KPop Review: BAP’s ‘Badman’

Posted on September 30, 2013

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Time for ‘Badman’. I know this is way overdue and the excitement is long gone, but the song goes hard I got to let my thoughts out. To start off, BAP is finally back to their original hip-hop+rock root (or their signature sound, if you will) with hard-hitting music, powerful vocals, badass raps, and a profound message behind the gritty lyrics per usual. This, my fellas, is the BAP that I fell hood, line and sinker in love with: a splendid mix of gravel and honey, whiskey and dark chocolate, Bennington and Shinoda. I know that they are a versatile group of artists/performers who are capable of tackling many different genres, but songs like ‘Warrior’ and ‘One Shot’ and this new track are what have earned them my lifetime allegiance. (While I’m on it, I think a lot of their non-title tracks in the same category also deserve honorable mentions. ‘What the Hell’, ‘Voice Message’, ‘Coma’, ‘Punch’, ‘Zero’, and more, all hit the right spot just the same.) It is that perfect fusion of genres that makes BAP who they are and sets them apart from other KPop groups. They just own it. (And the magic does not just lie in that alone cuz they’ve truly got mad skills and natural artistic gifts.)

Badman’ in particular follows the conventional BAP formula: dominant rap verses (by Bang and Zelo each), the heightened chorus by the main vocal line (Dae-Jae), the pre-chorus riff where the subvocals (Him Chan – Jong Up) join in, the dance break serving as a respite (Jong Up – Zelo), and finally the soaring, climactic notes by Dae Hyun, the high-note master. (Speaking of which, I think Chen of EXO is sure giving him a run of his money, though to me Dae Hyun still comes out of top with his rare honeyed voice that’s forever irreplaceable in my heart of hearts. Reason I’m bringing Chen up is because I think the title also deservedly belongs to him. I’m obviously more biased towards Dae Hyun, but I honestly think both singers are equally amazing when it comes to high notes. It is a matter of personal preference after all. I just love Dae’s voice the most. It’s got that rock feel that suits BAP to a tee. *basks in Dae’s eargasmic vocals.)

There was this part of ‘Badman‘ though, that totally caught me off guard: the melodious awakening by Dae Hyun at the beginning before Bang entered with his rap verse. It gave off the dark, compelling mood of the song right off the bat, without necessitating prior knowledge of the lyrics. (When I checked out the lyrics to that, they were actually spot-on: /The despair that I hear in the darkness/The world that is ridden with fear/) I got goosebumps by just listening to Dae’s haunting voice, and I could sense that feeling of despondency when he sang that part. His chest register was just perfect for that part. (It was by all means a testament to how amazing his range is as a singer. He flies up and down octaves of notes with finesse.)

The solemnity then quickly escalated to unbridled rage with the the thrilling shift from Dae Hyun’s wail of despair to BYG ‘s scathing diatribe. It was as though a wrecking ball was being pulled slowly to its fullest extent and then released to swing full force with maximum momentum. I loved that entire act of subversion by Yong Guk. His rap lyrics were just as audacious as his delivery. I felt his passion – and his wrath. (/This is a war against crime/I will repay you the exact same way/Tooth for a tooth/Eye for an eye/Remember those words/There’s no forgiveness in us/)

Another surprising turn was the drop right after the chorus with the switch of bass line and the addition of vinyl scratch sound. The obtrusive beat layered with Zelo’s rap effectively captured a sense of chaos and urgency as expressed by the lyrics. (At first, the abrupt switch to Zelo’s part felt a little jarring to me, but after a few listens I got why they did that.) I was actually sort of anticipating Zelo’s LTE rap, but alas it didn’t happen. I thought it would give the song more power and the desired intensified effect if he actually did that. (On the other hand, I was quite chuffed with BYG’s rap this time. I love it when he goes aggressive.) Oh well, at least I still got a kick out of Zelo’s unique delivery style/diction.

In the vocal department, BAP also did a good job with the progressive sequence leading to the chorus. I enjoyed the swift shifts of vocals between Young Jae, Him Chan, Jong Up and Dae Hyun. They exchanged lines smoothly. Young Jae and Him Chan went for the lower notes while Jong Up and Dae Hyun took charge of the higher ones, which I thought was in line with their areas of strength. Here, all four vocalists -main and sub- were equally involved in a portion of the song, which unfortunately does not always happen in all BAP’s tracks. (Sometimes it just saddens me how Him Chan and Jong Up got barely any lines in a song.) Him Chan’s low raspy voice is actually very suitable for grungy songs like this. I don’t get why he always gets third-rate treatment when it comes to part distribution. C’mon TS, give him his fair share! On the upside, I can’t be the only one to notice Jong Up’s vocal improvement. (I heard that he recently took extra vocal lessons just for this album.) I see your potential, Moonie.  Just hope that TS will be generous enough to give you more lines in the future.

My other favorite part of the song was during the break when they performed the symbolic cleansing-of-the-sin moves while wailing the hypnotizing chant. The plaintive “Badmaaaan” was a fitting accompaniment for the ‘Cross Dance’. It was as if they were in the middle of a tribal rite or something. I was digging it. Some folks actually made a comment that the ‘Badman’ chant sounded Middle Eastern, but honestly I did not quite get it. If it really turned out to be Middle-eastern inspired as they speculated, then more power to this song, I’d say. The song touched upon a universal subject matter and I think the symbolisms worked as an approach to reach out to all kinds of people. Even if the subtext was ambiguous (especially when the lyrics were taken into account), this part was still stirring one way or another.

For the most part, I think ‘Badman‘ was a solid comeback. It’s got pretty much everything I want in a BAP song. I must admit, though, that it took me a few listens to truly grasp the awesomeness of ‘Badman‘ because first, it was one complex song in and of itself. (I see BAP’s grown musically. But then again, I experienced the same thing with a lot of their previous tracks. I had a hard time getting into ‘Power‘ and ‘Zero‘ at first, but once I did, it was game over for me. There was no way out.) Secondly, there was the crazy music video that kept me from totally immersing myself in the song. Like there was so much shit going on in the MV, I could not concentrate on the music alone. Instead of focusing on the song, my brain was too busy processing all the visual information. It was not until I listened to the audio only that I started to feel the song and get hooked.

The MV was indeed a doozie. I think I replayed it for gazillion of times just to figure out what was really going on during that intense 3 minutes 57 secs. I think this would the first time I actually analyzed and pondered over a music video. I even had to read thoughts of other fans/viewers for their keen insights and interpretations. (I would have missed out on lots of little details if not for their commentaries.) Also, the MV strongly ties in with the lyrics, so knowing the lyrics beforehand would definitely help understand it so as to avoid fallacies. Mixed reactions, heated discourse and controversies were just inevitable, though, since things portrayed in the MV could be interpreted in multiple ways.  (Some people even brought up the issues of violence, racism, and the image of Detroit. Those are good discussion fodder I see, but I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to read too much into stuff and make things complicated here.) There were a lot of moot points, but at least I got the point Yong Guk was trying to get across, i.e to fight oppression and the perpetrators till the last drop of blood.

All things considered, I gotta give them credit for taking the music video to whole new heights. Being able to film a blockbuster-scale music video in Detroit with hundreds of local extras involved is no trivial achievement, especially for a rookie group. What I love more is the fact that the MV is actually meaty and relevant, not just mere grandiosity shoved down the viewers’ throat. I loved the realness portrayed in all the scenes, all the symbolisms and their implied meanings. (The ‘Dad’s gone’ flag, the kissing couple, the care bear saying ‘Stop’, the gunshot, etc. were all powerful pointers.)  My respect goes to BAP (Yong Guk especially) for making music their outlet to speak their minds and raise awareness.

My rating: 5/5. Badass music, a thought-provoking work of art.

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Posted in: BAP, K-Pop