Welcome to another segment of Seoulbeats’ Side B, where we explore the unpromoted and lesser known songs of all your favorite K-pop artists. This week, I’ll be delving into the discography of Big Bang. As they continue their 2012 Alive World Tour and head to the US, it seemed like a good time to look at some of Big Bang’s earlier works which some newer K-pop fans might not have heard of.
Big Bang debuted at the YG Family 10th Anniversary Concert on August 19, 2006 after being featured in a documentary which introduced them to the public, showed the training process they endured and the eventual dismissal of one of their potential members. At the time of their debut, K-pop’s superstar solo acts still ruled the K-pop world: Rain, BoA, Se7en and Lee Hyori, most of whom were already taking over the rest of Asia and were looking to conquer Western shores, though those attempts would prove futile. Shinhwa, the only first generation K-pop boy band to still be together at the time, were at the height of their fame, but slowly going down amidst hiatus and solo activities. SG Wannabe, the ballad trio, were also extremely popular with their third album, The 3rd Masterpiece, being the second highest selling album of the year. The biggest selling album of 2006 was “O”-Jung.Ban.Hap, by Dong Bang Shin Ki who were the reigning boy band of the second generation having debuted in 2003. Also popular at the time were with SS501 and Super Junior both of whom debuted in 2005. The sound that ruled K-pop in 2006, was definitely Pop, with some R&B influences, electronica, and alternative rock beats.
Big Bang’s first work known as the First Single or Bigbang was released on August 28, 2006 and was notably different from the rest of the K-pop scene. The lead single “We Belong Together” was a hip hop ballad featuring the vocals of Park Bom and showed the boys in their urban ware with baggy jeans, oversized shirts, with caps and Kangol hats practicing their moves and playing some b-ball. Big Bang introduced their brand of hip hop to South Korea and while they achieved relative success with this single, their Second Single (aka Big Bang is VIP) and Third Single (Big Bang 03) and their first studio album BigBang Vol. 1 — Since 2007, it wasn’t until Always and their mega-hit “Lies,” that South Korea finally embraced the sound of Big Bang, which would later influence the music of many K-pop groups to follow.
The Big Bang that I grew to know and love is easily showcased in the music of their three extended play (EP) albums Always, Hot Issue, and Stand Up released from August 2007 through August 2008 and will be the focus of this Side B on Big Bang.
With their first EP album, Always, G-Dragon took a greater role in the writing and production of the music than any of their previous releases having written at least the lyrics in all but two of the album’s six songs. His song “Lies,” which was later revealed to have been a song G-Dragon had written for his solo album, proved to be the song that would make Big Bang the superstars they are today. There was something about it’s haunting piano with a banging bass line and MV that was a mini K-drama showing the things we do for love that struck a chord with the masses selling over 4 million digital units at the time. The only problem with having such a huge hit on one album is that the rest of the songs on the album, including the title track “Always” are often overshadowed and forgotten.
One such song is “Wrong Number,” which is the only song not in part written by one of the members of Big Bang on Always. The lyrics were penned by Yang Hyun-suk with the music and arrangements done by Perry and the Brave Brothers. Featuring a pounding bass line and the voices of Big Bang’s three vocalists Taeyang, Daesung, and Seungri, the song speaks of the pains of a failed love.
Oh Ma Baby
“Oh Ma Baby” was the fifth of the six tracks on the Always album. The lyrics were written by G-Dragon with the music and arrangements done by G-Dragon and Brave Brothers. It has a sorrowful guitar and slow hip hop beat as the song tells the story of the beauty of first love and the eventual heartache over its end.
Another great song that I LOVE from the album was T.O.P.‘s self written song “Act Like Nothing’s Wrong” featuring Kim Ji-eun, but didn’t include it in this post because I decided to only include Big Bang’s group songs and none of their solo work. But I had to, HAD TO mention it.
Big Bang’s second EP, Hot Issue, was released on November 22, 2007 and featured the hit “Last Farewell” whose MV starred actor Lee Dong-gun. G-Dragon is credited with writing the lyrics for all six songs on the album and also had a hand in the composing the music in five of the songs along with Kush, Brave Brothers and Choi Pil-kang.
The song “Fool” with lyrics and music by G-Dragon and arranged by Brave Brothers, has a simple melodic line with bare stripped down lyrics by someone who is till trying to find out what love is and keeps acting like a ‘fool’ in the aimless pursuit of it. There is just something about this song that rings so true and sincere that it has always struck a chord with me.
I Don’t Understand
The soulful “I Don’t Understand,” a song of lament and misunderstanding over a lost love. It talks of the pain of losing a love and not understanding what happened or how the relationship went so wrong. I love the slow sexy beat of the song with the rock guitar riffs in the background and the sultry tones brought out in the vocals by Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri.
Another great song on this EP was “But I Love You.” It’s a solo song by G-Dragon, therefore not on the list for the Side B, B-b-b-but I love it. It has an awesomely groovy beat and a lot of soul.
Big Bang’s third EP Stand Up was released on August 8, 2008 and produced the mega hit “Haru Haru,” which sold almost 5 million digital downloads in South Korea alone, and their rock anthem with Korean Punk rock band No Brain “Oh My Friend.” Again in this EP, G-Dragon wrote all the lyrics to the songs, except for one written by T.O.P., and had a hand in the music composition of most of the songs with Kush, Teddy, and Daishi Dance helping on the arrangements.
A Good Man
The only song on the album not written by G-Dragon, “A Good Man” was written and composed by T.O.P. with the help of Kush with the music and arrangement. I love the guitar in the song and the poetry in the lyrics are beautiful as it talks of facing one’s conscious of being a good person, or not, and how that affected your relationship. I just really, really, love T.O.P.’s voice in this song, too.
The fifth song on the album,”Lady,” was written by G-Dragon with music done by G-Dragon and Teddy who also did the arrangement. I like the flirtiness of the song and it’s lyrics as the boy in the song tries to get the attention and admiration of a girl he sees.
Last, but not least is the song “Until Whenever.” The song was featured at the end of Big Bang’s Global Warning Concert DVD, which was released in January of 2009 documenting the tour which occurred in 2008, as a gift to fans for their love, support, and devotion. It is not on any CD they have released and has never been promoted. It’s a beautiful and touching song guaranteed to melt the heart of any fan.
The Big Bang that most fans first knew and loved was hip hop to the core, with a little electronic and R&B thrown in. But Big Bang has grown and matured and so has their music and style–although not every one likes it. In my opinion, it’s the Peter Pan Complex where we don’t want to grow up and mature and also don’t want things around us that we love to change, but things always do. A common criticism I hear nowadays about Big Bang’s music is that they no longer stand out from the crowd and their songs sound like songs from many other bands. My question is this though: Is it Big Bang who has changed so much or is it K-pop and the new bands who have followed in their footsteps that have changed and begun to sound more and more like Big Bang?
That’s this week’s Side B on Big Bang, hope you enjoyed it in anticipation of their coming to the US for their Alive Tour like I am. We’ll see you on the flipside in two weeks with another edition of Seoulbeats’ Side B.