Heart Full of Love
There is a saying that “all the world needs is love” and that saying rings truer today than ever, and at the heart of the South Korean band known as BTS, there is Jung Ho-seok, whose love infuses everything that BTS is and does. Professionally known as J-hope, he likes to describe himself as the “world’s hope” — hence his professional stage name. Yet J-hope (aka Hobi to fans) is so much more than a beacon of hope, he embodies love in its various forms. J-hope is someone who cannot help but love everyone around him, and to such a degree that his bandmates describe him as their “vitamin” — the essential ingredient that they all need daily to keep motivated and moving forward on their musical path. In his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope admitted: “I used that expression because I feel like consistently and unchangingly, I give the team good energy. . . I’ve always tried to give them good energy and keep them in a good mood . . I’m one of those people who try hard to keep their group’s energy up.”
Looking back over the 10 years in which BTS has risen to the top of the worldwide music industry, BTS’s career seems to be marked by moments of love: the love the band has for each other, the love that the band has for its fans, and the love that the band wants to share with the world. BTS literally brought their message of “Love Myself” to the entire world with their 3 albums — Love Yourself: Her, Love Yourself: Tear, Love Yourself: Answer — a message that they have only continued to build upon in their subsequent album series — Map Of the Soul: Persona, Map Of the Soul: 7 and Map Of the Soul: The Journey — and what can only be construed as their “love letter” album BE, which the band released in November 2020 in order to deliver a message of love and hope to a world suffering under a worldwide pandemic, as well as their latest single “Permission To Dance”. The world needs more love and BTS is happy to be a deliverer of love.
J-hope may think of himself as simply a bearer of hope, but when looking over his career and contributions to the music world — both as a member of BTS and as seen in his solo music work — his contributions are more as an act of love because the undercurrent of love can be felt in everything he does. Everyone may look at J-hope as a beacon of hope, but what they feel is that warmth of love — the genuine appreciation and love that he brings to BTS, to the BTS fans and ARMY fan world, and, most of all, to his music and artistry. Every member of BTS brings passion and love for their music and craft as they perform, but J-hope enthusiastically and unabashedly shares his passionate love of music and dance with everyone. He cannot help it because that is just who he is.
RM is seen as BTS’s leader/rapper/lyricist. Suga is seen as BTS’s composer/rapper/lyricist. Jin is seen as BTS’s “face” of the group and visual attractor with powerful vocals. Jungkook is seen as BTS’s center/dance attractor/golden vocalist and lucky charm. Jimin is seen as BTS’s angelic dancer and singer with a warm heart. Taehyung is seen as BTS’s provocateur and wild child that dazzles with Greek god visuals and soulful voice. And J-hope is seen as the cheerleader with his amazing dance and vocal abilities, and lyricist with 112 song writing credits. Yet J-hope’s love abilities are so much more than can fit under the label of cheerleader/dancer/lyricist.
J-hope radiates love on everyone nearby, and that includes his bandmates and those who work with them. Yet J-hope’s love is not simply a romantic or warm feeling in a person’s heart. Love is an ever-changing and adapting emotion as it includes a wide range of facets, such as: acceptance, tolerance, welcoming/acknowledging/embracing differences, challenging each other, encouraging each other, providing “tough love” to keep everyone on course with their mutual goals, keeping watch to make sure they eat, sleep and stay on schedule, watching for mistakes and teaching them to do better, and sometimes it is just simply being there when it counts. Love is never just one thing. It encompasses so much more. So J-hope’s love is built out of a strong foundation of respect, appreciation, acceptance, unyielding encouragement, and belief that all things are possible.
Lure of Dance
The love of dancing is what originally compelled J-hope to become a competitive street dancer. It called out to his soul and he answered that call as he was lured into the streets where he danced with dance team known as Neuron, where he made a name for himself because J-hope seems to move every joint and muscle in his body in ways that defy the laws of physics, demonstrating how much control and artistry he brings to his body movements and dance.
J-hope is known to be one of the world’s best dancers and clearly his BTS bandmates recognize it because they have deferred to his dance instruction and movement training for nearly a decade. In fact, BTS’s own choreographer Son Sung-deuk only has to run BTS through a choreographed dance sequence once or twice, then J-hope takes over to keep them on track during practices. There are numerous videos showing J-hope keeping the music beat and tempo while coaching his bandmates through their individual steps and helping them with practices before a performance, so that he can see where each needs to focus and improve. Just like muscle-memory helps a dancer remember routines, in BTS, it is J-hope’s dance instinct and watchful eye that keeps track of each BTS member as they perform (though it should be noted that Jimin is a trained dancer himself and rarely needs such assistance). In the March 2021 “Let’s BTS” interview (7:37 mark), Jungkook said that the one thing he most wanted to hear was J-hope telling him that he was really good at dancing, which J-hope was happy to do; and Jungkook, after 10 years working hard to perfect his dance moves and craft his own dance choreography for his “My Time” performance, knew that this is high praise coming from J-hope.
BTS is known for their complex and rigorous dance performances. From their early days, BTS physically challenged themselves to deliver choreography and dance sequences that mesmerized. For, in today’s ultra-competitive music world, it is not enough to be a brilliant singer or band, they must also be able to visually captivate because entertainment is not just about listening to music anymore, it is seeing it performed. BTS are geniuses at delivering both because BTS’s music not only captures the listening audience, it enthralls the audience visually as well. Perfect examples include BTS’s recent release of “Butter”, which include nearly 12 different dance performances: the official “Butter” MV, BTS’s dance practice “Butter” video, BTS’s special performance “Butter” video, BTS’s “Butter (Hotter Remix” video, performance of “Butter” for the Billboard Music Awards, performance of “Butter” for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, performance of “Butter” for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. Other stunning visual dance/choreography performances by BTS, include for their hit song “Dynamite” official MV, BTS’s Grammy performance for “Dynamite”, BTS’s “Dynamite” Dance Break at 2020 Melon Music Awards, “Black Swan” official MV and “Black Swan” performance for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, “ON: Kinetic Manifesto Film”, “Fake Love”, “Idol” official MV and “Idol” performance for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, “Blood Sweat & Tears” and the fun and charming performance of their 2015 song “Dope”.
J-hope moves at such a speed that it is hard to keep up as you watch him dance. His body moves in ways that defy gravity and laws of physics. It captivates, enthralls and makes you a believer that some people are born gifted by the devine. Whether it is lightning fast dance steps combined with razor-sharp hand and arm movement, or a seamless display of slow motion movement, J-hope moves in ways that redefine dance choreography. He is a masterclass dance artist with a keen ability to adapt his vocals to suit any dance style he wishes.
Chasing the Dream
In 2010, J-hope’s love of dance brought him to Big Hit Entertainment during an open audition for a new hip-hop/rap band where J-hope’s dance moves were strong enough to get him selected into the Big Hit training program. After that, J-hope began working on his vocal training, learning to become a singer and rapper good enough to debut with BTS. From the start, J-hope and his bandmates RM and Suga bonded over their shared love of music and performance. RM and Suga had to acclimate and learn dance routines and choreography, and they in turn helped J-hope to become a skilled rapper/singer. Yet they could not have predicted the incredible journey they were about to embark upon, as their band expanded to include four more singers and dancers: Jin, Jungkook, V/Taehyung and Jimin, bringing BTS to the “Lucky 7” level which sparked their destined path to greatness after they debuted as BTS in June 2013.
BTS’s journey, as a band, went through a lot of sound and style experimentation between 2010 through 2013 while BTS worked extensively on perfecting their songwriting, singing, and dance routines. So much so, that it was akin to a jeweler chipping away at the rough edges of a stone until a beautiful diamond is revealed within. Those 3 training years were a test of endurance as each of the 7 members had to learn, memorize and ultimately shine on their own, as well as seamlessly integrate as part of the BTS band as a whole. J-hope has described that time period as a “time for chasing their dreams”. BTS even wrote the song “Path” (lyrics) released as a hidden song on their first album 2 Cool for Skool describing their journey towards the future:
I, who started out just because of the love for dance, now stand on the stage
Overcoming many pains and scars that occurred in between, I prepared myself
Making use of my life principle to bend rather than to break, I ran for three years
and ignited the stars in my heart
Now I try shining a new light on me
and carving “Bangtan” into a black page that is called the world
I walk towards my future with more lights turned on
There are a lot of reasons that BTS’s shift from being solely hip-hop/rap artists to global music sensation succeeded. Mostly, it is because BTS is made up with 7 gifted and talented artists who have created some of the world’s most beautiful music and delivered some of the most captivating performances illustrating that each member deserved to be showcased. BTS’s unique convergence of sound and performance is an art form unto itself. They have raised the bar so much that virtually every band, since 2015, has tried to replicate their success and follow in their footsteps. But BTS’s ability to draw in and hold the attention of millions of fans across the globe is unprecedented. I credit this to BTS’s ability to make those who hear and watch them perform fall in love with them. That combined with BTS’s natural singing and dancing abilities is really why BTS has succeeded on such a large scale, but ultimately it distills to one secret ingredient: BTS’s uniquely addictive music and songs that are infused with a feeling of love. A few examples include BTS’s songs “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal” (lyrics), “Moon” (lyrics), “Magic Shop” (lyrics), “Mikrokosmos” (lyrics), and “Boy With Luv” (lyrics).
That 2013 through 2015 period challenged BTS on multiple levels, as not only was the band finding its footing in the music and performance worlds, they tried to find balance and equilibrium among themselves. The training years had taught them to work in sync and as a music unit, but beyond singing and dance, they also had to find balance in their personal and professional lives to succeed. Embarking on a music/dance career is challenging, which can test the “best of the best” on their determination, tenacity and ability to work together. BTS is the first to admit that they struggled and fought and had to work hard on teamanship for years to work out the inherent tension. J-hope in his Rolling Stone 2021 interview: “We were living together, but we had to make sure we each had our own personal spaces . . . eventually we learned to understand each other. . . [now they have] sort of harmony . . . each of us has different roles and different things we do in the music, so we try to help each other in what we’re doing and try to help each other become better.” That acclimation period achieved a unity that carries with them to this day and has helped them overcome the obstacles and hurdles to their career advancement as they chased their dream, together.
An early BTS song, that J-hope was featured, “Silver Spoon” (aka “Baepsae”) (lyrics), from BTS’s The Most Beautiful Moment In Life: Young Forever album, described the danger of chasing the wrong dream and the need to refocus on what is truly important in life. “Silver Spoon” acknowledged that this generation of youth has suffered and it is time to change the rules: “Time flowing fast, I used to only chase the dream.” BTS, as a united team, also had to make sure that they were pursuing the right dream.
Then from Love Yourself: Her album, BTS’s hidden song “Sea” (lyrics) referred to BTS’s need to keep running as hard as they must always have hope:
I know that this trial given to me now
I know that I will overcome
I think positively, swallowing drily, that even if I get anxious . .
Wherever there’s hope, there’s a trial . . .
The desert we feared got filled with our blood, sweat, and tears to become the sea
But what are these fears among all this happiness?
We know too well that this place was originally a desert
I don’t want to cry, I don’t want to rest
How about resting just for a bit?
No, I don’t want to lose,
This was originally a desert, then we have to run . . .
From BTS’s Wings album, the song “Lost” (lyrics) also referred to how, even if they feel lost, they have to believe that they will find their way:
I’m still standing here with my eyes closed
Lost between the desert and the sea
I’m still wandering, not knowing where to go
I never knew that there would be so many ways
Ways that I couldn’t go and ways that I can’t go . . .
But I’m still believing it, although it’s hard to believe it,
That to lose my way is the way to find that way . . .
However many times I wander, I will still believe in my way
Lost my way, found my way . . .
I will never lose my dream. . .
Currently, also from BTS’s Wings album, the BTS song “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone” (lyrics) is on J-hope’s Spotify Favorite Tracks list:
Even if it hurts like this,
Because, you and I, if we’re together, we can smile
I never walk alone
From your hand that I’m holding, I can feel your warmth
You never walk alone
BTS’s Spotify Favorite Tracks recommendations are intriguing as each member includes the most recent BTS hit songs (“Butter”, “Permission To Dance”, “Dynamite”), as well as a few of their own personal favorites from the BTS discography and from a variety of other recommended artists’ songs. J-hope’s Spotify Favorite Tracks (posted May 2021) included “Dis-ease” (BE album), “Outro: Wings” (Wings album), “A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone” (You Never Walk Alone album) and in July, he added: “Outro: Ego” (Map Of the Soul: 7 album) and “So What” (Love Yourself: Tear album). Also noteworthy was the fact that J-hope included his bandmate RM’s collaboration with Wale “Change”, which is a song that talks about how the world is changing around us, but the theme likely resonates in J-hope’s soul, which says: “Real friends love you with no limit”. Love is a vital part of life and knowing how powerful it is, J-hope appreciates that his own bandmates’ and friends’ love also has no limit. Love may not always be unconditional, but once given, it has no limits.
Rise of BTS’s ARMY
2013 was an interesting time in BTS’s history. The band joyously debuted as intended with their rap/hip-hop artistry on fine display. Yet, due to a convergence of events, BTS’s sound and image was not sticking, and did not secure its target audience as hoped. Fortunately, if there is one thing BTS is phenomenal at, it is being attune to the shifting demands and expectations of the music industry and global audience. Thus, BTS incorporated more diverse music and songs into its repertoire in 2014 and completed its shift into new musical styles by early 2015 (known as the HYYH era), which launched them into the global arena and secured their core fanbase known as ARMY (which stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth).
BTS’s history and extensive library of video compilations accrued through Vlive, YouTube/BangtanTV channel, and WeVerse revealed that BTS used every available tool at their disposal to create their music, establish a dominant social media presence, and keep their fans entertained every step of the way. BTS’s every day lives (both personal and professional) became tools and a gateway to keep their fan base’s attention and focus on BTS and their journey. It was savvy, smart, and social media teams should use them as a model to learn from in promoting future musicians and artists. Yet it is nearly impossible to replicate BTS’s success through the use of social media, and I attribute that success to the unique combination of talents and personalities that make up BTS. Other musicians and bands can look for a special cocktail of personalities and talents, but there can only be one BTS, because each of its members are unique and not replicable.
BTS has had a fascinating trajectory with their music and performances. Realizing that their scope was too narrow initially as a rap/hip-hop band, BTS expanded its songs and music into a wider array of sound and styles. BTS’s musical expansion included songs that offered rhythm and blues, haunting melodies, beautiful ballads, heart-searching solos, electric dance mix music with heart-pounding beats, and lyrics that challenged its audience to search their hearts and souls while embracing the myriad of incredible things in the the world around them.
BTS started with songs of youthful, rebellious angst combined with frustration against societal labels and social expectations, and shifted into a musical journey of self-introspection and self-love, and finally included songs that exuberantly embraced life and challenged themselves to be their best, which led to a period of heart-bursting happiness tinged with reflection as BTS embarked on their global expansion of performance, songs and sound. J-hope described in his Rolling Stone (May 2021) interview: “As time flows, things change and trends change, as did our tendencies in music. We took into account the influences around us, including of course, our audiences.”
In his November 2020 WeVerse interview, J-hope further noted that the constant source of strength for BTS is their fans, who are a big comfort and give them hope — ARMY is BTS’s biggest cheerleader and source of solace and comfort. J-hope describes AMRY as: “For me, it’s my Achilles heel, so that I can walk. It supports me. . . They are such an important source of strength and driving force that moves me.” (Let’s BTS, March 2021)
RM described BTS’s special relationship with ARMY even more succinctly: “Our love life—twenty-four hours, seven days a week—is with all the ARMYs all over the world.” (Esquire Magazine, November 2020). To BTS, ARMY is the love of their life. So much so, that BTS has written songs dedicated to ARMY, including: “2!3!”, “Magic Shop”, “Mikrokosmos”, and “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal”. “2!3!” (Wings album) says: “When I say one two three, forget it. Erase all the sad memories, hold my hand and smile.” “Magic Shop” (Love Yourself: Tear album) says: “You found me. You recognized me. You gave me the best of me. So you’ll give you the best of you. You’ll find a galaxy inside you. I’ll show you.” “Mikrokosmos” (Map Of the Soul: Persona album) says: “We’re all shining from one’s own room, from one’s own star. . . lights of people, each of them is precious . . . let us shine . . . shining with 7 billion lights. . . You got me . . . I got you in the pitch black nights. Shine, dream, smile. Let us light up the night. We shine in our own way.” “We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal” (Map Of the Soul: 7 album) says: “We were only seven . . . but we have you now. . . We are not afraid anymore. We are, together, bulletproof.” These songs serve to remind ARMY just how much BTS loves, cherishes and celebrates their musical journey (personal and professional) with them every step of the way, and for that love, there is no limit.
J-hope’s own musical transformation and journey has been just as remarkable and intriguing, from his first solo song “Mama” through his Hope World album (aka mixtape) which provided songs with irrepressible happiness and celebration, later counterbalanced by J-hope’s subsequent introspective look at self and self-love in the BTS songs “Intro: Boy Meets Evil” (lyrics), “Trivia: Just Dance” (lyrics) and “Outro: Ego” (lyrics).
J-hope’s love of his mother and his gratitude for her unwavering love and support compelled him to name and dedicate his first solo song to her. In “Mama” (lyrics) J-hope said: “With that promise, I became the son I am now.” The entire song is an ode to his mother who worked hard to provide for him when he was growing up and how he promises to be a better loving and attentive son now and in the future. While the entire world is blessed with J-hope’s never-ending love, it is his mother who J-hope vowed to love more and appreciate more now that he understood the sacrifices she made for him and how that inspired him to love her, and the world around him, even more.
Feeling encouraged and ready to share more of his musical journey, J-hope then went on to release his solo album (aka “mix-tape”) entitled Hope World in 2018, with its song “Daydream” breaking out and dominating on song charts. “Daydream’s” foot-tapping, head-bobbing vibe resonated with audiences everywhere and landed on the U.S. Billboard World Songs chart at #1, helping Hope World secure the #5 spot on the U.S. World Album year-end chart for 2018. Currently, Hope World continues to sell and stream at unprecedented rates showing its popularity 3 years after its initial release.
J-hope likes to express his internal joy through dance, which can also be seen in his performances for BTS’s “Anpanman” and his follow up solo song “Chicken Noodle Soup” that he collaborated on with Becky G, as well as his collaboration on the song “A Brand New Day” with BTS bandmate V/Taehyung and Zara Larsson for the 2019 BTS World album. While “Anpanman” (lyrics) celebrates the everyman as the hero in all of us, “Chicken Noodle Soup” (lyrics) serves as reminder that you can overcome a period of sickness/obstacles and it should be celebrated by song and dance, and “A Brand New Day” (lyrics) also celebrates overcoming obstacles and being together when a brand new and better day dawns.
J-hope acknowledged that while the Hope World album was pure, innocent and beautiful, he learned a lot from that experience and is grateful to have taken that time in his life to do that album. But he felt the final song “Blue Side” was unfinished and decided recently to revisit “Blue Side” to finish it. So he released an extended version of “Blue Side” (lyrics) in February 2021. In his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope admitted that the world being shutdown for the pandemic made him evaluate his life: “I realized I’m not just some always cheery person. I experience hardship too. So I thought I would grow closer with listeners by sharing little parts of me that I had been hiding away, and that it would be interesting to show people a side of me that’s different from their idea of who J-hope is.” His song “Blue Side” describes how “the parts I call blue are a place I consciously escape to avoid things. . . it’s a place I escape to that I could safely live in. . . I want to stir up my passion for things I want do do, even if I’m burning blue to death.”
Not even the perpetually-positive J-hope is immune to the fear, frustration, worries, and toll that the current worldwide pandemic has taken on his mental health. For his February 2021 “BE”-Hind Story video interview, J-hope was interviewed by bandmate Taehyung/V about working on their BE album song “Dis-ease” (3:49 mark), which J-hope explained was about the psychological pressure that he feels as an artist to constantly create music and to dance. He even reached out to his teammates RM and Jimin to get assistance with writing and composing “Dis-ease” (lyrics), RM helped with the bridge lyrics (14:57 mark) and Jimin helped with the song’s bridge/melody (14:17 mark), which J-hope noted that is one of the best parts about being a team: “Parts that I can’t work on or parts that I need help with — I ask our members for help.” Then, in his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope explained: “Because the team functions well when everyone has their own role, I always keep that in mind and think, I should do whatever I can do. I’m able to contribute to the team and I think I ended up feeling a little more confident about the things that I found difficult to express in the past. . . I can’t always be as bright as I was on Hope World. . . thinking about the shadows inside me. . . I figured I’d better use all those feelings . . so I put those emotions down and Dis-ease was born.”
After Hope World’s release in 2018, J-hope had decided to delve a bit deeper into his soul to reveal his inner turmoil, resulting in his solo song “Outro: Ego” (Map of the Soul: 7 album). He admitted in his May 2021 Rolling Stone interview that he previously “only tried to show the bright side of our group and myself” and “Outro: Ego” (lyrics) was inner reflection showing “I believe in myself and I believe who I am, and this is my identity.” In an earlier Rolling Stone India interview (November 2020), J-hope also explained: “I believe we all have shadows as humans. I am grateful that music can act as a mechanism to beautifully express those dark sides. I want to continue to try new things by exploring new genres and telling my stories.”
This is a desire that J-hope reiterated in his May 2021 Rolling Stone interview: “It was an opportunity to learn how precious our ordinary lives were . . . I have to do what I do best. . . keep doing music and performances. . . I have to make music that can give consolation and a sense of hope to other people. We are just people, like everybody else. So we feel the same way as everybody else. So we just wanted to make music and do performances that other people can resonate with and that can give people more strength.”
No matter whether J-hope chooses more introspective songs or songs that express his happiness and irrepressible enthusiasm for life, J-hope is happy to share those various emotions with his fans. Like a diamond contains multiple sides, each revealing another beautiful facet, J-hope sharing his music and dance feels akin to having a multitude of facets, each more exciting than the last.
Spirit of Wanderlust
Simultaneously with his music exploration, J-hope chose to venture out and explore the physical world around him, and in each city that BTS toured for the past 8 years, he has taken the time to walk through each city just to see what was there. He seemed to want to discover the hidden joy and culture that he found himself amidst and wanted to celebrate with them. J-hope’s love for the world and people around him, as well as his natural curiosity, drives him to get out and find new experiences everywhere he goes, and he is not dependent on his bandmates to go with him as he is content to explore on his own. As a former competitive street dancer, the lure of the streets is too powerful to ignore.
Just like in the Jules Verne book “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (J-hope’s favorite book), the world is full of promise and anticipation of the next great adventure. Whether it is simply exploring each city that he finds himself in, or planning his next dance exhibition or collaboration on a new song, J-hope seems to savor each opportunity as it arises. J-hope seems to appreciate exploring everything life has to offer and then giving it a chance to marinate in his soul for a bit to see where it leads him. In that sense, J-hope truly personifies the saying: “All who wander are not lost”.
Another way that J-hope has expressed his appreciation and gratitude to his bandmates for their love, affection and unfailing support over the years is by giving each thoughtful gifts. J-hope is an enigma of sorts in that he expresses love through the giving of gifts, yet would rather receive love through companionship, rather than gifts in return. As a fashion aficionado, J-hope is known to have impeccable taste in fashion designer clothing, which he shares with his bandmates through gifts. But, in return, J-hope seems to crave companionship or time spent one-on-one with his bandmates sharing an event or occasion together. Unlike his bandmate RM, who collects photos of nature and art on his phone, J-hope’s phone is full of candid photos of his bandmates. Thus, to him, it is time spent together (beyond the stage) that matters most to him. It is what speaks to his heart and recharges him when his 1,000-watt smile needs a boost.
Stepping Up Into Leadership
Just like steel is used to sharpen steel, BTS is made up of seven extraordinary artists whose unique talents work seamlessly to sharpen each other in ways that has resulted in each of them being the best of the best at what they do. Some of that is seen in their dance practices and music recordings, where a key component is the fact that they each push each other to do better in their personal and professional lives, and J-hope is known to be the central figure who keeps all 7 of them interconnected and working smoothly with each other. As kind of a second-in-command within BTS, J-hope is the one they will listen to and receive instruction from without complaint or comment. It is just assumed that J-hope’s command is what they should be doing as somewhere along the line, even with RM as the official leader of BTS, J-hope stepped up and took on responsibility to make sure that the group was kept on track, provided for, and working seamlessly together at all times. He took over keeping dance practices running smoothly, he made sure his bandmates got what food and supplies they needed, and checked in on each of them. Accordingly, not only do his bandmates look to him for cues off-stage, on-stage they trust him implicitly and he returns that trust just as easily.
For example, would Jimin’s hands-free jump maneuver in “We Are Bulletproof, Pt. 2” be as jaw-dropping if it were not for the fact that J-hope lies prone during the jump adding a heightened sense of danger to the maneuver? J-hope’s vulnerable posture in that sequence fuels the thrill and adrenaline because of the riskiness of that sequence. His complete trust that Jimin will always jump clear of him gives that performance maneuver the razor’s edge feeling. Even Jimin admits that this jump scares him because he worries about misgauging the distance and landing on J-hope’s head, which would injure him. Interestingly, J-hope just laughs at the thought of this and happily does this sequence over and over again knowing in his heart that Jimin would never land on him. His trust in Jimin’s physical prowess and dance ability makes J-hope confident that Jimin will always safely land clear, and for the past 9 years of doing this jump, that has proven true.
Perhaps one thing that helped build that relationship of trust between them was the fact that J-hope went out of his way to meet Jimin’s bus on Jimin’s first day in Seoul as a trainee. Jimin is grateful to this day that J-hope took the time to meet him and make him feel immediately welcomed — although Jimin mistook J-hope for a Big Hit Entertainment employee that day and it was months later that he realized J-hope was his future bandmate. But that day made a distinct favorable impression on Jimin, and J-hope and Jimin’s friendship and bond feels stronger than ever, so much so that it is visible in how protectively and quickly Jimin moved to assist J-hope during a roller rink skating promotion that they did for last year’s Grammy-nominated song “Dynamite” (1:10 mark).
J-hope, as a dancer and physical performer, can spot even the smallest deviations in dance choreography. His bandmates laugh about the fact that J-hope never misses their mistakes, but they rely on that because it guarantees that they are watched and challenged to do their best in all their performances. It keeps them in line and held accountable so that they deliver to the best of their abilities, and they implicitly trust that J-hope will never fail them in his own dance performance.
Shine Like A Star
Looking at J-hope, everyone sees something different. Some see a dancer, some see a singer, some see a cheerleader, and some see a man whose natural love embraces everyone around them. J-hope reminds me as a star— one whose very existence is to light the dark sky at night and shine light brightly on those around him. But it is J-hope’s capacity to love in all its many special ways that creates a unique light in the world — a light that serves to shine bright and and draw people in.
For those who have seen BTS perform their song “Wishing On A Star” on stage or at a concert (0:34 mark), J-hope embraces and celebrates this song with his whole heart. The message of “if you believe, it will shine, keep dreaming” seems to not only resonate in his soul, but radiate that message out to the listening audience as well. J-hope not only pursues his dreams, he does it out of love, joy and celebration — ARMY and BTS have become each other’s guiding star.
No matter what J-hope sings or performs, he brings his ability to make BTS and their music and performances shine. He was recently spotlit in BTS’s performance for their Grammy-nominated song “Dynamite”, where he did a specially choreographed “dance break” that amazed viewers and fans alike. Other great examples of BTS’s performances that showcased J-hope’s incredible dance skills are: “Butter”, “Permission To Dance”, the “Idol” Fan Dance at the Melon Music Awards 2018, the “Intro: Boy Meets Evil” dance off with Jimin (1:13 mark) at Melon Music Awards 2016, the “Fake Love” marionette dance at the 2019 Golden Disc Awards, and the “Trivia: Just Dance” Tokyo Dome performance in 2018.
Exploring New Horizons
J-hope in his 2021 Rolling Stone interview said that the worldwide pandemic “was an opportunity to learn how precious our ordinary lives were . . . and how I should just stay calm and focus during these times.” Thus, he wanted “to make music that can give consolation and a sense of hope to other people”, which was one of the main goals of the BTS song “Life Goes On” (lyrics). In his WeVerse interview (November 2020), J-hope talked about the success of BTS’s song “Dynamite” in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic: “Roller coasters are scary, but you keep thinking about them even after you get off. That’s how I felt about this year: it’s scary, but memorable.” He also noted that BTS thought: “We still have to live with this situation, we can’t give up” and really appreciated that he and his bandmates could still enjoy the “Dynamite” experience together.
2020 was a roller-coaster year bookend by a pandemic and a Grammy-nomination. After the phenomenal success of “Dynamite”, which earned BTS their first Grammy nomination and on the heels of the massive response to BTS’s 2018-2019 Love Yourself world tour, J-hope decided to raise the bar on his visuals and chose to reveal a more flirtatious side in his latest stage personas revealed within BTS’s two newest songs “Butter” and “Permission To Dance”. Anyone who has watched the “Butter” official music video remembers vividly the scene where J-hope bites into a piece of butter like it was pure candy. It was sexy and paired with jaw-droppingly seductive choreography throughout the video designed to show J-hope’s sexier and edgier duality.
Building on that stimulating performance, J-hope then delivered another dazzling performance in “Permission To Dance”, wearing white jeans with black chaps that somehow made it feel appropriate and yet boundary-pushing at the same time. It was rumored before J-hope revealed his new white-haired look that it was going to set hearts afire, and the fans’ reactions after “Permission To Dance” was released proved that to be true. In his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope candidly admitted: “The reason I change my hairstyle and [costuming] so often these days is because I want my appearance to blend naturally with the song. . . and adjusted it for each performance.”
As a dancer and stage performer, J-hope is aware how those changes can secure visual attention and excitement about BTS and their music and performances. He described his style for “Butter” as: “I wanted to show how much I’ve grown . . . the style is bold and revolved around well-tailored suits and the whole thing felt sexy.” In a recent Vlive with BTS’s Jin and RM on August 19 (8:43-9:15 mark), Jin revealed that J-hopes likes to say: “It’s all about the mind” and observed that J-hope does really have a strong mind. He can accomplish something just by believing in it. In his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope noted: “I’m responsible for making the dances stand out. . . Dancing is important. . . I came to realize just how important the visual aspect is.” Thus, he is stretching and expanding his visual artistry in order to more fully express and show-off everything he has to offer.
Curiously, J-hope seems to find himself in the spotlight for his visuals more and more. Western audiences, still getting to know the BTS members, have been smitten by the guy in the black t-shirt in “Dynamite” or the one with the red mic who performed “Fix You” for MTV’s Unplugged, and it spurred new fans to discover who J-hope is just in time for him to claim even more unsuspecting fan hearts after his sexy performance in “Butter”, the stunning visual display for “Permission To Dance”, and the special “I’ll Be Missing You” performance for BBC1 Radio. J-hope appears to be having a lot of fun mixing up his visual style with his duality dominating BTS’s recent videos and performances. For “Butter”, in his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope said that he took inspiration from his BTS bandmates, teasing: “I learned a lot from watching the members who are good at expressing [sexiness] . . . I took all the different ways I thought of, that I could try out, and melted them all down together — smooth like butter.” Then as for his “Permission to Dance” visuals, J-hope said: “It occurred to me that I could just be myself . . . so I think it came across naturally. . . to fill the song with enjoyment and positive emotions.”
The crazy thing about BTS is how successfully each of its members steal limelight and attention from each other, whether it be in magazine photoshoots, Bangtan Bomb videos, fan-cams, or official BTS music videos. All seven seem to have perfected the art of dominating audience and press attention in dance, singing, performance and visuals. It can be confusing and stimulating all at once. So much so that BTS fans laughingly admit to having to multiple “bias wreckers” that seem to shift from performance to performance or video-to-video.
Like his bandmate Jimin, J-hope must acutely feel the ticking-clock of a dancer’s life — which Martha Graham described as: “A dancer dies twice — the first is when they stop dancing and this first death is the more painful”, as a dancer will only dance as long as his body allows him. So J-hope works hard to keep his arms, legs and all the connecting parts moving, yet with the constant specter of time always present. He works tenaciously to stay limber, lithe, strong and in sync with his dance choreography, practicing late into the night. During his trainee years, J-hope admitted that he would sleep in the dance studio, and after seeing him hold a Vlive dance practice at 1:00 A.M. for ARMY, it is easy to see that he is just as tenaciously dedicated to his dance craft today.
In his July 2021 WeVerse interview, J-hope acknowledged: “I’m, not the kind of person to settle for their life as it is.” He observed that he has been working constantly for the past 8 years and now is finally wondering what is next. He is examining questions of: “How should I carry on?” “Have I been challenging myself at all lately?” and “What attitude and stance should I have right now?” During a recent video interview 8/18/21 Vanity Fair, J-hope was asked about his biggest fear and he admitted: “the future”, more specifically, his future. Like many of us, J-hope is wondering in this current world of flux and change, what will his future hold as a singer, dancer, performer and artist. Fortunately, BTS and J-hope seem to have embraced virtual and streaming concerts until it is safe to resume in-person events, which appears to be a path forward for entertainers, singers, and performers. J-hope is also steadfastly studying English as he believes it will “open up more possibilities in his life.” Though he ruefully noted: “Your mind could change at any minute and you could come to a different decision any time, depending on how you want to live your life. Right now, I’m trying to do music for music’s sake, challenge myself with performances for performance’s sake, and try hard personally for BTS. And I’m working hard to figure out what I need to do for my next steps.”
In spite of the fact that time is limited due to the demands to write, compose, sing and dance and the required practice sessions, J-hope has made a point of befriending his younger HYBE-mates in the band TomorrowXTogether (aka TXT). Stepping into a quasi-mentor role and providing advice and help when he can, J-hope appears to enjoy the fact that his dance abilities and experience can benefit the junior band. It is just another way that J-hope shares his love and passion for dance with others: he will happily share his skills and knowledge when asked — because teaching, sharing is an act of universal love, which the TXT members seem to truly appreciate and value. (Also noteworthy that J-hope works with other trainees at HYBE as well.)
A World Of J-hope
It does not matter whether you are a long-term BTS fan or new BTS fan, if you have seen J-hope dance or sing, you have felt the power of J-hope’s love. In the BTS world, after seeing J-hope perform, you undoubtedly have fallen under the spell of J-hope’s radiant smile and joyous aura that seems to hug you right through the screen or across the vast stadium arena. His unique ability to exude love radiates out and embraces you. It is one of the reasons that his bandmates also continuously praise him as being essential to their professional and personal lives.
J-hope not only makes certain to keep their spirits up and the rigors of dance practices more enjoyable, he brings a light and joy into their personal lives as well. He is the first person that they each think of when they have free time and want to venture out and see the world. RM takes him to the beach and hiking in the mountains. Jimin takes him on shopping and food tasting exhibitions. Jin will venture out to anywhere J-hope suggests, and even Suga will drop everything at a moment’s notice for the chance to share a meal with him. Jungkook and Taehyung are as equally effusive and appreciative to J-hope for helping them every step of the way over the past 10 years as they acclimated to the professional world of singing and performance.
In V/Taehyung’s recent interview with J-hope for HYBE’s “BE-hind” the music video series (11:59 mark), Taehyung expressed his appreciation, saying that he sees J-hope’s “bubbly” character as being the life of BTS, along with lots of other charms. He also made a point of complimenting J-hope in the recent March 2021 “Let’s BTS” talk show appearance (11:16 mark): “He is one who changed the least. He is always grateful for everything. He is the kindest of all of us. Until now, I’ve never met anyone kinder than he is. . . He is great on stage and he works hard. . . but what is the coolest about him: being considerate to others is something that is deep within him. If any of the members have a request or something they are worried about he listens to them with sincerity and always gives a little more of himself. He’s a good person.”
One of the best examples of how much J-hope is loved by fans and how much he loves them in return was recently demonstrated in J-hope’s July 2021 Vlive while at the HYBE building late at night by himself. In a moment when he felt uncomfortable and joked that he felt a bit scared to be in an empty building by himself during a pandemic, J-hope reached out by figurative “lifeline” to those he trusted most — ARMY — to comfort him and be with him and share in a spontaneous dance exhibition. For an hour and 20 minutes, it was just J-hope with ARMY. It was his “happy place” — where J-hope knows he will be unconditionally loved, supported and comforted just when he needs it.
To live in J-hope’s world is to live a life full of radiant joy and love. J-hope may not have intended to become such a sought after artist and celebrity, but for a world of fans and his bandmates and family, J-hope embodies something vital, powerful and addictive, and no one is more surprised than J-hope that he has become a source of sustenance and that he can affect so many, being a voice and influence of change. But when blessed with such a gift, who is to deny that J-hope is special, desired, and matters. Is there any greater gift than to be the human embodiment of love? In a world that prays for love, J-hope answers that call with his music and dance, from which you cannot but feel surrounded by love. It is a total immersion in love.
In his November 2020 WeVerse interview, J-hope said: “It’s amazing to be loved by even one person” and observed, “we’re getting love from all over the world . . . I know this isn’t something to take for granted.” So he asks himself: “How can I return this much love? I want to express that in any way possible, every moment that I can, because I am so honored to be so loved.”
Curiously, what BTS had to say recently about their bandmate J-hope was perhaps even more enlightening (August 2021):
RM/Namjoon said: “Hoseok’s always [someone to] rely on, a cool guy and an angel.”
Jin said: “It’s interesting to see that J-hope doesn’t shop much these days.”
Suga/Yoongi said: “Hobi’s the messenger and spreader of hope.”
Jimin said: “J-hope locks us in with his happy laughter.”
Taehyung/V said: “J-hope looks cool whenever he’s feeling the rhythm and moving to the music.”
Jungkook said: “J-hope has a pretty heart.”
In return, J-hope described his BTS bandmates as:
RM/Namjoon: “When RM looks at art, we get to see a new side of him.”
Jin: “Interesting and refreshing to watch Seokjinnie shop these days.”
Suga/Yoongi: “Just seems to be having the most fun these days.”
Jimin: “Is the funniest these days . . and then turns around and some how seems sexy too.”
Taehyung/V: “Has such clean-cut features, so cool, he’s so good-looking.”
Jungkook: “Always surprises us. He changed his style recently.”
The mutual love between the BTS band members is evident from their observations about what they see and appreciate about each other. That love extends to themselves too, as self-love is not just a message that BTS advocates, it is something that they practice in their own lives. When asked to assess himself in 2020, J-hope noted: “It was difficult time, but you endured well and did well diligently”. As for his 2021 goal, he said: “Trying out everything I want to do.” J-hope cherishes and values himself enough to know that he should reach for his dreams.
Dreams are attainable — you just have to try. J-hope’s dreams led him to BTS and rewarded him with an extraordinary journey and a world filled with love, and opportunity to share his own love — more than he ever imagined. So let J-hope be your guiding star and follow your dreams, those dreams may come true.