G-Dragon Gets Personal With Eponymous 'Kwon Ji Yong' EP

G Dragon, "Untitled, 2014"
Courtesy Photo

G Dragon, "Untitled, 2014"

K-pop’s most out-of-the-box icon gets up close and personal with Kwon Ji Yong, G-Dragon’s first solo album in four years.

The BIGBANG member, whose given name forms the EP's title, dropped the album on Thursday (June 8), offering up part of his soul through the five tracks. Beginning with lead single “Untitled 2014,” Kwon Ji Yong is G-Dragon at his most vulnerable as he reflects on his career, successes, and regrets through a variety of sonic styles.

Renowned for his avant-garde approach to music, art, and fashion, G-Dragon tones things down for the lead track. For a single from one of K-pop’s most colorful artists, “Untitled 2014” comes as a bit of a shock. The evocative, simple piano ballad has the K-pop icon singing -- not rapping, as he tends to do on singles -- mournfully about a past romance (presumably from 2014). “If I can see you one more time, I can give up everything,” he croons, not as the stage persona G-Dragon but as Kwon Ji Yong, the more private, intimate side of the 28-year-old Korean superstar who has been in the limelight since childhood.

The single is paired with an emotive music video that shows little more than G-Dragon singing pensively amidst ambient lighting. Shot in one take, its sparsity matches the song's melody while its captivating colors reflect the complexity of lyrics. It's unembellished and earnest, fitting for a single that presents the simplest, most honest version of himself that the K-pop star has ever put forward.

But, since it’s G-Dragon and he showcased his softer side on “Untitled 2014,” the rest of Kwon Ji Yong is a bit more experimental. Nestled between a playful intro (“Middle Fingers Up”) and a haunting alt-R&B outro (“Divina Commedia”) are the EP's two other tracks, “Bullshit” and “Super Star,” followed by “Untitled 2014” as the fourth song on the album.

Originally announced as the lead single, “Bullshit” is a profanity-filled hip-hop song with a pulsating chorus flanked by sudden beat and rhythm changes. It’s a multi-layered track that references G-Dragon’s past, directly referencing “Crayon” by title, while the barking recalls his Diplo-Baauer collab, “Coup d’Etat.” 

“Super Star” is a laid back, groovy song that sounds like the beach-perfect slow jam fused with trap, filled with brassy drums, Middle Eastern horns, lilting synths, and a backing chorus. But, as reflective as the rest of the album, the lyrics depict G-Dragon’s inner feelings, and they’re filled with gloom and loneliness, despite the musician achieving all the wealth -- BIGBANG made more than Maroon 5 in 2016 -- and success he previously dreamed of. “I need somebody,” he raps over the bouncy melody, “I ain’t got nobody.” 

An extremely personal work, Kwon Ji Yong puts G-Dragon’s inner thoughts out in the public through a variety of sounds but remains cohesive through its lyrics, as if requesting listeners to forget the singer’s celeb stature and momentarily hear the thoughts of a man struggling with the present he’s achieved through his past efforts.

Like the content, Kwon Ji Yong is radical in its physical form; G-Dragon’s latest was released with a USB rather than taking the typical, CD route.

Though it’s been out for less than 24 hours, Kwon Ji Yong is already making waves. Upon its release, it went to No. 1 on the iTunes Album Chart in the U.S., beating out Ed Sheeran’s ÷ (Deluxe) for the top spot. According to Korean media, the EP topped iTunes Albums charts in 39 countries upon its release, poising Kwon Ji Yong for success on the Billboard 200, where his last album, 2013's Coup d'Etat debuted at No. 182. 

The album comes ahead of G-Dragon’s upcoming world tour, which begins in Seoul on June 10 and will come to the States in July. It’s also a time filled with consternation in the Korean music industry for G-Dragon’s fellow BIGBANG member T.O.P, after he was indicted on charges of smoking marijuana and, following the indictment, was hospitalized for an apparent overdose on sleeping meds.

Watch the music video for “Untitled 2014" below: