YG’s long overdue boy band, and fan-dubbed Big Bang 2.0, WINNER has made their debut with full length album “S/S 2014” as well as a sound and style completely unexpected of, and fresh to their agency.
The first track on the album, and the first of two title song, “공허해 (Empty)” immediately makes an impression as it opens with rapper Minho singing the chorus over a pulsating bass and an airy humming of the rhythm. From there, the song takes a surprising turn towards a much softer sound than expected of a group from Hip Hop central, YGE. The video, just like the song, took a major departure from the visuals typical or expected of a YG produced video. While it was different, it was flawed, in that it was actually rather dull and really did nothing to enhance this solid and beautiful song.
“컬러링 (Color Ring),” their second title song, is even more of a departure from the YG brand, however, this time it was less pleasant a surprise. Just as with “공허해 (Empty)” the video did little, if anything, to enhance the song. And, while yes it was emotional and all that good stuff, there is not as strong a sense of a style or identity like there was with “공허해 (Empty).” Not to mention the product placement was uber heavy-handed. Kudos do go to the boys for allowing all it’s members to even contribute to the song evenly, an aspect many new debuts overlook.
A more YG-esque element comes from “끼부리지마 (Don’t Flirt)“ the album’s resident Reggae number. “사랑하지마 (But),” “Different,” “이 밤 (Tonight),” and “Smile Again“ do their job of supporting the sound established with the album’s title songs. Taehyun solo, “고백하는 거야 (Confession),” helped drive home the point, which was already made clear in the group’s other songs, that he is a strong vocalist and asset to the group in that sense. However, it didn’t show us what makes Taehyun unique as an solo artist, and leaves the question, why did he need a solo? Minho’s solo “걔 세 (I’m Him)“ stood out among the rest of the songs, not for it’s lyrics. which do the usual declaration of rap superiority, but for its heavy beat among WINNER’s chill vibes, and Minho’s ability to make it very clear he is just as strong on his own as he is in the group
“척 (Love is a Lie)” was a real highlight of the album. It’s a bit more typical of what other idols are doing but it’s faster beat caters to the choreography centric aspect WINNER’s identity. For that reason, it would have been a better pick for the second title song rather than “컬러링 (Color Ring)” which, as mentioned, failed to extended and add depth to their style.
While every aspect wasn’t “perfect,” not that I expected it to be, WINNER’s debut hit all the right notes. The fact that these boys don’t sound like any one else in their agency or like any of their ‘competition,’ Bangtan Boys and Got7, sets them apart right out of the gate. They’ve done themselves immense favors by not letting themselves get caught up in the shadows of their legendary labelmates or the demand for edgy, intense idol brand Hip Hop. While they haven’t borrowed from Big Bang’s style, they did take away from their career the importance and difference writing their own music makes, a lesson Big Bang failed to learn until their breakout hit “거짓말 (Lies).”
By releasing such a successful, and frankly strong debut album, it’s not fair to call these boys Big Bang 2.0 and proves that with a little more time and experience this group will easily be able to develop, understand, and hone their musical identity.
공허해 (Empty): 1/1
컬러링 (Color Ring): .5/1
끼부리지마 (Don’t Flirt): .75/1
걔 세 (I’m Him) (민호 (Minho) Solo): 1/1
척 (Love is a Lie): 1/1
고백하는 거야 (Confession) (태현 (Taehyun) Solo): 0/1
사랑하지마 (But): 0/1
이 밤 (Tonight): .25/1
Smile Again: .5/1