BigBang’s ‘ALIVE’

5 Mar

After the ups and downs of 2011, BigBang’s future seemed uncertain. V.I.P.s (the name of the BigBang fandom) and K-pop followers all felt the tension and grew restless with anxiety. With the announcement of a new album, the anxiety remained stubborn and the uncertainty did not shift; they had a lot to make up for. If you recall the article I wrote for Korean Candy, I expressed both enthusiasm and apprehension. I was curious as to which direction they would take and if they could actually emerge from the ashes as stronger and brighter performers. It was clear that their personal hard-ships would form the foundations but my interests lay in the musical construction and how their own style would develop to coincide with the new-found identities.

When the comeback photography/concept images were released, many thoughts flew through my mind. It was clear that they were going to make a statement, especially as the album has been titled ‘Alive’. The images were bold and abstract, but the masks and ice made it clear; they had been resuscitated. Their image had adopted a more artistic touch that matures them but it still possesses that playfulness and colour that has always made BigBang stand out. It was certain that the new album would be bold but nothing entirely new.

Shortly after, the first music video was released for the single ‘Blue‘. It was slightly disappointing for some as it appeared to lack this bold power that had been promised with the concept art, but personally I saw it as being promising. There was something sophisticated and beautiful as it emphasised the troubles the members had been through. They were starting from the beginning; showing what it was they were being resuscitated from and how. The line “I’m singing my blues” sticks out as the story, the influence, for the album; music is their strength and saviour. The only thing that troubled me was that they had disguised their battles as a love story; but then again, love is an ambiguous word – a love story with another being, a dream or oneself? Nevertheless it only increased my personal excitement about the album release which took place on 28/02/2012.

Within hours the album had reached number 8 on the US iTunes chart, and 70 on the UK. There was so much buzz as most seemed quite satisfied with the album’s contents. After my first listen, one thing was clear; this is an album for the fans.

The album opens with the introduction named ‘Alive‘. Composed in a techno-electro manner it is a very upbeat and fun tune that, in all honesty needs to be longer than 48 seconds. It is holds a victorious atmosphere that fills the listener with hope as G-Dragon sings, “I’m still alive“. That is what the fans want and have been waiting for; their idols are not leaving them and are not going down without a fight. ‘Blue‘ then follows and brings us back down to earth to reflect on the experiences the members have suffered, upon the foundations of this album. It leaves some sadness but also respect.

However, the mood is lifted and the fans can carry on, reassured that BigBang have not entirely changed as ‘Love Dust‘ has its turn. It has a good steady beat coupled with an electro background; an echo of their previous love songs with a complex twist but nothing extraordinary. Ego and their boyish image is restored with ‘Bad Boy‘ which takes BigBang to the roots of R&B. It is smooth, steady and a relatively lovely listen but there is clear western influence; it no secret that Taeyang and Teddy are heavily influenced by old-school artists like Usher, so many older listeners may find this tune nostalgic. It is wonderfully composed and quite pretty. The next track, ‘Ain’t No Fun‘ follows suit in taking listeners back to the 90s with its electro and catchy beats but I have found that this one does not stick out (I keep forgetting about it) but the repetition in the chorus may find a way to stick in your head.

Next comes ‘Fantastic Baby‘. It is probably the most fun and exciting track on the album that once again shows the western influence from their work with Diplo and enjoyment of Lady Gaga. It is a fresh, catchy yet simple dance track with a contagious mood. You cannot help but move a little when this comes on and you will find yourself exclaiming “Wow. Fantastic baby. DANCE” with the excitement. It is in a way a celebration; the after party.

The final track is Daesung’s solo, ‘Wings‘. I think it is safe to say that this particular member had the worse experiences last year and it was no surprise that he hid himself away. It is encouraging and satisfying to see his return for I have always found his voice pure and classical; a wonderful twist to BigBang’s R&B/Hip-hop image. His voice, however, seems to have altered slightly – it seems to be in a way scarred as the classicalist has been altered into something that I would suggest fits with the classic rock genre or even alternative pop-rock. It is still classical in its composition but it felt more rebellious and powerful. It is clear this is a very personal song to Daesung as it exudes a triumphant atmosphere as he reaches an epiphany.

I am far from disappointed; in fact I am very impressed. All members have done a great job in maintaining their group and keeping their music alive. I do believe that this is something for their supporters, a confirmation of their strength for it has clearly not been made to establish a new music genre or to gain more fandom; it is an appreciation. The album is great fun to listen to and one I do highly recommend for its vibrancy and freshness. There is nothing extraordinary about the compositions that make them stand out as true musicians, for they are more suitably performers who enjoy music for music’s sake; nevertheless they do deserve recognition for their efforts and achievements.

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