Welcome to the first ever Spotlight, a section of KPOP Fridays (which I’m thinking of renaming since I’ll be discussing more than Korean music) where we’ll take a closer look at different names in the Asian music scene. International fandoms are hard to join when you’re not sure where to start, so these posts will serve as a kind of beginner’s guide to each artist. Starting off today’s spotlight are the Kings of KPOP themselves, BIGBANG!
Agency: YG Entertainment
Country of Origin: South Korea
Number of Members: 5
Debut: August 19, 2006
Summary: A massively successful, internationally recognized group, BIGBANG was formed in 2006 by YG Entertainment as a hip-hop group. Starting off fairly well with their first album, BIGBANG, their first real breakout was their Lies EP in 2007. After releasing their Hot Issue (2007) and Stand Up (2008) mini-albums, the group expanded their influence to Japan; over the next 5 years BIGBANG released 4 Japanese albums, while their Alive EP became the first Korean album to hit Billboard 200. This kicked off their first world tour in 2011, and after their hiatus in 2013, they made a successful comeback in 2015 with the MADE album. Their natural stage presence and individual charms have made them an internationally successful group, earning them the moniker of “Kings of KPOP”, and for good reason. While debuting with hip-hop and R&B as their main musical genres, their albums have since branched out to accommodate a range of styles, from the electronic anthem of Tonight to the jazzy blues of Bad Boy. Well-known, well-loved, and extremely popular, BIGBANG will forever be remembered as a classic within the sphere of Korean music.
– Members –
G-Dragon – Leader, Composer, Main Rapper
Real Name: Kwon Ji-Yong
Bio: Smooth. Charming. Unique. All words that describe G-Dragon, the leader of BIGBANG. A trainee at YG since the age of 12, GD has a unique charisma and overall attitude towards his life that really makes him stand out among the members of the group. Something of a perfectionist, G-Dragon composes each song that BIGBANG performs, and his love of fashion and level of talent have made him an internationally recognized celebrity. He’s had several successful solo albums, and has collaborated with Western artists multiple times. He treats the other members of the group like family, and is known to have a special affection for Seungri, the youngest of the group. Confident and bubbly with a love for his work and an affection for his fans, it’s no wonder that he has the most fangirls of any member in the group.
T.O.P – Rapper
Real name: Choi Seung-hyun
Bio: Where G-Dragon exudes boyish energy and charisma, TOP embodies mature elegance and class. Thoughtful and quiet with a voice deep enough to lose yourself in, TOP’s manly stature is complimented by his smooth rapping, and his voice forms a nice yin to GD’s yang, explaining the success of their 2010 GD & TOP album, as well as his solo works Turn It Up and Doom Dada. The eldest brother of the group, TOP does his part to keep everyone focused and on track, and his personal sense of responsibility both gives him strength and yet can make him a bit too hard on himself at times. A student of art and a budding actor, TOP’s mature sensibilities and graceful presence make him my personal favorite member of BIGBANG.
Taeyang – Vocalist
Real Name: Dong Young-bae
Bio: G-Dragon’s best friend since their trainee days, Taeyang is a very interesting individual. Juxtaposing physical as well as mental strength, Taeyang hides a surprising amount of depth behind those six-pack abs. Known as the most passionate member of the group, Taeyang’s work ethic combined with his talent have led him to become a successful soloist in his own right, with his Rise album quickly hitting #1 on Billboard’s World Albums and #112 on the Billboard 200 in 2014. Despite having a large stubborn streak, he’s earned the respect of his bandmates and fans alike, and his emotion and drive can be felt through every syllable he sings.
Daesung – Vocalist
Real Name: Kang Dae-sung
Bio: An energetic and fun-loving person, Daesung has long been known as the happy member of the group. From his unconventional looks to his modest attitude, Daesung breaks many stereotypes about Korean celebrities, especially as he is the only member of the group who identifies as a strong Christian. He pushes himself hard to keep up with the rest of the group, sometimes hurting his sense of confidence in the process, but he always bounces back and is ready to take on a new challenge with a smile. Daesung has done a lot of solo work in Japan: starting with his D’scover album he has done two tours in Japan, along with 3 albums. With a great sense of humor and a love for the Doraemon anime, Daesung is the goofy middle brother of the group.
Seungri – Vocalist, Maknae
Real Name: Lee Seung-hyun
Bio: The youngest brother of the group, Seungri’s self-confidence makes him unique among the members of BIGBANG. Seungri enjoys honesty, and you can see that in his relationship with his hyungs: they do tend to criticize him hard when he asks for it, but overall they tend to spoil him a bit. His arrogance has landed him in more than one scandal in his time, but he’s learned from his mistakes and has matured over the years, a fact that his bandmates have been sure to oversee. The choreographer of the group, Seungri’s activities outside of the group have consisted of several EP’s (VVIP, What Can I Do) and a Japanese studio album, but he’s recently ventured into acting. The annoying-yet-lovable youngest brother, Seungri has a special place in the hearts of his brothers and fans.
Where Should I Start?
BIGBANG is a classic group with a lot of music to choose from, so it really depends on the style you’re looking for. They break the mold of Western perception of KPOP in that they don’t stick to one genre of music: they’re not formulaic, and their flavor changes from song to song. Their diversity serves as a way to showcase their talent rather than to make their music feel unstable, and it lends a lot of depth to their performances. Personally, I recommend that you start in what I feel is their “Golden Age”, the Alive and Still Alive albums. Released in 2012, these albums will give you a good feel for the core of the group’s presence. The 2015 MADE album is also very good, as you’d know if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, and it does have a bit more variety in music style than Still Alive has.
10 songs that are good to start with are: