[Album Review] Jack In The Box (1st Studio Album) – j-hope (BTS)

j-hope is nominated for Best Male Soloist, Best Rap Performance (for Arson), Best Rap or Hip-Hop Song (for MORE) and other categories in the 2022 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. BTS is also nominated for Best Stage Prescence and Best Special Performance. Support j-hope and BTS, along with your other favourite artists, songs and performances by clicking here to vote today.

Another long overdue album review is finally here. Cast your mind back to earlier this year when BTS confirmed that they would be focusing on solo ventures in the foreseeable future. Soon after, j-hope was confirmed to be the first member to release new solo music following the announcement. Come June, j-hope released his first studio-length album, Jack In The Box, featuring the title track Arson, the pre-release single MORE, and 8 other singles. I was a bit hesitant about reviewing this album, as I am not a big fan of rap or hip-hop music, which is what j-hope has released in the past. But after deciding to just do it, Jack In The Box proved to be much more than rap or hip-hop music. Continue reading to see what else j-hope had to offer in Jack In The Box.

Jack In The Box Album Cover

1. Intro – The intro to the album isn’t an instrumental piece like most other introductory tracks. Instead, for Jack In The Box, the intro was a segment of the narration of the mythical story of Pandora’s Box. The narration zones into the part of the story, where after releasing all the darkness and evil from the box, Pandora discovered hope. Soon after, the narration cuts out.

2. Pandora’s Box – While on topic, Pandora’s Box is the next track on the album. And it is a hip-hop track that goes in hard. There is a fair bit of angst behind j-hope’s delivery in the verses, which equates to a very passionate and intense track about his life as an idol. The chanting chorus was definitely the peak of the track, and leaves a deep impression on you in the final moments. (8/10)

3. MORE (Pre-Release Track)Click here to read the full review for MORE. (8.5/10)

4. Stop (세상에 나쁜 사람은 없다) Stop follows on neatly from MORE, continuing that urban-like feel that was present in MORE. When I listen to this track, I can imagine a music video of j-hope rapping whilst walking down the street. The track explores the topic of human nature, and I liked how he included audio of an arrest going on in the background. Going back to that idea of a music video, it sounds like he could walk past the situation and observe it play out in the music video. Other than that, Stop is a lot more laidback and finishes up quicker than you expect. (8/10)

5. = (Equal Sign)Equal Sign flaunts both vocals and rapping over a hip-hop instrumental that I found to be quite refreshing and easy on the ears. I also like the funky undertones Equal Sign had, thanks to that bass. I really enjoyed how smooth yet deep j-hope’s vocals, which contrasted really nicely to the rapping in the first half of the song. The way he sung reminded me of the chorus of Where is The Love, an equally (pun unintended) hopefully track. (10/10)

6. Music Box: Reflection – Heavy breathing, which I presume is j-hope was catching his breath, is played alongside the music box tune and some scratchy and dark synths. The music box tune and synths are two clashing opposites, but they come together to really create what felt like a deep interlude for the album.

7. What If … – I really liked how the piano/keyboard starts off striking (which is a sample from Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol’ Dirty Bastard) and is slowly incorporated into the background of the grungy hip-hop beat. It was quite a smooth incorporation. Given the grungy hip-hop, What If… brings back rapper j-hope, who goes down low and brings us a raspy tone to the mix. (8/10)

8. Safety Zone – j-hope brings soulful R&B to the album through with Safety Zone. And it makes sense, as the lyrics expresses j-hope’s desire for a ‘safe zone’ where he can clear headed and step away from his stressful life. I really liked the ‘Ooo’ in the background and the soulful vocals that come through at the end of the song. It makes Safety Zone a lot more emotive and yearning. His rapping was slow and paced in this song, which helped him expressed his confusion over where his ‘safe zone’ is. Overall, a well put together track that made me feel for j-hope. (10/10)

9. FutureFuture was quite a change up in terms of sound, when you compare it to the rest of this songs on it. Future is a lot more upbeat, cheerful, playful and vibrant. And this works really well with the song’s more hopeful lyrics. I also like how j-hope sounds like he has a smile on his face whilst recording the song. There is a bit of a child’s choir in the background, which was a nice touch to the song. (8/10)

10. Arson (방화)Click here to read the full review for Arson. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

Jack In The Box Teaser Image

[Review] Arson – j-hope (BTS)

As mentioned in the other day’s review for MORE, I will be posting my review for Arson, j-hope’s title track from his debut studio album, Jack In The Box. And here it is! Just to recap, the other review was for MORE, the pre-release for j-hope’s latest album and was released two weeks ago. Arson (the focal point of this review) was officially released the Friday that just passed, along with the rest of the album.

If I had to sum up Arson in very simple terms, it is a straight forward hip-hop track. So if you are looking for something a bit more innovative or different, Arson won’t be the title track you seek. But if you are for a straight forward hip-hop song, then Arson is the song for you. For me, I find the straight forward and no nonsense nature of Arson to be its drawing point. Arson‘s instrumental exudes a captivating flow, a moody rhythm and a strong beat, all of which had me head nodding along to the song. A small part of me does feel that more could have been done to develop the instrumental even further, but I pretty much enjoy how the instrumental is (and this pretty much could have ruined that no nonsense comment I made before). Adding to the moody nature of Arson is j-hope’s delivery. I liked the subtle aggression that comes from j-hope during some parts where he brings a small growl into play or pushes out a raspy tone in his delivery. The layering at the end with the filtered vocals that make the sequence beginning with the ‘If anyone asks me…’ and the paced delivery of the ‘Done, Done‘ was quite cool. Talking about the ‘Done, Done‘ parts of the song, it was so simple, but made Arson so catchy for me. Overall, Arson is a strong showing of j-hope’s skills that we all know he has over an uncomplicated backing.

The world is on fire in Arson‘s music video, which makes complete sense for a song titled Arson. The lyrics of the song expresses a dilemma for j-hope, whether to continue burning brightly or to put out the fire. A bit cryptic, but it appears that fans believe they have cracked the code and that this is a song based on j-hope’s journey as an artist. The flame represents the power and energy that j-hope has developed over the years (thanks to his success as part one of the biggest male groups of all time), showing that he is unstoppable and that only he can put out his own flame. He can harness the energy for his fans, being that bright light to guide them through, and/or burn his haters (as depicted by the people running around on fire in the video). I liked the dark atmosphere of the video, which compliments the hip-hop style of the song, and j-hope’s aggressive and powerful delivery in the song. The visual effects in the video, especially the glowing exposed wounds on his face at the end, were top notch!

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10

[Review] MORE – j-hope (BTS)

Following BTS’s long awaited Korean comeback with Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment) and the announcement that the group would be focusing more on their solo careers than group activities moving forward (though HYBE quickly clarified that promotions as a group would continue), j-hope is the first member to begin working on his solo career with the release of a studio album, Jack In The Box, which features the pre-release track MORE and the title track Arson (a review for Arson will be published tomorrow, as this review is just for MORE). It follows j-hope’s 2018 mixtape Hope World and 2019’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

I frankly should have reviewed MORE when it was first released two weeks ago. MORE features a dark atmosphere that really grabs your attention. This is thanks to the grungy direction in which the song went, which isn’t unheard of in KPOP. But it fair to say quite its a rare sight. I really like the escalation of the instrumental – boldness, energy and all – during the chorus. The filtered and shouty vocals from j-hope fits right in. However, I do wish there was more body to MORE‘s chorus, just so there is a substantial melody and hook to the song, which I felt was lacking. As for the verses, I did like j-hope’s simmered rapping and some of his drawn out delivery. It does feel constricted and limited, however. But it was obvious after the fact that the verses were designed to set up the chorus that I already touched upon. I did like how the second verse as a bit more bolstered and not a repeat of the first verse. This adds a bit more variety to MORE and doesn’t make it too consistent (which otherwise would have made MORE a bit dry). As per the stylistic choices that MORE follows, the track is a strong one that caught my attention. It just needed a bit more meat to the song, however, in my opinion.

Just like the teaser images for this release, I could not recognise j-hope. I personally attribute this to the makeup, which gives off a different character to the j-hope that I know of from BTS’ promotions. My comments might be taken to be negative, but I do enjoy it when artists show different sides of themselves, and j-hope obviously hit that brief. His look also fits in well with the grungy style of MORE. Anyhow, the video starts off with a package being delivered (which at the end is shown to be a package of all the rooms we see j-hope feature in this video). j-hope clarifies that each room has a concept and meaning, but he doesn’t go into detail what they are. Based on the lyrics, it appears these rooms relate to him somehow and his journey as an artist thus far – with his lyrics depicting his ambition from when he was starting out to the present as a BTS member. I would like to know what each room represented, just to give more meaning to the video. He did talk about the hallway, which he says shows that there are more spaces, fitting for a song titled MORE.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10