"Nirilia" does the unexpected by referencing a famous Korean folk song by the same name (4minute performed a modernized version of it earlier this year on 'Immortal Song 2') in the same breath as a reference to J. Dash's "Wop", better known as the-song-Miley-Cyrus-twerked-to. It's pretty clear that the point of this song was to celebrate the fun of having Missy Elliott feature, and it does deliver in that department. We've seen the modern-music-blended-with-traditional-Korean-instruments thing many times before, but having a western artist on the song is a new twist on the genre. The song itself isn't terribly too exciting aside from Missy Elliott's feature, but like how "COUP DE'TAT" comes to life in MV form, "Nirilia" comes to life on stage, so we can all be glad that Missy and GD got the chance to perform it together for 'M Countdown in LA'.
"R.O.D." ft. Lydia Paek takes things in a weird direction, taking a simple, breezy track and putting it over a confusing, dubsteppy instrumental that strangles the charm of an otherwise cute song. Experimentation is great, but it's not clear what this experiment was getting at, and the result is more awkward and confused than catchy. The best part of the song kicks in around the three minute mark, when the dubstep dies for a moment and GD and Lydia sing mostly a cappela.
GD really shines as a storyteller, as evidenced on "Black" and "Who You?", where simple instrumentals accompany emotional delivery that never feels too cheesy or overwrought. While fresh-faced teenager Jennie Kim isn't particularly convincing as a world-weary, black-hearted woman and perhaps a different guest vocalist would have been more appropriate for "Black", GD himself finds a perfectly balanced depiction of sorrow and resignation to fate on both tracks. The storytelling continues on rock-infused "Runaway", which sees GD turning the creepiness of 'Heartbreaker''s "Obsession" on himself. The song retains sinister overtones while still sounding fun- or at least as fun as a song about being stalked can sound.
"Crooked" is a real highlight of the album. The song itself is a punky reminder of Big Bang's "Oh My Friend" days, and GD's portrayal of a young man strung out on his own grief with nowhere to hide is painfully convincing. While his use of symbolism can be a bit heavy-handed at times, the subtle career parallels in "Crooked" add to the story instead of overwhelming it- particularly the collapse at the end of the video and live performances. In the end 2012's "Crayon", G-Dragon collapsed from having had too much fun- in "Crooked", he subverts that image to bring us the darker side of getting one's cray-on.
The album ends with "You Do", which seems on the surface to be an ode to success through hard work and dedication. However, as the spunky handclaps of the intro give way to a sharp snare and GD's lazy, drawling rap, the tone takes a turn. "You can be somebody, man," he says. "A Superman... Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne." It seems positive enough until he brings Kurt Cobain's name into things, and that's really where GD's message comes through. Too fast to live, too young too die- the desire to do everything coupled with the fear of burning out. The attainment of success and the question of whether it was really worth it. You can be somebody, man- but do you really want to be somebody? The song ends on an ambiguous note, with G-Dragon simply asserting "GD, that's me. Who [are] you? Not me," leaving us to wonder how he feels about having "built this for more than ten years," as he reminds us in the second verse.
When GD doesn't bury himself under the pressure to go hard or remind us of how great he is, he's got a real talent for finding heart- and, in songs like "MichiGO", "Nirilia", for example, the humor- in all corners of the human experience. Even on a cheesy song like "I Love It", he's got a certain amount of charm that's hard to ignore. For now, it seems that he's at his best when G-Dragon the Legend can make way for Jiyong the Person to come through and shine in his work.