Jung Kook adds another layer to his burgeoning solo career with his all-English offering debut solo full-length GOLDEN.
The album starts decently, with a melodic piece of R&B-pop (featuring a rather…puzzling “rap” from Jack Harlow). “3D” works as a cute song about virtual romance, but it’s a bit dated. Something that would’ve been a Pharell throwaway on the Justified album.
GOLDEN gets a bit more interesting in the next track, in terms of composition. It derives most of its melodic nuance from dancehall (compliments of Major Lazer), using recognizable aspects of the genre and mixing it with elements of electropop. Jung Kook uses breath effectively to create the intimacy he hints at in the song's title and lyrics. It does make me giggle how much K-pop artists delight in using profanity, even if it comes off a bit “I’m cussing behind my parents’ backs” in execution and lyrical context. Obviously ARMYs will get a kick out of it, proclaiming it’s Jung Kook on his grown ’n’ sexy. Ultimately, it’s not believable and seems a bit forced.
GOLDEN's through line is certainly its proximity to Justin Timberlake’s late 2000s sound (a la The 20/20 Experience). The latter half of the album does more work on bringing some nuance to a sound that’s a little dated. “Hate You” acts as an interesting change of pace, more interesting lyrically. (Musicians do tend to get more profound when describing their pain.) Simplicity does wonders for this track, relying on piano and vocal delivery. Again, Jung Kook’s use of breath works to give the song texture and an earnestness that sadly isn’t consistently applied on the album. In that same way, “Somebody” provides a more interesting landscape to traverse, slow-grind electronica that does more to highlight the vocal performance than the desire to appear on-trend.
Though it’s clear the overall aesthetic is electronic/house-adjacent pop, GOLDEN is a bit compositionally inconsistent. It’s entertaining enough, and Jung Kook does use his pleasant vocals to mostly decent effect. It’s obviously a good pop album. Doesn’t do too much, Jung Kook stays in his lane and it’s easily digestible, danceable, ticks all the right boxes of what makes a competent modern-day pop album.
Well produced, good vocals, moments if interesting musical composition (“Hate You,” “Somebody”), uninteresting lyrics. Pop as defined by the musical trends dominating the charts (and this album takes pages from a few of them): music that entertains in the moment and is forgotten by those with only a passing interest in the artist making it.