Back in May of this year, powerhouse producer Brave Brothers introduced us to Big Star. Brave Brothers used to be a producer for Big Bang, and stated that Big Star is the result of his desire to create a Big Bang-like group. Brave Brothers Big Star Show began airing on May 5, 2012, documenting the group’s training days. Through the show, the five members of the band were revealed, leading up to the release of the music video for “Hot Boy” (which was produced on a $260,000 budget) on July 11.
“Hot Boy” is a twist on your standard breakup song. Instead of crying about how sad they are or talking about how much they’ll miss their ex, the boys of Big Star demand an explanation. They’re convinced that they’re too attractive and too popular to get dumped, even referencing 2NE1‘s “I Am the Best” to explain just how awesome they are.
Beyond the lyrical nod to 2NE1, Big Star lets some of their influences show; for example, the intro and chorus of “Hot Boy” is reminicent of Big Bang’s “Fantastic Baby” and LMFAO‘s singles, with its repetitive electronic riff, simple, low-voiced lyrics, and dance steps that beg to be copied.
The style of rapping in the verses is similar to Donghae and Eunhyuk‘s “Oppa Oppa“, bouncing back and forth from a relaxed, indifferent feel to something a little more energetic, with an arrogant attitude throughout. The choreography for the chorus even includes the hair-combing move we saw in “Oppa Oppa”, and the topic matter is a little similar, as both songs are about being being a super popular guy who’s too hot to handle.
From about 1:18 to 1:49, and again from 2:50 to the end of the song, there’s a big style switch, giving us something that sounds like a hybrid of B2ST‘s “Beautiful” and B1A4‘s “Bling Girl” if it was sung by Niel of TEEN TOP.
Many netizens have expressed dislike for the choice to use such a big style change in the song, saying that it sounds like a bunch of songs thrown together and lacks cohesion. To me, this song reads almost like an audition tape: it’s like they’re trying to give us a quick taste of everything they can do in hopes that we’ll want more. I think that the strange arrangement was an attempt to make sure the singing and rapping got equal airtime, so that they wouldn’t get pigeonholed as either a vocal group or a rap group. While the song confused me at first, I’m starting to like the eclectic arrangement, which gives it interest and keeps it from being just another dance track.
My biggest issues with “Hot Boy” are with the ringing phone sound at the beginning of the song and the sirens at the end. When I hear ringing phones in songs, I always think my phone is ringing and have to stop the song to check. The sirens bother me more, though because in the US, if you’re driving and you hear a police car, fire truck, or ambulance, you’re supposed to pull over to the side of the road so the emergency vehicle can get through. I’ve seen people pull over because they thought they heard sirens that were actually just sounds on the radio, so I don’t really like it when bands include realistic-sounding sirens in their songs.
The video featured at least five sets and even more costume changes, a ton of special effects, and some pretty risky choreography- in the first verse, FeelDog (which may be my least favorite stage name in K-pop by the way) does an unassisted, hands-free jump onto Sunghak and Jude‘s backs, sticks the landing, continues rapping (with some help from Raehwan), and then does an unassisted dismount with a 360-degree spin, sticking this landing, too! What’s even more impressive is that this sequence made it into the live performances of this song, showing just how daring these guys can be. On top of the crazy dancing, the guys look like they’re genuinely having a good time performing together, which is always nice to see.
Interestingly, Big Star released a second music video eleven days later on July 22nd. While we’ve seen other groups release videos in quick succession (Big Bang with Blue, Bad Boy, and Fantastic Baby, in most recent memory), it’s an unusual move for a rookie group. Even more unusual is the fact that this video is not for their other full track, “Baby Girl“, but is instead for “BIGSTAR“, the album’s intro track.
The video takes place on one of the sets from “Hot Boy”, and features the same dancers and extras. The lyrics are pretty standard for a bragging song about how they’re the best and how everyone’s going to fall for them. The song has kind of a ’90s hip hop/R&B feel, with some laid-back rapping and cliched calls to “drop the bass” and “clap your hands”. It’s an enjoyable track, though not particularly exciting.
The last track on the album is “Baby Girl“, a song about sadness and regret in the wake of getting dumped pretty much the opposite of the attitude in “Hot Boy”. Now, some say that “Hot Boy” draws from too many different styles. I feel that “Baby Girl” would have benefited from incorporating more varied inspiration. The song is a very generic R&B ballad that sounds like it could have been a B-side on a Taeyang solo release, or maybe a Jay Park album. The spoken word opening, the falsetto “ooh ooh ooh baby”, the predictable English (“Never gonna let you go / love you more than anything“), the handclaps, the cheesy keyboards… it doesn’t add up to anything particularly interesting.
For some reason, they’ve incorporated breathing noises over the entire track. I think it’s supposed to be sexy, but it’s so over used in “Baby Girl” that it gets a little silly. There’s also this really irritating electronic riff that plays throughout the song- to me, it sounds like an 8-bit video game soundtrack, and not in a good way.
The saving grace of the song is the actual singing and rapping (aside from the aforementioned “ooh ooh ooh baby” and corny English lines). The vocals are really smooth and pretty, and the rapping sounds good (particular from about the 1:59 mark to 2:01, where we get to hear some interesting harmonies). Unfortunately, all this talent seems wasted on a song that’s so tired and boring.
I feel like Brave Brothers did Big Star a huge disservice by putting together a five member band on a documentary-style show (as YG did with Big Bang), giving them a similar name to Big Bang, and then comparing them to Big Bang right after announcing their formation. I mean, as hard as I tried to avoid comparing the bands, I couldn’t help it- I saw Baram‘s cornrows and thought of Taeyang during Big Bang’s debut, I heard his low-voice rapping and thought of T.O.P., I heard leader FeelDog’s fast rapping and saw his red hair and thought of leader G-Dragon…
It’s one thing when a rookie’s debut reminds you of other bands, but Brave Brothers has essentially dared us to compare Big Star to Big Bang. While it’s a bold move, and it shows that he’s confident in Big Star’s abilities, there is a certain type of fan that will automatically turn their nose up at anyone who tries to copy Big Bang, and it’s just not fair to tell Big Star’s audience that they should expect Big Bang’s reincarnation. The boys of Big Star are incredibly talented, but they’re also rookies, cut them a break! This is a comparison he should have kept to himself until the members had a chance to prove themselves (this is also how I feel about YG saying that his new girl group will be like Girls’ Generation or that the group debuting in four years will be modeled after 2NE1).
This becomes a bigger problem when you realize that two of the three tracks on their debut album are pretty generic, and the track that they’re promoting is a mish-mash of stuff we’ve heard before. I did my research before writing this article- almost every comparison I drew in the “Hot Boy” portion of this review (especially the comparisons to “Fantastic Baby”, LMFAO, “Beautiful”, and “Bling Girl”- though people tended to just cite B1A4 in general instead of any particular song) has been made elsewhere on the internet, so I’m not the only one who’s hearing this. The guys in this group are really talented singers, rappers and dancers, but that’s not enough these days.
Until about 2008 or 2009, K-pop bands could debut with “good” material and do all right. Since then, however, rookie bands with “good” material have been popping up all over, most of them vanish as quickly as they debuted with hardly any notice from the industry or fans. This summer, we have more big, up-and-coming bands promoting than ever before- Wonder Girls, Super Junior, After School, 2NE1, T-ara, B2ST, LED Apple, SISTAR, CHI-CHI, and A Pink, as well as this year’s big name rookies NU’EST and B.A.P are just some of the bands promoting right now- others recently wrapped up promotions or are gearing up to start in the next few weeks.
Between competing with established bands and trying to stand out among all the other rookies (at their debut performance on M! Countdown, Big Star was directly compared to A-JAX and N-Train). New debuts need as much help as they can get to stand out from the crowd. While Brave Brothers has put a lot of time, money, and energy into Big Star and gave them a single that is a little different from what’s out there right now, the other two songs aren’t going to do them any favors, and the forced Big Bang comparisons could really rub people the wrong way. I’m rooting for Big Star, because I definitely see potential here, but Brave Brothers is going to have to give them more interesting material and maybe rethink his VIP-alienating marketing strategy.
What are your thoughts on Big Star′s ‘Big Start’? Leave an honest rating and your thoughts in the comments below.