Once upon a time in the entertainment industry, we had these things called rivalries. Tupac vs Biggie. Backstreet Boys vs Nsync. Britney Spears vs Christina Aguilera. Hell, we even had the Jacksons vs the Osmonds for the old heads out there. And in South Korea…there was Big Bang vs DBSK.
There’s nothing wrong with having a rival. Without worthy adversaries, life becomes boring, even if your rival is yourself. For us spectators, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing worthy adversaries go head to head. It keeps us engage, invested. And back in 2008…there was a once in a lifetime clash between the two greatest Korean groups of my generation.
Out of SM Entertainment’s corner comes the current heavyweight champion of the kpop music industry, debuting in 2004 and going on to dominate the charts, even carving out a name for themselves in the Japanese markets. I give you none other than DBSK!
And out of YG Entertainment’s corner comes the challenger, debuting in 2006, overcoming much adversity before dropping the groundbreaking hit, “Lies,” these talented vocalists/rappers have created waves not only in the music industry, but in shaping fashion and cultural trends, here, we have Big Bang!
Now, for me personally…I’ve been waiting on this for years. I came into kpop in the fall of 2005 when DBSK was the reigning king, tearing up the stage with songs like “Rising Sun” and “Free Your Mind.” I thought they were unstoppable. Not only that, but they came from arguably the most influential music label in S. Korea. They had labelmates like Super Junior, BoA, and CSJH the Grace.
They were my favorites until I discovered their predecessors, H.O.T. And even when I witnessed the debut of Big Bang in 2006, I never disliked DBSK as a group. I had nothing against the members.
Really, it was their fans and obvious friends in the industry that I couldn’t stand. The odds were stacked against Big Bang at every turn and you can smell the shadowy hand of SM behind every move.
When Big Bang debuted, they were called ugly. I saw prominent figures like Minwoo of Shinhwa and even old school bands like G.O.D throwing shade at Big Bang. On the rare chances of Big Bang members appearing on variety shows in those early days, you could tell the other celebrities kept their distance, as if they were dangerous.
Despite this, Big Bang progressed, they improved, they dropped hit after hit in consistent effective blows. And more than that, I think they spoke to young men. Back around 2005-2008, most of the “idol groups” were mostly catered to young girls. Thus, the boyband members were effeminate pretty boys with a heavy dose of visuals in their music videos.
Then there was Big Bang…who dressed like anyone you’d catch in the mall or on the street. It told us, they were one of us. They might have come out on stage in eye-popping accessories, effectively making G-Dragon one of the first to be called a fashionista, but for the most part, these guys weren’t wearing costumes in their live performances. They wore clothes that any guy in his early 20s would be caught wearing on the streets. Taeyang would straight up hit the stage in a black tank-top and a cap. They donned graphic tee-shirts and jeans. This was real. This is how real people dress.
And then there were the plagiarism accusations. When Big Bang came out with “Lies,” the entire industry just about lost their minds. It was undeniable how awesome that song was and it came not from DBSK or some pretty boy group, but the alternative boyband with the edgy street vibe. More than that…the song was written by a member of the group, the leader G-Dragon.
This was unheard of. For the most part, it’s general knowledge that boybands are manufactured by their music labels. Each member is handpicked, put together with studio heads, and they go through years of training before debuting with a song written and composed by the entertainment label. The members themselves usually have very little control when it comes to their style, their performance concepts or the lyrics they sang. Everything was dictated to them by the agency.
So to hear that G-Dragon knocked it out of the park by writing and composing “Lies,” it basically went against the system, very much like the revolutions of the 1800s where countries were going against the monarchies that’ve reigned for centuries. If one country could do it, why can’t they all.
Thus, two things happened. 1) Band members started to pen their own lyrics, basically to establish themselves as artists the way G-Dragon did…Or 2) people in the industry attacked. With G-Dragon, they did their level best to discredit him. They claimed that he committed plagiarism. It was a big deal. They said his song “Lies” was too similar to a song composed by a popular Japanese artist named Daishi Dance.
That hurt. It was a serious blow to Big Bang. Haters were pretty much saying their success was illegitimate because they cheated. So despite the numerous awards they won, DBSK was still the undisputed champion because Big Bang was supposedly a fraud.
Of course, YG was clever in the way he handled the situation. He contacted Daishi Dance who composed Big Bang’s next greatest hit, “Haru Haru.” This should have nipped the accusations in a bud by giving validity to G-Dragon’s penmanship, but of course the media ain’t the type to admit they were wrong. Honestly, look at the audience in this video and tell me that appreciation, that joy wasn’t real. It isn’t just young girls singing along, but it’s grown men and older women. That’s the effect Big Bang had. They were diverse to reach a wider demographic.
So. Like I said…I had nothing against the DBSK members personally….but their fans and friends in the media, the way they treated Big Bang really turned me against DBSK and had me rooting for Big Bang. Well, that and the fact that DBSK had a habit of releasing whole albums where only one song is good and the rest were fillers.
So when DBSK made their long-awaited comeback on September 26, 2008 with the album “Mirotic” there were so many emotions that bubbled up. First off, DBSK’s power and charisma cannot be understated. They didn’t rise to the top with pretty faces alone. Xiah is one of the best vocalists in the industry. Yunho is one of the best dancers in the industry. And Jaejoong is said to be one of the best-looking guys in S. Korea. Needless to say, they had a lot of weapons in their arsenal.
Hahaha! So, when they released “Mirotic,” I was like… “damn. They still got it.”
Mirotic wasn’t a song I’d consider “the greatest” or even on par with Big Bang’s “Haru Haru”…but it’s how they performed it. One thing DBSK’s had over Big Bang was that every member looked and performed like they’re the top dog of their high school in which they just so happened to band together. In Big Bang, they had T.O.P, G-Dragon, and Taeyang, but Seungri was still seventeen at the time and it was easy to overlook Daesung’s flame in live performances.
When Mirotic was released, I thought there would be no end to DBSK’s prestige. It’s like, no matter what Big Bang did, DBSK would always stay on top simply because they commanded the top spot. Their fanbase was 500,000 strong. But then…this happened.
Hahaha! Yo! I’m telling you, what I mentioned about the plagiarism allegations levied against Big Bang only scratched the surface of the crap they had to deal with. Truly, the media tried so hard to hold Big Bang down with that. So when it came out that the kings themselves…the reigning champions had their comeback with a remake of a German singer’s song…please believe I was spitting with laughter.
Because at first, DBSK’s label, SM Entertainment, made no mention of Sarah Connor’s song. They didn’t give credit to her or the writers. It wasn’t until “netizens” pointed out the similarities that they finally released a statement saying, “Yeah, it’s a remake.” And with that right there…it spelled the fall of DBSK.
Everyone knew it even if they didn’t want to admit it. Everyone knew the top spot was a battle between DBSK and Big Bang and the only thing holding Big Bang back was those plagiarism accusations which have long since been debunked. So to find out that DBSK was using a remake of a German singer’s song…it leveled the playing field. The top spot was disputed. The battle was inevitable and SM Entertainment knew it. I think it’s the only reason…THE ONLY REASON why they agreed to finally put DBSK on the same stage as Big Bang in December of 2008.
Just so you guys know…this rivalry…it’s not just in my head. It was real. I remember seeing a video of Super Junior’s Shindong talking crap about Big Bang because Big Bang kept to their dresser rooms and didn’t talk to anyone. Then there was this awkward interaction when DBSK’s Xiah and Yunho guest featured on a show called “Family Outing” where Big Bang’s Daesung was a permanent cast member. Hahaha! They were cool about it enough, but we all know…the competition was real.
Thus, the stage was set at SBS Gayo Daejeon on December 29th 2008. The venue was packed. Watching from the audience were other up-and-coming legends like Girl’s Generation, Wonder Girls, 2pm, 2am, Shinee and even the rock band F.T. Island.
DBSK was coming in with the momentum of their September release of “Mirotic.” While Big Bang was warmed up with their November release “Remember.”
Up first…lets check out the champions. Ladies and Gentlemen…DBSK!
Lol, so…There’s nothing wrong with that performance. It was solid. It was good. But I think SM Entertainment underestimated their opponent in this round. Here we have DBSK in lackluster suits with a dull dark background color…I suppose they thought they would just go in and slay with their raw charisma and experience, which they definitely had in their corner. But like I said…I think they greatly underestimated their opponent…Because Big Bang hit the stage with this.
Here, we have Big Bang coming out of a swat truck like a scene out of “The Dark Knight.” We have flashing lights. We have colors and a dance tune that’s anything but ordinary. And while DBSK had this sexy charisma, Big Bang showed off a confident swag that said “we won this before it even began.” And then…there was Seungri.
Hahaha! I remember watching this performance back in 2008 and I was completely blown away. It was unexpected. I had heard Seungri’s track but I never thought YG would let him perform it as a solo. So when you see GD introducing Big Bang’s youngest member…I couldn’t believe it. It was brilliant. It was another smack in the face to DBSK and SM Entertainment. YG was basically saying, “we don’t even need all five to slay y’all. Yo, Seungri. Go Get em!” And he did. Seungri definitely stole the show that night and would eventually go on to win multiple awards for that song. (side note, the female dancer in the black vest and long white sleeves was so friggin hot. Sometimes I watch the performance just to see her. I wish I knew her name.)
But the war was still on. I mean…it was literally called “Star Wars” by the network. So far the score was 1-0 in Big Bang’s favor. Next up, we have a piano contest between Big Bang’s Taeyang and DBSK’s Xiah.
This was a close one…which really says a lot between these two talented vocalists. You could see the mutual respect between them. However, as soulful and beautiful Taeyang sang that night…I mean…he was going up against Xiah Junsu. Personally, I think Taeyang did better in that he didn’t mess up his lyrics or sing off-key…however I have to give it to Xiah Junsu for the difficulty level of his song. “My Everything” by 98 Degrees should be an easy enough song to sing…but Xiah’s rendition of it simply cannot be imitated. This kid belted those lyrics to the rafters and I’m sure they were able to hear him outside. Even looking at Taeyang during Xiah’s performance, you could tell that even he knew Xiah had outmatched him.
Thus…the score’s tie at 1-1.
Next…there was a legendary dance battle in which it wasn’t just Big Bang and DBSK competing in this one. We have the best dancers from the top boybands throwing down. I’m talking about 2pm’s Jay Park, Shinee’s Taemin, Super Junior’s Eunhyuk….from Big Bang we have Seungri. And from DBSK, the king of dance himself, Yunho.
Hahaha! Even though Yunho’s hat fell off, everyone knew he won that battle. Seungri came close in terms of creativity, but Yunho was simply too good in terms of technicality and difficulty. HOWEVER, I refuse to make the score 1-2 in favor of DBSK. I mean…it was just a dance battle. So I’ll give it a 1-1.5 with DBSK in the lead.
Ladies and Gentlemen…this next video is really what determined the winners that night. As I mentioned, I already knew Big Bang had the better songs, style, and artistry…but DBSK was greater in their performance and charisma…until we saw this performance.
That performance…I’d go on to replay again and again for years. I’d put in the top five performances I’ve ever seen. It cemented Big Bang as the kings, christened by the hip hop group Dynamic Duo in front of a crowd of thousands including the likes of Shinee, Girl’s Generation, 2pm and Super Junior who had no choice but to literally get up and bow down to the new reign.
Honestly, it was one of my proudest moments as VIP. Dynamic Duo is no joke. They’re one of the top underground acts in S. Korea. To have them rap on the same stage with Big Bang’s TOP and G-Dragon gave them street cred as real artists, not just some idol group. If Dynamic Duo respected Big Bang…you know the general population did. And the funniest thing in the video is mah boi Taeyang in the audience watching his members throw down.
At around the 2:32 minute mark…you see him all hyped up. And behind him you have Girl’s Generation Taeyeon. Shinee’s Jonghyun was feelin’ it, so he gets up and starts pumping his fists. Hahaha! But check out Taeyeon’s face. You know she didn’t want to get up. You know she didn’t want to dance and celebrate. But Shinee was keeping it real. Even though they came from the same label as DBSK, Shinee recognized Big Bang and gave credit where credit was due.
I was so happy. I loved it. I never imagined it would all go down like that but it did. I was 22-years-old at the time and nearing my graduation from college. These performances made that time all the more memorable. I can’t stop smiling even as I type this.
And so began the reign of Big Bang. I’ll leave you with this…one month later in January of 2009, MBC put together a stage where the top acts all came together for a dance contest. It was an amazing broadcast. I think I already put 2pm’s performance at the end of the last chapter, but I’ll share Big Bang’s here. It was between Seungri and Taeyang. Seungri was still going strong with the promotion of his “Strong Baby” performances…and Taeyang had already proven himself with his “Prayer” and “Only Look at Me” solo acts, so it made sense. But for this one, I’ll let you decide who won.