In the fall of 2009, while rookie groups like BEAST and MBLAQ were going toe-to-toe, one mustn’t overlook the significant contributions from other artists that seemed to resonate with the beauty that comes along with the fall and winter seasons. I’m talking about the likes of Superstar K’s Seo-in-Guk, U-Kiss, Wheesung, Hwanhee, and Taeyang. Let’s get it.
This trend of releasing melodic sounds, it seems to carry over the years. The summer is full of club bangers and school anthems. But when the leaves start to brown and the wind turns chill, when the sweaters come out, that’s when the laid back hits start to wash over.
In the fall of 2009, several interesting things happened. First, this was around the time that I became a regular on a relatively new website devoted to kpop called Allkpop. These days, Allkpop is the standard by which everyone goes to for the latest and greatest news coming from South Korean entertainment. For the most part, it seems reliable and trustworthy… “seems”.
Back then, in 2009, I had to take it with a grain of salt. Allkpop was reliable when it came to publishing the release dates, the music videos, and teasers for my favorite artists. The downside, was that Allkpop was extremely biased back in the day and they know it. If you read my chapters about DBSK and Casseiopeia, then you’d understand. That fandom was real. And anyone who threatened the popularity of DBSK and SM Entertainment artists was a threat. That threat was none other than Big Bang.
Thus, if you go back and check out some of their articles released before 2009, you get a lot of trash talking where they’re straight up dissing Big Bang and YG artists. They may have deleted a lot of it, but I’m telling you it was real. Even when G-Dragon came out with his solo album that was undeniably good, the Allkpop author writing an article about it would give their two-cents where they’d give some credit, with backhanded criticism. Kind of like the news does with Pres. Trump these days. Where they’ll say, “Pres. Trump condemns white supremacists, but refuses to change gun laws…” He did something good…but he’s still bad. That effect.
4-MEN – Knock Knock Knock
However, Allkpop would get better as they came along. I think they took notice of the comments and how a lot of us were dissing the Allkpop writers for their unwarranted criticism of our favorite artists. Gradually, they realized that while DBSK had more fans internationally (out of the states), domestically and within the U.S., we mostly favored the sound of Big Bang and 2NE1. If you don’t want to lose readers, you gotta curb your hate and cater to them. So that’s what Allkpop did. Continue Reading
HEY YO! FINALLY!
2009 was a good year for YG Entertainment. Rolling off of Big Bang’s success from their “Remember” album in late 2008, they picked up endorsements from LG Electronics, spawned hits with Seungri’s “Strong Baby” and went on to launch arguably the greatest debut of any girl group in history with 2NE1.
In July of 2009, YG could have just sat back and rode off the wave of 2NE1’s hit “I Don’t Care,” or even Big Bang’s stardom in Japan with the release of their hit “Gara Gara Go.” Instead…they started teasing fans about the potential release of G-Dragon’s first solo project.
Now me…this had me on the edge of my seat. You gotta remember, I’ve been a fan of Big Bang since before they debuted in 2006. I saw what G-Dragon was capable of as a friggin trainee…a trainee!
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. Continue Reading
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!
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.
I know…the title of this chapter is enough to spark some disgruntled looks. If you’ve heard of Big Bang before reading this memoir, it might sound confusing. But as someone who’s been into k-pop since nine months before they’re first release, I can tell you that they’re debut was anything but an actual Big Bang.
Let’s start from the beginning.
By the fall of 2006, I had just turned 20-years-old and DBSK was still my favorite kpop group. H.O.T. would be the greatest in my book until about the year 2014. But H.O.T. disbanded back in 2001. Se7en latest album was awesome, but it was DBSK that actually got me into kpop with their hits “Rising Sun” and “Triangle”. In September of 2006, they released their third album, “O” and their music video was phenomenal.
I was glad to see they hadn’t lost their touch, having spent so much time trying to make a name for themselves in Japan. The choreography was on point and the song was fire. While I was super psyched to hear from them after some time…there was one problem that I couldn’t overlook…aside from their use of the World Trade Center collapsing as b-roll…The title song, “O” was the only song that I liked on the album. The rest, was garbage. Especially their follow up hit, “Balloons,” which if you saw, you’d see was very bubble-gum poppy with the video super focused on the visuals.
Back in film school, we had a word for albums like this. “Duds”. An album everyone thinks is going to be the bomb, but makes no explosion. That’s not to say it didn’t do well in Korea. It was the highest selling album in 2006. But part of that started to breed resentment in me. That they’re fans would just accept anything. Or maybe I’d gotten spoiled from uncovering albums from artists that had already been released, one after the other. While, with DBSK, I now had to friggin wait for God knows how long for their next album to come out.
And when it comes to the fans…dude. I’ve been referring to these boybands as groups…because that’s what they are to me. However, in Korea, they’re called idol groups. And it’s not hard to see why. DBSK had the largest fanbase of all the groups, probably the whole world. I think at one point, it numbered around 500,000. They were called Cassiopeia. That’s the name of their fan group.
I was a fan, but I never would call myself a Cassiopeia. Why would I?
After listening to just “O”…a single song on an album of eleven tracks, I was left with more to be desired.
It was around this time that was also listening to Se7en of YG Entertainment. And as you’ve learn from the end of the last chapter, I stumbled across a video of a pair of YG Trainees dancing. It was G-Dragon and YongBae.
After that…I saw on the Youtube sidebar a pre-debut song G-Dragon put out. It’s a remix of Maroon 5’s “This Love”. And dude…I’m telling you. Back then, I didn’t know how far he’d go. Only that he was by far the most talented artist of our generation. I recognized all of this from just one listen to this song. He was only 18-years-old at the time and he wrote all of his own lyrics.
“This Love” by G-Dragon was amazing. It’s one of those timeless songs that never gets old no matter how many times you hear it, no matter what year it is, no matter what the trends are. The song, the style, the vocals, everything works.
Coincidentally, it was just like when I discovered DBSK. I saw the video of Yunho before learning he was the leader of DBSK. I saw videos of G-Dragon and learned he was the leader of YG’s up and coming 2nd generation group following in the steps of 1TYM. That group went by the name of Big Bang.
The first video I saw of all five members was “LaLaLa.” I’ll let you listen first before hitting on some key points.
Let’s face it, if you look at the American mainstream music scene, its almost difficult to compare it to the 90s and 80s where even men and women in their mid-40s could bust out a top ten hit. Nowadays, it’s all about trends and spectacle. But what if I told you that there is another country teeming with artists who can do what today’s pop icons do…but better. To make it clear to you fans who already have your torch and pitchforks at the ready, this list isn’t necessarily talking about the “best” Korean artists. It’s about the Korean artists who could literally come over to the land of the free and stand a chance to succeed in the mainstream.
10 – Block B (BlockBuster)
If you checked out the music video, paused it, and still hear the trumpets blaring in your head…congratulations. You’ve only experienced but a taste of what Block B has to offer. Debuting in 2011, this seven member hip hop group has already proved their talents by winning multiple awards not only in S.Korea, but in Europe! Led by Zico, one of Korea’s top ranking rappers, Block B has become a household name with their first full-length album “BlockBuster” topping out at number ten in the “Billboard World Albums” chart.
Think of BoB and Bruno Mars. Eminem and Rihanna. Chris Brown and T-Pain. Justin Timberlake and Jay –Z. All of these artists take two huge followings and combine them with a single song to create a larger demographic. Now imagine a single group where you have all of that, three top of the line rappers and four crooners to captivate the audience. There’s no need to have another artist feature on the track because Block B is more than capable to deliver on their own.
What separates Block B from the hundreds of other kpop groups out there is their wild charisma to perform without an emphasis on the appearance. Primarily specializing in hip hop and dance Block B has been through their share of adversity and continues to produce club anthems like “Nillili Mambo” and “Very Good”.
Featuring YG Entertainment’s Team B, Winner and TVXQ’s Yunho, to Five Finger Death Punch’s “Coming Down” I put together an energetic video that showcases the evolution of Big Bang’s dances over the years. I added text to the lower left hand corner to identify each Artist so you can do your own exploration after watching this. I hope you like it.
Favorite Big Bang Song – “Haru Haru” –
Big Bang or Bigbang (Korean: 빅뱅; stylized as BIGBANG) is a South Korean male group under the management of YG Entertainment. Formed in 2006, the group consists of G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung, and Seungri. Big Bang is known for their unique urban-originated music and fashion style. The members’ involvement in composing and producing their own music, most notably leader G-Dragon, has earned the group respect and praise from music industry experts.
The group’s popularity grew with their hit song Lies, which stayed at number one on Korean charts for a record-breaking seven consecutive weeks. Their follow up releases, Hot Issue and Stand Up, furthered their success, spawning hits such as Last Farewell and Haru Haru. From 2007 to 2008, Big Bang received many awards, including “Best Male Group”, “Song of the Year”, “Artist of the Year”, and the Grand Award at the Seoul Music Awards.
From 2009 to 2010, Big Bang expanded their endeavors to Japan, and were voted “the Korean group that Japanese fans wish to see the most”. They became the first foreign group awarded “Best Newcomer” from the Japan Cable Broadcasting Station and “Best New Artist” at MTV Japan. Amidst their Japanese group promotions, the members branched out to do solo activities. Daesung, Taeyang, G-Dragon, and Seungri have released solo albums. G-Dragon and T.O.P also collaborated on an album under the sub-unit GD & TOP. Seungri and Daesung have acted in both TV dramas and musicals. T.O.P became a highly acclaimed film star. Daesung also hosted many of Korea’s most popular variety TV shows.
After nearly a two-year hiatus in Korea, Big Bang reunited in 2011 with their successful album Tonight. However, promotions were cut short when multiple members encountered legal issues. In November 2011, representing the Asia-Pacific region, Big Bang emerged as the inaugural “Best Worldwide Act” winner at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards. This was the first time in six months all five members were seen together. In 2012, Big Bang released their fifth Mini Album Alive in Korea and Japan before embarking on their first ever World Tour which concluded in early 2013 and 2014 Japan 6 Dome Tour(First Foreign Group)
– Source: Wikipedia
The Meaning Behind “Dragon Ash” – My exploration of Jpop and Kpop
By Rock Kitaro
Date: March 26, 2013
“Be Stronger, Fly Higher, Don’t Be Afraid”
Those are the opening lyrics to Dragon Ash’s “Underage Song,” a song dedicated to the youth, inspiring them to strive no matter what.
I’m currently in the midst of writing the second episode of one of my short stories. The “Dragon Ash” series I’ve created is named after my favorite band. Not my favorite Japanese band. Not my favorite rock band. But favorite band, period. And out of respect and overwhelming gratitude, I felt it was high-time I explained myself. If by reading the end of this memoir, members of Dragon Ash thinks I should change the title of my story, I will.
Let me take you back to the end of 2004. In the midst of my senior year of high school something was happening to me. I think the last English CD I bought was Slipknot’s “Vol. 3 Subliminal Verses.” After that, I confess that I couldn’t help but to simply download my music. But the music I took an interest in downloading wasn’t American made songs. My dormant rebellious nature kicked it up a notch and I think I just got fed up with English lyrics. I think after 18 years of life, I got tired of hearing the same lyrics over and over again. I felt that I had heard every possible way that an artist could overextend “why” or say “I love you”. Not to mention, the kind of music that was clouding the airwaves during this time was just…just terrible. And so…I moved away from American music for a brief period of time.
Using filesharing sites like limewire, I began with downloading instrumentals. Music from anime, video games like Need for Speed and background music from movies like Daredevil and Vin Diesel’s XXX. My friends back then understandably thought it was puzzling, as did I for a time. But then I found a similarity between those instrumentals and metal, another genre I discovered a liking for at the time.
With some metal songs from artists like System of a Down and Slipknot, until I looked up the lyrics, other than the main chorus I had no idea what they were saying. And on a subconscious level, I think I preferred it that way. I couldn’t articulate “why” back then, but I think I was tired of lyrics dictating to me what to think, how I should feel and how I should go about situations. When I listen to music, I want to simply feel good. And 2004’s mainstream music kind of made me feel shitty because I wasn’t and still don’t, feel like I’m part of the mainstream.
Giving you this background information was crucial to help you understand how I was able to transition into what happens next because something spectacular happened.