When BTS began a group hiatus in 2022, Jung Kook used the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of artists and producers for his solo album debut. “My work as part of BTS was very important,” the Korean singer told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “I think this time in my life is equally if not even more important.” The result is an 11-track English-language LP that is not only perfectly primed for a mainstream global listening audience, but also embraces an exploration of more explicitly sexy subject matter for the Korean superstar. “None of the songs actually are my personal stories,” said Jung Kook. “They're all love songs, which I felt were the most universal feeling. So I wanted to work on a lot of these good songs that fit within that kind of theme.” Pre-release tracks “Seven” (featuring Latto) and “3D” (featuring Jack Harlow) immediately set the tone for GOLDEN’s role in showcasing a more adult side of Jung Kook. “As a young artist this would be the time for me to sing lyrics like that, and I needed to change up my image a little,” said Jung Kook. “3D” was written (alongside BloodPop® and Harlow) by “Dynamite” co-writer David Stewart, who also contributes to GOLDEN with breakup tracks “Too Sad to Dance” (“And this Christmas, I got no gifts/Do I really deserve all this?”) and “Shot Glass of Tears” (“She got some dangerous hobbies/Like chasing after the sun and making me fall in love”). Jung Kook’s exploration of the power of attraction continues across the album, including in the groovy, disco-inflected “Standing Next to You” (“You know that all night long, we rock to this/Screaming, I testify this lovin'”) and the hypnotic Major Lazer team-up “Closer to You” (“Take you like my last breath/Took me, that's the first step”). The former is Jung Kook’s favorite. “Of course, the song itself is great, but more than that, it just allowed me to see this grandiose picture when I heard the song and I could see myself right away performing onstage with that song.” Elsewhere on GOLDEN, Jung Kook explores other relationship themes. Ed Sheeran has a co-writing credit on the playful, boy-band-esque bop “Yes or No” about maybe falling in love (“Are you feeling the rush?/If so, then I think I know what's going on”), while Shawn Mendes was behind the scenes for “Hate You,” a confessional broken-heart ballad (“I’m gonna hate you/Paint you like the villain that you never were/I'm gonna blame you/For things that you don't do”). On “Somebody,” Jung Kook tells the story of a person who is ready to move on from a relationship (“Oh, I hoped you'd find somebody/I hope you know that somebody ain't me”), while “Please Don’t Change” is a plea from one star-crossed lover to another that they stay the same until they can find a way to be together (“Please don’t change/’Cause I love you, yeah, I love you”). The album’s title is a reference to JK’s nickname as the “golden maknae” of BTS. “Maknae” (or 막내, in Korean) refers to the youngest member of a family or group, while “golden” refers to JK’s innate talent in a variety of skills. “When I first started [as an artist], I was very quiet. I didn't have self-confidence,” Jung Kook told Apple Music. “But as I started working on my music, I learned more about myself. I earned that description ‘golden.’ Looking at all of these achievements, I’ve gained more confidence. So it's a combination of all of those things that was poured into the album.”

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