Music Review: BTS member Jung Kook's solo debut, 'Golden,' is no-skip pop bliss

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jung Kook, the youngest member of the K-pop group BTS, released his triumphant debut solo album on Friday. The heavily Anglophonic “Golden,” a reference to his nickname of “the golden maknae,” (“golden youngest” in Korean), is one of the strongest pop debuts of the year, a direct reflection of his love of retro-pop sounds.

There was a period this summer where Jung Kook’s single with Latto, “Seven,” was inescapable; a sunshine-y UK garage number counting down all the days of the week in which he’ll love you, girl — or maybe he’d do something else, depending on whether you’re listening to the clean or explicit version of the track.

It hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, Jung Kook is the only member of BTS to reach that height as a soloist. A “golden” artist indeed.

The hook on “Seven” is undeniable, one of many on “Golden.” Across this release, Jung Kook demonstrates a deep understanding of pop performance — and how, in the modern era, that requires innovative collaborations, heavily featured throughout his solo album.

Ed Sheeran plays guitar on “Yes or No”; Shawn Mendes co-wrote the piano ballad “Hate You.” Major Lazer is featured on the breathy-bass banger “Closer to You” and DJ Snake is on the Bieber-esq. dance-pop “Please Don’t Change.” Rapper Jack Harlow is on the single “3D,” which hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

It might be an unfavorable comparison in the current cultural moment, particularly in the conversation following the release of Britney Spears’ “The Woman in Me” memoir. But “3D” recalls the early, peak days of Justin Timberlake’s 2000s solo career — “Justified” and “Suit and Tie,” those Timbaland and Pharrell collaborations and onward.

There is a reason, at the time, JT’s musical talent was undeniable, when he was largely considered one of the greatest pop performers of recent history — and make no mistake, that’s the only JT tradition Jung Kook appears to be pulling from. (Well, that, and finding incredible success as a soloist separate from the group that made him an idol. But with the exception that BTS is taking a break, while NSYNC broke up for two decades.)

The greatest song, however, is the latest single: the funky Michael Jackson-channeling “Standing Next to You” may very well be one of the year’s most addictive pop singles.

And even then, it is one of many no-skips songs on “Golden,” an album of pop bliss.

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