When the announcement was made that BTS’ main dancer and rapper was releasing a new album, the world was thrilled with anticipation. When the concept photos were released, it set the tone for what listeners could expect from the album. When MORE and Arson music videos dropped, everyone ardently wanted more. Lots of preparation and work went into making j-hope’s latest album, Jack In The Box, from creating the concepts to producing and promoting the songs worldwide. Here, we will deep dive into those ideas that helped the song lyrics build the story that is j-hope’s Jack.
Starting with Jack In The Box’s cover, the album art was created by KAWS, an American artist and designer whose famous work comes from his cartoon figurines that usually have Xs for eyes and on their gloved hands, as well as two half-heart shaped braids on either side of their heads. The artist collaborated with j-hope to create a KAWS-inspired cover art that reflected j-hope’s jack-in-the-box concept.
The cover shows j-hope in a black and white suit patterned to resemble optical illusions like those found in a mirror maze. He is also sitting on a much bigger hand with multiple hands reaching out to him. All of this imagery is a commentary on j-hope’s current stage of his career, sitting upon a successful path that he and his band members of BTS had built together, and now having multiple opportunities and directions to take regarding his solo work. It’s also important to take note of the color scheme used in this cover, one that was previously seen on the cover of his first mixtape, Hope World. j-hope wanted to keep to his roots but also play more on the different concepts that complement those colors and bring them to life, mixing 2D and 3D to create a depth like a jack-in-the-box.
When the concept photos were released, the predominant colors were black and white. j-hope’s first concept photos were with black and white coveralls. What’s significant is the context in which he wears them. In the music video for MORE, when he is moving around the office space, he is wearing black coveralls, while in the room with his band, he’s in white coveralls. Historically, black versus white has been associated with themes of darkness versus light. Here, the black coveralls, though different from the office wear, still conform to the color scheme of the office workers, while the white coveralls stand out in the garage where little light comes in and the band members are dressed in black. In the music video for Arson, j-hope wore only white coveralls, making it a perfect backdrop to capture the stains from the fires he created, signifying his burning passion for his music.
There are two ideas that j-hope took inspiration from for the album theme. The first and obvious one is the jack-in-the-box toy. Well-known throughout pop culture, its legend began when a priest named Sir John Schorne cast a devil into a boot to make it do his bidding. In French history, the tale is translated as “diable en boîte,” roughly meaning “devil in a box.” The jack-in-the-box was a dark vessel, meant to trap demons and keep children from opening them lest they release the demons inside, but they were also a source of merriment which started when a prince was given a jack-in-the-box. Since then, many parents would gift this toy to children, who were delightedly surprised when a traditional Auguste clown would pop out of the box.
The other idea that j-hope was inspired by was Pandora’s Box. In Greek mythology, Pandora opened a box and released all evils into the world, but when she managed to close the box, only hope remained. This myth inspired Jung Hoseok to take on his stage name, j-hope, and was also the inspiration for one of the album’s songs, Pandora’s Box. Using these two concepts, j-hope created this story to show the world a hidden side of himself that he had kept in Pandora’s Box, but now has the opportunity to show when he jumps out of his proverbial box.
Jack In The Box was a fun, playful, and dark album that explored a different side of j-hope; one that not many people had seen but is an essential part of who he is. His take on the themes was well chosen, from use of symbolism to color choices, making the album as layered and unexpected as a jack-in-the-box.
Written by: Rei
Edited by: Lisa K
Designed by: ThornToHisRose
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