G-DRAGON - MICHIGO
Disappointed the translation isn’t ruder here.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: It’s hard to feel totally okay with the K-pop industry’s studio system. In among the punishing work schedule and hyped-up fan possessiveness the agency-entertainer relationship starts to look less like a management contract and more like debt peonage. Still, there’s enough give in the system to throw up sports like G-Dragon’s solo sideline in manic swagger hip-pop, curious and lavish as any little princeling’s vanity project. Pop as magpie as you can get it, assured of success, and yet it doesn’t feel cynical, for all the lyrical content has been dialed down for a touchier market. The whole exercise seems so… fanboyish. It’s like it’s inviting the listener to play the game of “guess which records G-Dragon and his producers were most into when they made this” (Rihanna’s “Phresh out the Runway”, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj’s “A$$”, etc etc). He’s stealing cos he loves, so it’s all cool, right? Except this particular celebration’s always primed to slide into murky territory, and the video’s the demonstration of that. Adapt the beats, adapt the intonation, adapt the clothes, adapt the look, and it’s one artist’s admiration of the styles and ideas of the artists he loves. Take up a few afro wigs among your wacky costumes, and your audience might be reminded of that time you got up in blackface to express your admiration for Andre 3000. I’m a sap. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the dude’s love and respect for the artists he pastiches. But there’s an important part of love that’s about consideration of the sensitivities and history of the people you’re supposed to feel so much for — and that’s still lacking. Isolated within the K-pop system, rapid prototyping a post-everything pop where any genre is fair game, it probably doesn’t even occur to GD and his attendant lords. But it does out here, and, well, it’s hard to feel totally okay with it.
Edward Okulicz: Remember Bomfunk MCs? Sure you do. Imagine they’re Korean. And have worked out how to synthesize the sleaziest in pop and sell it on their own shores. They’re better, dirtier, fartier, cheekier — “shut up!.” “Michigo” has so much swagger and grind I feel like I should be watching my backside. I don’t care, I can hear “ass” in there, and if I were drunk, “I wanna hump you” would be in there too, and if you’re not in drunk the club this is still great to strut too, as long as nobody’s looking.
Anthony Easton: The siren at the end of this, whistling like a bomb, clearing out most of the noise for a bit, letting the pitbull (not Pitbull) vocals dominate, is ace.
Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: The laugh is important. That high-pitched and crackled laugh you hear in the chorus, is borrowed from Chris Brown. It isn’t the first ad-lib loaned out by G-Dragon: on Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby,” he perfected Kanye’s indignant grunt (“HEAGHNN”), turning it into percussive tick; elsewhere, he absorbed - and censored - Lil B’s “pretty bitch” adlib, calling himself a “bad girl” in live performances; a previous take on CB’s ad-lib was subtly dispersed into the background of last year’s “One of a Kind.” However, it’s front and centre on “Michigo” and presented as another instance of G-D’s cheeky American appropriation. The lift makes for an awkward moment where the artist over-thinks their hip-hop friendly brand-building and sacrifices what makes them fun. “Michigo” is that moment extended to four minutes, an overcooked traipse through G-D’s skewed pop prism. It packs in enough entertainment to stop you from writing it off totally: the gaming arcade dubstep of the beat, the continued gender trickery in his “mother/father/who are you” refrain, etc. Nevertheless, G-D’s style-collage approach has begun to show signs of derivativeness. The laugh is important – it may serve as an omen.
Patrick St. Michel: Another example of YG Entertainment’s ability to identify musical trends - whether they be big in South Korea or abroad - and morph them into something that sounds unlike anything happening anywhere. “Michigo” brings to mind brostep and trap, but smashed into something even more maximalist. Despite the very, very busy sounds, G-Dragon still finds a way to shuffle through all the clutter and let his personality shine through.
Alfred Soto: The level of synthesis impresses: bits from Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, and goodness knows how many Asian toothpaste commercials. It goes someplace but not far enough.
Brad Shoup: “He did NOTsay Dirty Mad Fiesta,” says Toria. “He said ‘dirty nasty a$$ f*ck’. That’s what the boy said. I know… I speak english.” Well… my third language is Common Sense, and I’m not hearing it. Maybe the pitchshifted voice is saying “nasty as fuck.” Maybe. Anyway, if you wanted to know what brostep would do for Travis Porter’s “Wobble”: yay! More stickiness could have been pulled from this combo, but GD’s making too much face.
Katherine St Asaph: 2012 in urban and EDM, made ten times more bracing with distance and curation. What’ll it be like when the K-pop machine gets to Mike WiLL?
Iain Mew: The synth blurts and G-Dragon going “brum brum”, “dudum dudum” and so on are consistently entertaining, but this would probably be better off if it gave itself up more completely to the Lemmings beat.
[Read, comment and vote on The Singles Jukebox ]