After a long wait, J-Hope from BTS has finally released his first solo mixtape, Hope World, accompanied by a MV for title track “Daydream”. In this MV, he takes the listener on a journey inside his mind as he fantasises about the things he had to give up for the sake of becoming a celebrity.

How many times we have wondered how cool a celebrity’s life must be? Not having to worry about money, travelling the world and pursuing one’s biggest passions are only some of the most envied aspects of this kind of fancy life. In “Daydream”, however, J-Hope illustrates how all that glitters is not actually gold through his fantasies of a more ordinary lifestyle.

Generally, celebrities complaining about the struggles of their privileged life are frowned upon by the general Korean public. This stems from the fact that in a society extremely competitive such as the Korean one, barely anyone has had it easy ever since their early school years. The pressure to excel in one’s field, get a highly paid job and build a family while still young is enormous. While popular Korean celebrities are under intense scrutiny by the public, they are also freed from worries about material comfort by the large amounts of money they earn, and are often given special treatment.

J-Hope manages to touch on the subject without getting on anyone’s nerves, mostly because he doesn’t actually complain. “Daydream”, just like the title says, is a reflection on the dualism of his own life–“My character’s like half and half”, he raps: while his reality is that of BTS member and global superstar J-Hope, he also has dreams and hopes as Jung Hoseok, a 24-year-old guy. He explained it very well on a V Live stream:

J-Hope is a person that is known to the public, and is a public figure. And with that title, there comes responsibilities and burdens. I understand those aspects of this position but it’s natural that Jung Hoseok as a person has his own needs as a human being. This song is about those desires.

Through his lyrics, J-Hope acknowledges that because of his celebrity status there are things he has had to give up on—or at least confine to his imagination. He mentions having to control his emotions and feelings as much as he’s expected to do as a public figure, the impossibility of leading a more reckless lifestyle where he’s free to drink and party as much as he wants to, and finally the restrictions he has regarding his love life.

Anyone has the right to daydream and get lost in fantasy: most people fantasise about success and riches but, for someone who already has them, it’s the ordinary life that becomes a dream. Exploring these seemingly commonplace scenarios becomes an ironically surreal journey, highlighted by two literary references to well-known fantasy works: “Alice in Wonderland” (“Like the hole Alice fell into”) and the Harry Potter saga (“Like the road that leads to Hogwarts it’ll be a world of mirages”).

Given that the song is indeed about a fantasy of his, the music video features surreal elements — such as flying goldfishes or a tiny J-Hope sitting on his sleeping normal-sized self. The colours are very vivid, and cartoon inserts are also present. It’s especially curious how in these cartoons the sky is represented as red, a colour representing strong emotions, in great contrast with the peace that the conventional sky-blue evokes.

Both in the music video and in the song itself there is a strong 90s vibe. J-Hope is clothed in military green paired with a bucket hat and transparent sunglasses that give a vintage impression, a vibe emphasised by the song’s instrumentals. While the lyrics deal with a deeper theme, the instrumental is as light-hearted as it can be. The beat and the intro are particularly fun and fresh, while keeping a retro flavour, bringing to mind Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit “Black or White”.

Daydream might sound like an happy and carefree song, but there is an underlying strong sense of melancholy that can be perceived in the lyrics. While “Daydream” is not as dark and introspective as fellow BTS rappers RM and Suga‘s solo works, J-Hope manages to express his inner emotions while staying true to his playful persona. The result is absolutely delightful.

(YouTube, Images via Big Hit Entertainment)