If you know me to a certain degree of familiarity, you’ll understand that I love Korean music. I enjoy a lot of other types of music, from Christian music to dubstep to old-timey jazz, but Korean music holds a special place in my heart because I got into it at a time in my life when I was just starting to learn who I was as an individual. There are a lot of groups out there in the KPOP sphere, each of them with different styles and genres they tend to specialize in, but my favorite is BIGBANG. Objectively, one could call them the most famous korean boy band in the world, and they have a good selection of music (still be discerning if you want to listen/watch though, not all of their content is suitable for younger audiences). One of my favorites is a song from their newest album, entitled “LOSER”.
“LOSER” as a song is best described as an experience; the lyrics coupled with the imagery of the music video make for some powerful scenes. Each member of the group plays a character that is broken, each of them struggling with a specific sin. Their burdens weigh them down, and each of them exudes a pain that you can feel and connect with.
The first member we encounter is G-Dragon, the leader of the group. G-Dragon is known for being both artistically talented and extremely intentional when it comes to the songs he writes and the performances he gives, and he was in full form over the course of “LOSER”. Onscreen we see him angry at the world, knowing that he’s hurting but not knowing how to fix it. His money doesn’t satisfy; his wealth doesn’t bring him any joy. He cries out in his pain that
I can’t listen to hopeful love songs anymore.
You and me both,
We’re just sad clowns, tamed and scripted.
I’ve come to far.
I’M COMING HOME.
I wanna go back
To when I was young.”
Feeling very reminiscent of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, G-Dragon is disillusioned with the world. His worldly pursuits can’t bring him any closer to the love and peace he’s seeking, a theme that is further explored in Taeyang’s part of the story.
As the “hot guy” of the group (a statement that I know will be contested by many fangirls), Taeyang is less known for deep lyrics and more for chiseled abs, but his part in the execution of the music video hit home for a lot of people. Confused more than discontent, Taeyang’s story is one of self-loss. Trying to become something, he’s become nothing. He’s not sure who he is or who he wants to be, and that lack of understanding has led him to his lowest point. Echoing the plight of many students, Taeyang confesses that:
At some point,
I started looking at the ground more than the sky.
It’s hard to even breathe.
I hold out my hand,
But no one holds it.
Taeyang’s struggle mirrors a large problem that faces South Korea: the rising number of suicides among young people. The push to become great academically and socially in their culture (and in Asian cultures in general) can become stifling, choking out an individual’s own sense of self as they increasingly find their identity solely in the way that their society tells them they should be. Those that don’t measure up to the standard are treated as outcasts, and that same loneliness and isolation is prevalent in all of Taeyang’s scenes during the course of the video. He’s searching for some kind of truth to hold onto, but he hasn’t found any saving truth. The one truth he finds evident in his life is that his sin has found him out.
This leads into T.O.P’s section of the music video. Easily the most mature member of the group in both age and personality, T.O.P finds his escape from isolation in self-expression, through the art he creates and the women he dominates. His room is entirely white, symbolizing the sterile purity he’s trying to create within himself and express outward. And yet he recognizes the struggle that he has with the emptiness, and the way he tries to cope as he raps:
It’s a cycle of girls and mistakes.
Love them for one night,
And hate them when the morning comes.
Can’t own up to it
Because of my selfish pleasure,
Everything is being ruined.
Can’t stop this dangerous full speed run.
Now I have no interest, no fun anymore.
I’m standing alone at the edge of a cliff.
I’m going home.
I wanna go back.
To how it was before.
He knows his sin is killing him. He knows it’s breaking him from the inside. And yet he still continues to indulge. He tries to atone for his inner ugliness by creating beautiful art, but when the girl he’s with touches his art, when the very symbol of his inner turmoil seems to defile what little self-redemption he’s trying to bring to himself, he loses it. And he kills her. And as we see him later outside of his studio, outside in the dark, dirty world outside, we see that his entire appearance matches the ugliness outside and within him. And he breaks down; he can’t believe what he’s become.
Another person who can’t believe what he has become is Daesung, the happy-go-lucky jokester member of the group. But we don’t see Daesung’s cheerful side in this mjsic video; Daesung is tormented by a forced separation from a girl he loves very much. Implied through words and expressions is the idea that Daesung’s character is not of a high enough social status to be allowed near the woman he desires, and this eats him up. Rage and love mingle in his head as he tries to make sense of the world, venting his emotions as he sings:
At some point
I’ve gotten scared of people’s eyes.
I’m sick of crying so I tried smiling.
But no one recognizes me.
The sweetness of love that was stolen, the bitter taste of despair and anger burning through his veins, all of these push Daesung to fight against hope in order to be with the woman he loves. His cause is just, his fight is right, but his strength is small. And in the end, even he cannot overcome the walls between himself and his desires.
The least vocal member of the group is Seungri, the youngest. Content with allowing his hyungnims to steal the vocal show, Seungri has quite a bit of screen time as we follow his footsteps across the crowded streets of the city. He appears quite well off, having what each of the other 4 members seems to lack: love, contentment, identity, security. His situation seems to be set, but he slowly loses each of those qualities over the course of the video. The woman he loves betrays him, and as he slowly learns about her cheating on him, be begins to lose his sense of security. Discontent after a failed call, he confronts her and she completely shuts him down, destroying the identity that he’d constructed around himself with her alongside him.
As a form of artistic expression, “LOSER” is an amazing work that fully explores concepts of human emotion and psychology, but as a believer the MV and song really bring home the reality of how life without Christ is ultimately purposeless. As put so well by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Nothing that this world can offer, no possession, identity, pleasure, love, or emotional anchor can truly give lasting peace or joy. Our world “groans and suffers” (Rom 8:22) under the weight of the sin that weighs it down; nothing on this side of heaven can bring us the type of peace that only God can bring. Apart from Him, we’re stuck chasing our various lusts and loves, trying to find some peace. Hoping to see some change. Trying to win a purpose.
But in the end, we’re all losers.