My just over three-year-old iPhone 5 probably doesn't get as much use as your phone does. I don't use it to text, take pictures, surf the net, navigate or even make calls - my call log shows just three calls made since December 25, 2015. But it does accompany me whenever I leave the house because it has the app I use to track my walking distance. It also has the Q-Link garage door app which links to the Nest thermostat as well and the shopping list app I share with my wife plus the phone case serves as my wallet, holding my driver's license, insurance cards and a debit card. The keychain I carry has just a key fob for the Blueberry, two house keys, and a mailbox key so my pockets remain fairly empty most of the time. Where the phone gets the most use is in the Blueberry, where it allows me to play my cached Spotify tracks over Bluetooth or one of two wired connections. Despite its non-use as a communications device, I have always made it a point to change both the ringtone and text tone regularly just because I can and I am always looking for a unique sound. (I'm only talking about the general tones here, not the specifically chosen ones assigned to friends and family.) Since early December 2015 however, both tones have remained the same: various lengths of the chorus of BigBang's "Bang Bang Bang" which burrowed deep into my brain the first time I heard it on the weekly k-pop countdown I listen to and eventually made my extremely limited edition - only two copies burned - Top 20 Songs of 2015 mix disc. (Though you can look at or listen to the Spotify version if you are curious what my selections were.)
For many I suspect, "Bang Bang Bang" embodies all that is wrong with pop music today: unintelligible lyrics (they are Korean with a sprinkling of English), overly processed vocal effects and tired club beats. For me, the song offers irresistible hooks above all else, as each group member performs a verse or a rap. The official video (above) is all kinds of over-the-top WTF ridiculousness: armored assault vehicles, cowboy-hatted rapper assaulting an astronaut, bouncing lowriders, custom motorcycles, flame throwers and plenty of costume changes. At times Big Bang almost resembles a Koren-style Village People - love that Bearskin cap that rapper T.O.P. wears after he seemingly slays the astronaut with just his mad rap skillz. BigBang will celebrate their tenth anniversary together - though all five members sing, act and create outside of the group as well - in August 2016 and have been variously labeled as "Kings of K-Pop" and "the biggest boy band in the world" selling nearly 100 million downloads, setting chart records and winning just about every award offered in the Asian region. Their ages range from 25-28.
One of the unique things about K-pop is the frequent dance practice videos that are released showing group members walking through the choreography as a sort of dress rehearsal for their many public appearances. The members of BigBang opt to wear their street clothes as they go through my longtime go-to move, the thumbs in waistband shoulder pop and other moves while their dancers come in and out of the finger-pistol heavy choreography.
This television performance is from June 2015, when the single was released. Rather than release and album, the boys released four double-sided singles, with each released given a letter as its title. This was the second single of the bunch and bears the letter "A" - the preceding single was "M" and the final two were "D" and "E" - all together they were the MADE Series. You may have noticed that T.O.P.'s blue leather jacket has MADE across the front in two of the videos above. The single's flip-side was the familiar-to-me sounding "We Like 2 Party", a much more mellow and chill counterpart the manic, frantic "Bang Bang Bang." By the end of the month, the songs occupied the top 2 positions on the Gaon Digital Chart. The Korean charts are highly competitive and it is rare for a song to spend more than one week at the top before "the next big thing" comes along. In 2015, BigBang spent seven weeks at Number One with four different songs including "Bang Bang Bang" which spent a week at the top.
Another interesting and somewhat necessary aspect of K-Pop for English speaking fans is the lyric video. The one above features the song's lyrics in Hangul (the intricate characters at the top), Romanization (using Western English alphabet to spell Korean words) and English. As expected, the lyrics are straightforward and do not translate too well but basically the song seems to be a call to arms, a call to party. The color-coded aspect helps the viewer tell which one of the members is singing a particular part. While the lyrics video above has over 2 million views on YouTube, the countdown appearance up above has 21 million and the official music video has 128 million. Even the dance practice video has 33 million views. On Spotify, the track has 13 million listens. All total, that's just under 200 million impressions. It's not a billion but its a lot. In case you were wondering, there are 23 videos on YouTube with more than a billion views. Psy's "Gangnam Style" - still the only K-pop song most English speakers know - is the only one with more than 2 billion views on his way to 3 billion by end of 2016.
Japan is the second only to the US in size of its music industry - they still buy TONS of compact discs in addition to downloading and streaming - so to increase their appeal to Japanese fans, K-Pop bands will dub their own videos with Japanese language lyrics. The video above is the same albeit shorter and the Japanese dub makes it interesting don't you think? T.O.P.'s rap especially stands out to my ears as does the last few lines of the chorus but the Bang Bang Bang remains the same. Watch them perform in Japanese in this TV appearance from February 8, 2016.
I can't really explain why but I love listening to this song and have played it at least a hundred times in the Blueberry, where as any number of pedestrians and passing cars can attest, it sounds great at loud volumes with the sub THUMPING. It didn't occur to me until very recently to go back and check out their music video after catching just a glimpse of it on the countdown because my first thought was "I hope it's on Spotify so I can listen to it whenever and wherever I want to." But as the myriad videos here show, there is a lot of BigBang "Bang Bang Bang" videos. I'll leave you with a couple of awards show performances with the crowds screaming along and end it all with a clip from their sold-out tour stop in Tokyo which features a subtly different music backing track with the boys singing the lyrics in Korean.
Melon Music Awards November 7, 2015
Golden Disc Awards January 20, 2016
Concert performance in Shanghai, China, June 2015
Concert performance in Hong Kong, June 2015