K-pop fans have short attention spans, especially the ones that pledge their devotion to YG Entertainment, so I understand why BIGBANG decided to release their MADE album as four separate double A-side singles, one per month, until the full album is available.
The campaign started off strong with the glistening “Bae Bae” and the beautifully emo Live Journal entry “Loser,” but the following singles have either been a retread of BIGBANG’s past hits or just a little lacklustre compared to the first two.
It’s not that anything from the MADE series has been bad, it’s just hard not to feel disappointed when they fly out the gate with “Bae Bae” and then nothing else is nearly as good. Who wants to peak this early?
Their latest effort, “Sober,” is essentially the BIGBANG version of G-Dragon’s “Crooked.” I wish they’d go full New Wave with it, but instead it’s artificial pop-rock and a cheap dance beat engineered in a studio that’s probably never seen a live instrument before. If GD revealed that he produced it on his iPad I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.
Lyrics about the struggle to get through the troubles of life without alcohol are great, even poignant, turning “Sober” into a fun kind of anti-drinking drinking anthem. I could definitely sing along to it with my friends towards the end of a big boozy night, but in my current sober state I can’t muster up much more than a little gentle head nodding.
The other a-side, “If You,” is a weepy ballad that kind of rip-offs the greatest ballad of all time, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” I thought I was just being extra at first, but then I heard those flutes towards the end and it became clear that “If You” was at least somewhat inspired by Led Zep.
BIGBANG’s attempt isn’t terrible, but other contemporary bands have done far better reimaginings of “Stairway To Heaven,” like The Black Keys’ incredible “Little Black Submarines.” Next to a real rock song like that, BIGBANG’s “If You” comes off like one of those cheesy covers albums from a talent show contestant where all the tracks are butchered and remixed to sound more pop or R&B. Judging it purely as a Korean boy band ballad, then I’d say it’s pretty good (although the bar is set pretty low…).
The MADE series seemed like a cool idea at the start, but now I just wish that BIGBANG would revert back to their Alive era promotional strategy with just three really strong singles instead of eight uneven ones. Unless you’re Michael Jackson circa Bad you’re just not going to get eight killer singles off of one album. Even Hot 100 queen Katy Perry needed a repackage to achieve that.