Jungkook is the jack of all trades, an emotional member of the K-pop band BTS, leader RM had once said. This belief is affirmed by ARMY, the fans of the group, who believe that there is nothing that he can’t do. Singing, dancing, rapping, winning at games and contests, exuding charisma on stage, and the latest is, being the brand ambassador for global fashion brands.
How did he get here?
Well, it has been a long professional and personal journey for Jeon Jungkook, beginning in 2010. Despite being chased by several agencies Jungkook, who hailed from Busan, was set on Big Hit, owing to his early revered respect and awe for RM. RM had already built a name for himself as an underground rapper, and Jungkook wanted to follow. Big Hit, as a company was new and still struggling, but Jungkook wasn’t going to backtrack. And so, one day RM found him on his doorstep and was rather taken aback by his “big doe eyes”, as he later recalled.
But 2010 Jungkook, was still a far cry from the person who sleeps, sings or does laundry and cooks for ARMY (the BTS fanbase) on Weverse Lives today. In his early days, there was much worry surrounding his introverted behaviour. He was so shy that Big Hit CEO Bang Si-hyuk did not know if it was possible him to even debut as a K-pop idol. “When Jungkook was a trainee, he couldn’t sing when we asked him to,” Bang said in an interview with Korean news outlet OSEN. “He just twisted his body for 15 minutes and was very shy. He didn’t have much talent, so the company questioned if he could even debut.”
“I became intimidated by large crowds,” Jungkook had once said. “I started to shrink after being surrounded by so many strangers. This might be the time that I began being shy around people I didn’t know.” Yet, he had a grim determination, just like the rest of the septet.
A year before they had to debut, he went to Los Angeles to work harder at his skills and was a backup dancer for the South Korean girl group, Glam, along with Jimin, J-Hope and Suga. By 2013, he made his debut with the rest of the band, in the song No More Dream, a performance that makes him “want to make him throw his remote away” as he said recently.
For the first few years, as old videos prove, Jungkook’s nervousness was easily visible on camera during interviews. He would hide behind RM on stage or stoically pass the mic around, and sometimes even try running away from the stage out of fear that he might be asked to give a speech.
Gradually, his confidence increased, and by 2021, the other members had to wrestle him away from the mic after accepting an award, as he wouldn’t stop talking.
Yet there was never a trace of this anxiety when he was performing; he would transform into what the song and choreography required. He could switch between aggressive rage, or employ rather soft and soothing vocals as the band continued to experiment with different genres.
If he could bring the storm in songs like Danger and Boy In Luv in 2013-2014, he also brought the calm with Butterfly and years later, Euphoria, which charted for more than 85 weeks on Billboard.
It’s no surprise that Jungkook has the position of being the main vocalist in the band, “the centre of all acts” as RM once said, bringing the balance to the vocal line. V (born Kim Taehyung) has the low, deep, and reverberating vocals, while Jimin tests his boundaries with a vocal range that switches from childlike to mature. Jin mixes it up with falsettos and baritones in a striking emotional range.
In the middle of these varying vocals, there’s Jungkook who brings the angst as well as soothing tones, sometimes charged with melancholy emotion. He can rap too, and in the earlier years of BTS stage performances, he would take the stage with the rapline, RM, J-Hope and Suga. 2017 ARMY’s aren’t likely to forget his face-off with RM over the song DDaeng. In addition to his singing skills, he brings the energy to the complex choreography that BTS normally produces and is always in the foreground for the dance breaks.
Today, Jungkook, the youngest among the seven, says proudly that he has a “bit of all the seven” in him, as he was raised by all six of them. This is reflected in not just his musical styles, but also his habits, mannerisms, and style of talking.
It’s almost a point of contention between the hyungs as they all fight over who raised him. It’s a particularly nervy point with Jin, who uses it to blackmail Jungkook every chance he gets. “I took you out for so many dinners and lunches that I can’t even count on ten fingers,” a sputtering Jin had once told an unabashed Jungkook. Yet, each of them raised him in their own way, be it spending hours teaching him about music, or all turning up for his graduation like proud parents. He holds RM and Suga in awe, while J-Hope is the one he runs to for hugs, and trolls Jimin, V and even Jin shamelessly. “Why don’t you text us,” RM had once asked him as a part of an interview quiz. “I don’t have to,” Jungkook replied with a straight face.
Jungkook knows that he’s the apple of the members' eyes and not-so-secretly enjoys this fact and is known to say quite cheerfully, “Suga hyung will never scold me.” This was proved true, as Jungkook continued performing and talking till late on Suga’s chat show Suchwita, without Suga even being present. “Jungkook will be annoying even at the age of sixty,” the rapper had once said with a sigh.
He’s playfully wicked in his own way as ARMY would say, it’s almost hard to find just one adjective to describe Jungkook. He can be sharp and cutting to his haters or naysayers if they try to baby him unnecessarily or reprimand him for mature lyrics, he can also be equally soft and go out of his way to write down detailed recipes for his fans on Weverse. He’s also equally emotional as his band members noted; Jungkook is the first to cry in any emotional situation, including romantic films.
He determinedly must make sure that he’s the sole winner in all games and contests and is not happy at all when he loses. Jungkook is also strangely random too; he once had a three-hour long live about the Korean postal system.
While BTS is an inextricable part of Jungkook, the maknae or 'young vouce' of BTS has established a name for himself on his own, to the extent that even a non-ARMY is aware of his power in the music world. Apart from his collaborations with American singers Charlie Puth, Benny Blanco and Snoop Dogg, his Seven with Latto featuring Han So-hee raged through Billboard Charts, putting him at number one.
Jungkook’s just getting started, as he says. His musical prowess is just the tip of the iceberg.