The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | Jungkook of BTS releases debut album ‘Golden’

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Photo courtesy of Genius
Jungkook, band member of BTS releases his album Golden on Nov. 3.

Jungkook of hit K-pop boy band BTS released his debut album, “Golden,” on Nov. 3.

“Golden” follows a number of solo releases from other BTS members after the group announced in 2022 that they would be taking a hiatus.

The album’s title is a reference to Jungkook’s role as the “golden maknae” — “maknae” meaning “youngest” in Korean — of BTS, a nickname endearingly given to him by fans of the band.

There is no denying that BTS has achieved unprecedented levels of success, defined by a famously loyal fanbase, Billboard chart-topping hits, numerous broken records and recognition from various international platforms, whether from the Grammys, the White House or the South Korean government.

Jungkook witnessed this meteoric rise to fame at the young age of 16, when he debuted with the group from its humble beginnings in 2013. 

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“Golden” serves as a solo stage for Jungkook to showcase his artistic development from then to now. The album is sung entirely in his non-native tongue of English and features a handful of big names, such as Jack Harlow and Ed Sheeran. 

It represents a thematic turn from Jungkook’s past solo endeavors into sensuality and vulnerability, as he details the experiences of being in a relationship.

“3D” featuring Jack Harlow is a catchy intro to the album, as Jungkook sings about experiencing a third dimension of intimacy with your partner. 

Harlow’s contribution to the song is, with its most generous interpretation, questionable. For listeners who do not want to witness his jarring mentions of “ABGs,” “whoring,” “thots” and abrupt “spy kids” ad-lib, Jungkook’s discography includes “3D (Alternate Ver.),” which excludes Harlow’s verse. 

Listeners of the album were also quick to comment their opinions on the song in reference to Harlow’s feature.

“My favorite scenes were the ones when Jack wasn’t in them,” commented Reddit user Edielu commented on a discussion thread of “3D”’s music video on the r/bangtan subreddit.

One listener described how the repeated objectification of women within Harlow’s verse wouldn’t hold up for today’s rap enjoyers.

“It’s 2023, can we please stop the raps about objectifying women for your own pleasure?” replied user nymmyy to Edielu. 

“Closer to You” featuring Major Lazer contrasts “3D” with a more dreamy, EDM-inspired sound. Jungkook sings about the intricacies of getting emotionally and physically closer to a partner, paired with lyrical imagery of silk dresses and warm embraces. 

“Seven (Explicit Ver.)” features Latto and sharply diverges from the somber sound of “Closer to You” with an infectious chorus and forward message.

“Every hour, every minute, every second/ You know night after night  I’ll be f—–’ you right/ seven days a week,” Jungkook sings energetically.

“If you think about it, how old am I?” Jungkook, now 26 years old, said in response to fan’s criticism of the song’s lyrics on a livestream

Latto adds a memorable verse to the song, expanding on its message.

“Seven days a week, seven different sheets, seven different angles/ I can be your fantasy,” she raps.

“Standing Next to You” is the highlight of “Golden,” with a groovy, disco funk sound that underlies Jungkook’s stirring and expressive ode to an indestructible love that is “deep like DNA.”

Jungkook delivers a range of background and falsetto vocals with ease. The song’s instrumentals are the most dynamic on the album, partly in thanks to Jungkook’s collaboration with producers Andrew Watt and Cirkut, who have worked with industry hallmarks such as Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry.

“Yes or No,” with contributions from Ed Sheeran, is about the torturous unknown of whether the person you are in love with reciprocates your feelings. 

Jungkook’s desire for a simple “yes or no” from the one he loves reflects on the simplicity of the song’s lyrics, as well as on the next track, “Please Don’t Change,” featuring DJ Snake.

“Please Don’t Change,” whose self-explanatory message is in its title, is lyrically awkward and repetitive at times, not helped by its unremarkable EDM sound.

“’Cause I love you, yeah, I love you/ Oh, I love you, love the way you are,” Jungkook sings.

“Hate You” slows the album’s pace with a vulnerable ballad underlaid by bare piano chords, as Jungkook desperately finds reasons to hate the person he loves in order to make the pain of letting them go easier. 

“Somebody” cements the message of “Hate You,” in which Jungkook vows not to be his ex-partner’s rebound. 

“Too Sad to Dance” is a continuation of the difficulties of a breakup, in particular, the self-loathing that follows the feeling of having no one. However, the song ends on a hopeful note of self-empowerment with some advice that Jungkook’s “pops” gives to him.

“He told me: Walk that walk alone/ And talk that talk you know/ ‘Cause you don’t need no one to dance,” Jungkook sings.

Jungkook questions his journey toward love and healing in “Shot Glass of Tears,” another mournful song about the aftermath of breaking up with someone.  

Finally, the album closes with “Seven (Clean Ver.)” featuring Latto, a rendition of “Seven (Explicit Ver.)” that replaces the colorful “f—–’” in the chorus with a tamer “lovin’.”

“Golden” is an archetypal pop album, complemented by polished, easy-on-the-ear vocals, high-profile collaborations and catchy hooks. 

Jungkook proves he can hold his own as a vocalist and performer, but leaves something to be desired in terms of finding a way to stand out thematically — that is, achieving the “star” part of the popstar label he is on the path to attaining.

 

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