XII – August of 2007: Big Bang Explodes
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.
And if the “Always” record blindsided me, a single insignificant fan living in the states, you can bet your ass that it shook the other agencies. Back then, everyone was still producing the sounds of early 2000s.
In September, rival group Super Junior released “Don’t Don.” And don’t get me wrong, “Don’t Don” was probably my favorite of all of Super Junior’s releases. Honestly, I loved that song. “The World is Mine” by Eunhyuk always gets me fired up.
It’s reminiscent of their predecessors H.O.T. in the essence of their blending the rock genre with pop, something Super Junior’s hasn’t done or nor will they ever do after this. And Super Junior would get number one into the charts eventually with this song, but even they had to admit that they had been surpassed by Big Bang.
Because not even three months later, Big Bang released their next mini-album. Honestly, wasn’t even expecting it. First off, the practice of releasing mini-albums was unheard of. But to release two in the span three months…BOOM!
It’s like they was saying to the industry, “Oh, you thought that was it? Nope! BLAM! Take this sucka!”
All of the songs were written by G-Dragon with Brave Brothers establishing their signature “Brave Sound” that consisted of hip-hop beats and electronica.
Despite selling over 5 million downloads, “Last Farewell” isn’t one of my favorite Big Bang hits when it comes to creativity or something “new”. But what I did love about it was the emphasis on vocals. Here, we catch a glimpse of what I’d call the YG Sound when it comes to their singers. I’m not sure what it’s called, but there’s this effect, I’m assuming that takes place in post-production that really enriches the sound of their voice, where it comes out super clear, but blended as if the singer has three versions of himself singing the lyrics at the same time.
Also!!! Aside from the title track…Big Bang established a pattern for quality. Just like with the “Always” mini album, the other songs on “Hot Issue” were far from filler songs. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Where the Title Song was what enticed you to buy the album, only to find out that the other songs on the album were utter garbage. But with Hot Issue…every track was fire. And if YG decided to release mini-albums to avoid full-albums with even just one filler track, much respect to him.
In particular, I found two tracks that cemented my idea that Big Bang wasn’t just a boyband or an “idol group,” they were recording artists.
In the song “Fool,” if this song started playing on the radio, you’d never know that this song came from Big Bang until you heard TOP’s voice. They sound like the Isley Brothers the way they carried their falsettos in a soulful R&B blend. And they do it effortlessly. Its straight up ridiculous. When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe it.
And then there was G-Dragon’s solo track on the mini-album. “But I Love You”.
I’m telling you, the kid’s talent was undeniable. He was only 20-years old back then. But he raps and sings like it’s nobody’s business. In the Korean music industry at the time, this was unheard of when it came to trends and business models. Big Bang was still barely one year old when it came to their debut. And already…they were starting to live up to their name. And explosion had indeed taken place.