As the Internet celebrates Lin Manuel-Miranda and Leonardo DiCaprio landing on the Time 100 list, a South Korean boy band was quietly beating everyone from President Barack Obama to Beyoncé on the Time 100 Most Influential of 2016 reader poll. BIGBANG is barely a household name in America, but speak their name in South Korea, and you’ll probably get screams of ardour from their countless fans.
Now they’re gaining recognition in the States, with their ranking on the Time poll and their 2015 world tour stops in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles selling out despite not releasing any records in the U.S.
It’s all very exciting for a group that is just reaching its 10th year in the music industry, but that buzz is tinged with bittersweetness, as the three oldest members of the band ready themselves for two-year mandatory military enlistment at the end of this year and next year. Despite the finality of that sentence, BIGBANG is still a boy band worth your time and your devotion.
Who is BIGBANG?
BIGBANG is the biggest K-pop boy band across the Pacific, but to compare them to One Direction would be unfair. Even comparing them to NSYNC or the Backstreet Boys at their peak would be unfair. For one, BIGBANG dabbles in everything from hip-hop, to R&B, electro pop and trap — and for another, they’re no longer boys.
All men in their late 20s, G-Dragon, Taeyang, T.O.P., Daesung and Seungri buck boy band convention by proving that they are each the most important member of the band.
G-Dragon, the gremlin-like leader and rapper of the group who writes and produces most of the BIGBANG’s songs, has two full-length albums and several EPs — collaborating with artists like Diplo, Skrillex and Missy Elliott — while gracing the front rows of Paris fashion weeks. Lead singer Taeyang boasts two solo albums as well, and has established himself as one of the country’s foremost R&B vocalists. Deep-voiced rapper T.O.P. has formed a fairly successful movie career for himself, while the two youngest, powerhouse singer Daesung and manic mood-maker Seungri, have built out their careers in variety shows and acting.
Why should we care?
BIGBANG -- unofficially called the “kings of K-pop” -- are old pros in the increasingly youthful K-pop industry, still beating out newbie boybands and girl groups every year in both awards and album sales. Their latest album, M.A.D.E., released in 2015 as a series of EPs, was so successful that three separate songs won “Song of the Year” at Korean awards shows.
BIGBANG started out in the cog-like “idol” industry (a term for boy bands and girl groups put through rigorous training for years before they debut) before breaking out in 2008 with their self-written and self-produced songs — until then, a rarity for an “idol” group.
Since then, they’ve been at the forefront of the Korean music wave, beating Britney Spears for the MTV Europe Music Awards’ “Best Worldwide Act” in 2011, cracking the Billboard 200 in 2012, and in 2015, holding the largest K-pop arena tour in U.S. history.
Listen to them if you like: Rihanna, The Weeknd, Diplo
While they’re not above a good old-fashioned pop song, BIGBANG has become more known for punchy club bangers and trippy electronica. Their roots remain in emotional hip-hop though, with their first self-penned mid-tempo hit Lies still influencing their sound today. Two songs, Bae Bae and Loserfrom their M.A.D.E. album, embody their range from trap-influenced electro pop to acoustic-leaning hip hop.
Source: USA TODAY