“We’ve known each other for so long,” J-Hope recently told BTS’s youngest member Jung Kook, 23. “And I like the fact that you haven’t changed at all.” More than any other member, Jung Kook grew up in BTS; he was only 15 when the band debuted in 2013, and had been famous for years by the time he graduated from high school, with the other members attending the ceremony. With tremendous talents as a singer and dancer, he has always been a born pop star, with several agencies trying to recruit him as early as 2011. Since then he has more than kept his promise, playing a key role on BTS’s biggest songs. , including “Dynamite. In a conversation from his label’s headquarters in Seoul, where he wore a plain white sweatshirt with a matching white mask and black hat, he discussed the creation of “Dynamite”, his vocal evolution, his Ariana Grande fandom, and more.
(To celebrate the appearance of BTS on the cover of Rolling stone, we publish individual digital covers with each member of the group; check back over the next four days for more.)
Learn more about Rolling Stone
On the recent Let’s be BTS Special TV, I thought it was really beautiful when you were surprised by the videos of ARMY singing with “Life Goes On”, and it looked like you were moved too. Did that remind you how much you missed seeing the fans in person?
I’m a person who really enjoys being on stage and I really enjoyed hearing our fans so when our tour got canceled in March of last year it was a bit of a shock and it was a bit difficult to understand. the crowds and the army is something we loved. And when we do TV shows or promotions, it makes our hearts beat faster and we want it more and more. And like you said, on Let’s be BTS with the performance “Life Goes On”, when we heard ARMY participate via the internet, it reminded us of the actual roar of the crowd. It made me miss it even more.
How did it affect you to primarily grow up within BTS?
I started my internship years when I was growing up, and I think one thing is a real blessing for me, is that I got to meet these six wonderful, kind and good members. I think I have become a very good person who can be loved by a lot of people. I’m really grateful that the other members, the older members, have given me a lot of feedback, positive or negative. I am really grateful to have met them.
Have you ever wondered what you might have missed in everyday life?
It’s true that I didn’t get to spend a lot of days in school, but I think I gained more than I lost. I sometimes felt envious of all my friends who hung out or went on trips. Maybe these are the things that I missed. But again, I think I won more than I lost.
Has this past year been perhaps a chance for you to live more normally?
Just because we didn’t have a lot of work compared to before, or just because we couldn’t get out, didn’t really mean we had an ordinary life. We still had to pay attention to our behavior. And just because we couldn’t tour doesn’t mean we could stop improving. So I tried to discover new things and I think I had a relatively busy time inside. But I had time to really rearrange my emotions, and I think I grew as a person as well.
People call you “golden” because you are good at so many things. But like you said before, that comes with a lot of pressure, doesn’t it?
People say that I am good, that I am versatile. Of course, I am good at some areas, but I don’t think it necessarily helps to take advantage of those talents and gifts. You can only improve yourself in a certain area when you really practice, when you really try, when you dive deep into it. So, I really don’t want to think of myself as a versatile man. I just want to keep trying and working hard. And sure, I feel pressure, but those pressures can also cause me to work hard and do what I do best.
You received offers from several agencies, but you chose Big Hit because of RM. What did you see in him?
I can’t clearly remember what happened back then, but I just thought RM was really cool. At that time, I really didn’t know much about the singer’s profession. But when I saw him rap, I just thought he was really, really cool and awesome. And I think maybe it was fate that drew me to him.
I talked about it with J-Hope as well, but it’s very interesting to look at BTS’s early style, both the clothes and the music, and how it evolved. What do you think of these first songs and videos?
When we debuted, we had a fierce kind of makeup, with our eyeliner and our stuff, and dark outfits, fierce outfits. At that time, our business was relatively small and we couldn’t invest a lot of budget in outfits. But now we spend a lot of time and we have a lot of meetings to choose the outfits and the style that would go well with the songs and the album. So I think the visual aspect is really important. The song, the dance – every individual aspect is really important.
Can you share some memories of the recording of “Dynamite”?
I thought I was writing these lines correctly and pronouncing them well, but as we were recording and practicing, I realized that there were still things I needed to work on. My pronunciation was not very good. My tongue just wasn’t loose enough to really squeeze those English words out! But the more we practiced, the more we sang, the song became more familiar and more natural. So it was a good learning experience for me.
The song “Euphoria” is one of your best moments. I know it’s been a few years already, but what do you take away from the implementation of this one?
I especially like “Euphoria” among many BTS songs because she has a voice that sits between a very young boy and a very mature man. And that’s why I had trouble recording it. I had to translate those emotions into the recording, and I went there thinking that I had lost my original voice and really didn’t know how to sing. And I think those emotions that I felt translated well into the recording. After listening to it all, I was like, “Wow, I really did a good job.”
What other artists have you given yourself something to aspire to?
If there was one moment that really stood out to me, it was when we did one of our overseas tours, and I was lucky enough to go to an Ariana Grande concert. I was really impressed with his presence on stage. She’s a very small person, and the volume of her singing and what she was able to do was really moving, really impressive. And it seemed like something I wanted to emulate and learn from. It made me want to develop myself and continue to grow.
In general, I tried to listen to a lot of different music. To really find the voice that I have right now, I listened to some random music and just tried singing and learning how other artists sing.
The other guys have said that when you were young, when you started out, you were a little shy and introverted. What do you remember?
[Laughs] During the years of training, I would wait until the other guys fell asleep so I could wash myself off in the middle of the night. But I think time really solves everything. If you spend so long with the same people it really affects your personality. The other members had a lot of influence on me, and I could just feel comfortable because they are such good people. And they encouraged me to open up to them and become a good person.
What has been the most breathtaking moment of all these years so far?
Overcome the [U.S.] the charts, being nominated for the Grammys, getting all those awards, were of course great honors and great experiences. But the best part of my life, from birth to death, is seeing ARMY from the stage. And that will never change.
The best of Rolling Stone