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K-Pop Korner: Big Bang – Fantastic Baby (빅뱅 – 판타스틱 베이비)

May 3, 2012

Big Bang bounce back to babble barbaric beats into our battered brains.

Actually, they’ve been “back” for about two months now but that’s how long it has taken me to ensnare a passing flying fuck and get around to telling you all about it. Their latest mini-album, ‘Alive’, was released on February 29th and they appear to have thrown out three singles in quick succession thereafter. Of these songs, two are fairly simpering affairs that merit little further comment, but one of them, ‘Fantastic Baby’, has just the requisite amount of electro-pop charm and a ludicrous enough music video to warrant having the keen eye of the Korner cast upon it.

The song itself is Big Bang aiming for a club anthem and, as such, it’s an uncomplicated affair entreating everyone to dance, dance, dance. The lyrics veer from simplistic hip-hop self-aggrandizement to the abjectly nonsensical, although there is always the possibility that a great deal is being lost in translation.

From one to ten, everything is one level above/ Even if we crazily run on sand, we’re still so agile/ Because the sky is blue enough.

That’s their rather abstract way of saying that they’re hot shit and they follow it later with the insightful line, “Ice, ice, ice, hold up/ Na na na na”. That said, it’s a fairly catchy tune and it gets the job done, but where the K-Pop of YG Entertainment really excels is in the eyeball-fucking insanity of the more elaborate music videos. They’re not always as interesting or amusing as this one; the video for Big Bang’s song ‘Blue’ just has them fannying about in parts of New York, indulging in their favored fetish of chasing after white chicks (something I’ve already observed from G-Dragon and TOP but failed to adequately explore here).

Amidst a dizzying array of random studio sets and bizarre costumes in the video lie some recurring visual themes of hedonism and subversion, albeit sanitized just enough to not fall afoul of the watchful stupidity of the Korean censors. An army of rioting youths wearing gas masks battle against riot police bearing shields that carry symbols and slogans prohibiting music and dance whilst the big banging bad boys urge people to “just go corrupt tonight, go crazy and rave”. Always a laudable sentiment, but that’s not the only thing going on here. Group leader G-Dragon (Kwon Ji-young) appears sitting on a concrete throne from which his hair is seen to flow into blood-red tendrils spreading out over the floor of the industrial space in what simply must be an allusion to Tetsuo’s grotesque transformation at the end of Akira. Later, the lads are shown in a combination of make-up and lighting that almost gives them the weird effect of being rendered in CGI. Their most masculine member, Tae-yang, scowls behind an array of (presumably fake) tattoos and wears metal armor on one of his arms reminiscent of Jax from Mortal Kombat. TOP, 21st century Korea’s own thin white duke, struts about in a series of ever-altering stylized military officer attire and seems terribly sure of himself for a man with dyed green eyebrows. Finally, as if to prove that their reserves of mind-bending stylistic cool are indeed finite and exhaustible, one of them is shown shirtless and shackled to a wall, angrily flexing his muscles whilst sporting a haircut that looks stolen from a Lego man and another is confined to doing little other than aping Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ routine, surrounded by a bevy of identical vampish females. Did I mention that all this fucking crazy shit starts with a shot of an owl? It does.

Yeah, this kid definitely does not do drugs.

G-Dragon has been mocked here before, boys and girls, he’s been pointedly laughed at, ridiculed, and featured even in a colourful prison sex fantasy I dreamed up on a whim.  I regret my negative sneers now, and looking at this crazed electro-sex pixie realize that he has ultimately had the last laugh. This kid is the honey badger of K-Pop, he just doesn’t give a shit. He also appears to have survived a dope-smoking scandal when he just barely tested positive for marijuana usage in July last year (why the fuck he was even tested in the first place is something of a puzzle). Young GD survived by the hair of his shiny balls, however, due to the marijuana found in his system being mere trace amounts but, since Korea is downright hysterical and ignorant when it comes to drug usage, he was still called on to explain himself and here managed to turn his country’s ignorance and drug culture naiveté to his advantage. He appeared in a number of TV interviews to clarify that he was attending a party in Japan in May 2011 when a fan passed him what he thought to be a normal cigarette and, no, he couldn’t tell the difference in appearance or smell between a pungent funky doobie and the average cigarette. And, knowing nothing about drugs like a good Korean pop idol, why would he? It was a deft move, not least the manner in which he also employed a cunning “blame the Japanese” manoeuvre guaranteed to win over the paternalistic Korean authorities. The nutty little lad got away with it. He stuck it to the man, and is free to swagger about in his fruity fucking jackets evermore. Boom shakalaka.

Big Bang – ‘Fantastic Baby’

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