BIGBANG transforms from a precocious rookie group into poised V.I.Ps of Korean pop in the docu-drama Big Bang: The Beginning and MTV Asia concert documentary BIGBANG: ALIVE around the World

By Adrienne Stanley

In October 2015, North American fans will have the opportunity to see BIGBANG, as they bring their MADE tour to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Newark, and Toronto.

BIGBANG is one of the most influential pop acts in Korean music, shaping the sound of subsequent groups like WINNER, EXO, BTS, and Block B. Inspired by early ‘00s R&B acts like Usher, Justin Timberlake, and B2K’s Omarion, BIGBANG introduced the world to a musical style whose soulful essence was intrinsically found in traditional mediums like pansori and the domestic pop genre, trot.

The five-member boy band, whose visceral impact on audiences was like an unpolished stone, was forged under the intense tutelage of YG Entertainment wunderkind, Yang Hyun Suk, who transformed them into precious pop diamonds.

The 2006 documentary, BIGBANG the Beginning, tells the tale of their journey from six young, aspiring performers to five men who were poised for international domination. The 11-episode series takes place before the music and fashion icons adopted the nicknames G-Dragon, T.O.P, Daesung, Seungri, and Taeyang. Instead, viewers are introduced to six rough-around-the-edges trainees named Kwon Ji Yong, Choi Seung Hyun, Kang Dae Sung, Lee Seung Hyun, Dong Young Bae and Jang Hyun Seung.

BIGBANG the Beginning chronicles the formation of the powerhouse group, capturing seemingly hopeless moments and juxtaposing them with triumphant milestones for the YG trainees. The docu-drama follows each potential group member from the start of the competition to its tearful finale.

The first episode unfurls in the venerated halls of YG Entertainment, with Yang Hyun Suk presiding over the competition reality show. Having found his own success in the group, Seo Taiji and Boys, he challenged the six young men standing before him to morph into an act that could release music as compelling as his first generation hit, “Come Back Home.”

Each subsequent episode introduces the aspiring idols and captures their struggle towards stardom. Before he was brushing elbows with fashion luminaries like Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld at Paris Fashion Week, G-Dragon was the scrappy leader-in-training, Kwon Ji Yong. Having yet to introduce Korea to the concept of swag, the 18-year-old rapper and vocalist anxiously awaited his opportunity to become an established artist. His performance may not have been as polished as what would be seen in G-Dragon One of A Kind, but his thirst for fame was readily apparent.

BIGBANG the Beginning captures the early struggles between the popular frontman and Dong Yong Bae, another hopeful whose intermediate school days were also dedicated to hours of training at YG. His honeyed voice would later blend with the soaring notes of Kang Dae Sung on songs like “A Fool’s Tears.”

Kang Dae Sung, the powerful balladeer whose father was initially opposed to his dreams of stardom, attempted to balance educational pursuits with the rigorous schedule that is an integral part of becoming a K-pop idol.

As the oldest trainee in the documentary, Choi Seung Hyun floundered as a dancer but his ability to spit rapid-fire rhymes would set the precedent for artists like Rap Monster and Zico. When paired with the unique tones of the other vocalists, he rocked the mic with the deep timbre he developed while performing within Korea’s underground hip-hop scene.

By contrast, Lee Seung Hyun (or little Seung Hyun as he was called by his peers), possessed mesmerizing moves and the suave vocals of ‘NSYNC’s Justin Timberlake. His position within the group would be challenged throughout the competition, as he attempted to gain the confidence that was necessary to become one of the brightest stars on the Asian pop scene.

Most of the names previously listed are easily recognizable as members of BIGBANG, but Jang Hyun Seung found his place in Korean pop history, with a different act. While he may not have been fated to debut with BIGBANG, he would find success in 2009 as part of the six-member group, BEAST. His trials and tribulations as an aspiring idol unfold throughout the series. In the documentary, he is a far cry from the mature sophistication of the onstage persona he exudes with 4Minute’s HyunA as part of the duo, Trouble Maker.

Before BIGBANG and 2NE1 reigned over YG, there were acts like 1TYM who helped make the agency one of the top companies in Korean entertainment. The docu-drama extends beyond providing an introduction to the group, as key figures who are currently part of YG Family and those who are no longer with the agency, serve as mentors to the fledgling performers. Legendary acts like Jinusean, Big Mama, Gummy, members of 1TYM and Se7en provide necessary guidance to the K-pop hopefuls.

While BIGBANG the Beginning centers on the early days of the group, the MTV Asia documentary BIGBANG ALIVE Around the World provides intimate behind-the-scenes footage of the five-member boy band during the height of their critically-acclaimed tour.

The concert footage is interspersed with appearances by music critics and their live band, as BIGBANG reveals some of the most intimate aspects of their personalities to fans. Performances of fan favorites from the Alive album like “Fantastic Baby” help to set the tone for their MADE tour.

In ALIVE Around the World, G-Dragon, Taeyang, Seungri, Daesung, and T.O.P are seasoned stars who are thrilled to see their international fans for the first time, in locations like Europe and New Jersey. They marvel at the interest of audiences who may not understand their lyrics but are willing to embrace the universal language of music.

Essential listening for BIGBANG the Beginning and BIGBANG Alive Around the World

BIGBANG debuted on August 29, 2006, with their first self-titled, single album. Tracks on the release include the smooth ballad, “A Fool Of Tears,” and the downtempo gem, “We Belong Together,” which features Park Bom before her debut 2NE1.

They followed with BIGBANG Vol. 1 which features “La-La-La,” the song that served as the soundtrack for BIGBANG the Beginning.

Alive is a seven track album released by BIGBANG in 2012. Standout songs include the hits, “Fantastic Baby” and “Bad Boy,” a gem which hits listeners in their R&B sweet spot from its first note.

Link for BIGBANG the Beginning

Link for BIGBANG ALIVE Around the World

Kpop Tour link: