Jung Kook – GOLDEN | Ben’s Beat – Music Reviews

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Since announcing their hiatus as a group, BTS’ Jung Kook has been one of the last members of the supergroup to release solo material – surprisingly enough, as if Twitter is to be believed, he seems to be the most popular member of all. Sure enough, paralleling someone like Harry Styles transcending the boy-band label and becoming accepted by all open-minded music fans, it also seems like Jung Kook’s star power has his work performing a lot more like your everyday pop smash rather than a frontloaded, fan-driven BTS project. With three top ten hits from this album already racked up and some collaborations with industry heavy-hitters, this ten-track collection doesn’t do too much to reinvigorate the glossy pop sheen of a typical BTS tune. Still, as most of the solo members’ projects go, it’s a mix of songs with pop down to a science that prove why he belongs to the biggest group in the world, and others that fall flat without enough heart or personality to back them up. You just have to notice that Major Lazer and DJ Snake both feature on the album to figure the latter part out.

Out of the three singles already released, the one that kicks off the album is the best. Jung Kook essentially took the lead role on his group’s “Dynamite,” giving a shoutout to “shining through the city with a little funk and soul,” and the biggest appeal of his project might be that some of the tracks are a little funkier than you might expect – right down to the whispered, half-rapped bars that kick off a chorus laden with jazz scales on “3D.” It’s all a little reminiscent of something like early Timberlake. With some solid production, it certainly sets the tone and establishes the image of Jung Kook as the playboy of the mostly sanitized group from which he comes, as Jack Harlow appears alongside to give an assist. Harlow’s contribution is essentially the platonic ideal of one of his verses – save for maybe his guest spot on Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby.” With a great opening line and a dexterous flow that still leaves room for goofy and charismatic moments, he returns with a speedy outro to tie the track up nicely. Major Lazer guests next on “Closer to You,” which has the slightest hint of a dancehall and Afrobeats kick that Jung Kook never quite rhythmically masters. The chorus finds him repeating the track’s title in a whispered, barely-there falsetto. We know he’s a better singer than this, so unless the appeal of the track is hearing Jung Kook whisper in your ear – which for many fans, it very well might be – a lot of this track is a bit of a rhythmic mess with an energy-killing hook.

The track “Seven” arrives next, the one that started it all and had many BTS fans scandalized at just how explicit Jung Kook unexpectedly gets in the chorus. It is honestly a bit of a Miley Cyrus “Can’t Be Tamed” moment from him, and it goes over a little bit awkwardly as a result. Still, you can’t deny that it’s a catchy tune at its core, driven by a buzzy synth-funk kick bubbling under the surface. Latto’s verse uncharacteristically leaves a little bit to be desired, but this is the kind of track that proves that Jung Kook could contend with his Western contemporaries as an everyday pop star. “Standing Next To You” is the final single we hear, and this is the one that goes full-on 80s, Michael Jackson-esque funk-pop. The instrumental is unexpectedly dynamic with some involved drum fills, walking basslines, build ups and even a sax solo near the end as Jung Kook lyrically addresses an us-against-the-world mentality, vowing to stick beside his partner through the fires and complications. The central hook goes over well and Jung Kook hits some of his most impressive vocal moments with some powerful falsetto notes, but the chorus as a whole falls a little unfortunately flat for the gift the instrumental provides him.

“Yes Or No” features an Ed Sheeran co-write, and even finds Sheeran himself playing guitar on the track. You can hear Sheeran’s undeniable voice and songwriting style in the way that Jung Kook phrases things here, and if it landed on one of Sheeran’s two albums this year instead, it would be one of the best tracks he put out in years. He can be just as much of a master of pop formulae as BTS at times, and there’s a certain way that the guitar part pushes and pulls with Jung Kook’s vocals that makes the central melody a little irresistible. “Please Don’t Change,” on the other hand, features production credits from DJ Snake and Banx & Ranx, a Canadian duo whose blend of EDM and watered-down tropical sounds is currently contributing to making their local music landscape as stuck in 2015 as DJ Snake has been his whole career. As Jung Kook professes his love for the song’s recipient repeatedly in the chorus, he sounds like he’s going through the motions as much as the instrumental is. It makes it all the more surprising to get “Hate You” right after, a stripped-back piano-based ballad where you can hear every bit of emotion dripping off of Jung Kook’s wavering vocals – almost to a bit of an uncomfortable degree. You can never say that he has issues with being vulnerable on a track as he begrudgingly makes the decision to hate a partner in the wake of a breakup – as he says, it’s “the only way it doesn’t hurt.” Repeated listens of this one aren’t for me, but for thousands, this track might be their world for good reason.

Teaming up with another somewhat dubious songwriter-producer in Jon Bellion, his contributions are more in line with what we might come to expect. With some truly awful Auto-Tune effects and chipmunkified pitching on the chorus, there’s not really any semblance of a hook on “Somebody” as the beat awkwardly shuffles along. “Too Sad To Dance” is a peppy guitar-pop tune with somber lyrics, something that’s been done to death, but there’s a certain degree of wholesome earnestness that Jung Kook brings to his performance here that overrides the backdrop. It’s the feeling that it’s the kind of song the superstar would only perform in a little coffeeshop, breezing through his “dum-da-da-dum” melodies as he sings about sitting in the club feeling blue. The themes of the penultimate track continue onto the closing track “Shot Glass of Tears,” a pure piano ballad that finds Jung Kook continuing to find a respite for his feelings in alcohol, but with lyrics still looking forward to a hopeful future.

If RM’s Indigo is the BTS solo work that shows the most potential, Jung Kook’s debut has to be in second place. Showing the propensity for a career and singles that last long after the BTS Army streaming farms die down, there’s a certain degree of star power going forward that should see results if he links up with the right people.

Favourite Tracks: Yes Or No, 3D, Too Sad To Dance, Standing Next To You

Least Favourite Track: Somebody

Score: 6/10

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