Hong Kong artist Jackson Wang is back with his latest album, MAGIC MAN. The 10-track album is Wang’s second full-length studio album. It follows the release of his 2019 debut album, MIRRORS and his many singles since then.
Album: Magic Man
MAGIC MAN is gritty, sexy, and mysterious. It’s full of rock-inspired instrumentals and English lyrics by Wang himself. The vocals would shock anyone who only knows rapper Jackson Wang from GOT7. Wang goes from low rasps to high falsettos.
“Blow” was the first single to be released in March of 2022. This track tickled both our eyes and ears. The music video has a 48-second prelude before we even hear the song. The video is set in what can only be described as a victorian fever dream, complete with party host extraordinaire Jackson Wang in a corset. His dancers, also dressed in their best victorian wear, helped fill out the hazy dream. When watching this video, I was initially taken aback by the intimate interaction between the dancers and Jackson. I was so used to his K-Pop persona that watching this video introduced a new side of Mr. Wang.
When we dig into the song, it is a pop-rock-inspired track. It elicits the memories of the early 2010s pop rock that dominated the airwaves. The song deals with temptation, using the classic comparison of a woman who is the temptress that has him addicted. The chorus itself adds to this with lines like “My dirty secret that keeps me awake/ don’t stop now you got me ready to blow,” it’s clear that Jackson wants every piece of the temptation, even welcoming it. From the innuendos in the lyrics and the erotic undertones in the music video, it is clear as day that Jackson was making a statement that he has grown up and is ready to show off.
While “Blow” is the erotic victorian fever dream, “Cruel” is the dystopian fantasy. The track was first introduced to fans during Jackson’s historic stage at Coachella. The song itself was released in July of 2022. “Cruel” is special because Jackson is credited as the sole creative director, writer, and movement director for the music video for one of the first times in his entire career. This fact makes “Cruel” even more interesting to watch. The video is set in a dystopian landscape with crumbling buildings, rebar, and fire. Jackson reencounters his temptation face to face, though he is better equipped to fight back this time. From hand-to-hand combat to literal fire breathing, he can bring this temptation to heel. Instead of a corset and victorian era trousers found in his first release, Jackson opts for just pants and instead covers his chest and arms in black paint and ash. This attire choice hits differently when you know that Jackson was the one who picked it.
The part of the music video that drew my eyes the most was how Jackson literally “played” the dancers as guitars during crucial parts of the song. This was accented by the four or six lines that were displayed on the front piece of the dancer’s clothing. I thought this was a great way to incorporate the song into the music video on a different level. The song itself was sonically very similar to “Blow.” The main difference is centered in the chorus, where “Cruel” has more of a darker feel with an edgy bass guitar that held down the chorus compared to “Blow,” which had an enthusiastic dancey feel. Both songs feel like two parts to a very intense battle within Jackson’s mind over this temptation that attempts to consume him.
“Champagne Cool” is the song you listen to at the end of the night with your final drink of the night as you wind down from the adventure that was your time out on the town. The dominance of the drums and subtle electric guitar adds to the smooth jazz feel of the track. The pure “vibes” is, I think, the point Jackson was trying to make with this track. When you look at the lyrics, he says,
Smoke and mirrors
It’s all fake, but it’s true
I take my troubles
With my bubbles and I keep my
Which I took to mean that he’s aware of all the fakeness that occurs in the celebrity world, but he’s just here to have a good time, make music, and love on his fans.
Lyrically, “Go Ghost” has me confused and full of questions. The lyrics go back and forth about leaving someone, saying he can’t leave them “even if they try to,” yet in the next breath mentions the idea of going “ghost,” or for those unfamiliar with the term, completely disappearing from the person you’re talking to or datings life without a trace. The song’s instrumental is heavy with electronic sounds and the use of 808 bass that will rumble your speakers if you play it out loud. The pre-chorus reminds me of similar-sounding tracks from the early 2000s. Of all the tracks, I don’t think I would skip it, but I wouldn’t go out of the way to look for the song in a playlist.
“Drive It Like You Stole It” is a disco synth-inspired track with a dash of pop. The song relies heavily on the electric sound melody that is tucked beneath the disco beat. The lyrics are short and simple, which makes it easy to get lost in the instrumental. The dreamlike vibe of the song makes me wonder if it is connected to that original temptation we encounter in the earlier track, “Blow.” This idea is further spurred by the fact Jackson brings up the cigarettes again in this track, talking about how cigarettes fill their lungs. It makes me wonder if this “woman” will become a recurring theme throughout the rest of the album.
“Come Alive” revisits the woman metaphor once again. This time, instead of discussing temptation, Jackson speaks more about desire and the fear that sometimes comes with it. He croons about how this woman makes him “come alive.” and yet he fears that she “could leave me [Jackson] crying.”
This is the allure of temptation and the consequences of indulging. In a way, it leans into the initial metaphors surrounding temptation found in the earlier parts of the album. It is more of a jazz-rock song, which is what the entire album is at its core. Jackson’s voice takes on a more scratchy tone that reminds me of Steven Tyler during certain parts of the song. The electric guitar and staccato strumming of the bass helps place this song apart from the others that fall into a similar sonic pattern.
Continuing the theme of desire into “Just Like Magic,” Jackson continues to croon about his desire for this woman and how much he “doesn’t want to wake up.” The lyrics of this track, though, make you wonder if this “woman” he sings about throughout this track and other songs on the album is actually just his metaphor for a career.
In “Just Like Magic,” he mentions that he holds the “woman” in his arms “five days a week” for her to “disappear on the weekend,” these lines could allude to the fact he clings to his job five days a week and resting for the other two. It may be a stretch, but all the pieces are there for it to make sense. The instrumental of the track continues to be centered around the electric guitar and drums. However, something more evident in “Just Like Magic” than in the previous tracks is the use of choir vocals in the chorus. This adds almost an ethereal feel to the pop-rock track.
On Spotify, this song bares an explicit label for the single use of the word shit. There is no other part of the song that would warrant the label. The song itself feels softer than the album’s previous ones. The first verse was exclusively electric guitar, and the first chorus was the first time the drums and the bass guitar were included. The way the song is arranged is reminiscent of an anthem track to finish off a mind-blowing concert. Everyone would be waving their light sticks or, more appropriate for the album vibe, a lighter. If we examine the lyrics of this track through the same lens as earlier songs, this is the part of coming out of the indulgence of desire. You gave in to that temptation, and now that you’ve experienced all it has to offer you, you are ready to give it up and move on.
While I thought “Drive It Like You Stole It” would be my favorite song, “Dopamine” snuck up on me. While we are revisiting that idea of temptation again in this song, but not in the way that was done in previous tracks. This time Jackson talks about wanting to find “some dopamine.” The song feels different compared to the others. Instead of a boisterous chorus, it is mellow and impactful, mixing with the electronic sounds hidden beneath the drum and electric guitar.
The lyrics are talking to this person Jackson referenced throughout the album. This time instead of temptation, the person is his place of rest. This leads me to another theory that Dopamine is talking about Jackson’s fans, Jackys and Aghases. With lyrics like “I know you’ve been waiting for me,” Jackson knew fans had been waiting for him, and he would search for them for comfort in his time of need. Referring to his fans in a song like this as his source of happiness is endearing. Of all the songs on the album, this is the one I find myself gravitating to the most.
Blue’s music video was released the day before the full release of Magic Man. The music video itself is simple yet graceful. Jackson, dressed in soft yellow hues, tumbles through the different landscapes of fire, space, and, finally, clear blue water. The video’s simplicity was created by the Magic Man himself as he bares another Creative Director credit on this track. The song itself feels a little off from the earlier songs as it doesn’t elicit the same energetic feel of the rest of the album.
It sounds like it belongs to a different album entirely. The instrumental still uses an electric guitar. However, the guitar is not plugged into an amp, instead, you can hear the metal twang of the cords with each strum. It had a unique sound to track. “Blue” has lyrics that are in a similar vein to “Dopamine.” Jackson lets his heart live on his sleeve with lines like “I know that I can always come fine you.” He is either speaking of his fans, his family, his friends, or even the other members of GOT7. These are the people he has surrounded himself with as his support system, and no matter what he does, he will get through it. And for that, I am extremely proud of all his work too.
While this album has been finally released, It wasn’t exactly what I expected from the hype, and you know what, that is okay. Jackson explored other sides of himself and his musical range throughout this album. It does leave me with a few questions about how Jackson deals with fame, with the recurring theme of desire and temptation. This album serves as another stepping stone in Jackson’s ever-evolving discography, and I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve next. While we wait to see his next steps, we will keep our champagne on ice.