[Mini-Album] Big Bang – Alive

An album made with too much hype, too much expectation and too much angst.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Big Bang’s new album ever since T.O.P’s ridiculous teaser depicting him as a hospitalised leather daddy surfaced on the internet. Not because I’m a particularly huge fan of Big Bang—I would hardly describe myself as anything remotely resembling a VIP—but due to the hype surrounding their long-awaited comeback.

The first thing I did this morning was get my hands on a copy of this hot little mini-album. I avoided YG Entertainment’s stream of teaser audio clips so I could fully appreciate the tracks the moment the album dropped. Perhaps had I spoiled myself with the previews I might have been saved by the overwhelming disappointment I was faced with after completing my first play-through. I thought Blue was going to be the only downside to the album; however it just appeared to be another notch in a series of mellow soft-pop tracks creating an album made with too much hype, too much expectation and too much angst.

I’ve previously expressed how irked I am by introductory tracks and INTRO (ALIVE) is no exception. It’s a superfluous inclusion which offers nothing the album title doesn’t already provide. We get it, Big Bang: you’re still alive. Even if it doesn’t seem like it with this album.

I first want to talk about Blue. This track was released with an accompanying MV prior to the official album drop on February 29—I see what you did there, YG—and is, to be frank, a disappointment. Whoever’s decision it was to promote an upcoming album with a yawn-inducing ballad should seriously rethink their career in the music industry. While VIP will defend Blue’s emotional depth and beauty until they pass out from lack of oxygen to the brain, the fact remains the song is boring and not the best choice for instilling excitement within the average Kpop consumer. And this is not just a stab at Big Bang or YG Entertainment: I question the decisions of all labels that drop a ballad as the first taste of a new album. MBLAQ, I’m looking at you.

When I saw Bad Boy was released with an MV alongside the album I assumed this track to be the trump card, something powerful to compensate for the gentle and depressing Blue. But once again Big Bang betrayed my expectations. While Bad Boy is not the yawn-fest that is Blue, it presents itself in a very similar manner and severely damages the depth of the album. 사랑먼지[Love Dust] and 재미없어[Ain’t No Fun] are just as bland. While slightly more upbeat than the previously discussed tracks, they are still cut in much the same fashion and do not inspire me to continue listening outside the requirements of this review. 재미없어[Ain’t No Fun] is exactly as the title suggests—no fun. The vocals are flat and the rap devoid of attitude, passion and personality, which seems a common theme throughout Alive.

FANTASTIC BABY is the one saving grace of this mini-album. It’s fun, funky and damn ridiculous. It’s very much out of place amongst the other tracks and this might make it stand out more than it should. Regardless, this is the best track on the album purely for its disco-like shuffle beat and fabulous lyric boom shakalaka.  It’s a refreshingly boppy dance track and the only real indication that Big Bang is in fact Alive.

Finally, this brings me to Daesung’s solo endeavour 날개[Wings]. I’m not sure why they used the limited track space on such an anticipated release by shortening group activities to make space for a solo but in this case it was not a bad move. 날개[Wings] is the second and final little gem buried amongst an overwhelming pile of dirt. With his vocals arguably his best feature, Daesung certainly showcases his beautiful talent with a track that actually has some notion of tonal depth. 날개[Wings] and FANTASTIC BABY are the only songs containing energy and consequently the only ones which stand out. Needless to say, it’s a little depressing for Big Bang as a group when a solo outshines the group projects.

Alive is an over-pumped, over-anticipated disappointment. Having been out of the industry for quite some time (and in the spot-light for all the wrong reasons) I expected them to come back with a little more punch. Instead I was provided with a remorseful pile of angst, with members expressing their Blues and apologising for their Bad Boy ways. It’s a nice sentiment but not something around which a whole album should be based.

Big Bang, you can do better.