Sunday, January 8, 2023

Music Review: Jack in the Box

When BTS announced that they would be taking time apart to concentrate on solo projects, the world went crazy: media announced a hiatus/disbandment, and fans worried about missing the group. What we did not know then was that with the solo projects, fans would have even more BTS projects and merchandise to go out and support. There has been so much that it has left my wallet shaking!

The first one to “go solo” after the announcement was j-hope. He has had solo efforts in the past with his mix tape Hope World in 2018, but his latest project, Jack in the Box, is his first official solo album. The album first came out with the single More, followed by Arson, and these songs were highlights of his performance at Lollapalooza in 2022. 

I loved the whole concept of the album of j-hope being Jack in the Box, a nod to how hope is the one thing left in Pandora’s box in the Greek myth. I thought it was a nice touch to have that introduction on Pandora’s box and hope at the beginning of the album. It was a smooth transition from that to the first track, Pandora’s Box, where j-hope talks about how he feels about his stage name.

More, the first single from the album was a surprise for me. I did not expect that kind of mashup between rock and rap to be the kind of music that he would produce for this album. It was new, nothing that I had heard from him before, and I thought it was exceptionally good. The drums and the guitars on this track keep my head banging to the beat whenever I listen to it. All these disbandment rumors aside, this song gives me hope that there is more to come from all of them with the message of this track.

The two songs that follow carry a similar theme: Stop talks about hoping that despite the world we live in, there is hope for change, as there are no bad people in the world. Equal Sign is a good follow-up to that, with its message of equality, love, and respect despite all our differences. I love Equal Sign, that chorus is catchy and reminds me of a song you would want to listen to feel good.

There is an instrumental track called Music Box: Reflection in between Equal Sign and the next track. I thought it was a little creepy at first with the wind-up sound and the music that followed, but this was all in-theme with the whole Jack in the Box concept. Have to say though, it felt like a sound where a scary clown would jump out from a box while you are in a dimly lit room.

What If is a song where j-hope contemplates what his life would be if he did not have the life that he enjoys today. If he did not have the passion and the hope to go after his dreams, wondering what kind of person he would have been if his life had gone any other way. I love that he shows his vulnerable side with songs like this and with Safety Zone, where he shares how his life sometimes feels like it is going too fast and challenging and he is longing for that place where he can find comfort and rest. Even the song following this, Future, shows his vulnerability as he looks forward to a future that is uncertain but moves straight ahead with hope.

Ending the album with the song Arson felt like a way of acknowledging how they have burned bright with their career and achieved remarkable things then wondering if it is time to let it all end or to burn even brighter. I felt a bit sad with the lyrics because he was wondering if it was time to let it all end but equally hopeful that he considered burning even brighter too.

This was such a good album from j-hope, and I love that he has been out there performing his music at various events and venues. I love that he does not only explore diverse types of music to combine with his rap but that he allows himself to be vulnerable with the topics explored in these tracks. I feel that his music has grown from his first mix tape, and I hope that I get to listen and be a witness to more of that growth in the years to come.


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