Album Review: J-Hope of BTS Embraces and Defies Expectations With ‘Jack in the Box’

J-Hope has been in the spotlight for years as a rapper in BTS, unquestionably the most famous band in the world right now. In BTS, J-Hope‘s charisma and persona are unmistakable and oftentimes synonymous with positivity.

When Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook of BTS announced their plans to focus on solo projects, the question centered less on if future solo releases would be good, and instead fell more in line with what fans and non-fans alike could expect from the music. J-Hope took on this pressure of expectations as the first BTS member to release a solo album, resulting in Jack In The Box.

Released on July 15, Jack In The Box introduces a new side of J-Hope across 10 tracks. It’s clear from the album’s subject matter that J-Hope knew what fans might expect from his first solo album and chose to step outside of those preconceived notions.

J-Hope's album Jack In The Box earned 4.5 out of 5 stars in Showbiz Cheat Sheet's review

Ambition is at the heart of J-Hope’s album ‘Jack In The Box’

On July 1, J-Hope released “MORE,” a pre-release single for Jack In The Box and the third song on the album’s tracklist. The song’s music video introduced the album’s themes and foreshadowed that J-Hope would be showing a darker side of himself with Jack In The Box.

Releasing “MORE” proved to be an effective and necessary move for the rapper, as it marked a clear shift from his 2018 solo mixtape Hope World and his work in BTS. An old-school hip-hop track, the song’s chorus also contains elements of alternative rock.

As a whole, “MORE” encompasses J-Hope’s ambition, and in the song’s second verse he raps, “I want it, stadium with ma fans, still/ Bag all the trophies and Grammys too/ Fame, money’s not everything, I already know it/ My work makes me breathe, so I want MORE.”

J-Hope of BTS poses for a promotional photo for 'Arson'
J-Hope | Big Hit Music

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“Arson” is the lead single on Jack In The Box, and it continues the message of “MORE” as J-Hope contemplates his future path.

“Now I ask myself, choose what/ Do I put out the fire, or burn even brighter,” J-Hope ponders with “Arson.”

Together, the two songs are the bedrock of the album, and “Arson” closes the album as the last track on Jack In The Box, signaling that J-Hope’s journey as an artist is only just beginning.

J-Hope’s album tells a story across 10 tracks

While J-Hope’s ambition is the core message of Jack In The Box, the rapper experiments with different styles and explores a narrative from start to finish.

“Intro” serves as a proper introduction and tells the myth of Pandora’s Box, a story that inspired J-Hope’s stage name. This leads into the album’s second track, aptly titled “Pandora’s Box.” With this influential track, J-Hope explores the history of his namesake and how it relates to his career and individuality.

“STOP” continues J-Hope’s notable hip-hop sound, and its repetitiveness adds to the album’s introspective nature. Meanwhile, “= (Equal Sign)” looks outward as J-Hope encourages listeners to embrace the differences of those around them.

“Hate’ll paralyze your mind/ Gotta see the other side/ It costs ya nothin’ to be kind/ Not so different you and I,” J-Hope sings in “= (Equal Sign).”

By choosing to sing in “= (Equal Sign),” J-Hope matches the message of the song with gentleness and sincerity.

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Music Box : Reflection” is the album’s interlude, setting up the second half of Jack In The Box. In a press preview for Jack In The Box, J-Hope shared that the album’s latter tracks uncover his “inner shadows” as he travels “outside of the box.”

“What If…” takes J-Hope’s pondering to the next level, and following the superb “Safety Zone” and “Future,” listeners reach the album’s conclusion with “Arson.”

Final takeaways from ‘Jack In The Box’

What sticks out the most about Jack In The Box is the way J-Hope conveys the album’s message. Jack In The Box is mythic, nostalgic, bold, and hopeful. While the album is many things, it does not have any musical features, keeping the focus on J-Hope himself.

The thought the rapper put into curating the album is apparent and brings a welcome awareness to the project. While Jack In The Box sonically deviates from what fans might have originally expected, the album’s honesty gives nothing but hope for J-Hope’s future as an artist.

Jack In The Box tracklist:

  1. “Intro”
  2. “Pandora’s Box”
  3. “MORE”
  4. “STOP”
  5. “= (Equal Sign)”
  6. “Music Box : Reflection”
  7. “What If…”
  8. “Safety Zone”
  9. “Future”
  10. “Arson”

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