Are you ready to be hit in the face with a coin sack full of knowledge? Get this: not all of the most popular music in Japan comes from Japan. Granted, it isn’t easy to gaijin to become the biggest acts in the country, but artists like Rihanna and Katy Perry can be counted on to sell out big shows in glorious Nippon without much effort. A glimpse at the Oricon charts, though, shows that, for the most part, the top selling albums and singles come from within the country, which makes the exception made with MADE, the chart-topping third album from South Korean boy band Big Bang, stand out as an even greater anomaly than if foreigners regularly made the list.
I recognize that there are some who don’t understand why I’d find it shocking that Japanese people have bought music made by South Korean artists in droves. I’d like to go into why, but there’s too much. There’s seriously too much. The extremely short history lesson is that these countries spent an extremely long time in conflict with each other, a conflict that some feel still isn’t resolved, and that, at its worst, racial tensions between the countries were worse than relations between white and black people in the United States have ever been. There’s a lot more to this story than that, but I think you get the picture. If you’re interested in learning more, you might be best off starting with this Wikipedia article.
Even taking centuries of conflict out of the equation (hey, I don’t live in Japan, maybe the general public have put centuries of conflict behind them) still makes MADE’s charting an anomaly. Or, rather, it would until you either read the Wikipedia page or listen to the damn thing yourself. Listening to it made me say “Wow, every song here could be a single”. Sure enough, every track here has its own Wikipedia page, with every song either being a proper single or a song that charted, which means it is doing the business of a single, so why the fucking shitass Christ isn’t it called a single, but I’m getting off track. It is a downright American approach, so I suppose I can’t be too angry, but it basically telegraphs that everything here is supposed to sell.
Big Bang are fine with selling out, it seems. Almost all of their songs, a surprising number of which are sung in English, are about how they like having girlfriends and how lovely you are for being their girlfriends and girlfriend girlfriend girlfriend, girlfriend girlfriend girlfriend. Opening track “Fxxk It” uses the phrase “girl I wanna get down” twenty-seven times. Track three is called “Girlfriend”. Guess what “Bae Bae” is about. Long story short, Big Bang aren’t afraid of doing boy band shit, which is smart business I suppose but also means they’re occupying the same emotional space NSYNC were at in 1999, which was eighteen years ago.
That said, MADE is a damn fun listen. For as simplistic as its themes and conjured emotions are, Big Bang’s backing beats are beastly bangers that could get the dead to tap their toes. It’ll never be mistaken for a Justin Timberlake joint, but it is the sonically diverse and accomplished dance-pop record I’ve heard this year. I’ll cop to dancing to this shit in the shower, which is dangerous and you shouldn’t do it. It is strong enough that I feel comfortable giving MADE a hearty recommendation if you’re into having dumb fun. If you hate boy band music on principle…well, c’mon, just give one of the above embeds a chance, you’ve made it this far.VERDICT: OWN
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