Here we go. It’s the return of one of the biggest names in Korean pop music: BIGBANG. The much anticipated comeback comes after, let’s face it, a pretty bad last year for the 5 member group. But whatever, I’m here to talk about the music, not their scandals. And when it comes to music, you just know Big Bang never disappoints!
Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. “Alive” – The 48 second intro may give you the impression Big Bang is ‘gonna get you all pumped up!’ for the rest the album, but lyrically, the “I’m still alive” G-Dragon sings is a message to everyone listening that the boys have put the past behind them and are going to make the most of every moment they have now. A poignant start. – (I’m not scoring a 0:48 second track)
2. “Blue” – The first single that was released:
If you thought Big Bang leader G-Dragon was only good at writing uptempo songs, take note. “Blue” is evidence G-Dragon’s song-writing talent isn’t limited to just club music. In “Blue,” everyone sings, including the rapper with the deep voice, T.O.P. The song is mid-tempo, not quite a ballad, but listening to it, you can sense the sorrow — or get the blues (so to speak). You don’t really hear mellow songs from Big Bang often, but one could see “Blue” as a sign of how the group has matured musically over the years.
Of course, releasing this song first also makes sense given how tumultuous 2011 was for Big Bang. After Daesung’s car accident and G-Dragon’s marijuana scandal, it wouldn’t have looked good if Big Bang came back all guns blazing (and smiling) with a club track as their first single. “Blue” as the first single is a clever decision on the part of YG Entertainment.
The MV is well shot, but the white girl featured in the video seemed like an odd fit. Not because she’s white, but any girl just performing random actions, filmed separately and no contact with any of the members just makes her look out of place in the video. Also, the bandana on Taeyang – did the stylist really think that was stylish? I mean, it looked cool on Tupac – but he was bald!
My rating for “Blue” – 4/5
3. “Bad Boy” – The second single they released to promote ‘Alive‘:
I must say, on first listen, I liked “Bad Boy” more than “Blue”. From its title, I expected a raunchy, more upbeat song, but instead it turned out to be a lot calmer. This mid-tempo tune still allows for some dancing thanks to its heavy beats, but I can’t help but appreciate Big Bang’s musical style even more upon hearing this! Just another example of just how ‘un-Kpop’ songs like theirs are. The music video is shot in New York again, but at least this time, the boys get to interact with the women (even if the reactions are plain).
And I know this may sound like a weird complaint to make for what is otherwise an awesome musical package, but goddammit I found G-Dragon’s swinging long hair so distracting!
Weird hairstyle aside, “Bad Boy” is one fine example of infusing R&B elements into pop music. It’s the best song on the album for me. – 5/5
4. “Love Dust” – Taeyang’s smooth vocals dominate this uptempo track, complimented by Daesung and Seungri, while the other two fulfill their roles in the group with the rapping. This feels like your average Big Bang track, and by ‘average’ I’m only implying in musical style, not in terms on how good the song sounds. Track four just keeps the quality music on a roll and for some one who is trying to complete a review, makes the process of writing it really slow. Only because I keep hitting replay, instead of moving on to the next track! – 4/5
5. “Ain’t No Fun” (재미없어) – Produced in collaboration with DJ Murf & Peejay, who also worked on ‘Tonight‘ (Big Bang’s last mini-album), this song has an infectious hook going for it. Straight away I found myself bobbing my head to the singing. Even at track number five, the songs continue to impress! – 3.5/5
6. “Fantastic Baby” – Big Bang club music! Give me a “Hell yeah!” Actually no, people are going to be saying “Boom Shaka-laka,” right? 🙂 While 2NE1 had everyone going “Bam-ratatata,” Big Bang introduces the popular reggae phrase to K-poppers who didn’t grow up listening to people like Apache Indian (like I did!). “Fantastic Baby” really is what the title implies, a fantastic dance track and one that is sure to be a huge favourite at Big Bang concerts. – 4/5
Update: MV is out!
7. “Wings” – The final track on the album is a solo by Daesung, who also co-wrote it with G-Dragon. The song is upbeat for sure, but Daesung’s vocals are very rock-inspired and the electric guitars gives it the rock edge too. In some ways, it’s yet another good selection on the part of the group to end the album with an uplifting track from the member who had it the worst in 2011. It’s not a song I’ll listen to a whole lot like the rest of the album, but I must say – well played YG, well played. – 3/5
Among the current generation of idol groups in K-pop, BIGBANG really stand out like no other. There is no other boy group that sound like them. I don’t know who to attribute the ‘Big Bang sound’ to. The freedom YG CEO Yang Hyun Suk gives his boys? YG’s super-producer Teddy Park? Or the one-man army that is G-Dragon? I guess it’s a combination of all the three. Very few idol groups can match the level of musical talent (and success) BIGBANG possess as a group (yes haters, even ‘model member’ T.O.P writes a lot of the lyrics)
But I can’t help but not come back to Big Bang’s leader. G-Dragon is to BIGBANG like Gary Barlow is to Take That, Britain’s most successful boy band. A member the group just wouldn’t be the same without. He who is responsible for all the big hits and does most of the work. Sure there are new groups with equally talented members, like Block B’s Zico, but few can match the list of hits this one puny dude has churned out over the years. ‘Alive‘ is yet another feather in G-Dragon’s cap.
This album has shown progress, musical variety, non-conformity and all the while, still maintaining Big Bang’s unique identity. For managing to do all that, my final rating for the album is …