BIGBANG is the musical equivalent of a great big Oscar-winning Hollywood epic. The veteran boy band is a slick, commercial, all-star product that never risks alienating the public with anything too artsy or alternative, but they’re not exactly your typical shallow Michael Bay product either. There’s some substance to the gloss, and they hit all the required marks of a mainstream hit with such ardor that you can’t not be at least a little impressed with their efforts.
As expected, the group’s first new singles in three years, “Loser” and “Bae Bae,” don’t reinvent the wheel, but rather build on the winning formula that’s made them K-pop’s biggest male stars for almost a decade.
The sexually-charged “Bae Bae” features booming hip-hop bass and pretty piano tinkles interrupted every so often by an isolated guitar riff. The country music influence is a neat little idiosyncrasy that pushes “Bae Bae” into a much more interesting place than it would’ve gone to otherwise. It’s also cool to hear BIGBANG finally do a straight-up sex record together, which was something that used to be reserved for their solos and sub-units. (Although the constant demands in the lyrics for the love interest to remain forever young and pretty so they’ll still be attracted to her might shatter the fantasy for some older listeners. The ahjumma VIPs won’t be happy!)
“Bae Bae” is da bomb, but the other new single, “Loser,” is the real winner of the two. It’s melancholy BIGBANG at their finest–vulnerable, aggressive, and emotionally potent. The self-loathing lyrics will really hit home with lonely South Korean listeners living in one of the suicide capitals of the world.
In typical YG fashion, the accompanying music videos are about as subtle as a sledgehammer. “Bae Bae” is filled with all kinds of blatantly erotic imagery –ejaculating syringes, vagina flowers, extreme wetness– while the ridiculous overacting in “Loser” is so hammy it makes your average Korean melodrama look as emotionally restrained as a Nicolas Winding Refn film. This tastelessly over-the-top approach works fine for “Bae Bae” (nobody expects K-pop to be understated), but it turns “Loser” into a joke so I recommend pretending that the latter MV doesn’t even exist.
Overall, BIGBANG fulfilled every high expectation I had for their comeback, just as I knew they would. I can’t stand YG Entertainment and the only BIGBANG member I like is Seungri, but even I can still recognize BIGBANG as one of the best boy bands in the world.
And to think, this is only the very beginning of their return. They have about six more singles to come, and if there anything like this, then MADE might even be better than Alive.