[Review] Big Bang’s “Loser” is an exceedingly individual and isolated success


If there is anything close to a guarantee in K-pop, it’s that Big Bang can take any slow, emo pop beat and slay the shit it out of it. “Loser” isn’t an exception to that general rule, but it does stray close to embracing its title a little too whole-heartedly.

Big Bang has always been able to put together some really strong singles, but the most amazing thing about the group is that the group’s cohesion seems more and more a byproduct of talent rather than chemistry, especially on “Loser.”

Each member kills the subdued beat, but the resulting song may as well have been five different samples for the same beat. G-Dragon and T.O.P (and his magnificent eyebrows) both rap, but there isn’t any interplay between their respective bits. The production also doesn’t even attempt to have much overlaying of Taeyang, Daesung and Seungri’s vocals. While this is a trick that every K-pop group uses to make sure that each member has time to shine, the segregation of everything on “Loser” sounds more pronounced when compared to similar (if admittedly poppier) efforts like “Blue” and “Love Song.”

“Loser” works (in fact, I really, really like it), but the lack of interplay between members makes me almost wish that each member had just recorded the track as a solo effort (because I’m always a sucker for Big Bang melancholic songs).

The video for “Loser” is standard Big Bang fare, which is to say that it looks very clean and it’s edited very well. The moderate slowing-down effect that is employed throughout the video gives “Loser” an appropriate lethargic look, and the music video makes great use of a slight blue lighting filter that makes the video seem cold without venturing entirely into ‘Bourne Identity‘ shenanigans. Big Bang’s wardrobe is … about as toned down as one is going to get in a G-Dragon group, and the relative grounding of the costuming adds a layer of believably and empathy to “Loser” that is very welcomed.

If there is a downside to “Loser” it’s that it’s all so isolated. There’s no choreography and the members’ “plots” never intersect, and so much like the song, the video never feels like a group production. Taeyang’s roof adventures might as well be in a different universe from Seungri’s self-tattoo parlor. Sure, there’s thematic synergy, but it’s all fairly predictable (Big Bang Is Sad And Alone Part 1,345,457,953,657), and the total separation of the members (until the very last second) makes the video feel a little stale and undynamic.

In all, “Loser” is a pretty good song that sounds like other (slightly better) Big Bang songs, while the music video continues Big Bang’s tradition of releasing beautifully shot videos with distinctive costuming and breathtaking location shots. However, for a group production, there’s not much evidence in the song or video that suggests that this was a group undertaking. The whole point of having a “group” is to not only provide a diversity of talent, but to also provide opportunities for those talents to interact and illuminate aspects of each talent’s artistry that they might have not been able to reach on their own. The fact that “Loser” works says a lot about how good Big Bang’s individual members are, but songs like this make me wonder how much better it could have been if it didn’t sound or look like it was recorded and shot in five individual vacuums.

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