The crowd roared as J-Hope, with his rugged dark clothes and wavy mullet-style hair falling in his face, burst onto Chicago’s Lollapalooza stage on July 31. With a focused gaze, he gazes at the sea of glow sticks and anticipatory faces. awaits him with cheers. Everyone in attendance is here to witness history, military or otherwise, as J-Hope becomes the first Korean artist to headline a major American music festival. After a dramatic intro track, he cuts to “More,” rapping the lyrics intensely, as if he were in the studio for the first time.
Seconds before his grand entrance, red letters had flashed on a screen behind the platform reading, “Hope has given people the will to carry on living amidst pain and strife. The post sums up what J-Hope and his band, BTS, mean to many people. For an hour, time seemed to freeze and a rush of pure adrenaline filled the air.
On Saturday, the day before his music festival debut, I sat next to J-Hope on a couch in his trailer. The star greeted me with a warm embrace and a sweet smile, her aura shining and sparkling. Talking to him was like talking to a friend or a neighbor; I forgot, for a moment, that he is one of the world’s biggest, biggest-selling artists in Lollapalooza’s decades-long history. Assisted by a translator, he confidently talks about his first album jack in the boxwhich he published in July.
“I think it’s very important that I do the music that I want to do right now. I feel like I should have done that at some point in my life as an artist,” he said. he said. “Now that I think about it, it was a very brave and courageous choice. But since it’s my choice, I don’t regret anything, no matter the results, no matter the consequences.
He is aware of the reception of his work. “There are a lot of reactions on YouTube, and a lot of people were shocked and surprised. So those reactions were really funny. And as befits the album, jack in the box, I was sort of popping up, like people weren’t expecting that from J-Hope. Indeed, his 2018 mixtape, world of hope, has the exact opposite vibe. It’s a bright and motivating project with several pop songs and an aesthetic that matches the rapper’s naturally friendly charms. It would have been easy to continue with this formula for his first full album, but J-Hope’s turn to the dark side creates a compelling anomaly that mirrors his artistic journey. His vision comes to life on stage the next day.
The show starts fiercely, especially with songs like “Baseline”, “Cypher Pt.1”, and “Hangsang”. During the latter, he goes from mouthing Supreme Boi’s verses to simply tapping his foot to the beat while holding his hand in the air, letting the crowd sing along to him. There is a palpable and unspoken connection between him, the music and the sea of people below. It’s mesmerizing to watch. He sings his heart out on tracks like “POP,” “Equal Sign,” and “Blue Side,” then takes more time for his rock raps with a slew of tracks like “What If…” and “Arson.”
Just as the crowd has adjusted to the edgy tone, J-Hope transitions into his brighter self mid-show, swapping his grungy outfit for a fresh white ensemble, blue gloves and neon green sunglasses. I remember something he said during our conversation: “I’m an artist who didn’t start out creating music. In fact, I first got close to music while dancing. You can tell he’s in his element when the choreography picks up speed during fan favorites “Daydream” and “Ego.” He’s disciplined, a natural entertainer, and even when he’s tired he doesn’t lose his momentum. “Play that shit! he shouts like a real rock star.
I am an artist who did not start by creating music. In fact, I first got close to music while dancing.
The performance seems effortless, but J-Hope admitted during our interview, “It’s actually a huge challenge for me. As an artist, I think it’s a necessary leap that I have to take to move forward. He was anticipating the moment as much as the fans. “Nervous? Of course I’m nervous,” he said with a laugh. “I think that nervousness is a fun factor as well.”
Everyone watching is entertained, including the other performers. J-Hope spoke about his close relationship with the other members of BTS. “I learn a lot from them. They are a big inspiration, and I think a big part of my journey ahead is my members,” he said. all the way to Chicago to support me, so I also get a lot of energy from him.” During the show, Jimin waits backstage, laughing and hyping up J-Hope as much as the crowd. There’s a real bond between them, giving J-Hope the confidence to take this next step in his career.
He makes sure to pay homage to his roots by performing his own version of the BTS hit “Dynamite (Tropical Remix),” in addition to solo tracks from BTS albums, like the uptempo “Outro: Ego.” In an instant, he hits an impressive solo moonwalk during “Trivia: Just Dance” that garners praise from the audience. The superstar in him is undeniable.
On stage, he declares in English: “I put my heart and my soul into my music. Even though we speak different languages, I hope you will hear my story. Later in the show, American singer Becky G joins him for a surprise rendition of the penultimate song, “Chicken Noodle Soup”, which they had never performed together before. The song features Korean, English, and Spanish lyrics, a beautiful mix of cultures that rings true to J-Hope’s overall message of inclusivity.
The show ends with “Future,” and although J-Hope spoke in English for most of the show, he takes time to share his thoughts in his native Korean. He humbly shouts out the band and its dancers, and when he leaves, the fans still passionately chant his name. The word “More” is correctly displayed on various surrounding screens; even though many fans had been waiting outside since the previous night, they would probably start again. He started the set at 8:50 p.m., giving us an extra 10 minutes of fun, but the 18-song set flew. Like a rite of passage, J-Hope’s debut successfully established him as a performer who could hold his own and delivered arguably one of the best performances ever on the Lollapalooza stage.