When G-Dragon stepped back up to the solo scene with “One of a Kind,” the return was everything I had anticipated: complicated outfits, endless accessories, some cultural appropriation, a wacky new hairstyle, and GD’s signature weird factor. And when word got around revealing “That XX” would be GD’s follow up single, I had expected more of GD’s raunchy attitude and style, with perhaps even more of a power-factor thrown into the mix to match the intensity that lay behind the emphatic title. But when the single and accompanying MV for “That XX” dropped, so did my jaw.
There was nothing that could have prepared me for the romance, the passion, and the utter desperation that is “That XX.” The last time GD delivered us a gentle melody was three years ago with “Butterfly,” from his first solo album Heartbreaker. In comparison, however, “Butterfly” appears to be much more innocent and carefree than “That XX,” which takes a similar, ethereal approach with acoustics to instead tell the difficult story of a distraught lover, unable to comprehend why his beloved has abandoned him for another.
The MV opens to G-Dragon peering through the blinds of his room, girly laughter mutedly resonating somewhere we can’t see, someplace we can’t reach. Immediately, we are swarmed by a feeling of entrapment. But who has trapped who, and why?
Walking on the street, I bumped into your man (Yeah I saw him)
I didn’t want to believe it, but my hunch turned out right (I told you)
He’s not wearing that ring you gave him, there’s another girl by his side
But I’ve said enough (I don’t wanna hurt you)
Here is where we realize GD has trapped himself. The MV goes on to illustrate our female lead, none other than YG’s latest trainee expose Jennie Kim, indulging in the love of another man. She is always illuminated under bright lights that reveal her striking beauty and constantly painted in white, revealing her blissful naivety as she becomes entangled with the idea of a new beginning. Caught up in the foray that is new love, this virginal darling becomes enraptured with the company of another man. And GD forces himself to watch.
We know that he is always watching. He watches through blinds, plagued with uncertainty, he glances into the cracked door, peers through the keyhole of her room, ventures inside and even goes through her things, conflicted with both his frustration and his adoration.
“I dont wanna hurt you.” This is, of course, why GD cannot leave her alone. The first two stanzas of lyrics make plain from that start that GD is aware of the ill nature of his ex’s new muse, and he so desperately wants her to see that she has run into the arms of a monster. He seems burdened with a responsibility to warn her, to protect her. At the same time however, he is unable to reach her, both physically and emotionally, because he is aware of in love she is, and knows that the truth may end up hurting her. And to GD, she is too precious to hurt.
Now you’re getting angry with me (Why?)
You say “He’s definitely not that kind of person” (Sure you’re right)
Seeing your eyes, I reply that I probably got it wrong
See, I lied for you (I’m sorry)
Thats why the other man is “That XX,” that geusaekki, that bastard. The hatred, the anger is directed towards the other man who dared even think to hurt GD’s beloved, to double cross her they way that he has. Disgust also makes a subtle entrance as GD voices his inability to understand how this other, careless man could have replaced him, the one who so desperately just wants to worship this girl. The frustration manifests itself only in darkness, and we see it when GD begins thrashing about in his darkened, grey room, throwing and kicking furniture in a way only a heartbroken man could.
The flow of the song, however, veils this anger, hatred, disgust, and frustration behind a sober melody that begets a feeling of painful acceptance. For the poetry of the song, one might’ve expected the line “that XX (geusaekki)” to be flavored with much more rage. However, GD makes the remark so effortlessly, as a matter of fact, bitter with fate but obliged into acceptance by the superficial happiness his lover experiences. But the irony is that GD’s harrowing acceptance proves his love to be more wholesome, and the tragic heartbreak hits home as his lover fails to see that.
Expensive cars, beautiful clothes, high-class restaurants, they all suit you well
But that XX beside you, he doesn’t suit you, he really doesn’t
He smiles like a hypocrite with you, brushing your face and hair
But he’s thinking of another woman for sure, how dare he
The amount of tears you’ve cried, I want to make you happy by the same amount, baby
Rather than going through the pain alone, share some with me, baby
Please look at me, why can’t you realise that I am your love
Why are you the only one who doesn’t know
The love story in this MV plays with the idea that love is both intoxicating and obsessive, but through the lens of the spurned significant other. That is how desperation is conveyed despite the free-flowing and sweet melody of the song. The real beauty in it all, though, is how easy the production it is on the eyes. For the most part, it is aesthetically normal and almost entirely benign in setting. The passion and the anxiety are slowly fleshed out as the MV goes on, as all the longing stares and fits of frustration compound on one another, gradually intensifying as the story progresses. And yet the temper is maintained through the repetitive images, which ultimately constructs the MV from start to finish while still allowing the formation of the story itself.
“That XX” is a despairing search for answers, illustrated through the vexation of a forlorn lover who bleeds out the pain by watching over his beloved. As the MV comes to a close, the violence of GD’s frustrations subside as he embraces Jennie on the loveseat in her room. GD embraces his dozing angel with a protective hand wrapped around her head and a stern expression fixed on his face, almost as if he was saying ‘this is all you need, I’m all you need.’ Still, we can argue that the conflict is still not reconciled–GD doesn’t necessarily look happy in these final moments, rather somewhat still troubled, and Jennie doesn’t exactly acknowledge him aside from the fact that she is leaning against him. Thus, this last scene almost appears to be a contrived picture in GD’s imagination–an attempt to place things in normality. However, the artificiality is justified by the incompleteness still felt through GD’s emotionless face, an indication that this sublime moment is still not the reality he so desperately wants back.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5
Amazing soloist, compelling story, beautiful song, expert articulation. Enough said.