Jackson Wang Finds His Voice & Makes Chart History, Embracing Himself With Debut Album 'Mirrors'

Joe D'Aleo
Jackson Wang

The Hong Kong–born star's solo LP has been years in the making, but only now seem like he's fully discovered what makes him unique.

Up until his declarative debut solo album, Mirrors, Jackson Wang had gained a reputation in the K-pop scene as the funny and fitness-focused rapper in boy band GOT7 since first entering the music industry in 2014. With the Hong Kong native's solo career now more than two years in the works, the eventual release and Billboard chart success of Mirrors -- which makes history at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 this week as the highest-charting debut album ever from a Chinese artist -- represents something larger in an artist finally finding himself and his voice, literally and figuratively.

Jackson's early solo career moves show how this has been a building process. Releases like 2017's "Papillion" and 2018's "Different Game" with Gucci Mane saw the star releasing music in English and on his own for the first time, but more or less showed a Jackson many already knew with his raspy rap style and flamboyant fashion. Instead, what became a major artist breakthrough moment was with Mirrors' lead single "Bullet to the Heart" that stripped Wang of his flashy stage persona and portrayed him in a completely new light.

With "Bullet to the Heart," Jackson revealed his vulnerable side, letting fans hear his singing voice throughout a full track over minimalist, pop production. Not only were fans hearing a new side of the 25-year-old, but the accompanying music video showed Wang visually anew as well as he traded the luxury brands for a beaten-up sweater. With this one release, it felt like Jackson had finally found the human side of himself to distinguish himself as Jackson Wang the solo artist in addition to the funnyman-rapper many know and love. 

The album's title of Mirrors is a perfect fit as an album shooting a real, sometimes harsh, reflection of one's true self. It's a change-up from the previously announced Journey to the West title Jackson was previously playing, as these eight songs all look to be a larger meditation on Wang as a human rather than about a crossover attempt. This plays well for Jackson's focus in America as many Western listeners focus on wanting to feel something authentic from artists with a Mirrors concept feeling like a much more natural fit for Jackson navigating his place the global-pop scene.

One of Mirror's standout tracks "Bad Back" shines as one of the most interesting on the album as it seems to have multiple layers to representing Jackson as both an artist and as a person. While the song is a sexy, rebellious track for Wang to let his bad-boy side take over, fans know the singer has also dealt with serious back pain for years. The star has recently opened up about the self-care and preventative measures he's taking with his physical health -- focusing on therapeutic massages and being more gentle with his high expectations -- with "Bad Back" taking a phrase he may have used in the past as a negative and has now been flipped into something empowering. 

Meanwhile cuts like "Unless I'm With You" and "On the Rocks" have emotional trap-ballad productions, that fit the sensual love songs Jackson has mastered in the past, as well as odes of gratitude. Lately, the singer's social media feeds have been consistently filled with thank you's to supporters and reflecting on how he's #blessed, with these tracks fitting right in line with where the star is at in his life and wanting to give thanks to those who brought him to this career-defining moment. 

Even the album's two features have a larger meaning. The knocking "Titanic" features Rich Brian, who has been making strides to distance his former dark-comedy persona Rich Chigga, and makes for a natural pairing for Jackson as both stars make strides to artistically evolve. Plus having GoldLink on "Bad Back" is a full-circle moment and way to repay the D.C. rapper after Wang featured on his sophomore album Diaspora marking Jackson's first mainstream cameo on the U.S. scene.

Ending Mirrors with the charming "I Love You 3000," sung in both English and Chinese, wraps up the album on a note that encapsulates all things Jackson Wang while also looking to the future. On one hand, the song sees Jackson calling himself, "your Iron Man" (the Avenger character he most connects with when thinking about his place in GOT7), but the tender lyrics (like "Baby, take my hand, I just want to be your husband") show the softer side of Wang that isn't explored in the album. Even for the final track on his album, Jackson is making sure to push himself and show new layers of himself. 

With "I Love You 3000," Mirrors has an open-ended conclusion about where Jackson Wang could go next: More music in English? Diving back to the C-pop scene? Soft love songs? Iron Man–esque bangers? As proven by Mirrors as an artistic work, all possibilities and more than capable for the star to carry out after revealing the truer and most human side of Wang seen yet. Undoubtedly, spotlighting the human side has been one of the most crucial parts in why Jackson has been able to connect with so many listeners and reach new chart heights while doing so.

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