G-Dragon returned on June 8, 2017 with his self-titled mini-album, Kwon Ji Yong, his first release in 4 years.
The album is musically split between two contrasting sounds: The light, bouncy, youthful, of-the-moment sounding songs with an almost child-like air to them and serious, calm, and intense ballads, most of which are used to give a more personal exploration of G-Dragon the person. The overarching theme of the album is the lack of close and meaningful relationships, particularly one with a significant other, and throughout the record, GD bounces back and forth between desiring that and not giving a fuck about not having it.
We start off with intro song, “Middle Fingers Up.” The melody bounces between three chords, which paired with G-Dragon’s sing-song delivery of the chorus give the song the illusion of being a children’s song. However, the song touches on serious issues like the political corruption in the Korean government, his feelings of not having enough real, meaningful and trusting relationships, and his celebrity.
Next is “Bullshit,” and here is where I think GD falters. The instrumental is the strongest aspect of “Bullshit,” however, substantively it is the weakest song of the album, and at times I even question why it got a spot on this self-titled album. While he gets pretty deep and reflective for the rest of the album, GD is just delivering a good beat with “Bullshit.” He has a few typical rapper moments where he talks about how great he is, etc., but for the most part, the song is not impactful, a stark contrast to the songs that surround it (“Middle Fingers Up” and “Super Star”). Furthermore, the song slips in and out of sounds we’ve heard from G-Dragon as a member of BIGBANG. Redundancy, I feel does not have a place on a self-titled album.
“Super Star” (my favorite song from the album) is Kwon Ji Yong’s crown jewel. This album is all about GD wanting to find a real and meaningful relationship, and “Super Star” puts all of those feelings in one, modern, catchy package. This is a radically new side of G-Dragon. For one, it is the most personal we have seen him and the sound is fresh and unique in his vast discography, both as a soloist and a member of a group.
We then transition, quite roughly, into “Untitled, 2014,” the album’s lead single. “Untitled” is an odd fit for the album. I personally am very rarely a fan of rappers becoming ballad singers because it VERY RARELY works. And, unfortunately, that is the case here. G-Dragon is not a bad singer, he manages, but it feels and sounds unnatural. Even in the video, he doesn’t seem to be in his element.
In addition, this single’s place on the album is, jarring to say the least. The first three songs are all upbeat, and out of nowhere we’re throw a curveball in the form of a ballad. On a mini album, there is really no way to have multiple genres because there is no way to transition flawlessly.
The subject transition, however, was wonderful. You go from “Superstar” which is GD lamenting about wanting to have a substantive relationship with someone and then it goes into “Untitled” where he gets more specific and seems to be discussing the specific relationship he wants or wants back, but the musical transition needed work.
G-Dragon closes the album with “Divina Commedia” on which he does a in depth reflection on his life, what fame has given him and taken from him, what he has managed to do in the last 30 years, and what things he has learned that he will take into the next “ACT” of his life. The song is a bit reminiscent of the sounds we hear from Coup D’etat. But following these bouts of self-reflection, this song, as a musing of his life to this point it a fitting end to his self-titled album.
When an artist releases their self-titled, you can expect reflection, you can expect to know and feel where they are at that point in life. My first feeling after completing the album was comforted. I felt a sense of comfort on his future as Kwon Ji Yong, but also as the artist G-Dragon, like he knows what he wants/needs to do from this point forward.
He slipped up at times, particularly in the execution of the album, which could have been avoided had this been a full-length album and he had given the room to explore genres and narratives deeper than it did.
Yet, this self-titled delivers the things we love most from G-Dragon: Personality, beats you can dance to — but Kwon Ji Yong takes it a step further by really reflecting on his life as the artist G-Dragon, as just Kwon Ji Yong, and where that has gotten him mentally and with what mentality he will be taking into the next stage of life. It is the most personal we have seen GD get and that made for a solid album.
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop, R&B/Soul | Release Date: 06/08/17
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