J-Hope of BTS has been added as a headliner for this year’s Lollapalooza festival, taking place in Chicago’s Grant Park on July 28-31. J-Hope will close out the festival on Sunday, July 31, making history as the first South Korean artist to headline the main stage at a major U.S. music festival.
Lollapalooza also announced that K-pop group Tomorrow x Together has been added to the lineup on Saturday, July 30, marking their U.S. festival debut.
“I’m happy to welcome J-Hope and Tomorrow x Together into the Lollapalooza family,” said Lollapalooza founder, Perry Farrell, in a statement. “These artists have been given great gifts in communication. Their global audience speak different languages but possess an intense passion for their music. Lolla is the place where all music genres live in harmony. These are the superstars of the global phenomenon of K-Pop, and we are so excited to have them at this year’s festival.”
J-Hope joins a stacked bill alongside co-headliners Metallica, Dua Lipa, J. Cole and Green Day among many others, as well as sets from Kygo, Big Sean, Jazmine Sullivan, Don Toliver, Charli XCX, Idles, Turnstile and more. The festival also recently posted a full list of set times for the festival on its Twitter page.
The additions of J-Hope and Tomorrow x Together come as Doja Cat has canceled several of her summer festival performances, including Lollapalooza and her run with the Weeknd’s tour, due to throat health complications. The singer uploaded a note to Twitter on May 20 explaining her absence and confirming she would be undergoing tonsil surgery and would need the time to recover.
Last year, Lollapalooza also took place in Grant Park and made its mark as one of the first big fests to come back after the shutdowns of the pandemic.
his is a very serious and deep question,” says RM, the 26-year-old leader of the world’s biggest band. He pauses to think. We’re talking about utopian and dystopian futures, about how the boundary-smashing, hegemony-overturning global success of his group, the wildly talented seven-member South Korean juggernaut BTS, feels like a glimpse of a new and better world, of an interconnected 21st century actually living up to its promise.
BTS’ downright magical levels of charisma, their genre-defying, sleek-but-personal music, even their casually nontoxic, skin-care-intensive brand of masculinity — every bit of it feels like a visitation from some brighter, more hopeful timeline. What RM is currently pondering, however, is how all of it contrasts with a darker landscape all around them, particularly the horrifying recent wave of anti-Asian violence and discrimination across a global diaspora.
“We are outliers,” says RM, “and we came into the American music market and enjoyed this incredible success.” In 2020, seven years into their career, BTS’ first English-language single, the irresistible “Dynamite,” hit Number One, an achievement so singular it prompted a congratulatory statement from South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in. The nation has long been deeply invested in its outsize cultural success beyond its borders, known as the Korean Wave.
“Now, of course, there is no utopia,” RM continues. “There’s a light side; there’s always going to be a dark side. The way we think is that everything that we do, and our existence itself, is contributing to the hope for leaving this xenophobia, these negative things, behind. It’s our hope, too, that people in the minority will draw some energy and strength from our existence. Yes, there’s xenophobia, but there are also a lot of people who are very accepting. . . . The fact that we have faced success in the United States is very meaningful in and of itself.”
At the moment, RM is in an acoustically treated room at his label’s headquarters in Seoul, wearing a white medical mask to protect a nearby translator, a black bucket hat, and a black hoodie from the Los Angeles luxury label Fear of God. As RM has had to explain too many times on U.S. talk shows, he taught himself his fluent English via bingeing Friends DVDs. Still, he makes understandable use of the interpreter when the conversation gets complex.
RM is a fan of complexity. He was on a path toward an elite university education before a love of hip-hop, first sparked by a Korean group, Epik High, detoured him into superstardom. Bang Si-hyuk, the cerebral, intense-yet-avuncular mogul-producer who founded BTS’ record company, Big Hit Entertainment (now HYBE), signed RM first, in 2010, and gradually formed BTS around the rapper’s talent and magnetism. “When I first met RM,” says Bang, “I felt a sense of duty that I must help him grow to become a great artist after acknowledging his musical talents and ways of thinking.”
When BTS debuted in 2013, Big Hit was an underdog startup in a South Korean music business then dominated by three huge firms (Bang had been a producer for one of them, JYP). Now, thanks to BTS’ success, HYBE is a publicly-traded corporation so large it just snapped up the American management company behind Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. “We always set goals and standards that may seem ideal, and try our best to get there as close as possible,” Bang says. “It’s still the same.”
A lengthy recruitment and audition process brought RM his six bandmates: fellow rappers Suga and J-Hope, and singers Jung Kook, V, Jimin, and Jin. Jung Kook, the youngest member, whose multiple talents include an extraordinarily soulful tenor, had offers to sign with multiple entertainment agencies, but chose Big Hit and BTS because of RM. “I just simply thought RM was really cool,” Jung Kook says. “I really didn’t know a lot about being a singer. But when I saw him rap, I just thought he was really, really awesome. And I believe maybe it was fate that drew me to him.”
Suga and J-Hope were the first two members to join after RM, at a point when Bang imagined a pure hip-hop group. (There were a bunch of other rapper trainees on board with them, all ultimately jettisoned in favor of the singers as BTS became more of a pop hybrid.) Suga, also a fan of Epik High, as well as American rappers like T.I., was already a skilled rapper when he joined, much to his parents’ displeasure. “They didn’t understand rap music,” says Suga. “It’s natural that they were against what I was doing. I think that helped me work harder because there was something that I had to prove.” On the intense 2016 solo track “The Last” (recorded under the alias Agust D), Suga revealed battles with OCD, social anxiety, and depression. “I’m comfortable now and feeling good,” he says. “But those sort of negative emotions come and go. For anybody, these emotions are not things that need to be hidden. They need to be discussed and expressed. Whatever emotions I may be feeling, I’m always ready to express them.”
With the group’s sunniest personality, J-Hope is beloved by his fellow members. (“I think J-Hope can run for president of the world,” says V; “There will be at least six votes from us,” RM adds.) J-Hope is a stunning dancer, and a surprisingly aggressive rapper, a skill he learned in his trainee days. “When I first started training, all the members were rappers,” he says. “So when you went into the house, beats were dropping. Everyone was just rapping in freestyle. It was kind of not easy to adapt at first.”