Moving at lightning speed with a new group here and a new hit song there, the K-pop world isn’t built for longevity. But the industry has changed over the past few years and acts are maintaining their popularity longer than ever. Among the groups looking to keep the music playing, no act has enthralled the Korean music world in the past decade quite like BIGBANG. Since their first performance in Seoul on August 19, 2006, the quintet has led K-pop with a dominating style of music that surpasses genre boundaries to formulate BIGBANG’s unique style.
After initially pursuing a hip-pop and R&B-inspired sound, the group has paved a path filled with experimental bangers and melancholic, reflective ballads. Fronted by the fashion forward singer-songwriter G-Dragon, BIGBANG has become one of the most recognizable Asian acts around the globe through their work together as well as the different sides of their musical selves displayed on individual and unit releases. Individually, the five members — G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, Daesung,and Seungri — have built their own careers: all of the members have released solo albums, several have joined together to form subunits, and many have pursued acting and other art forms. But, as many fans (known as VIPs) will tell you, BIGBANG is at its best when all together. Their latest, last year’s MADE album, featured some of the highest charting and best-selling songs in Korea in 2015.
Over the years, BIGBANG’s come out with tracks that have overrun the K-pop fanbase both in South Korea and overseas. We’ve winnowed down their expanse of singles to pick the top 10 to celebrate the anniversary.
Electropop songs were already BIGBANG’s thing in 2011 by the time they dropped “Tonight,” but the single was more nuanced and sophisticated than many of their previous club anthems. Word painting at its finest, “Tonight” is a four-minute sonic journey to one of BIGBANG’s concerts. Fist-pumping beats and applause are layered under the building, heavily autotuned vocals before coming to a conclusion with sudden silence and then picking up again as if returning for an encore.
9. “Bang Bang Bang”
The best-selling single in South Korea in 2015, “Bang Bang Bang” is a thumping power anthem that built off of the group’s highly successful 2012 single “Fantastic Baby.” Like the earlier song, “Bang Bang Bang” has its EDM moments as it picks up in speed with each member’s verse before slowing it down with G-Dragon’s transition into trap and the pulsating chorus that leads to its shift into full-blown banger. Needless to say, the song peaked at no. 1 on the World Digital Song Chart.
8. “Last Farewell”
Step aside for the kings of K-pop. At least, that was what BIGBANG was going for in 2007. Hot off the success of “Lie,” the quintet followed up with a similarly styled dance song that was a bit rowdier as if reveling in their recent rise to fame. Featuring trance and hip-hop elements, “Last Farewell” is one of the group’s early bangers that’s still a fan favorite. The song was extraordinarily popular in South Korea, where it topped music charts for two months thanks to its feel-good vibes. Almost a decade later it still hits the right notes to get everyone’s hands up.
7. “Let’s Not Fall In Love”
The bittersweet “Let’s Not Fall In Love” is one of the group’s most recent songs and, accordingly, one of the most impressive. Keeping with their classic sentimental dance sound, the midtempo tune became BIGBANG’s third no. 1 on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart. From rapper T.O.P anachronistically introducing the track with a sentimental verse to the composition shunning a clearly defined chorus, “Let’s Not Fall In Love” is an alternative to the group’s typical song composition and a display of BIGBANG’s versatility after nearly a decade on top.
With a lilting R&B tune, BIGBANG returned to the Korean music scene after three years away with “Loser,” the first song from last year’s MADE series. Unlike the majority of BIGBANG singles, which typically fall safely in the love song category, “Loser” is one of the group’s most introspective efforts while highlighting the feelings of doubt and unhappiness that accompany the everyday life of a self-proclaimed loser. Cathartic in its misery, “Loser” is one of the most earnest songs that BIGBANG’s ever released. It also became one of the most popular of 2015, topping the World Album Chart for a time before losing its spot to other songs from the MADE series.
5. “Love Song”
While typically veering towards heavily produced electronic dance tracks, “Love Song” is a standout tune in BIGBANG’s discography because of its heavy use of rock. The first single of its kind in the group’s repertoire, the ballad utilizes building strings and overlapping vocals to create an uplifting tone despite the otherwise depressing lyrics. Like the more recently released “Let’s Not Fall In Love,” “Love Song” also differentiates itself from BIGBANG’s typical sound by having T.O.P start things off with a reverberating verse backed by electric guitar. At the time of its release, G-Dragon expressed that the rock elements were BIGBANG’s attempt at creating a warmer, more familiar sound for listeners to seek comfort in rather than the more exhilarating electronic style the band typically favors.
4. “Bad Boy”
The group’s 2012 Alive album and the repackage Still Alive, which included “Bad Boy, “Blue,” “Fantastic Baby” and “Monster,” is objectively one of the group’s best eras and each song is iconic in its own way. But “Bad Boy” stands out from the others by being the epitome of BIGBANG’s unique brand of evocative hip-hop. With it’s mellow raps and airy flow the song is a creeping earworm that hits all the right notes without much apparent effort and was an early adopter of the tropical elements so common in Korean hip-hop nowadays.
There’s never been a more recognizable dial tone in Korean history as the one in the start of “Lies.” The 2007 hip-pop song was the first hit from the quintet, which had previously edged away from pop to rely more heavily on typical rap and R&B sounds. The thumping chorus and rhymes, especially T.O.P’s hyperactive rap halfway through the song, paired with the delicate vocals won over South Korea and was one of the year’s most memorable songs.
2. “Fantastic Baby”
It would, arguably, be enough to say “Wow!” and end this blurb here. Even though it’s in second place, “Fantastic Baby” was the first song to cross international boundaries with it’s then-groundbreaking EDM style.The party track contains some of the group’s most recognizable lines ,“Wow. Fantastic baby” and “Boomshakalaka!” in particular, and remains a highlight of BIGBANG’s repertoire at any concert. Whereas the group’s latest attempt to recreate the fun of “Fantastic Baby,” last year’s “Bang Bang Bang,” isn’t quite up to par, the 2012 hit is nothing short of fantastic.
1. “Haru Haru”
While “Lies” rocketed the group to fame the year before, it was “Haru Haru” that made the quintet what it is today with its display of BIGBANG’s capacity for both emotive melodies and building dance songs. Heart-wrenching music video aside, the G-Dragon co-written “Haru Haru” (“Day By Day” in English) is the peak of BIGBANG’s artistry to this day. Through the expressiveness of the member’s voices and the overall composition, the song was a breakout hit in 2008 and one of the best-selling Korean songs ever at the time.
Weaving in and out of tempos seamlessly and forcing a sense of anxiety on the listener through the beating undercurrent, “Haru Haru” is an experiential masterpiece. The song begins simply enough with a piano tune and breathy vocals until T.O.P’s deep bass rap explodes to transform it into a hip-hop ballad like none other. G-Dragon and T.O.P’s contrasting rap tones play off one another to offer a sharp change from the passionate vocals of Daesung, Taeyang, and Seungri, while the orchestral accompaniment draws the whole thing to a symphonic peak. Nearly ten years after its release, “Haru Haru” is still the epitome of BIGBANG’s sound.