August of 2008 was awesome for more reasons than one. Big Bang just came out with their “Stand Up” mini-album and even Shinee and the Wonder Girls were still throwing down. But on August 29, 2008, a new challenger entered the stage. They went by the name of 2pm.
When, I first heard about 2pm there was a lot of hype. First off, they boasted about their masculinity, which was a jab at the other idol groups as I mentioned in my chapter “Big Bang vs. The Flower Boys.”2pm would become known as the “beastly idols” for bearing their muscular physique and pulling off some difficult choreography, backflips and handsprings galore.
Additionally, 2pm was formed and produced by JYP of JYP Entertainment, the same man behind the Wonder Girls and Rain. The anticipation was palpable. It was JYP’s first boyband since G.O.D and…I hope I’m not overstepping any bounds by saying this, but it does seem like having a boyband was a staple of prominence when it comes to Korean pop culture. You could have a soloist, a band, or even a girl group…but until you’ve locked down a solid boyband…it seems like you just couldn’t compete as an entertainment company.
Despite all of this, I confess, when I first heard 2pm’s “10 Out of 10” I really didn’t think much of them. I mean, they were clearly awesome dancers and they had the swag to compete on the same level of Shinee, who had debuted just a few months prior. But their singing…I didn’t think there was anything remarkable about them. Their voices were average, their rappers were sub-par, and if any of them were to go solo, I didn’t think they stood a chance on their own. And then…it was just by chance that I saw their live performance of “Only You.”
There’s something about that song and performance that made 2pm stand out to me. It wasn’t until I saw this performance that I thought… “Okay, these guys could be a threat to Big Bang.”
And I say that with a smile. I’m one of those who fully believes in rivalries bringing the best out of competitors. “10 Out of 10” was okay…but “Only You” showed their versatility, meaning they weren’t only capable of producing a mainstream track, but creating something new. Continue Reading
Allow me to take a moment to talk about Japan. Because for the last ten or so chapters, I divulged how I got into Korean music and started to explore and appreciate different the genres. However, during this time, I’d say late 2007, early 2008…there were some Japanese artists that caught my eye as well and it’s just unfortunate really.
Because the truth is, there are SOOO MANY Japanese bands, singers, and groups out there. Just like in the states. And unless you’re with a powerful label backing your play, there’s no way you’ll be discovered by a mainstream audience and reach a substantial level of success.
I’ve already written a chapter about a group called KAT-TUN. Yeah, back in 2006-07, it was undeniable that these guys were the undisputed kings of j-pop. I say it was undeniable, based on their popularity, the time they spent at the top of their charts, and their record sales.
However…in my eyes, that don’t make them the best. In my eyes, the best goes to the artists showcasing the better talent, the better songs, the better sound, the better performance. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not Japanese, so what you’re about to get is the perspective of a then 21-year-old straight male living in the states. On that note, let’s begin with W-INDS.
Haha! So, at the time, while I was in college, I was into this anime that came on Cartoon Network called “Shin-Chan.” The ending theme song was cheesy as hell, but it made me smile. The above song of “Paradox” is a little cringy to be honest, with the random shots of juveniles just staring at you as if you stole their bike. But the choreography was better than I had seen from a lot of other Jpop boybands, especially KAT-TUN.
W-INDS consisted of three members, the lead vocalist, Keita Tachibana and two backup singers/dancers, Ryuichi Ogata and Ryohei Chiba. To be honest…it’s quite difficult to really see W-INDS as a group or boyband. Because on every track I’ve heard of W-INDs, it’s mainly Keita holding down the vocals and I barely hear the other two. It’s as if, the music label paired Keita with the two backup members purely because they didn’t think he was impressive enough to perform on his own. Mind you, they debuted in 2001 when Keita was merely 15-years-old.
Despite all this, W-INDs was super popular in the 2000s, selling in the six figures with each track. I gave them a try and the only two songs I really liked were “Paradox” and “Kuwari Yuku Sora”. In particular, “Kuwari Yuku Sora” was a very upbeat and positive track. I remember listening to that song many a nights. No matter what I was going through with college, lady drama, or the struggles from being so overweight and lonely…that song gave me hope in a strange kind of way.
At the time, I didn’t have many friends that I could rely on to give me a daily pat on the back and say, “chin up, everything’s gonna be alright.” Thus, the music helped me to internalized the confidence, to pick myself up and keep going. Hahaha! In the above music video, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I wish I had such a group of friends as a dependable support system. But I didn’t. So I dreamed that I did. And hope that one day, I would.
NOW THEN…let’s get into Arashi. Because if I had to pick which boyband was the “best” in all of Japan…It would hands down by none other than Arashi.
By May of 2008, I hadn’t heard much from Big Bang since the release of their “Hot Issue” album that had hits like “Last Farewell.”They were rarely seen on variety shows. With the exception of that Manwon Happiness that featured Seungri vs SNSD’s Yoona. So yeah…not much.
I had high hopes that Big Bang would rise up and dethrone DBSK. (see VII. Big Bang vs the Pretty Boys) but DBSK was still going strong in Japan, Shinhwa released their 9th album, Epik High dropped their timeless album “Pieces, Part One,” and Super Junior-M made an impact with their mandarin album “Me.”
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect or when. Back then, I hadn’t heard of websites like Allkpop where articles heralded the upcoming releases of your favorite artists. Back then, I relied on forums (that were clearly biased for SM Entertianment’s artists). This was back before agencies had their own Youtube page, as if they were watching and waiting to see if Youtube was just a fad like Myspace.
Then…all of the sudden, one of my favorite Youtube users uploaded this…
I couldn’t believe it. There were so many mixed emotions on a heightened scale that I was literally just awestruck for days. Straight-up fanboying. Essentially, YG Entertainment had released a solo mini-album for Taeyang called “Hot.” The released tracks were “Prayer”…and the highly successful track “Only Look At Me.”
One the one hand, I was super pissed about this. I feared that this would break up Big Bang as a group because it was showing favor and giving too much attention to a single member above the rest. This would be bad because there’s no way a solo artist would be able to take down DBSK. It just couldn’t happen.
On the other hand…if you are going to release an record singling out one member above the rest…THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT! YOU DO IT WELL!
When I first saw “Prayer,” I was like…who the eff is this? That’s Taeyang? The same guy with the mediocre vocals of “My Girl”? The same guy who was all shy and timid in that Big Bang documentary when they were trainees. The same guy who never had a girlfriend and wouldn’t know what to do if he approached a female? This guy?!
Shockingly impressive is the best way to describe it. It’s amazing how Taeyang was molded and evolved throughout the years to not only dance and perform at a higher level…but sing like the superstar he was destined to become.
Taeyang – “A Sinner”
You gotta give credit to YG in so many ways. Taeyang was polished as a complete package. Long gone were the days of braids and baggy clothes reminiscent of the early 2000s. Now, Taeyang became iconic for his oversize cap and faux-hawk that he’d carry and wear well for the next 7-8 years.
He’d consistently be considered as one of the best dancers in the industry, constantly compared to the likes of DBSK’s Yunho, Super Junior’s Eunhyuk, and even Bi (Rain). But I believe, what set Taeyang apart as a dancer was that he perfected the short-but-powerful technique, almost as if he’s krumping but it was controlled and premeditated.
And in Taeyang’s corner was a producer who knew well what it’s like to be in a group under YG’s label. Former 1TYM leader and reputed rapper, Teddy, already had experience as a producer by composing songs that appeared on some of YG’s early hits from YG Family albums as well as many tracks performed by Se7en. But with the release of Taeyang’s “Hot” mini-album…I think a lot of eyes were opened. Everyone had no choice but to recognize his talents because every track on this mini-album was amazing. It kept in the flavor YG was known for, the more hip-hop slant while providing a modern 2008-leaning synth.
It also introduced us to a gem of a producer named Kush who wrote, composed, and featured on the track “Make Love.”
Taeyang – “Make Love”
The impact of Taeyang’s “Hot” mini-album sent waves throughout the industry. No one need say anything, everyone knew. Shots were fired. A statement was made. Since when has a single member of an idol group or boyband released a solo project on their own, while the group was still together? Big Bang hadn’t disbanded. They were still a group. And yet, here we have Taeyang releasing tracks that were not only good commercially, but critically. He’d go on to win two trophies from the 6th Korean Music Awards for 2008 Best R&B song and best R&B album. This was a first for any boyband member.
So in the ongoing, unofficial war of Big Bang vs. DBSK, YG vs SM Entertainment…YG definitely won a significant battle. One had to ask, is there a member from DBSK who could do the same? Could Xiah or Yunho or Micky or Max or Hero release a solo project like this and receive such acclaim? Would SM Entertainment ever be so bold as to let them try it?
Honestly, I’ve pondered the notion. I think Xiah could stand a chance because of his one-of-a-kind vocals and the fact that his dancing ability was improving to the point where he could have given Yunho a run for his money. I think this dance compilation of Xiah speaks volumes.
Ladies and Gentlemen…in April and May of 2008, I was blessed by some of the greatest music released in Kpop history.
When I say “greatest,” I’m not referring to album sales or even popularity. But more so the creativity, the courage, and the impact it had not only on me as budding author still shouldering my way through film school but… you’ll see. I’ll show you how a single producer made his stamp on the Korean Music industry. I’ll give props to a rival entertainment label for putting up a good fight. And I’ll express my gratitude to an ever-evolving hip hop group who refuses to release the same thing again and again.
To begin…I have to give you a little personal backstory. Just scroll down past the Rock picture if you don’t want to get straight to it.
If you’ve read my last chapter about Dragon Ash, then you’d know that I was in a good place mentally when it comes to my progress as maturing 21-year-old. Alas, by April of 2008…My patience was beginning to wear thin with my female friend of affection. It’s crazy how there isn’t a word for this kind of person yet. I’m talking about a woman who isn’t technically your girlfriend, but it’s ridiculously clear that you care and have feelings for each other (story of my life).
Since May of 2007, this girl has been working at the same pizza delivery place as myself. While I was the driver, she was a Customer Service Rep who was promoted to assistant manager. And throughout 2007, we really did get along. I really did love this girl. I made all kinds of mistakes and blunders because I was truly inexperienced. But in my stumblings, I’d learn. I’d grow. In particular, my patience got better. I was humbled more than once because I’ve done many regrettable things in which I had every right to feel miserable and guilty.
However…there’s only so many times a man can step into an arena and submit to defeat, acquiescing every time just to make her feel good and avoid hurting her. Through Myspace, we’d go back and forth through epic written battles where we’d take turns laying the blame at each other’s feet. In person, she’d curse up a storm and call me every name in the book while I did my best not to yell and refrained from flat out telling her what I really wanted to say, which caused me to die a little inside with each and every confrontation because I hate holding back.
I think the last straw came when I saw her slacking off in her work. I don’t know why but that shit…a complete disregard of responsibilities really does rub me the wrong way especially when I’m out here hustling, bussin’ my ass. Basically, on several nights, I’d come back from a delivery run in the hot sweltering heat. And while she should’ve been at the front counter, or hell, anywhere in the story ready to cash us drivers out…I caught her and her friend in the Chinese restaurant one store over….dude, on the clock, these bitches were having a full course meal with the Chinese family running the Chinese restaurant.
Just picture it for a second. Hot, humid. It’s 9:45pm. We close at 11pm. We can’t leave until the store is cleaned and all sorted. You can’t personally while you’re out making runs, so, it would be nice if your teammate in the store did their due diligence but no…you pull up and see them sitting down in the Chinese restaurant passing around bowls of food like its friggin Sunday after church. And this happened more than once.
In the spring of 2008, I was 21-years-old, 378lbs, and finishing my final year of film school…it was then that I discovered what would become my favorite band of all time. Allow me to introduce you to Dragon Ash.
When you discover a new band…the first song you hear, or the first music video you see is critical. I remember. I was sitting in my bed, watching Youtube music videos just before I put on my headphones to daydream of performing in my fictional world…and I came across “Fantasista”.
Haha! You know a song is good when it completely throws you off track, the kind of song that changes your plans as soon as you hear it. Allow me to explain…
If you’ve been reading my memoir up to this point, then you know I use music as a medium, a tool to escape, to feel something else detached from the reality I’m currently entrenched in. I need it to move me, to motivate me, to make me feel something, anything.
I don’t do drugs, smoke weed, or get drunk. Hahaha! I don’t need to. My imagination and an innate mental ability to remove myself from this world on command is good enough. But still…At the age of 21, that “innate ability” was still relatively weak. Music was more like the ignition switch by which the portal of imagination could be open. And once the portal was open, I’d step through and enter a whole nother world. And in this world…I was no longer “Reginald Tennie”. But something more. Something better.
As I said…I used to weigh 378lbs. But before it’d take me four years to drop down to 220lbs of solid steel and sex appeal, I dreamt of the kind of person I wanted to be. It was a fantasy that I’d eventually turn into reality. This is what it means to have a vision. You gotta have a great deal of confidence, motivation, and encouragement to push yourself to that finish line. And that finish line, is the vision you never lose sight of.
Big Bang and H.O.T was pure entertainment to me, the music that entered my soul and made me want to sing and dance and smile. Dir En Grey and American groups like Slipknot, System of a Down, and MachineHead fueled my drive, instilling in me a never-stay-down arrogance by which I refused to quit and give in. Music from Clazziquai, Samurai Champloo, Yoko Kanno and Epik High opened my eyes to stars and supernovas, allowing me to spread my wings and fly high as a writer.
Then there was Dragon Ash…who provided something new…perhaps the most important thing every young man needs while he’s in the midst of finding himself…Honestly, adjectives fail me. It isn’t just confidence. It isn’t just encouragement. The best way to describe it is with a sentiment:
“Yo, who gives a shit. Just do your best and whatever happens, happens.”
By the time I was 21, I knew what I wanted in life. I wanted to lose weight to the point that I looked like superhero. I wanted to marry the most beautiful woman I could find. And I wanted to be the greatest writer of my generation. I wanted to do something so significant that future students would have to take tests about me in class.
These all sound like lofty goals and I dare say, if most men at that age had the same goals…they wouldn’t speak them out loud, let alone actually coming to the conclusion that this was what they actually wanted. But I did. I honestly believe that it was during this time that I transitioned from Reginald Tennie to Rock Kitaro. From the caterpillar to the butterfly. Dragon Ash helped.
Perhaps it was my digging into old albums of 1TYM that I was ready for a group like Turbo. Haha! I can’t remember how I found them…but I do know that the first music video I saw was…oh yeah! Now I remember!
So…in early 2006, I saw Super Junior’s prominent dancers Eunhyuk, Shindong, and Donghae appearing on a variety show and they were dancing to an old school Korean song. I really like that song and spent over a year trying to find it. I eventually would. It’s called “Back to Black” by R.EF. But before I could find that song…Youtube showed me another group that was of the same era, that 90s dance music of 1995. Allow me to introduce you to Turbo!
Hahaha! When I first heard Turbo…it was a truly welcomed blast from the past. Debuting in 1995, they really did stake their claim as the kings of Korean dance music, reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s soundtrack mixed with the top club hits of the 1980s. Honestly, if you’re looking for something different, this group does just the trick.
Funny thing is…I had heard of Turbo before I even knew it. Kim Jong-Kook, the lead singer with the high-pitched electronic voice, is a buff stud I’ve been seeing on Korean variety shows for well over a year, pretty much ever since I got into Kpop. I never knew his name or his significance. And when I heard that Chaeyeon had a crush on him, I was a little jealous, like “f##k dat dude.” Then…I heard him sing.
Turbo started out as a dance duo with Kim-Jong Kook as the singer and Mikey as the rapper. After the second album, apparently Mikey left and was replaced by another rapper named Kim Jung-Nam.
Their third album, “Born Again” sold over 800,000 copies. That’s ridiculous. And here I thought H.O.T was the baddest in the land, Turbo definitely gave them a run for their money and Turbo didn’t even come from one of the top three agencies like SM, DSP, or YG. With sheer talent, vocal ability and catchy melodies that linger long after you hear it, Turbo definitely made history as one of the greatest in Kpop History.
Lol, speaking of giving H.O.T a run for their money…imagine actually being from one of the top three agencies and going toe-to-toe with them in their own genre. Well then, allow me to introduce you to a group called Sechskies.
Debuting just one year after H.O.T,Sechskies first album with the above title song went on to sell over a million albums. And if you’ve been reading my memoir up to this point, you might have noticed my mentioning Sechskies before. But it wasn’t until the Spring of 2008 that I really gave them a shot. I don’t know why. Perhaps the name? But I was so content with H.O.T and Big Bang that I didn’t really go looking for anything else.
So when I found Sechskies and clicked on that “School” music video. I was taken aback. It’s one of the best of the old school kpop songs. I imagine if I was going to school in Korea when this song came out, it would have been the official anthem all year.
In 2008, I was 21-years-old and still a novice to life and the way of the world. One of the many things I claimed ignorance to…was the significance of hip hop. The appeal of it was lost on me.
Even when I was a kid, I wasn’t very fond of hip hop music. It felt like every asshole and bully I’ve ever met was influenced by hip hop. They called me names and picked on me, and the one thing they all had in common was their love for hip hop, the culture, the music, the fashion. Even in pre-school, I remember two girls who used to attack me while singing, “Momma Said Knock You Out!”
So yeah…I hated it.
And probably the main reason why I hated it so much was because it seemed like there was something wrong with me for not liking it. As a black kid growing up in the south, it was unheard of. Everyone else was into Tupac and Biggie and the Wu-Tang clan…meanwhile this chubby light-skin kid over here who was super emotional and threw temper tantrums was into groups like the Backstreet Boys and Nsync.
I couldn’t help it. I tried. As a kid who wanted to make my dad happy and fit in with the rest of the other kids, I tried so hard to fall in love with hip hop. But to my ears, it was just garbage. It didn’t move me. I couldn’t relate to what they were talking about nor could I grasp the gifts they possessed. That’s not just with hip hop, but also R&B. It just didn’t do anything for me. Felt inadequate. So I wanted nothing to do with that world.
Flash forward to 2008…and suddenly I’m listening to hip hop acts like Drunken Tiger and 1TYM. Doesn’t make sense does it? Do I really hate the English language so much?
The answer is yes and no. Allow me to explain. The answer is “yes,” in that I can’t stand lyrics that glorify and encourage bad behavior. This sounds a bit contradictory considering I listened to Slipknot or Dir En Grey, but life’s like that.
Personally, it hurts my soul when I hear of black on black violence, of gang violence. I’ve seen friends get jumped for the sake of fun. I’ve seen fights where a dude got the shit kicked out of him just because the other guy wanted to show how hardcore he was. You can tell me all day that hip hop music isn’t to blame for this, the glorification of thug culture, leading to more children being born out of wedlock, the seeking of money and materialistic things.
Yes…there was a deep resentment for hip hop back then. Still is in some ways. But the difference between now and then is that I understand it. Much like I understand how one would be driven to theft or robbery if they feel that’s the only choice they have to survive. Doesn’t make it alright. But at least I understand. Proverbs 30: 7-9, tells us not to want riches or poverty. If you get too rich you may be tempted to stop depending on God. If you get too poor, it could lead to you profaning the name of God. (by breaking his commandments just to survive)
The answer is also “no”…in that I didn’t dislike American hip hop solely because of its lyrical content…I just never had a gateway to it.
For instance, it’s not like I just rolled out of bed and liked head-banging metal music. Nah. I liked action films. I was obsessed with martial arts that often had a rock soundtrack. Even my favorite Michael Jackson songs as a child had the sickest guitar riffs in it. Ever heard of “Beat It?” Or Dirty Diana? Or Black or White.
The best of “Black or White” for me was the break down where Michael Jackson’s walking through the flames. That’s metal! So when I discovered Slipknot…I was like… “Hell yes! An entire track where the whole song is the favorite part of another song!? Yes, please. I’ll take more of that.”
I didn’t have a positive gateway into hip hop growing up. It was always negative, as I mentioned. So why in the hay would I want to hear more of that?
By early 2008 however…I believe a gateway had manifested from the kpop I listened to. Hahaha! I honestly didn’t even realize it. These theories I’m typing now (in 2019) I wouldn’t fully understand it till later. For well over a year, I’d been listening to songs from H.O.T. and NRG that features heavy rap sections from the members. I’ve been listening to Big Bang that had TOP and G-Dragon spitting lyrics, albeit to dance tracks, not exactly authentic hip hop.
Up till this point, you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned a lot of females when it comes to Korean and Japanese artists. I mentioned Younha, for her vocals on the ending theme on “Bleach.” I also mentioned BoA for her “Every Heart” theme on Inuyasha.
But other than that, I didn’t exactly have an urge to download or buy music from anyone else. Even when it came to the Wonder Girls that I wrote about in Chapter XIII, I acknowledged that “Tell Me” was a major hit…but not exactly my cup of tea.
Then there was Girl’s Generation.
Haha! I know. Not exactly what one would expect from someone who also into Dir En Grey or H.O.T’s rock driven hits. But SM Entertainment…those bastards know how to work beauty. Should have known. If they can make their men pretty, it was easy to produce a girl group complete with nine of the heavenly girls you’ve ever seen. Therein lies one of my many contradictions when it comes to the resentment of “sex sells”.
Girls Generation also known as SNSD, consists of the members, Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, and Seohyun, Girls Generation was a sister group to labelmates Super Junior and, more importantly, DBSK.
However, that didn’t bring them instant success. In fact, quite the opposite. From what I saw, Girls Generation got a lot of hate from fans of DBSK and Super Junior. Remember what I told you about Cassiopeia in Chapter VII (Big Bang vs the Pretty Boys). DBSK’s fan base numbered almost half a million. And these were die-hard teenage girls who would tear into anyone threatening the success of their beloved DBSK.
Just because they were on the same label, it didn’t exempt Girl’s Generation from their wrath. Sad to say, it makes sense. If you’re teenage girl who thinks the world of the boys of DBSK and Super Junior, dreaming of them, wishing to one day meet them and have them but throw a glance your way…how would you feel if you saw nine girls your own age of extraordinary beauty, fraternizing and working together with your beau?
Yes, it seems these fans were absolutely ravenous. Girl’s Generation had rough beginnings and it wouldn’t be until 2009 that they’d breakthrough with the infectious hits, “Gee” and “Tell Me Your Wish.”
I’m mentioning the “Gee” phenomenon now, because even when it’s released in January of 2009, I never really liked the song, but still, recognize that it definitely put them on the map as one of the top acts in the industry. Even people who didn’t know what kpop was, would eventually hear of “Gee” in the states. Especially if you were a DJ or in the club scene.
But let me back up for a moment…even before I heard of Girls Generation, I had heard of Hyoyeon before their debut. There was talk of a female version of DBSK’s Yunho who could dance just as good, if not better, than Yunho himself. I checked her out and found her dancing with the renown choreographer Jaewon (formerly of Black Beat).
Late 2007 was a great time to be into Kpop. So many memorable hits came out back then. And all of this went down at a very pivotal time in my life
As I mentioned, I took six months off from college from April till September of 2007. I came back to school in October a reformed 21-year-old.
In those six months where all I did was work as a delivery driver, I began my journey into working out and losing weight, dealing with a very truculent yet adorable love interest…and during this time I discovered one of the most important things about life. Purpose.
When you wake up every day where your sole purpose is just to make money in order to pay for gas and rent and that’s it…it’s like, what am I doing with my life? Why? Even if I graduated with my degree, what would I do with it? Why do I need it?
Figuring out these questions and coming to my own conclusions really did help me to spread my wings. And, hahaha! I guess I could credit it to me being a more calculated individual. This was back before the whole YOLO crap went down. When the rest of the world picked up on that phase, I had just come out of it. You only live once, yes. But why ruin it with a single stupid decision? The world is so much bigger than the here and now. And what you do often leads to consequences you wished would have ended at the “here and now” point in your life.
If anything, Big Bang inspired me that August of 2007. Before their “Always” album, I had hope that they’d take over the industry dominated by pretty boys…but I wasn’t sure how they could do it if their talents and artistry remained the same as it was in 2006. Seeing how much they improved and transformed themselves inspired me to do the same.
Without even realizing it, I had been staring my “purpose” in the face ever since I was thirteen. During that six month haitus from college, I’d still go to the school. All students had passes that gave us access to the computer lab 24/7. On my own…not because I was tasked to do this or because I’d be graded on it…I’d go to the school to write.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what I’m about to share with you is truly an honor. I witnessed the changing of the guard when it comes to the Korean music industry. Back then, DBSK was still the kings of Kpop. But in so many ways, they left their kingdom, vacated their throne. They ventured out to Japan in an attempt to carve out a new empire there.
Then…out of the blue. On Thursday August 16, 2007, Big Bang released their mini-album, “Always”.
I’m telling you…I’ve never heard anything like it. It was two days before my 21st birthday. Before I saw their live performance, I heard every song on that mini-album. The above video is a live performance of “Lie.”
Lie…would go on to become one of Big Bang’s signature hits and even won 2007’s song of the year award. Every track was fire, don’t get me wrong, but for me…the song “Always” was the best of 2007.
I remember that Friday night, I was closing as a Pizza Hut delivery driver. I know most people think of it as a crappy job where drivers have to go into seedy neighborhoods and deal with rude people. But the area in which I worked was an upscale part of the Tampa Bay area. We’re talking gated communities. My customers were Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning players. My point being, the neighborhoods were mesmerizing with breathtaking landscapes and beautiful lightning.
I replayed “Always” again and again to a beautiful night. Nothing went wrong because the song kept me in a mellow, “its all good” mood. That’s the effect “Always” had on me. Just be cool and relax.
I was very pleased. It’s been one year since they released their first album and you can tell Big Bang had evolved. Each member had changed up their style and improved their performance, but none more so than Taeyang. He sheared off his braids, thank god, in favor of a stylish hat, making it iconic the same way Michael Jackson did with his hat.
More than that, his voice…Dude…In my chapter about Big Bang vs the Pretty Boys,you’ll notice I never made mention of a particular song called “My Girl.” It’s Taeyang’s solo and to be honest…I think I could’ve sung that song a lot better than him. It’s very garden variety and doesn’t leave much to aspire to.
But once I heard him sing in “Always” and “Lies,” it’s just incredible the transformation he undertook. I remember seeing the documentary about his trainee days where even YG praised him for his relentless work ethic, to practice and improve on his skill. And I saw it. He improved so much. Hahaha! I knew it. I knew these guys would take it to the top. I was witnessing the rise of Big Bang, the new kings of kpop.