Like 2NE1 and BIGBANG before them, B.A.P went for a triple-single approach for their latest comeback. It’s difficult to pull off, but when it’s done right it gives a group the chance to showcase multiple sides of itself. BIGBANG did a perfect job of it with their Alive promotions, and B.A.P has done the same with their new mini-album, Badman. They smashed acoustic hip-hop on the breezy, “Coffee Shop,” knocked out a severe club banger with “Hurricane,” and on their latest single, “Badman,” they’ve gone all serious and experimental on us.
B.A.P’s known for their aggressive style, but “Badman” is the group’s most rageful offering yet. It’s completely chaotic, rivalling even Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy” in terms of noise and jarring musical shifts. The song cycles through gritty hip-hop and warped electro breaks, which is all littered with wailing police sirens, whistles, squiggly synths, and crowd noise. It sounds like too much is happening on the first few listens, but like most similarly-structured songs, it eventually feels normal after some more spins. Plus, it’s not like the madcap production is pointless: The lyrics, written by Bang Yongguk, have an angry anti-authoritarianism theme about taking a stand and righting the wrongs of the world. They ooze frustration and confusion, which is mirrored by the pandemonium of the production. In fact, the entire Badman mini-album sees B.A.P rebelling against everything they don’t agree with, including bullshit K-pop stars (“put down your fake awards/your music is an error of K-pop“) and their popular pretty boy rivals (“we’re different from those girly looking kids“). Considering that Yongguk has written and/or produced a big chunk of B.A.P’s discography, the group can get away with dissing their contemporaries for being phony and contrived — even if most of them have probably out-charted and outsold B.A.P.
The blockbuster music video –which was shot on location in Detroit, of all places– looks absolutely incredible, and as we’ve come to expect from B.A.P this year, the fashion is flawless. The plot follows a violent battle between ‘the people’ and the police, but the real reason behind the street war is left a little blurry. B.A.P enters touchy territory by going half-blackface in some scenes, which tricks you into thinking that they’re alluding to a race war; or, to be even more specific, the Trayvon Martin case, since Bang Yongguk previously revealed that he wrote “Badman” after seeing all the crime on the news. However, this idea is nixed towards the end when one black man is seen shooting another — possibly alluding to the fact that violence has no real colour or creed. It’s hard to tell if the concept is confused or intentionally ambiguous, but either way, at least “Badman” gives you something to dissect and analyse.
“Badman” took a little longer to grab me than “Coffee Shop” and “Hurricane” did, but now I love it just as much.
Bang Yongguk B.A.P’s really carved out their own spot in the K-pop scene, injecting Bang Yongguk’s their own style into their lyrics, visuals, and music. Not that it really actually matters if a pop artist is creatively involved or not, but it’s still a nice bonus to know that you’re listening to something that at least partially came from the person singing it. B.A.P may be missing out on Mutizens and dissing their more successful rivals now, but at the end of the day, their artistry and raw talent will definitely win them the war.