In July 2009, while 2NE1 was tearing up the charts in Korea with their hits “Fire” and “I Don’t Care,” their big brother group Big Bang was hustling to climb their way up the charts in Japan.
When I first saw “Gara Gara Go,” I was thrilled to say the least. Big Bang isn’t exactly known for their in-sync choreography. They usually rely on Taeyang or Seungri to hold down the dancing, at least in their music videos. So to see that they actually dance together during the chorus and breakdown, it was a welcomed surprise.
In August of 2009, they released their first full-length Japanese album, self-titled “Big Bang”. On it, they had Gara Gara Go and some other hits I jammed out with through the summer. But perhaps my favorite was “Stay”.
I must have played that song a 100x that summer. Not only was it a good song to write to, but it’s one of those songs you can take to the beach, go for a walk, and simply dream. Back then, such inspiration was needed. I was only 23 and just now embarking on my career as a screenwriter. I could take all the inspiration I could get.
If I hadn’t mentioned it already, there’s a reason why Korean artists so badly want to break into the Japanese markets…that’s where the money is. When most people think of S. Korea, they think of the big cities like Seoul or Busan. However, most of the country isn’t like that. I won’t go so far as to say its still third-world, but let’s just say, it’s quaint. Meanwhile, Japan has multiple meccas, numerous arenas and venues where artists can make a boatload of money on tours.
This is why SM Entertainment has continuously sent DBSK to Japan almost immediately after releasing their Korean albums. They go to Japan, make their money, and invest it in S. Korea. Almost like 49ers (actual 49ers, historically speaking).
Speaking of which, sadly, in July of 2009, we saw the end of an era as we know it. The group responsible for hooking me into the Kpop scene was none other than DBSK back in late 2005 when I first saw their “Rising Sun” music video. And even though my favor shifted from DBSK to Big Bang as I watched Big Bang come up from trainees to superstars, I’ll never stop giving credit where credit is due.
H.O.T paved the way for DBSK. DBSK paved the way for Big Bang. Big Bang paved the way to the current top dogs, BTS. That’s just the way it goes.
In July of 2009, “Stand By U” was the last single DBSK released as a five-man group.
The above video is one of their last performances together as a five member group. As if the tone was melancholy enough. If you hadn’t notice, Max and U-know are already together while the three members who departed, Jaejoong, Xiah, and Micky, are on the left. To this day, Max and U-Know now make up the two-man duo of DBSK, while Jaejoong, Xiah, and Micky Yoochun would go on to form their own group JYJ (I’ll create a chapter about that when I get to 2010, when their album debuts).
Oddly enough…all this was going down around the time Michael Jackson died. Heath Ledger died. Farrah Fawcett died. Just a lot of sadness.
The drama that unfolded dominated headlines for a while. It seemed to be a curse with SM Entertainment, really, where the downfall of their biggest groups came from within. With H.O.T, there were disputes between some members getting paid more than others.
With DBSK, from what I read, Micky, JaeJoong, and Xiah weren’t happy with their thirteen-year contract that the media dubbed “slave contracts.” They filed a lawsuit with the courts, claiming that the contract was excessively long, schedules were held out without permission of the members, and profits were unfairly distributed.
I remember feeling back then…an evil rotten feeling. To me, I was kinda glad this happened. It’s like Big Bang was now the undisputed champs. I knew there was no way Max and U-Know were going to hold it down as a two-man team and compete at the same level. I say it was rotten, because I shouldn’t have had those thoughts. But I confess, I did. Between this and Michael Jackson’s death that took place just weeks prior, it seemed like the winds of change were coming that summer. And while Big Bang held the top spot for now, it was only a matter of time before a new challenger emerges. Either that, or Big Bang would destroy themselves.