BTS member says solo prep was “lonely” without his bandmates but also “very fun and very new.” It’s the day before J-big Hope’s performance at Lollapalooza, but he didn’t seem nervous. He smiled as he thought about this critical historical moment while wearing a casual Balenciaga outfit. On Sunday, he was the first South Korean musician to be the leading actor at a prominent U.S. music festival. It was also the first time he performed solo live.
Even though he seems calm, he has been working hard for this night and has high hopes. “As an artist, J-Hope, it’s a huge challenge for me. It’s a big deal just to keep moving forward,” he tells Rolling Stone backstage via a translator in a cordoned-off enclave in the artist area. “So I had to prepare hard since it’s a significant moment and an important part of my artistry. After this performance, maybe I will feel a lot of things. It will help me as an artist to take the next step.”
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As part of his preparations, he worked hard to perfect his live performance of the first two singles (“More” and “Arson”) from his first solo album, Jack in the Box. These are the songs he’s most excited to play for the first time. “They are also songs that have styles that I haven’t performed before,” he explains.”So I practiced a lot because they are complex songs to do live.” The singles, he says, require a lot of energy, and he spent a lot of time in rehearsals on them. “I have to perform these songs solely dependent on my voice and vibe. Not the usual weapon I have, which is dancing,” he adds. “So in that sense, I focused a lot on those two lead singles that are meaningful to me.”
Going solo also meant he had to practice without the other six members of BTS. He laughs and says, “It’s been lonely.” “I miss my members.” But that’s also presented good challenges — physically, energetically, and mentally — after working the past ten years in a group setting. “[It’s] very challenging, but also very fun. So actually, I think it’s very positive to take on new challenges, [which] are going to help me as a person. So I’m enjoying the whole process. Every moment is enjoyable and new, making me feel like I’ve returned to the old days.”
J-Hope is the first member of BTS to release a solo album, Jack in the Box. It’s a proper solo album with no other artists on it. “I filled the entire album with only my voice. So I created this album to prove myself, you know? I wanted to show people that this is the music that I do. This is the vibe that I have. I wanted to let many other artists hear my music; that I want to let the artists know that, ‘Oh, J-Hope does this kind of music,’” he says. “I’m looking forward to the collaboration, so maybe I can do a very cool and awesome collaboration with other artists. Nothing’s set yet, but it’s just my bold ambition. I’m open to any plans like this. If I do the next collaboration, it’ll probably showcase my ultimate weapon, which is dancing.”
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Even though Jack in the Box has only been out for a few weeks, J-Hope has already played at a big festival and had time to think about what he learned.
“The most important thing is that I realize that taking on this huge task was a huge challenge to do what I wanted to do right now. Looking back, I think I realized that if it wasn’t for now, I wouldn’t have been able to release this album,” he says. “So I think that marks a big milestone in my musical journey. So, after this album, I slowly set the direction where my music should be headed next. I learned that maybe I was a little bit arrogant, maybe I was a little lacking, and I was a little inexperienced. But I learned so much through this album. In that sense, I think this album is meaningful to me.”