with BTS for greater than a decade, racking up best-selling albums, Billboard Sizzling 100 No. 1s, sold-out stadium live shows, and international information. However that is Jungkook’s first time freeing a complete document on his personal, and it occurs to all be in English.
In the beginning, Jungkook felt conflicted about this. “I used to be pondering, Is it k for a Korean not to liberate Korean songs in any respect?” the 26-year-old singer advised me via an interpreter, from his leisure corporate’s administrative center in Seoul. BTS accomplished world reputation whilst making song nearly solely of their local language, excluding a couple of English-language hits equivalent to “Dynamite” and “Butter.” On the identical time, the entire level of his solo effort used to be to problem himself—and completely making a song in English gave the look of one smart way to try this. But he hopes to connect to folks on a degree deeper than language. “While you take into accounts pop stars, they’re those actually cool singers that you simply’d glance as much as since your youth,” he mentioned. “In fact, issues had been converting so much. However I nonetheless have that pop-star symbol caught in my head since my youth. And I wish to be a fab man that provides off that tremendous vibe.”
It’s a disarmingly easy description of a pop superstar: a fab one that offers off an ideal vibe. However it’s a picture he’s been chasing for a very long time. As a youngster, Jungkook made up our minds to sign up for BTS as a result of he used to be so inspired by way of the English-speaking and rap talents of the gang’s chief, RM. He used to add covers of his favourite pop songs on SoundCloud, and ceaselessly gushes in regards to the likes of Justin Bieber, Usher, and Ariana Grande. The primary time I noticed him carry out dwell, he flew via a stadium, suspended by way of a cable over tens of hundreds of enthusiasts, his vocals so strong you’d suppose he used to be reclining on a chaise.
However underpinning this need for coolness is an similarly previous obsession with excellence. The identify of Golden right away inspires Jungkook’s best-known nickname: the golden maknae. Coined by way of RM, it refers to his standing because the youngest (“maknae,” in Korean) member, who appears to be preternaturally gifted at the whole lot he does. Now not most effective is Jungkook an impressive dancer and a powerful vocalist, however he additionally excels at drawing, portray, songwriting, archery, wrestling, sprinting, swimming—a compilation of him merely being just right at stuff has greater than 18 million perspectives on YouTube. In terms of his major activity as a performer, he’s a recognized perfectionist who’s exacting about his paintings. So expectancies had been top for Golden, the discharge of which used to be preceded by way of two singles, the U.Ok. storage observe “Seven (feat. Latto),” which set a Spotify document for the quickest track to achieve 1 billion streams, and the early-2000s throwback “three-D (feat. Jack Harlow).” However I wasn’t ready for the beautiful major observe, “Status Subsequent to You,” which brings to thoughts Parliament-Funkadelic and Michael Jackson. It’s now not relatively like several track that Jungkook or BTS have completed sooner than.
Jungkook mentioned he cherished the demo for “Status Subsequent to You” such a lot that he recorded a complete observe tomorrow. One trade-off he made to be able to experiment with other sun shades of father whilst making a song in English used to be enlisting skilled songwriters and manufacturers. Golden options the manufacturers Andrew Watt and Cirkut, who labored on “Status Subsequent to You,” in addition to Main Lazer, Ed Sheeran, and David Stewart. The album’s 11 songs sound like a wide survey of what you’d listen on American radio—fashionable R&B, acoustic, synth-pop earworms with sing-along hooks—with the exception of with Jungkook’s buttery, chameleonic vocals.
He advised me that, for a very long time, he concept it used to be essential for artists to write down their very own information (as some BTS contributors elected to do for his or her solo albums). Jungkook has written and produced songs for BTS, together with quiet ballads and electropop anthems; no less than two tracks that he wrote for his solo challenge ended up being recorded by way of the gang as a substitute. “As I grew up, I got here to phrases with truth and began accepting what I’m now not just right at or what I don’t must do,” he mentioned. “At this second, there’s not anything I wish to write about. So I used to be pondering, Do I actually wish to make investments my time into making a track from the starting to the top?” With Golden, the pressing need wasn’t there, and the timing didn’t make sense. (BTS is predicted to reunite in 2025, finally of the contributors have finished their necessary army provider; Jungkook has but to start out his.) Quite than writing lyrics or composing melodies, he selected to experiment with new vocal tactics and hone his live-performance talents.
The songs on “Golden” reference mature topics—particularly, elements and intercourse—extra explicitly than his earlier paintings, partly on account of the relative cultural conservatism of his house nation and the idol business. Jungkook has brazenly said this shift (and appeared unbothered by way of the extra pearl-clutching reactions) however says he’s now not looking to redefine himself in terms of his previous. “Jungkook again then used to be Jungkook again then, and by hook or by crook, I become who I’m at this time. The person who’s making the entire judgment calls is me, myself, on this very second,” he mentioned. “I’m now not pondering, Oh, I will have to become independent from from that lovable symbol because the youngest member … Lyrics are simply lyrics, and photographs are pictures.” He added that he selected love songs for his or her universality, however that individuals shouldn’t learn them as autobiographical.
All the way through our dialog, Jungkook would do issues that may learn as normally maknae to these enthusiasts who’ve adopted him for years: ingesting his water by way of lifting the cup with each tattooed, sweater-pawed fingers; waving good-bye for a cast 15 seconds with an enormous smile on his face, once more with each fingers. However the best way he talks—how he visibly works via a tough query as he’s talking, correcting himself or leaping in so as to add a concept—and his poised method be offering transparent indicators of inventive intentionality and hard-won adulthood. The ones indicators come via within the album too: in his natural-sounding enunciation, the best way he slips between a fluttery falsetto and a heat decrease sign in on “Nearer to You” or performs with quantity and tone on “Hate You.” It’s this type of expansion you spot in any person who hasn’t stopped operating.