When you’re trying to speak candidly with someone, it’s not always easy to be pleasant and considerate at the same time. Jin is all those things.
“Butter” is staying on top of the Billboard Hot 100. How does it feel?
Jin: I can’t really get a feel for what kind of response it’s getting since I can only go to and from work right now. Since all the awards shows are done remotely/have moved online, too, we can’t accept any awards in person or feel the vibe in person or anything. And I don’t use the Internet much, really. Consequently, I ended up feeling less pressure and I could enjoy the promotional period itself a little better. I’m just glad we’re doing well in the meantime.

In your last interview with Weverse Magazine, you talked about the pressure you felt after “Dynamite” topped the Billboard Hot 100, but it seems like you’re mostly over that. 
Jin: You could say that I cleared my mind, or that I worked through some things. I’m pretty sure I am doing better than then. I’m keeping a pretty regular routine now that I’m getting accustomed to commuting life, even though my schedule is sometimes a bit erratic. When I had to keep working without a single day off, I was sometimes really tired because I had things of my own to do after work before going to bed, but now after cycling through this routine for a while I’m a little healthier and I’m getting a little more sleep, too.

Before “Butter” came out, you released a solo song, “Abyss.” You were very forthcoming about the psychological difficulties you revealed in the lyrics and what you wrote about the song. What effect did releasing “Abyss” have on you?
Jin: I felt a kind of relief. I want my fans to picture me as being happy and I don’t actually want them to know that I feel that way, but now and then I feel the need to talk about what’s inside me. It’s been a few years since I expressed it in a song or explained anything about it so I feel a tiny bit relieved.

Part of the lyrics say, “I want to know more about you today.” That overlaps with the line, “I hold my breath and enter my ocean,” to make a song that’s like you’re meeting your own inner self.
Jin: Even I don’t know myself very well, and I was also depressed at the time, and that’s how I chose to face that part of myself. I never had a chance to meet myself, and I just feel like I was submerged in my own ocean and came back up to walk on the beach.

It’s not a perfect solution, but just the act itself of trying to go deep into the place with the answer appears to have had a positive influence on you.
Jin: I’m trying. I thought that sort of exercise was right for me, but if this doesn’t resolve anything, I’ll try something else, and then something else. If I’m having a hard time, I can ask the label for some time off to do something else. I feel like just being able to do that, even, is a little bit helpful itself.

Is your style of singing in that song related to the message you wanted to convey? You tried to reveal the problems you had in a frank manner and solve them in some way, and the song disclosed your emotions as straightforwardly as the lyrics did.
Jin: I handled the overall direction and composition of the song with Kye Bumzoo, one of the producers, and Pdogg, the other producer, directed while I recorded the vocals. We decided I would just go with my gut and not try to make it sound pretty or anything. That goes for the lyrics, too. I prefer songs that convey emotion in a calm, straightforward manner, both when I sing and when I’m listening to music.
Then what about “Butter”? Although it’s also straightforward like “Abyss,” the feelings it expresses are more pleasant.
Jin: Seriously, sometimes I think how great it’d be if I could sing this kind of song exclusively—other than the chorus. (laughs) I mean, every song we sing is so high-pitched. If you take out the chorus of this song, I thought I could do this song live pretty comfortably, no matter how hard the dance moves are.

You sing the “Butter” chorus in a light, high pitch. You must have given a lot of thought about how to express yourself for that part.
Jin: I felt pressure because the notes in the chorus are particularly high, so I put all my power into singing it, but I actually ended up putting too much power into my vocals, so I kept thinking I have to ease up and chill. When we were doing the first performance in particular, I forgot all of that and put power behind my vocals. I get nervous for every performance, but some make me especially nervous. I feel it sometimes whenever I do those performances. Inside I’m like, Right—Seokjin, you said you would ease up, remember? Anyway, it’s also nice that I get to show off a lot in “Butter.” You know I’m handsome, right? (laughs) It makes me happy that I can show off my handsome face to my heart’s content and show you everything I’m capable of. I wanted to show all of this off in a performance as quickly as possible.

“Butter” opens with you making gestures with your hands while looking cheerfully into the camera. I imagine you had a lot of fun preparing for the performance.
Jin: Practice is honestly a burden, though. Usually when we practice, I’m slow at learning the moves. So I’m not very good at it. [And] when I practiced with [performance director Son] Sung Deuk, he was really worried at first. This is tough—can he pull it off? He worried a lot, right up until we got up for our first performance, but when he saw me again after two or three weeks of doing “Butter,” he said to me, Whoa, is this Seokjin, the guy getting all that hot feedback lately? (laughs) He said I was dancing great. At first I hadn’t seen the response, so I asked him if he was teasing me, but he said, “No, everybody’s saying you’re dancing great.” If that’s really true, it’s all thanks to him. (laughs)

In the “ARMY Corner Store” video uploaded to YouTube for FESTA 2021 in celebration of the eighth anniversary of your debut, you said you put a lot of effort into following the songs and dances. Aren’t you satisfied with how “Butter” turned out? I feel like the song was more enjoyable thanks to the character you’ve built up over time.
Jin: Well, the song where I’m most satisfied with myself is “Butter,” because I’ve been honing my skills for a long time at this point, and “Butter” is our latest release. As time goes by and we come out with more songs, and if I improve more, my favorite song will be whatever is newest, and then “Butter” might not be as satisfying to me anymore. But it’s the most satisfying one for now.

In what ways have you gotten better?
Jin: When I first started this job, I practiced according to the staff’s directions, and even now in the case of dancing I’m still striving to follow along, but it takes me less time to adjust than it used to. When I review after practice, I can see how it’s going and what I need to do. It takes a little less time to line myself up with the beat than before, and I think I’ve become able to refine it a bit better. I was also happy this time around when Hobi told me my dancing really improved.

How was performing for “Permission to Dance”?
Jin: I really like the song, but when we perform it, I wish I’d had more time to prepare. We had a comeback in May with “Butter” and then a fan meeting concert in June, so we got ready for “Permission to Dance” at the same time we were filming performances of “Butter.” We didn’t have anything else we had to work on before “Butter” so we had plenty of time to practice it, but we had to practice “Permission to Dance” and get ready for the fan meeting simultaneously. Time’s always tight, but I think I could’ve done even better if I could’ve taken a little more time. I wish I had had more time to put a little more effort in.

The more time you spend practicing, the better the outcome, and the more ambitious you end up becoming.
Jin: So, I’m not good at memorizing lyrics, for instance. I think some of the other members can catch on real quick, but it’s not like that for me. So if we do something like a new song or a special one at a fan meeting, I have to spend more time preparing than the others. When a new song’s coming out, I have to practice for at least 4-5 days to get the hang of it.

You performed the rap in “Daechwita” for BTS 2021 MUSTER SOWOOZOO, but it’s really rare to see you rapping. I imagine the process you went through to practice was intense.
Jin: It was so hard. I had to do “Daechwita” and “Chicken Noodle Soup,” but it was only about a month before the concert when the set list was decided. During that time, I’d come home after finishing work, turn on the music for “Daechwita” and practice it for 15 minutes, then do “Chicken Noodle Soup” after that, and then go straight to sleep. The next day I’d wake up, go to work, come home and do another 15 minutes of “Daechwita” and more “Chicken Noodle Soup.” I kept repeating that for a really long time. I’m terrible at memorizing lyrics so that kind of took a while.

That’s a lot of time to keep practicing constantly like that. Your work-life balance must also be important, too. It’s difficult to practice beyond a certain amount of time every day without having some time to relax.
Jin: Exactly. Like I said, my skills are lacking when it comes to memorizing lyrics, but I think I have other abilities that cover up for what I lack. In fact, I enjoy constantly memorizing things like that. My gift is my ability to enjoy practicing repeatedly, so if I somehow succeed before the deadline, I give myself praise. (laughs) Practicing takes me a long time, so I just decided to treat it as one big project. The way I do it is, when I say it’s time for a break, it’s time for a break, and I rest to my heart’s content.

You seemed to be talking about the importance of time spent outside working hours in “ARMY Corner Store” when you said the measure of your satisfaction is the degree to which you can pass your day meaninglessly. As a member of BTS, you must not have that much time to spend as you please.
Jin: Koreans my age have no choice but to self-improve these days. You have to improve your qualifications, learn things, and people even tell you your hobbies have to be productive, even though they’re hobbies. After being taught that way since I was young, I think I need to follow through on that somehow. I feel like I have to do something productive, even when I’m trying to take a break. But if I don’t do a single thing and just loaf around in bed, or do some unproductive, unnecessary activity, I actually end up feeling satisfied. Go from sleeping to waking up, waking up to eating, eating to sleeping again. Wake up from sleep and suddenly want to watch TV, and go watch it. If there’s nothing good on TV, play a game, then look at the clock, and if it’s late, sleep. I think everyone needs days like this.

That time must become all the more important when you’re busy being a member of BTS, since you don’t have much time to spend that way.
Jin: When I’m not working, all I really want to do is something I enjoy for myself. In that case, people might wonder why you’re doing things that won’t help you in life, but I think that time’s important for everyone. Society is always seeking out the things that are useful. And that’s good, too, but for our own sake, I think we require time to find stability in our own minds, even if it looks useless in the eyes of others.

Speaking of which, you posted a picture of yourself eating with Bang Si-hyuk, the producer, on Weverse. It’s amazing that two people with so much influence and things to do can take the time to relax together.
Jin: People around the office might feel he is unapproachable, but I don’t find him to be like that. (laughs) So I asked him in passing to have a drink and he suddenly said, “Okay, when are you free?” Most of the time, though, I only meet like that on a spur of the moment, so I said, “Uh, I’m busy right now. This day’s all booked up, too, and so’s this day.” (laughs) “Then just give me a rough time and I’ll make time when you’re done.” We talked back and forth like that and he came to see me the next day for dinner when I was all finished with work. And he said he’d cook for me and buy wine, too. Anyway, it was a nice meal.

You couldn’t have felt that comfortable with him before your debut (laughs) but as time passed, many things have changed. Everyone became so successful, too.
Jin: You could say that I was in a position where I was looking for a job when I was a trainee. At the time, I thought people who got chosen seemed really cool, but by contrast I had no confidence. I don’t think it would’ve actually happened this way, but I thought if I talked to someone who found work, they would give me the cold shoulder, sort of. So I didn’t feel very confident.

I think you showed that you have confidence with the joke you told on tvN’s You Quiz on the Block about your older brother calling you Mr. Seokjin lately, or when you talked about the mood when an older relative gave you money for Korean New Years on V LIVE. That you can easily accept anyone no matter how they handle you.
Jin: Right. If I don’t behave that way, everyone else has a harder time. People I know will say “the superstar is here” as a joke. If I say, “Superstar? What are you talking about? Don’t say that,” and give them a serious look, they’ll have no idea what to call me next time or what to talk about. Honestly, if someone who’s meeting me for the first time or doesn’t see me that often responds in that kind of somewhat exaggerated way, they might think it’s fun. I’m sure that’s the way I’d react if I met a really famous person. So if someone says, “Aha, the superstar is here,” I say, “the superstar has come!” too. As long as I don’t respond in a serious way so everyone can tell it’s a joke, the ice is broken.
Now that you’re a superstar for real—not a joke—is there anything you’d tell the old, unconfident Jin from the past if you could meet him?
Jin: I don’t know what I would tell him. I want to tell him to keep his head up (laughs) but if I gave my old self too much to think about, he might end up feeling exhausted after practice and give up. I think it would be enough just to tell him to work hard.

Where do you find the ambition to keep working hard, even now?
Jin: From ARMY’s reactions, of course. I’d say I’m trying harder and trying to do well without exhausting myself so I can see people on Twitter or Weverse saying I’ve improved or that I’m doing a good job. And these days we have to do the performances on film, and we shoot them in advance for the sake of quality. Because of that, we usually record the performances long before the songs get released, which means we have to change our looks for the recording. It’s hard to go public with my new look until anything’s officially released for that reason, or else there could be spoilers. That makes me all the more eager to show off the best parts of myself in our performances. If it weren’t for the current situation, I could instantly see our fans’ reactions, so it’s a shame they can’t see me working this hard.

What would you like to say to ARMY?
Jin: I hope our fans don’t lose their laughter. I’m not really good at saying those kinds of cheesy things. It’s not in my personality. I feel embarrassed and cringey when I talk like that and I can’t take myself seriously, so I try to keep it to a minimum. But fans watch us as a hobby, you know? Hobbies are all about enjoying yourself and being able to laugh, so I want to look happy for them, not exhausted. I go out of my way to make funny posts or leave funny replies on Weverse to make them happier. I just hope anyone who likes me is happy. And I don’t want them to see anything bad. That’s how I feel about my work.
Article. Myungseok Kang
Interview. Myungseok Kang
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon
Project Management. Yejin Lee
Visual Creative Team. Sunkyoung Lee, Yeonhwa Cha(BIGHIT MUSIC)
Photography. LESS / Assist. Hyungsang Kim, Donghoon Park
Hair. Som Han, Mujin Choi, Daeun Lee, Leeyoung Lim
Makeup. Dareum Kim, Seonmin Kim, Yuri Seo
Stylist. Hajeong Lee, Hyesoo Kim, Heeji Seo, Jihoon Lee, Minji Son
Set Design. Seoyun Choi, Yehui Son, Ayeong Kim(darak)
Artist Protocol Team. Jingu Jang, Subin Kim, Jungmin Lee, Dasol Ahn, Juntae Park, Seungbyeong Lee, Hyeonki Lee, Daeseong Jeong, Jaekeun Song