BANG YONG GUK – 'BANGYONGGUK'
2. I Need to Talk
4. Hot and Cold (Feat. Sogumm)
6. Holiday (Feat. Paul Given)
9. Codex Gigas
10. AM 4:44
11. Xie Xie
12. See you later
13. I Need to Talk (Inst.)
14. AM 4:44 (Inst.)
15. Xie Xie Remix (Feat. Sway D, Liquor, LE)
Ex-B.A.P rapper Bang Yong Guk parted ways with TS Entertainment and has just released his newest solo album, his first since his contract expired. Not content with an EP, the singer-songwriter has just put out a 15-song eponymously titled opus, including the instrumentals and a remix with some notable guest stars.
As you might expect, "Diary" is about writing in a diary. He says "it's just my diary/bring it," as if to tell you that what he's written about how he feels doesn't matter. And he goes into it here, asking if he's famous and if he loves himself. It's a song that kind of peels back the layers and digs into his insecurities. He sounds vulnerable but also dismissive at the same time. "I Need to Talk" is a tune about loneliness and isolation. This is probably the most rap-heavy tune on the LP and the subject matter is pretty heavy. His deep voice gives this tune some gravitas.
"Hikikomori" is a weird psychological condition where people become shut-ins, and never leave the house. It's common enough in Japanese society that they've given it a name. The song is sung from the point of view of someone suffering from that. He even has a little breakdown in the middle. It's a good capper to an LP that's dealt with some pretty downer material. This is a pre-release track, gone live back in January.
"Hot & Cold" features Sogumm, and I really like this one. She has a way with R&B and soul and just shines here. The music threatens to drown her out, but at least it's dynamic instead of anemic. I like this one, mainly because of her. I've never heard of her before, but her voice has some edginess to it, almost reminds me of Suran. And she wraps those syllables around the music like a python. "Ya" is smooth R&B and a naughty one. He pulls out all the stops here but stops just short of going too far. It's a very sensual song, and it works well with a female backing singer. I like this one, especially when the song picks up some techno effects. It's probably the closest we've gotten to a club banger on this album.
I didn't like "Holiday" a whole lot. Bang Yong Guk has a lot going for him as a singer, and his voice is fairly unique in that it's in a lower register. Well, it seems like they brought Paul Given in to hit the high notes, and he does. In falsetto. It pretty well turned me off when he did that. Their voices just clashed rather than mixing well. "Journey" is a singer-songwriter style song, and it tackles the now-familiar themes of loneliness and depression. I don't think Bang Yong Guk is a very happy guy, judging by all these melancholy themes. It's okay, but I'd like something a bit more upbeat.
The song "Portrait" is an older instrumental from April 2018. It's alright, if a little slow, a stripped-down tune to the piano, and an orchestra joins the lone piano in the end. It didn't do much for me, but then an instrumental has to make me feel. I do feel something -- impatience like I'm waiting for something to happen. By now, I was hoping for more. "Codex Gigas" is probably the darkest and most doom-laden song on the LP. But this one stands alone, talking about drinking blood and "the evil is you." The actual Codex Gigas is an ancient tome nicknamed "The Devil's Bible," because of a large 19-inch full-page illustration of the Devil. Make of that what you will. I like the sound effects in this song and some things that aren't quite music being used as such. This easily stands with cuts by bands like Epik High, Type O Negative and Danzig (lyrically, not sonically).
And since I was hoping for more, "AM 4:44" delivers. It's all rap, which is really my preferred style nowadays. He kills it here, spitting fire and anger in 16 bars. As I said, this is more my speed, and probably my favorite song on this disc. "Xie Xie" is quite naughty. It's also almost entirely in Chinese. The title means "thank you." I have my own theories about what the lyrics mean. I also am not going to print those theories here. It's a fun song on the surface of it and is a direct counterpoint to anything else on the LP. Also for extra fun, check out the remix. And if you listen to it and get the idea behind the song and are grossed out...well, don't say I didn't warn you. Strangely, "See you later" is half in Korean and half in English. There's no English fails, though his enunciation could be better. And I wanted a pick-me-up, and this playful tune is it. He flips the bird at all his haters, while name-dropping people like Kurt Cobain and rapper J. Cole. I like this one, and it was too short.
How do I feel about this LP? Like I could use a shot of caffeine. This guy deals with some heavy, heavy subject matter. I feel like I'm waiting for spring and just got more snow. This album was really sorrowful and desolate, with few overall fun songs. While I appreciate the talent, I'm not really sold on the results. This gloomy release needs a warning label. Now, if you're emo, then this one's for you. For my own part, I want something a little lighter on the ears.
In the MV for "Journey," Bang Yong Guk explores the themes he detailed in the song.
In the opening scenes, he's traveling to some remote resort location, the landscape blanketed in snow. When he finally arrives, he doesn't seem particularly happy about it, instead of moping around, sleeping (or perhaps napping out of depression), and sitting there staring blankly, perhaps lost in whatever despair drove him to winter there.
Eventually, he transitions to the city. Those scenes are almost always under the cover of night, showing the lights of the city twinkling, trying to banish the darkness. Most of the time, he's a silhouette, seen against the backdrop of buildings out of a high up apartment window. Despite the presence of several million people, he still feels alone.
At least he does dance a little, though, in the city. Perhaps remembering a departed lover, perhaps trying to stave off the melancholy that seems to inform much of the MV. It was kind of a jarring move amid all the moping.
And, as if to drive home the themes of loneliness, we see him walking the city streets and in the wilderness, while the snow eventually whips up and hides him from view. If he wanted to make his point, he couldn't have done it better. The effect is poignant.
I rather enjoyed the MV, even if it wasn't amazing. It got its message through with its imagery and timing. You can almost feel the bitter cold as you watch the flakes fall, and see the leafless trees abound in the resort area. And you get at least a sense of how he feels.
MV SCORE: 8.3
ALBUM SCORE: 7.7