Anyone striving for greatness needs competition. These are just the facts of life. Without competition, some rival, some adversity to overcome, without someone to beat, how do you know how good you are? There’s nothing wrong with striving for greatness. It’s an amazing thing. It’s even better for the fans.
Anyone who was into kpop back in October of 2009 knows…the debut of MBLAQ and BEAST was one for the books. Everyone knew these groups were going to be all-stars in their own right. They were debuting at the same time and not only did the fans pit them against each other…for the first time, the boys themselves openly embraced the challenge. The competition was real and each group was ready to throw down.
Back then, they went by B2ST, pronounced BEAST…I remember when that teaser dropped and was like…Okay! Shots fired. Then, on October 14, 2009, MBLAQ responded with their first music video, “Oh Yeah”
Was homeboy sporting a mustache-goatee? In an idol group? Get the f**k outta here! I couldn’t believe it. Both MBLAQ and BEAST made their grand entrance like prized fighters to the ring. My respect for kpop definitely soared upon witnessing this with my own two eyes. But more than that. Even though they were rookies, I was already invested. A lot of us were.
Why? It wasn’t just the hype…AND THERE WAS A LOT OF HYPE! But the members themselves. A lot of us knew about them way before they debuted. Allow me to explain.
First…the most obvious reason is Hyunseung. If you’ve been reading these chapters since the beginning, then you know I’ve been listening to kpop since 2005. My favorite group is Big Bang and I’ve watched them since they were trainees well before their debut in 2006. Hyunseung was a trainee alongside them.
Back then, Hyunseung was featured alongside the Big Bang members, training and vying for a position in the group. Hyunseung was clearly talented but the word often used to describe him was “stubborn.” In the final episodes of the “making of the band” type documentary, he and Seungri were cut from the group but given a final chance to impress YG. Seungri won over YG by showing that he was more than just a dancer. And while Hyunseung did his best to impress YG with better facial expressions and more charisma…he failed to make it. That was back in 2006.
Three years later… Check out your boy.
Without spoiling too much, Hyunseung would go on to be the standout member in the group. Seriously, the feats this kid will accomplish will make you wonder who’s better off more, Big Bang or Hyunseung.
Aside from Hyunseung, I had another major reason why I was invested in the group. And that was Ki-Kwang. Remember him?
Ki-Kwang used to go by AJ earlier in the year and released “Dancing Shoes” on an amazing record. I remember being so impressed with his dance and vocals. I was hoping he’d be the next Se7en. But it looks like his label, Cube Entertainment had other plans. They went with his name of Ki-Kwang, put him in this group, along with two rappers who was featured in his “Wipe the Tears” song, Jun-Hyung (aka Joker Boy), and Doo-Joon.
So right there, you have four talented and experienced members packed in one group. That alone was good enough to get me rooting for them. Then, I saw their showcase where they sang a live performance of “Oasis” before they dropped the music video of their first single.
At :47 seconds in, there’s this blonde kid with a hood on. When I heard him sing, I was like… “Stop it. This is getting ridiculous.”
Growing up, we had a word for this. Domination. When me and my three brothers played basketball, me and my older brother couldn’t be on the same team because it would be domination against the younger brothers. It’s the same here. You already got four tested talents, now you got this blonde kid named Yo-Seob singing vocals like this? It doesn’t seem fair does it. Not to mention the youngest member, Dong-woon (singing at 1:45) who’s baritone was enough to make you think it was Brian McKnight singing.
You almost felt sorry for the group foolish enough to debut around the same time…almost.
Out of this corner comes five members who was promoted by perhaps one of the most influential solo artists in kpop history…He goes by the name of Rain. If you don’t know who Rain is, stop right now, and check out my chapter about him. Pretty much dominated the early 2000s, a sex icon that could make nun blush…now he had created his own label, J Tunes Entertainment. His first project… collecting five guys whose charisma and raw talent could overpower any and all comers.
With Rain in their corner, the hype was on. It’d be like if Michael Jackson claimed he found five guys who could take over the charts. Just like that. And like BEAST, they had a couple of members who warranted attention for more than just Rain’s backing.
The lead rapper, Mir, garnered attention for being the brother of a famous actress named Go Eun-Ah.
Lee Joon was being touted as the next Rain. He was arguably the most charismatic member of the group, with experience in acting and dancing and he’d be introduced to the world, portraying the younger version of Rain’s character in 2009’s “Ninja Assassin”.
I honestly didn’t know much about G.O. other than he definitely stood out for his Spanish looking mustache-goatee.
Seung-ho was the leader and I heard he had somewhat of an iron fist when it came to keeping his members in line, much like Yunho of DBSK. And just like Yunho of DBSK, the kid was definitely the best dancer with Lee Joon’s ballet expertise right behind him.
Then there was the rapper, Thunder…Look familiar? Turns out Mir isn’t the only member with a famous sister. However, Thunder’s sister was ten times more famous.
Thunder’s sister, Sandara debuted as a member of the highly successful 2NE1 just five months earlier in May. And in October, I’m telling you, 2NE1 was still on fire. Sandara in particular was in high demand, having released a solo track and music video “Kiss” just a month before Thunder’s debut.
All the guys loved Sandara. Even hardcore street rappers would melt before her, as showcased in an episode of “Show Me the Money 3”. I’ll never forget this big, intimidating rapper who was so shy that he could barely look at her. And here, we have Thunder being introduced to the world as her brother. And we all know, right? If you want to have good favor with a girl, the last thing you want to do is get in bad with her brother. Especially when the siblings were as close as this. Sandara and Thunder spent a great deal of their lives in the Philippines. For a while, all they had was each other. Thus, their bond was tight.
So there you have it. The boys of MBLAQ versus the boys of BEAST. Who won? I might as well expose the details from 2009 till about 2011. I’d say that’s how long the war was fought. In the end…BEAST came out on top. But it wasn’t easy. Because in the beginning, MBLAQ was definitely winning. Allow me to explain.
MBLAQ’s debut song was “Oh Yeah.” lol, as cheap as the chorus lyrics were, the sound was catchy and would carry with you all day. You could bump to that song in your car and not feel awkward about it. It was played in clubs and anyone could dance to it. Compare that, however, to BEAST’s debut song and you’ll see why I think MBLAQ won the first round.
Don’t get me wrong. “Bad Girl” was a solid track…but auto-tune was starting to lose its appeal and the retro 80s sound of its chorus, not gonna lie, it’s one of those songs where one forces themselves to endure it just to hear their voice.
In my opinion, victory doesn’t come in the form of album sales or revenue from the concerts, but the quality of the song and performance. MBLAQ’s “Oh Yeah” promotions seemed more polished and mature. Like, this wasn’t a game for them. They didn’t come to party, they came to fight. Where as BEAST’s “Bad Girl” was all poppy and high school talent show material. Hahaha! Sorry if I’m going too far.
I remember seeing those early live performances and it was just cool to see them going at it, head to head, every week, on the same music shows. Here’s them squaring off.
However, while MBLAQ had the better debut song…the thing is, BEAST had more weapons in their arsenal. I always knew their potential. For me, it was just about picking the right song to promote.
On BEAST’s first EP, “B2ST is the Beast,” they had five tracks to choose from. They first went with “Bad Girl.” And while, I think their best song was “Oasis…” their follow up song was “Mystery”
Dude…honestly, whoever decided that it would be good dance move to strike a pose as if their pondering a mystery and bob their heads…that person should be shot. The song was only so so, but that choreography made it cringy to watch. MBLAQ should have continued to soar ahead, but their follow up song,“Good Love” wasn’t any better…in fact it was ridiculously worse.
You begin to suspect MBLAQ was in financial trouble when their 2nd music video is released with this kind of quality. It’s like all of the company’s fortune was invested in their first song and now they had run out of funds to continue with a second song. And they needed a second song. They needed to stay in contention with BEAST. Why? Because of the fans.
I’ll give you a hint. In 2012, there will be the debut of an awesome group called B.A.P under TS Entertainment. They were amazing and it looked like they could go on to give Big Bang a run for their title. However, in 2014, they filed a lawsuit against TS Entertainment that prevented them from releasing any new music. During that time, another group was coming up and filled the void B.A.P left behind…the fans pretty much left them to follow BTS.
By early 2010, the battle continued. BEAST struck first with the release of their timeless EP, “Shock of the New Era” on March 1st 2010.
Here, we see BEAST beginning to spread their wings. Their producer Shinsadong Tiger was picking up notoriety for the consistency of his songs. And their leader, Jun-Hyung was starting to gain recognition for writing lyrics, akin to the way G-Dragon wrote for Big Bang.
For me, “Shock” was definitely a step up from “Bad Girl.” And it came at a time where there appeared to be gap between other groups releasing their music. I think the closest boyband releasing music around that time was 2AM, but they were more R&B than the mainstream pop electronica Beast was putting out.
SAY NO – BEAST
Between “Shock” and “Say No”…Beast definitely made early 2010 memorable for me. I was taking acting classes at the time and falling in love with one of my classmates. Beautiful women have a way of motivating men to better themselves. So yeah, there were countless nights on the treadmill with me blasting BEAST.
Safe to say, BEAST dominated the first quarter of 2010. Their rivals, MBLAQ wouldn’t respond until later that May with the release of their “Y” EP on May 17, 2019
MBLAQ’s “Y” was amazing and it definitely quashed my thoughts of them being cheap or on the verge of financial ruin. The song and choreography was top notch. Problem was…honestly, the timing. “Y” was released in the same month as a plethora of other heavy names, in particular Super Junior, F(x)’s “Nu Abo” had just come out. And there was a lot of hype surrounding CN Blue, a new “rock band”. So in a sense, MBLAQ’s battle with BEAST had expanded to take on more than they could handle.
They did their best but after being overshadowed by more powerful entities, MBLAQ faded to the back, still treated a rookies or freshmen while, BEAST…well, BEAST just can’t stop, won’t stop. Shinsadong Tiger and Jon-hyung kept crankin out hits.
September 30th’s release of “Breathe” from their “Mastermind” EP didn’t impress me much. It’s sound was too close to “Shock” and groups lose cool points with me when they do that, when their follow-up song is too similar to their last one. Like Super Junior’s “Bonamana” to their “Sorry Sorry” release.
However…it’s like BEAST realized their mistake and sought to correct it as soon as possible. Because not even two months later, on November 9th 2010, BEAST released my favorite song from them. “Beautiful Girl.”
After that…I knew and declared BEAST the winners. In just a year and a half, BEAST had released more music, dominated the charts, and stayed consistent while MBLAQ suffered from poor timing and limited releases. Not to mention, stories started to surface with Thunder revealing that it wasn’t his voice on their debut song “Oh Yeah.” He was mouthing the words from another rapper who dropped out of the group at the last minute.
That’s not to say MBLAQ faded into obscurity. Regardless of their lack of success, I always had high hopes and anxiously awaited every release. How could never forget how much I appreciated those late months of 2009 when MBLAQ threw down with BEAST and made every day so full of anticipation. They’d go on to release songs like “Cry” and “Running Running” which were pretty decent.
However, it wasn’t until July 2011 that they released what I’d consider my favorite song from them. It’s called “Mona Lisa”