I’ve been waiting to listen to this album. I don’t know if I was waiting for the physical album (which did arrive today) or I was waiting to be ready. I have a long, deep and beautiful history with YONGGGUK so I’m feeling a little hesitant about even writing a review for this first listen.
Because of how emotional I’m going to be while listening to this, as well as how personal this is for YONGGUK, I will be looking at translations to the songs. This won’t stray away from my usual format – I will still be listening to the songs and writing as I listen but will come back to comment on the translations and meanings behind each song at the end of their paragraphs.
Let’s do this!
ARTIST: BANG YONGGUK
YONGGUKs first solo album BANGYONGGUK was released 15 March 2019. While it didn’t release with a title track he did previously release a few of the songs which I will highlight when I get to them. I know he was meant to release “Ya” but pulled the MV last week for some reason. Regardless, this album is his work of art so I’m ready to hear everything he has to say.
First track “Diary” is the slower coffee-shop vibe I always associate with him. It has some nice break downs throughout which adds some variety to it. I never expect anything from him in regards to whether he’s going to rap or sing and with this song we get a fusion of both. The instrumental itself gives me some DJ Shadow vibes which is a personal throwback but I enjoy how it isn’t rushed at all.
I like how the words are a kind of warning for the listener, telling us this is not only his diary (or personal to him) but also not to expect anything. We have no idea what direction he’s gonna take us to and I love that.
“I Need to Talk” has that slower vibe, much slower than “Diary” but there’s a mess of new instruments and progressions I wasn’t expecting to hear on a song like this. I love the random moments of electric guitar scattered around the place and it reminds me of a lot of Western songs. I love the all-around vibe of this song and how it makes me feel introspective, how he did that I’m not too sure. I can hear him singing in the background right at the end of the song which is a nice touch and adds a little more melody to the latter half of the song.
I’m not too sure how easy it’s going to be to find english translations for these songs, the ones I’ve found for this particular song don’t make sense but I’ll try my best. What I’m getting from this song is that it’s almost a prequel to a cry for help or an admittance that somethings wrong.
“My flower in the living room is dying
I need to fight against pain without words
I get up and get up and get hurt
Your soul is cursed
I’m still stay silent”– “I Need to Talk” BANG YONGGUK
While it does seem like it’s a little on the negative side, the constant repetition of “I need to talk” comes off like a kind of mantra – like he’s willing himself to talk about the things he should be keeping inside. If what I’m referring to is even a little bit true I love it. And please, YONGGUK. Talk about whatever you need to talk about, we’re all here to listen.
The next song…I don’t want to. There’s no part of me that wants to listen to this song, rewatch this MV or look into its translations. But here I am, doing it anyway.
For those who follow me on Twitter you’ll know this song messed me up, just like every long-term YONGGUK fan. I cry every time I hear it (which is only twice by the way) so I’m not overly excited to listen to it this time. I can do it!
“Hikikomori” was released 20 January 2019 and whoa boy is it emotional. It again sticks to the slower feeling of the first two tracks yet does include a little more bass and distinct musical progressions between the verses and chorus’. In the middle section he uses his more powerful almost aggressive vocal power which BAP fans are familiar with which is nice to hear. When the music stops, it’s time for Hana to cry.
*10 mins later*
Yeah, I just had a cry on Twitter but I think I’m a little better now. This section in particular is really hard for me to get through, and also the reason why I didn’t want to review the album so I literally needed to have a time-out. When all the music goes out and you hear YONGGUK struggling to breathe, I lose it. It’s a prime anxiety sound and I hate hearing it, hate knowing he’s struggled through this for years (maybe even forever) and I think it’s brave of him to include something like this in a song. Once again it shows how personal this whole album is for him.
Once the breathing ends, the sound of the song almost has a creepier and darker sound as the intensity of his voice is heightened as well. The screaming in the background of the last chorus is another part which ruins me. Whether it’s a scream of frustration, anger or how he feels inside his head… it’s painful to hear.
The thing that makes this song sadder is the visuals. There’s a whole bunch of metaphors and references in the MV which people have gone through and analysed – I’m not going to pretend I know any of them but feel free to look them up. The MV is everything you think it would look like if you only listen to it. As I’m writing this I’m also watching the MV for the third time.
Lyrically, this song is about as close to mental health awareness as you can get. While fans of YONGGUK know some of what he’s struggling with, the MV and the words highlight a lot of different types of mental health.
“Hey don’t assume you know
When they force you to breath without rest
I know how it feels
It doesn’t matter how much I hit, eat or drink
Everything is ruled by pain
I know how it feels”– “Hikikomori” BANG YONGGUK
I can only imagine how painful it’s been for him in the past but all I can do is support him and wish him more than the best for his future and for him to just be h a p p y.
Fourth track “Hot and Cold” features Sogumm, the first feature of the album. Something I value about YONGGUK is his ability to network, a trait he no doubt picked up from when he was underground pre-TS Entertainment. This song is whoooole lot sexier than I thought it would be. I’m not familiar with Sogumm but I feel like I might be after this. I’m not too sure what’s happening in the background but it sounds like instrumentation was made using her voice, a really cool technique which I always appreciate. It does go a little crazy in the middle but I quite enjoy the intensity. I like how experimental and messy the song is because when everything strips back and it’s only the percussion and their voices we’re able to concentrate on them more. What a cool vocal collaboration!
“Ya” as I mentioned earlier was, I’m assuming, going to be the title track considering how close to album release he was going to drop it. I’m not sure what happened to cause him to change plans but whatever it is I hope things are alright.
The song starts off with some really nice muffled guitar, I also hear a James Brown scream in there as well but I might be wrong. The song is left quite empty yet kept full by the presence of his voice. And is he singing?! Coz it doesn’t sound him at all. I like how slow paced this song is yet like it more when it gets a little more hectic halfway through. I also feel that introducing this build isn’t staying true to what we expect from a song – like he’s rewriting his own song template.
Ok so I was totally unaware that there was any sexual connotation from this song and after reading the lyrics I will never think of it as PG ever again. This is how a mature adult writes a sexy song. Whew!
“Holiday” is the second feature of the album with Paul Given, someone I also am unaware of and who I can find nothing of online. This song is once again extremely slow, maybe even the slowest of all the tracks so far. And wow, the vocals of Paul cut through me REAL hard and now I’m starting to like this song even more. Y’all should know how much I love a good falsetto. YONGGUK brings in a little more melody when he starts to rap-sing in bridge, something we don’t hear him do often but I think it adds to the overall song for sure. The muffled technique in the last twenty seconds was also a nice touch.
While “Hot and Cold” and “Ya” are obvious sexy songs, “Holiday” translates more into a love letter kind of way which is both incredibly sweet and beautiful. It’s nice to see him write, rap and sing about love as a kind of positive to how dark the earlier songs were.
Seventh track “Journey” has an almost Spanish vibe to it due to the guitar and percussion, it has that feel to it which would tie in to the title of travelling. I almost feel like I’ve heard this song before and I’m not sure where yet…I’m sure it’ll come to me later on. And who is vocalising in this song! It’s not YONGGUK, it can’t be. So I’m interested in why they weren’t credited. I did like this falsetto section though, it made the song almost sound wistful in a way.
While the lyrics do highlight loneliness and finding comfort in other things I’m drawn to another aspect of them. As I was reading the lyrics I noticed there were some common phrases in a previous song, “I Need to Talk” in fact. In both songs he says:
“My flowers in the living room are dying”– “I Need to Talk” and “Journey” BANG YONGGUK
Having this lyric in both songs automatically links them which makes a cook kind of narrative. In “I Need to Talk” he shows a darker insight into his inner feelings paired with a cold-feeling instrumental whereas “Journey” is on the lighter and uplifting side. Having such opposites with the brighter one being called “Journey” implies the same for him – he’s been/going through a journey, a dichotomy I find infinitely beautiful.
“Portrait” came out a long time ago on 25 April 2018. I do enjoy the fact he included this song on the album as it is a great representation of who he is as an artistic person. It’s also a great interlude in the album to cleanse the listeners palette a little bit before the rest of the album.
Ninth track “Code Gigas” instrumental starts off a little lighter while YONGGUKs voice is deeper than usual which is making me fear for the rest of the song. One minute in and I’m both creeped out and shit-whipped. What a change of sound for the album and I’m curious why he chose to do a total flip half-way through. I feel a lot of frustration from this song, brought on by the strained breathing in the background, so I’m interested in what the translations are. This is also a side of YONGGUK we don’t get to hear a lot, “Yamazaki” being a great example of what I’m talking about, which is nice to hear him express himself this way for a change.
The translation is creepy, haunting and I love it. He refers a lot to devils, demons and evil as well as referring to an unjust hierarchy and system in the world. This song is almost exactly why I love YONGGUK – his social awareness and his guts for not being afraid to talk about the things he hates in the world. His heart is the most pure there is and it’s songs like these that are made to make people sit up and listen. Lyrically, one of the strongest on the album.
The tenth track is “AM 4:44” and it was released 4 April 2015, a little while ago. From what I understand it was put on this album as a remastered version and it’s never been available as an official song before so it’s a win for BAP and YONGGUK fans. I loved this song the first time I heard it back in 2016 and I still love it now. Because of my knowledge of the song I won’t be reviewing it. I do notice how easily it fits with “Code Gigas” in relation to the lyrics – there’s a great conversation happening between the two songs.
I’ve heard a lot about “Xie Xie” so I’m super interested in how this song sounds. I love the oriental and traditional instrumentation, it’s yet another song reminding me of “Yamazaki”. It’s for sure the first song on the album that has a strong trap feeling. I used to like trap a lot but it’s slowly but definitely fallen off my radar. However I enjoy this song due to there being no autotune used on his voice. It gives the song a more natural sound which is very much appreciated on my part. I like this song a lot I just hate it’s not long enough!
“See You Later” is the second to last song I’ll be reviewing for this album. I like how it’s a lot more full than the other slower songs in the album yet totally different from the last half of the album. He uses more electronic sounds in this song than the rest of the songs yet doesn’t sound too farfetched that it doesn’t fit on the album – I actually find it a perfect way to end the album.
The translations to this song are really cool and I particularly enjoy the part at the end where he goes through and thanks everyone important to him. My favourite, of course, is him thanking Tigger. Just a little easter egg for a BABY like me.
Time for the “Xie Xie Remix”, a song that has the most features on it by far with Sway D, Liquor and LE. I like the original a lot so I’m interested in what the featuring artists bring to it. Already, the autotune needs to go. I just have no patience for autotune anymore, thankfully it doesn’t last too long. I don’t know who harmonises with YONGGUK in the pre-chorus but it was nice. LEs verse is for sure my favourite part but other than that I thought the remix was ok.
This album has absolutely winded me and reviewing it properly, in retrospect, was a stupid idea. So many emotions, so many messages and so many secrets he’s willing to share with us… it’s breathtaking! I loved the whole thing, not a couple of songs, not a half over the other, but as a whole. This is one of those albums that should be heard from start to finish and be digested as one whole piece of work. He’s just so talented I can’t believe he’s even real.
YONGGUK has the ability to strip back a song to its shell then start to rebuild it, still keeping it empty yet filing it up with just his voice. It’s also no lie he is a great songwriter but for me, listening to him rap his songs makes me feel like I’ve never heard his language before – like I’ve never heard these words spoken before. I’m not sure if this is due to how much I love him or admire him but it’s strange, I’ve never really experienced this with anyone before and while it’s not important to my overall rating of this album it’s interesting to note.
I won’t be reviewing this album, sorry for those who were expecting that. I wanted to experience it in all its glory without any kind of preconceived expectations or standards I wanted him to be at. Just know that I love it. A lot.
What did you all think of this album? Did you want to share any thoughts about how any of the songs made you feel? Let me know down below or leave me a message on Twitter!