Side B: Getting Your CrayOn with G-Dragon
If there’s one artist every K-pop fan has heard of, it is G-Dragon. Making his debut in the music world as the leader of Big Bang in 2006, he was fundamental in making the group a household name, with him at the helm of several of their first nationwide hits. “Lies” and “Haru Haru” have won numerous accolades — from Song of the Year (“Lies”) to being the song that gave Big Bang their first Artist of the Year award (“Haru Haru”) — and both were composed, written and produced by G-Dragon himself.
The illustrious leader of Big Bang recently made a comeback with his second full-length album, Coup D’etat, and with that, this timely Side B presents a look back at his discography and the hidden gems amongst them.
In 2009, G-Dragon dropped his first album, Heartbreaker, which spawned the same-title lead track that became a hit. Its release was riddled with controversy, as he was accused of plagiarizing Flo Rida’s “Right Round.” While there were warning letters from Sony to YG Entertainment, no case was actually filed. And as if to put these worries to rest, Flo Rida featured in a new version of “Heartbreaker” as a bonus track for G-Dragon’s live album, Shine a Light.
Nevertheless, Heartbreaker has been unjustly defined by this debacle. The album gave birth to several other hits along with a handful of MVs. It also presented “Hello,” which featured 2NE1’s Dara, lifting the anchor from the famous Daragon ship; as well as “The Leaders” which featured the three leaders of YG (G-Dragon, CL and Teddy) in a rap track.
When promotions ended in early 2010, fans got curious about Big Bang’s and G-Dragon’s next steps. Later that year, it was announced that he would be part of a sub-unit with T.O.P. Named GD&T.O.P, the sub-unit’s mini album was released on Christmas Eve and this revealed three hits — “High High”, “”Oh Yeah,” featuring 2NE1’s Park Bom, and “Knock Out.” This wave also brought on the MVs for “Don’t Go Home” and “Baby Good Night.”
After that, it was back to the waiting game for the long-anticipated second solo effort. Big Bang made a comeback with Tonight. In addition to the MV for title song “Tonight,” they also released videos for “Love Song” and “Stupid Liar.” But everything was put to a stop when G-Dragon was accused of handling marijuana. His activities were momentarily halted, but he was not charged; G-Dragon came back into view when he made his ‘comeback’ appearance with the rest of Big Bang at the 2011 MTV EMA Awards.
In 2012, after spending the first half of the year promoting Alive and its three lead tracks (“Fantastic Baby,” “Blue,” and “Bad Boy”), it was announced that he would be making his long-awaited solo return. This came into fruition with One of a Kind, where three lead tracks were delivered (“One of a Kind,” “That XX” and “Crayon”). It led him to becoming the Best Male Solo Artist in that year’s Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), and they also garnered him “Record of the Year” recognition at the Seoul Music Awards.
Going by previous plans, fans could only imagine another long wait to elapse before G-Dragon’s solo work would be seen again — “Michi-Go” doesn’t count as it wasn’t put through the usual promotional cycle. It then came as a surprise when in early 2013, it was announced that G-Dragon would produce his next solo effort without much of a wait. This effort — his second full-length album, Coup D’etat – rounds out the mini bio. So, let’s take a look at those gems now, shall we?
Gossip Man (feat. Kim Gun-mo); Heartbreaker
What track do you choose from an album that’s given us four MVs — for “Heartbreaker,” “Breathe,” “Butterfly” and “A Boy” – and a number of hits? Between all the ‘featurings’ in the album, this may just have been one of the tracks that has gone unnoticed by those attracted to the big names offered by Dara, Taeyang, CL, Teddy and Kush. Kim Gun-mo may be a legend in the Korean music industry, but he is not particularly recognized among the usual K-pop crowd.
Quite under-appreciated, this song features lyrics that deal with the various gossips that go on in the industry. From mentioning how small things get blown out of proportion, to labeling himself as ‘Gossip Man’ in the same vein as Superman, G-Dragon sings his way through. Why does he do this? Because the press finds his life so entertaining that they ‘love’ him so much; for that, he signs it off with an X.O, as Gossip Man. The lyrics are pure genius when you consider how truthful they are.
She’s Gone (feat. Kush); Heartbreaker
Is this an MV? No, it’s the video used for his Shine a Light concert and it is a pity this was not also released officially as an MV and single. The song plays well with the lyrics that are not just borderline obsessive but haunting as well. We see G-Dragon not being young and wild — instead we see him chasing after his girl in a manner that is not at all chasing — he’s walking, almost like a model strutting his stuff. The addition of Kush throughout the song adds an extra push in the track.
It all ends with him committing cold-hearted murder, while having a daunting smirk on his face. This really makes one think, is the song really about wanting to let go of a lover or is it about something deeper, like the obsession of the media with him? In this alternate explanation, this may have foreshadowed “Crooked.”
One Year Station; Heartbreaker
The last track of his first solo endeavor, “One Year Station” gave us a chance to rest our ears at the close of the album. The song demonstrates a tone that’s matched up with contrasting, soft-versus-tough melodies. The backing tune is quite simple, as are his singing and rapping. But what really carries this song is the haunting effect from the mesh of its tune and lyrics — it almost feels like the end product of everything.
The words tell of a typical love story, where he is waiting for a girl in an empty station. Once again, is this a metaphor? G-Dragon has often hid messages in between the lines. While this may come off as a sad story, it may just be an excellently and heavily veiled study of what fame has done for him on a personal level — leaving him alone in a place in his life, waiting for someone to stand with him.
Today (feat. Kim Jong-wan of Nell); One of a Kind
This was one of three songs not promoted or afforded an MV during the One of a Kind promotions. When the tracklist was released, this was one of the tracks I was most excited for. It’s not everyday you get Kim Jong-wan of Nell collaborating with an artist not just outside of Woollim. This was especially momentous since Nell and G-Dragon would not have easily been seen working the same material; they’re drastically different.
The song opens with a clear allusion to Nell’s sound — musical simplicity at its finest. But before we can get used to it and further submerge our ears in its minimalism, G-Dragon comes in and reminds us that this is his mini-album. While others may have the opinion that Kim Jong-wan has outshone G-Dragon, this collaboration still works. The lyrics may depict pity all around, but two voices are clearly decipherable, making the song a pleasant contrast from fellow track “That XX.”
Light it Up (feat. Tablo and Dok2); One of a Kind
The last track of One of a Kind, “Light It Up” features Epik High’s Tablo and solo hip-hop artist, Dok2. These names alone should be enough reason for its inclusion. With the three rappers bouncing verses back and forth between them, what comes of it is a smooth hip-hop track — this song should’ve checked off a few “dream collaboration” lists. The catchy chorus, and extremely danceable beat, make the track a great one to jam to.
This rundown is just a skim-through of G-Dragon’s impressive discography, but I hope this little roller coaster introduction will lead new listeners to explore his work. Hallyu junkies: these songs might also be the ones that qualify him as one of the top 50 reasons why Seoul is the world’s greatest cities.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Side B. Let us know if we’ve missed out any of your favorites, and drop us a comment if there’s an artist you’d like to read about!