On the cusp of the new millennium, UK garage – a genre that had been bubbling in the underground for almost a decade – went mainstream. Pirate radio sellers became platinum sellers and artists from outside of the scene started taking influence from the style’s percussive, syncopated beats on their own hits. Over 20 years later, a second revival is entering a similar moment – last year, Interplanetary Criminal hit the top spot with the Eliza Rose collaboration ‘B.O.T.A (Baddest Of Them All)’ and, now, a member of the world’s biggest pop group is harnessing the sound for his official solo debut.
Jungkook delving into garage for ‘Seven’ might come as something of a surprise given much of his solo work, whether on BTS albums or low-key Soundcloud releases, have fallen into softer, more sentimental sounds. His 2020 festa song ‘Still With You’ mined melancholy jazz-pop and ‘Map Of The Soul: 7’ contribution ‘My Time’ served up melodic R&B, while even his ‘Love Yourself’ solo ‘Euphoria’ soared on the warmth of future bass-tinged pop. But, by embracing something choppier and beat-driven, the singer finds new purposes for his voice.
Where on previous releases, his acclaimed vocals have complemented and matched the music he was singing over, here opposites attract. As fragments of acoustic guitar loop between irregular rhythms, Jungkook is an anchor, his smooth voice – which glides and dives between polished mid-register and honeyed falsetto – cushioning the more jagged nature of the sonics here. It’s a combination that works brilliantly.
Lyrically, ‘Seven’ also recalls – whether intentionally or not – one of the players in UK garage’s first mainstream breakthrough. After scoring a Number One single with ‘Fill Me In’ in 2000, Craig David followed that success up with the R&B-leaning ‘7 Days’, detailing a week’s worth of love. Where David described a lust-ridden week-long encounter, though, Jungkook’s single is rooted far more deeply in romance. The BTS star’s listing of the days feels less like a recital of a singular week and more like a commitment to cycling through the calendar together forever; not just “seven days a week” but four weeks a month, 12 months a year – or, as he puts it in the song, “every hour, every minute, every second”.
The surprises on ‘Seven’ don’t stop with the choice of sonics. After weeks of rumours that the song would feature the likes of Justin Bieber, a guest appearance comes from someone no one guessed would be involved – Latto, one of the female rappers taking hip-hop in fresh new directions. Here, she slips into the song effortlessly, mirroring Jung Kook’s 360-degree devotion with a little more attitude. “You make Mondays feel like weekends / I make him never think about cheatin’,” she raps coolly. “Got you skipping work and meetings, let’s sleep in.”
Arguably one of the BTS members with the broadest mainstream, commercial appeal, ‘Seven’ sets the bar pretty high for Jungkook’s solo era. A summer-ready bop that also adds new facets to the singer’s artistry? We’ll take that any day of the week.