Last week, Kpop fans eagerly awaited the new release from Kpop legends, Big Bang. G-Dragon and Taeyang took to twitter to drop their newest single, “Good Boy.” And we have nothing but good things to say about these boys. “Good Boy” is the latest in a long line of club bangers from these heavyweights. It ranked high on Korean music charts, such as Mnet, Cyworld, and Naver, but is also number one in Hong Kong and Tawian according to iTunes music charts. The music video for “Good Boy” boasts over a million views, despite its release only a few days ago.
A song like “Good Boy” has been a long time coming for the Kpop genre. Too often songs are lackluster or mediocre, released just for the sake of keeping fans interested and emptying their wallets. “Good Boy” sounds nothing like Big Bang's “Haru Haru,” released half a decade ago. But we don't expect it to. In that time, the members of the group have grown up in a way that has allowed them to exercise musical freedom and learn from their mistakes. The result is a whole new hard-hitting beast in the Kpop genre and it's about time. For us Kpop fans that are older and don't like to fawn over idols, this shift reminds us about the wealth of talent and creativity in a genre that is too-often bashed for being manufactured and devoid of any real musical credit.
“Good Boy” is a song that is loud and powerful. It takes on a life of its own without needing any introduction or filler. “Good Boy” can be seen as a companion piece to Taeyang's “Ringa Linga” and borrows many of the same visual cues such as the use of black light and neon. However, “Good Boy” takes a decidedly more rebellious tone, as there is a lack of any luxury brands and the party-goers are much rowdier. There is nothing about this MV that represents wealth and excess. Instead, it takes place in a gritty underground club, which is where you're most likely to hear a song like this. Big Bang's leader, G-Dragon has proven himself time and time again to be an innovator in an industry that relies on familiarity. G-Dragon is able to exercise his immense musical talent and ability, having written and arranged “Good Boy” into a catchy and infectious hit. The vocal distortion and piling throughout the chorus and bridges are set against a musical backdrop that is obviously heavily influenced by modern trap (trance/rap) music. Not to be outdone, Taeyang also showcases his undeniable vocal talent and versatility by bringing R&B to trap. Often, vocals are overshadowed by the beat of heavy dance track. In this case however, Taeyang brings an extra layer to the table for an all-around fuller sound.
But what makes “Good Boy” so great is that it blends the East and West in a way that many Kpop groups have attempted with limited success, without sacrificing what makes them inherently “Kpoppy.” G-Dragon and Taeyang are the only male solo Kpop artists to enter in the Billboard 200. G-Dragon's Coup D'etat entered at #182, and Taeyang's Rise premiered at #112. For international artists, this is a big deal since they have the entire Western music industry to compete with. This achievement could be attributed in part to a large influx of Western artists becoming involved in Kpop. The music video for “Good Boy” was directed by Collin Tilley, whose impressive portfolio features Jason Derulo, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Although critically-acclaimed producer Diplo is not officially credited for “Good Boy,” there is no doubt that his influence is felt in the very spirit of the song. YG Entertainment has worked closely with Diplo in the past on massive tracks like GDTOP's “Knockout” and the EDM-inspired “Dirty Vibe” featuring Skrillex, CL and G-Dragon. “Good Boy” features long sections of repeated beats throughout the chorus and verses, breaking only for the bridge. This is a style that trap is known for. By blending together electronic trance with the aggressiveness of 808 drum machines and sampled melodies from original (rap) songs, “Good Boy” carries music cues similar to trap hits Grandtheft's “Mobbin” and TNGHT's “R U Ready.” Of note is the horn that punches out the melody throughout the entire song—a feature that is extremely common in the vast majority of trap. By adopting a relatively gritty genre like trap into a “squeaky clean” one like Kpop, G-Dragon and Taeyang are stretching their musical muscles, and breaking away from the safe haven of “flower boy” pop songs.
Big Bang may be one of the only Kpop groups to reach global fame without having to rely on stereotypes. Unlike Psy, who gained limited and brief popularity through the trope of the funny, overweight Asian man, Big Bang does not rely on the stereotypes of what they should be to Western audiences. Instead, they brand themselves as genuine artists, with a unique identity and sound that is influenced and inspired by global music industry champions. Kpop has always been known for its outrageous but uniquely polished visual and aesthetic style that borrows from Eastern and Western cultures. With more well-known American producers lending their talents to the genre, the argument that Kpop is overly-manufactured and lacks true ability is starting to fade. Not everyone is going to be a fan of Kpop, but with wiggle room afforded to emerging artists, new styles can be adopted that move groups away from bubblegum pop idols into recognizable global artists. Big Bang could very well take over the world, and who are we to say no?
'L' lives in Ontario, Canada. She is a pop culture and media junkie and has helped organize kpop parties and events across Ontario. Her biases are BTS, Block B, M.I.B and Infinite.