Big Bang (stylized as BIGBANG) is a very popular Korean boy band. It has five members: T.O.P, Seungri, Daesung, G-Dragon, and Taeyang. They were launched by the famous management company, YG Entertainment on August 19 2006,. On September 23, 2006, the group made their debut on the television music show, “Music Core”. Big Bang was famous in South Korea even before their official debut as MTV Korea had aired an eleven-episode documentary about the making of the band. In it early years the band was popular in Thailand, Japan and other Southeast Asia countries. It now has a large global following.
The five members of Big Bang were the winners of an arduous singing and dancing audition process, which was screened on MTV Korea. The group has two rappers and three singers. Their songs are a unique blend of hip hop, techno and pop. Bang’s energetic catchy songs have earned them a large following that spans all generations. The Big Bang members play a role in writing their lyrics, in composing their music, and in their choreography. Some of the members have also launched solo projects, appearing in musicals, TV dramas, and entertainment shows.
Big Bang sold more than 140 million records between 2006 and 2019 and had no probelm selling out 50,000-seat stadiums. Anna Fifield wrote in the Washington Post: “They’re one of the biggest boy bands in the world. Their concerts make One Direction’s look poorly attended. Compared with their fans, Beliebers seem halfhearted.....For a decade, these five stylish, edgy guys have defined and redefined South Korean pop music. They’ve defied the idea that so-called K-pop is inevitably sugarcoated and factory-produced, and that boy bands are all about pretty faces and lip-synching.” [Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, March 3, 2016]
Their 2016 M.A.D.E. tour was huge. “Big Bang sold 910,000 tickets for 18 concerts in Japan alone. By comparison, Taylor Swift sold almost 2.3 million tickets and One Direction sold 2.4 million on their tours last year – but it took them 83 and 85 shows, respectively.” The tour included stops in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Mexico, Canada and Shanghai. “We were amazed that people knew our songs in countries that we haven’t even been to, such as in Mexico,” said Taeyang. “They’d never seen us other than on the Internet.”
Big Bang's official fan club calls itself "V.I.P." (a reference to the band’s second single: "Big Bang is V.I.P."). It is estimated to have around 300,000 members. Generally at concerts in Korea, most fans will wave balloons in a specific color to show their devotion to a band, however Big Bang fans don’t wave balloons, instead they wave bandannas and crown shaped glow sticks, which are decorated with the letters BB.
Big Bang Members
G. Dragon: Team Leader-Rapper-Vocalist: Real Name: Kwon Ji-yong; Date of Birth: August 18, 1988; Physique: 177 centimeters, 58 kilograms; Blood Type: A Talents: Rap, dance, beat box, song writing, and fluent in English and Chinese; Education: Kyung Hee Univ. Postmodern Music Department. G. DRAGON takes his stage name from his Korean given name, Ji-yong (“yong” means “dragon”). He started training with YG Entertainment when he was only 13 years old. He is regarded as a skilled producer, and has worked on other singers’ albums as well as Big Bang’s. During his childhood he appeared in movies and TV shows, but it was always his dream to become a singer. He takes his responsibility as the leader of the band seriously. He does not tolerate mistakes, but at the same time he encourages and supports the other members. He composed “Lies”, “Look at Me, GwiSun”, “Fool” and “We Belong Together”. G-Dragon is considered by many to be the most fashionable member of the group, and many teenagers copy his flamboyant urban style. Activities: Participated in the 2001 Korea HIPHOPFEX, appeared on YG FAMILY and PERRY Albums, and several concerts
T.O.P.: Rapper- Vocalist: Real Name: Choi Seung-hyeon; Date of Birth: November 4, 1987; Blood Type: B; Physique: 181 centimeters, 65 kilograms; Talents: Rap, beat box, song writing, fluent in English; Education: Danguk Univ. Film and Theatre Department. T.O.P earned his status as one of Korea’s biggest heartthrobs by stealing a kiss from Lee Hyori, one of Korea’s most famous female singers, at the Mnet Km Music Festival. T.O.P has an attractive husky voice and is considered to be the most masculine in the group. However, he is actually very reserved and sensitive. He likes to be alone and his hobby is collecting action figures. T.O.P. acted in the drama “Iris” alongside actors Kim Tae Hee and Lee Byung Hun, and he will appear in the upcoming drama “My 19-year-old” with Seung Ri, another member of Big Bang. Activities: Winner in KBS Radio’s “Rap Battle”, performances in various clubs. T.O.P. was kind of chubby. According to Ranker: “Yes, being fat in Korea might be almost illegal but that is not T.O.P's crime. T.O.P is a notorious smoker and his bad habit looks like it started while he was in high school as shown by old photos.”
Seung Ri: Singer: Real Name: Lee Seung-hyeon; Date of Birth: December 12, 1990; Physique: 177 centimeters, 60 kilograms; Talents: Dance, Singing, Fluent in English; Education: Kyung Hee Univ. Postmodern Music Department. Activities: Member of the dancing team, Ilhwa. Even before Big Bang’s debut, Seung Ri was widely known in his hometown, Gwangju, because of his amazing dance skills. However, he failed many auditions beause of his short height. In YG Entertainment’s Big Bang audition, he was almost eliminated, but luckily he was given a second chance, and his singing, dancing skills, and stage presence impressed the producers so much that he made it into the group. Seung Ri was the first member of the group to be in a musical, starring in Sonagi, and the second member to debut as an actor. He appeared in the film "Why Did You Come To Our House" which was released in April 9th 2009. He will also act with T.O.P in the upcoming drama My 19-year-old. He recently released his first solo album “Strong Baby”, so these days he has a pretty busy schedule. However he always practices his singing and dancing in order to give the perfect live performance for his fans.
Tae Yang: Singer-Rapper: Real Name: Dong Young-bae; Date of Birth: May 18, 1988; Blood Type: B; Physique: 174 centimeters, 56 kilograms; Talents: Rap, dance, beat box, song writing, fluent in English and Japanese; Education: Daejin Univ, Theater and film Department; Activities: Appeared on Jinusean’s A-YO Music Video, appeared on YG Family’s Wheesung albums, and in several concerts Tae Yang became a trainee member of YG Entertainment when he was 13 years old. Since he was always training at YG Entertainment, he has never had a girlfriend, and so he is regarded as the pure, innocent band member by the fans. However, he is considered quite attractive due to his masculinity and dark skin color, and has more female fans in their 20s and 30s than any other member of the group. His first solo album Hot was a great success. Tae Yang likes urban hip-hop fashion and his hobby is collecting caps.
Dae Sung: Singer: Real Name: Kang Dae-sung; Date of Birth: April 26, 1989 Physique: 178 centimeters, 63kilograms; Talents: Singing, fluent in English; Education: Kyung Hee Univ. Postmodern Music Department. Activities: Passed the Big Bang audition while taking the MBC Academy course In 2008, Dae Sung starred in the Korean adaptation of Cats, becoming the second Big Bang member to appear in a musical. He showed off his many talents by appearing on a TV music show as a MC and on the very popular SBS entertainment show Family Outing. On these tv shows he came across as a really friendly guy and so Dae Sung has many fans. He’s a great singer and performs well in many different genres. His trot single, “Look at Me, Gwisun”, was a hit with many fans, regardless of their age and gender. It’s thought that he resembles the Japanese animation character, Doraemon, so he receives many Doraemon dolls from his fans. Activities: Passed the Big Bang audition while taking the MBC Academy course
Big Bang Live
On a concert in Newark, near New York City, Jon Caramanica wrote in the New York Times: “It’s hard to overstate how imperious T.O.P. looks onstage. The oldest member of the outlandishly popular K-pop boy band BigBang, he walks slowly, almost reluctantly. He regards his surroundings with Clooney-like reserve. If it’s possible to be rolling your eyes while maintaining fierce eye contact with several thousand people, he can do that. He stands ramrod straight, making it seem as if he’s always peering down on what’s transpiring around him. [Source: Jon Caramanica, New York Times, October 12, 2015]
“What’s happening is an extreme, intense, overwhelming Korean pop carnival, and at the Prudential Center — the second of two shows here — T.O.P. was almost certainly the only one over it all. For about a decade, BigBang has been one of the most innovative and popular acts in the flooded-with-talent and always-in-flux world of K-pop. Nothing has derailed the band — not the occasional scandal, romantic or legal; not long breaks, like the years that pass between albums; and not the success of G-Dragon, the group’s breakout star.
“BigBang is at work on a new album, “MADE,” and has been releasing singles over the past few months that are in general less Technicolor and frenetic than its songs of a few years ago, which helped the group break out beyond Asia. (The last time BigBang played the area was three years ago, at this same venue.) This is a sign of musical evolution, and also a realization that the boy band mode comes with built-in time limits. There is also the looming specter of conscription: South Korean men are required to perform two years of military service.
“But for now: G-Dragon, G-Dragon, G-Dragon — so many of the screams here were for G-Dragon, fashion show front-row habitué and collaborator with Diplo and Skrillex. Slight and baby-faced, he was toned down from his usual visual excess. As in all boy bands, there is a hierarchy here, of course: G-Dragon is very much at the top. He gets the best clothes — a fascinating patch-covered oversize bomber jacket, or a snow-white turtleneck — followed closely by T.O.P., who at one point wore what seemed to be a Mondrian print on a suit.
“In most boy bands, that would be enough — the rest would be filler. But there is no Chris Kirkpatrick or Howie Dorough here. There’s Daesung, with the same lovable-scamp affect as Ed Sheeran and a powerful voice; Seungri, the youngest and most mannered of the bunch (they’re all in their mid-20s); and Taeyang, the most feline and the most impressive singer.
“G-Dragon and T.O.P. drew the most eyeballs during this electric, ecstatic show, in which multiple songs were accompanied by fireworks or lasers or streamers, and in which costume changes came Instagram fast. But it was actually Taeyang who stood out the most. His hair fried into a crisp 1991 drape, he stalked the stage with ferocity and sang with real force on songs like the recent single “Loser” and an impromptu (but not, really) snippet of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” late in the night while Daesung danced.
“Throughout the night, the group’s indebtedness to American pop, hip-hop and R&B was on full display, from Taeyang’s vocal runs to T.O.P.’s post-dancehall toasting to G-Dragon’s nimble rapping and strange allusion to the “school of hard knocks” he and the band had gone through. (Well, not always full display: BigBang’s backing band, made up wholly of black American musicians, was hidden in the dark at the rear of the stage for most of the night.)
“The show and the group were almost perversely chaste, at least onstage. Less so in the interstitial videos shown between songs, which show the band members as what they are: men playing at being boys. But even if BigBang is nearing the end of its reign, appetite for the form remains, as was clear from the young and extremely diverse crowd here. Boy bands are an industry and aesthetic all but abandoned by the American pop machine. But like, say, automobiles, South Korean success with the form is another example of a concept kick-started here but perfected elsewhere. A night with BigBang is a loud reminder that American exceptionalism is waning — long live imports, though.
How Bigbang Earned US$44 Million In A Year
Zack O'Malley Greenburg wrote in Forbes: As record executive Joojong Joe weaved through the packed crowd at the 19,000-capacity Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., there to see Korean boy band Bigbang, he spotted a young Russian woman crying. She couldn't explain why. Confident that she wasn't in any actual distress, he moved on. "It's like the Backstreet Boys back in the day," Joe says with a shrug. "A lot of people cry." [Source: Zack O'Malley Greenburg, Forbes, July 26, 2016]
“The top act in its niche, Bigbang took home US$44 million in pretax earnings over the past year, easily more than the US$33.5 million collected by today's highest-paid American all-male arena pop group, Maroon 5. Bigbang landed the No. 54 spot on our Celebrity 100 list, even topping such artist-entrepreneurs as Dr. Dre (No. 63, US$41 million) and Jimmy Buffett (No. 66, US$40.5 million), though that's more attributable to the popularity of the group's music than the depth of its members' business savvy. "We made more than Maroon 5?" says front man Kwon "G-Dragon" Jiyong, 27, through a translator. "Did not know that. My mom is in charge of my earnings."
“Fortunately the group's finances are being guided by much more than a mommy manager. The real force behind Bigbang is former K-Pop idol Yang "YG" Hyun Suk and his namesake company — a US$630 million publicly traded record label, talent agency and concert promoter with fingers in pies from fashion to marketing to film. The company and its founder are responsible for creating not only Bigbang but also, to a great extent, the modern K-Pop movement, which is in the midst of a transformation from regional staple to international craze.”
In the first half of 2009, Big Bang emerged as one of consumers’ top 10 favorite commercials models. The group has appeared in commercials for numerous products, such as cell phones, clothing, and drinks. They appeared in the Lollipop CM phone commercial and the song featured in the commercial, which was sung by Big Bang and YG’s brand female group 2NE1, was No1 in all online music charts, which shows the extent of Big Bang’s popularity. In addition to commercials, Big Bang have even appeared in the FPS video game, “Sudden Attack”. The game, which had featured K-pop star, Rain, in the past, used the Big Bang members as characters in the game, as well as Big Bang themed items, and the group’s hit songs as backgroud music. The Big Bang members’ biographical book Shouting Out To The World! was released in January 2009. The 280-page book was written by the members and tracks Big Bang’s road to success. It starts from their debut in summer 2006 and gives inside details on their breakout success and then their triumph on the J-pop scene.
Commercials featuring Big Bang: SK Telecom MMS T PLAN (2007), SK Telecom Ting (2007), Male Cosmetics BB BUD (2007~08), NII Clothing Brand (2008), Baskin Robbins 31 (2008), LG CYON Edge Phone (2008), i-Station (2009), LG CYON Ice Cream Phone 2 (2009), Lotte Duty Free Shop (2009), HITE Beer (2009), LG CYON Lollipop (2009), BHC Chicken (2009), Maeil Dairy Industry Co. Café Latte.
Big Bang Bristle at Being Labeled K-Pop
Anna Fifield wrote in the Washington Post: “Big Bang emerged from years of training under YG Entertainment, one of South Korea’s top music labels, which also counts Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame among its stars, to make their debut in 2006. From their origins in the K-pop machine, the band has matured to become a new generation of boy band, one whose artists are involved in writing, composing and producing. Indeed, they bristle at the label “K-pop.” “Actually, I don’t know why they call Korean music ‘K-pop,’” Seungri said. “Good music is good music, so if you are going to be doing good music, then they are going to be listening to our music.” [Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, March 3, 2016]
“G-Dragon chimed in. “We are Korean, so obviously they call our music K-pop. But we never thought of our music as K-pop. Our music is just our music.” “It’s like this,” added T.O.P. “You don’t divide pop music by who’s doing it. We don’t say, for instance, ‘white pop’ when white people make music.”
“Mark James Russell, an entertainment journalist based in Seoul who has written two books about K-pop, said that the band has defied categorization. “Of all the mainstream acts, they’re doing the most to push boundaries of what is considered K-pop,” said Russell. “The group has been pretty active in trying out all sorts of different stuff.”
““Bang Bang Bang” is so punchy that the South Korean government has been blasting it across the demilitarized zone into North Korea as part of its propaganda war with the communist state. The band members have “become artistic superheroes,” says a representative of a rival Korean music company, who asked for anonymity because he was talking about a competitor. “They have shown versatility and success in whatever they do.”
Big Bang Stars Arrested For Marijuana
In June 2017, T.O.P was arrested for allegedly vaping liquid marijuana four times with a 21-year-old prospective female singer in October 2016, based on her testimony alone. No drugs were found on him. He didn’t test positive in a drug test. He received a 10-month suspended sentence.
Joseph Shin wrote in Korea Bizwire: “The 29-year-old rapper, who was hospitalized on June 6 after an apparent overdose of prescribed tranquilizer, may face up to five years in prison or 50 million won in fines, although he could get away with a suspended sentence if the court finds him guilty of only one instance of smoking, as the singer initially claimed. The public was quick to condemn the singer for his drug use, which would have settled for gossip in a more cannabis-generous country overseas, while at the same time questioning the management competency of Big Bang’s talent agency, YG Entertainment. [Source: Joseph Shi, Korea Bizwire, June 9, 2017]
In 2011, G-Dragon caught smoking marijuana during a concert tour of Japan. Shin wrote: G-Dragon “admitted to having unknowingly smoked marijuana after being offered a joint by a fan at a club in Japan, while in 2010, Park Bom of 2NE1 was caught bringing in 82 pills of amphetamines from the United States through international mail. Both YG singers were ultimately not indicted, despite facing a strong backlash from the public.” Big Bang was one of the biggest K-Pop groups and G-Dragon was its leader. After he tested positive for marijuana use in 2011, the group's management company YG Entertainment reduced the size of its IPO by around 10 percent.” The incidents involving YG stars prompted some to joke that the company’s initials stand for Yak-Guk – Korean for drugstore.
T.O.P. had just started his military service when he was arrested, ironically, as part of the Korean National Police Agency. T.O.P first tried to pass off the weed as e-cigarettes — until the young woman confessed. YG Entertainment, the agency who put Big Bang together, released a statement to the press that read: "It is true that T.O.P smoked marijuana before the enlistment and we sincerely apologise for the outcome. The rapper has undergone a full police investigation, and is regretting his wrongdoing." [Source: Perez Hilton, June 1, 2017]
Seungri Kicked Out of Big Bang on Prostitution Charges
Seungri, the youngest member of Big Bang whose taste for the high life earned him the nickname the Great Gatsby of Korea., was ‘branded a national traitor’ and forced to quit the group on charges that he procured prostitutes for businessmen and foreign investors in some of Seoul’s most fashionable Gangnam district nightclubs. Seungri announced he would retire to fight the charges and to spare his management agency, YG Entertainment, and fellow band members further embarrassment, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. Prostitution is illegal in South Korea. The charges against Seungri carry a prison sentence of up to three years. [Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian, March 12, 2019]
Tiffany May and Su-Hyun Lee wrote in the New York Times: The police in Seoul said that the singer, Lee Seung-hyun, 28" — Seungri — “was suspected of “offering sexual services” in 2015. Local news reports, citing what they said were leaked posts from a messaging app, said Mr. Lee was accused of arranging for investors to receive sexual favors at a nightclub called Arena. The investigation appears to have begun after video circulated online that was said to have shown a man being assaulted by employees at another nightclub, Burning Sun, which Mr. Lee has promoted. [Source: Tiffany May and Su-Hyun Lee, New York Times, March 12, 2019]
“According to local media reports, the man said he was trying to defend a woman who had been molested at the club. Lee Moon-ho, the head of Burning Sun, was questioned by the police for 10 hours, according to local news reports. In a statement he posted to Instagram before deleting his personal account, he said that many unfounded rumors were circulating about misconduct at the club — he cited claims of police collusion, drugging and sexual assault of women, and drug sales — but that the alleged assault on the man was the only confirmed episode...Businessmen are thought to sometimes arrange illicit sexual encounters in exchange for deals. As Seungri, Lee Seung-hyun has an outsize presence in Seoul’s night life and music scene, and also has his own chain of ramen restaurants. He has cultivated an image evoking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, with a solo tour and album under the title “The Great Seungri.”
Justin McCurry wrote in The Guardian: “Police are also investigating claims that the Burning Sun nightclub, where Seungri was a public relations director, was involved in illegal drug use, sexual assaults and police corruption, Yonhap reported. The club’s owner, Lee Moon Ho, said the allegations were unfounded rumours. Seungri wrote on his Instagram account that he had decided to quit the pop industry. “It would be better for me to retire from the entertainment scene at this point,” he said. “As this scandal is too big, I have decided to retire. As for the ongoing investigation, I will take it seriously to clear myself of all the allegations.“I give my heartfelt, sincere thanks to fans at home and abroad who gave their love for the past 10 years, and I think this should be it for the sake of the reputation of YG and Big Bang.” [Source: Justin McCurry, The Guardian, March 12, 2019]
“The investigation has prompted speculation the singer will be unable to begin his national service. Seungri was due to enroll on 25 March but could ask for a deferment while he addresses the allegations. Police have said they would still be able to conduct their investigation while Seungri is serving in the army, and military officials have said the singer would have to submit a written request for deferment. South Korean media reported that officers had confiscated Seungri’s passport now that he was officially regarded as a suspect.”
“Much of the reaction to his arrest has been damning, with some fans calling for him to be kicked out of the band. “I have faced heavy criticism from the public for the last month and a half and I’m being probed by all investigative authorities in the country,” he said in his Instagram post. “As I’ve been branded as a ‘national traitor’, I cannot stand the fact that I’m harming others for my own sake.” But some fans pledged their support for the singer. Bloomberg quoted one social media user as saying: “We call on the real fans’ voice, do not fall into the shameless trap, we support Seungri!”
After Big Bang’s Military Service What Next?
T.O.P. was the first Being Bang member to do his mandatory military. He enlisted for his two-year service in February 2017, as a conscripted policeman. The remaining members continued without him, doing a tour with 14 concerts in four cities with an attendance of 696,000 fans. In 2018 the remaining members began their enlistment: G-Dragon in February; Taeyang and Daesung in March. Seungri was initially announced to enlist in March 2019. The same month he retired from show business due to scandals surrounding the Burning Sun nightclub, and left Big Bang.
In July 2019, T.O.P was the first member to be discharged from the military. He was followed by G-Dragon in October 2019 and Taeyang and Daesung in November, 2019. In January 2020, it was announced that Big Bang would be performing at the Coachella Festival, which would have marked their first performance as a group in three years, but all that was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the topic of their military service, G-Dragon told The Washington Post beforehand in 2016 in fluent, slightly rapper-style English, “If we’re going to talk about that, we’ll feel sad. We are Korean, so we have to go someday, but I don’t know when it’s going to be. Until then, we’ll just try hard to do what we got to do.” [Source: Anna Fifield, Washington Post, March 3, 2016]
Anna Fifield wrote in the Washington Post that military service has caused each member to cultivate his own image, with “all of them marketing themselves as individuals and smaller units. Taeyang and Daesung both have solo acts planned, while T.O.P. has been concentrating more on acting. As for G-Dragon, well, G-Dragon is fashion incarnate. He was in the front row of the Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week this year, clad in a Navy-style Chanel suit and a huge black fur hat. When G-Dragon posts a photo of himself, whatever he is wearing usually sells out instantly. Industry insiders say he has a confidence and swagger that make him appealing, plus a David Beckhamlike ability to look both androgynous and studly at the same time.”
On G-Dragon, 2012 single ‘Crayon’, Jon Caramanica wrote in the New York Times: “Witness K-pop as postmodern theater. G-Dragon — a member of the essential boy band BigBang — is one of the great pop synthesizers of the 2010s, and also a key figure in tethering K-pop to high fashion. “Crayon” is like Southern hip-hop on creatine, brought to the racetrack, then struck by lightning.” [Source: Jon Caramanica, New York Times, February 7, 2018]
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons.
Text Sources: South Korean government websites, Korea Tourism Organization, Cultural Heritage Administration, Republic of Korea, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Library of Congress, CIA World Factbook, World Bank, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, “Culture and Customs of Korea” by Donald N. Clark, Chunghee Sarah Soh in “Countries and Their Cultures”, “Columbia Encyclopedia”, Korea Times, Korea Herald, The Hankyoreh, JoongAng Daily, Radio Free Asia, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2021