While I’ve analyzed the whole album (link below), the two main tracks, MORE and Arson have lots of layers to uncover and deserve their own analysis and explanation.
At first glance, J-Hope’s MORE seems like a straightforward song about an artist expressing his dedication to his craft. He says stuff like:
- I’m thirsty [for more]…I gotta keep going for my passion.
- I’m still (not enough).
- [It’s] the reason of my life, the joy of my life. With that as a driving force, I carry on.
- Bring it all, I’m doing it all.
- I want it, stadium with my fans, I still do.
- I sweep into my bag all the trophies, Grammy’s, too.
- My work makes me breathe, so I want MORE.
However, several elements in the song suggest this may be sarcastic or have another deeper layer of meaning.
A Korean translator worked with their friend who has a Ph.D. in Korean Literature and explained that some lines are written and spoken sarcastically and seem to be mocking the grind.
Other lyrics also address the darker side of the constant hustle:
- Going nonstop without a moment to rest.
- Underlines with highlighters look good but not much learning is taking place.
- I crash and fall for my creation.
The song ends with the same line from the first verse “I’m still not enough,” suggesting no matter how hard he works or how much he contributes, it will never be considered enough.
Clues in the music video
J-Hope’s MORE music video is meticulously crafted, offering more clues to the supposedly sarcastic nature of the song.
J-Hope used an office setting with bored workers when he talks about working for his passion. He seems to be mocking the work culture by throwing around documents and tripping and humiliating the boss.
Moreover, a Twitter user pointed out the similarities between J-Hope’s MORE and David Fincher’s Fight Club (1999):
Fight Club talks about the meaningless, mundane nature of work, wanting to escape an unfulfilling life, and having an alter ego ask you to wreck property to destroy the system.
The MORE music video features a lot of these elements like the exhausted employees mindlessly working and J-Hope’s alter ego appearing before he starts wrecking property.
Could it be a coincidence then that Fight Club’s protagonist is also named Jack?
If these clues weren’t enough, note that every time J-Hope sings/raps the lines about wanting more, the voice is distorted. Is it someone else demanding more of him? Is the greed for more negatively affecting his life?
J-Hope has spoken about ambition, burnout, and greed in past songs, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think this may be an exaggerated mockery of the hustle life.
In fact, not just J-Hope, but the whole group (BTS) announced they were going on a break owing to burnout. “The problem with K-pop and the whole idol system is that they don’t give you time to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep doing something,” the group leader RM said.
“[Making music] now compared to seven, eight years ago feels completely different. Back then, I had something to say but just lacked the skills. Now I don’t have anything to say. Right now, I’m just squeezing it out because we have to satisfy people’s wants,” another member, SUGA, said.
In an interview with Weverse Magazine, J-Hope mentioned BTS were “on the brink of mental exhaustion.”
Considering J-Hope worked on and released MORE around this time, it’s quite likely the song has an undercurrent of the hustle and burnout themes.
An interesting connection I found: Fight Club features wreckage and arson, which is the title and theme of the second main track, Arson.
As the title suggests, Arson talks about setting everything on fire. Here, J-Hope gets quite metaphorical and uses the term to suggest he’s:
- Burning for his passion.
- Setting the industry on fire.
- Burning out due to the grind.
- Firing up haters.
- Going through this fierce journey with his team.
- Wondering if he should put out the flames now or continue to burn more powerfully.
The themes of overwork and burnout indirectly addressed in MORE, make an appearance here with lyrics like:
- I couldn’t stop.
- I burned it all as I wanted it all.
- No other option but to overheat inside.
- Was the motivation fueled by my blind ambition?
- When I sweat, I shower with oil so I can ignite myself.
- Make it even hotter with my success heating up.
- My dreams, done, big accomplishments, done, my share of the work, done, beyond this, none.
- Too much is as bad as too little.
- Better to quit when there’s still applause.
- It’s too hot, stop.
- In agony, I wake up.
In the music video, we see his burned heart, which could mean he’s burned out from within.
Towards the end of the song, J-Hope asks himself again if it would be better to put out the flames now that his career has peaked and he has a long list of accomplishments behind him, or if he should work harder and burn for his passion intensely to achieve MORE.
What does he choose?
He ends the song saying Arson, with this shot in the music video: