Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: G-Dragon's "COUP D'ETAT"

G-Dragon - COUP D'ETAT (2013, South Korea)
Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite Tracks: COUP D'ETAT, Who You?, WINDOW

After the release of ONE OF A KIND, fans were looking forward to a full length album release. I know I was pretty curious what was in store for G-Dragon's experimental journey. When it comes to G-Dragon's music, I always go in with an open mind and I hoped that this second album would be a little more satisfying.

Starting with the first music video release and title track "COUP D'ETAT", I was a little nervous of what kind of video G-Dragon would be giving us as an introduction to his album. I was almost immediately on board with this track and video. It definitely took me a couple more listens as the beat is quite minimalistic and uses trap elements with its hard hitting bass. In the end, it was everything I wanted from G-Dragon since "She's Gone", something dark and personal. I admit that I watched this music video quite a lot. I liked the haunting, minimal sound and the deep, personal symbols laced throughout this nearly three and half minute video. There's so many lovely visuals! This definitely gave me some glimmer of hope of improvement from ONE OF A KIND.

The first time I heard "Niliria (Missy Elliott ver.)" was an airing of their performance from K-CON in Los Angeles on Mnet America. It's still surreal to see the iconic rapper and producer from my childhood collaborating with an artist I enjoy in present day. Watching them perform together made me kinda smile. They definitely know how to vibe off each other's energy and even listening to this song, there's a great balance of both of their styles. Missy always fused other cultures into her beats such as "Get Ur Freak On", so the introduction with the traditional Korean sounds is no surprise. The melody is very smooth, high energy, and danceable. It's definitely a successful party song for both of them to come back on the scene with. I hope kpop fans appreciate Missy's contribution to this track, because I definitely do. She wasn't under utilized or anything, which I'm thankful for. Perfect use of Missy!

"R.O.D." introduced me further to the talented Lydia Paek, which I know many YG stans recognize for her contributions to the company, especially 2NE1. This was a track that took me some time to enjoy as the beat is really disjointed and keeps going back and forth from hip-hop to pseudo-EDM. Lydia's voice works very well in the chorus and I enjoy hearing such talent as opposed to Park Bom's yell singing. Depending on the day, this track can be hit or miss for me.

"Black" features (supposed) new artist Jennie Kim in this beautiful hip-hop track. Sometimes I like these slowed down tracks and hearing G-Dragon's voice straddle the fence of rapping and singing. I think what makes this song solid and truly enjoyable is Jennie Kim's soft, but powerful voice. It really works with the tone that the piano melody and G-Dragon's rap flow deliver. It's not a song I listened to often, but hearing it now, I might make a point to give it a little more attention because it really is beautifully put together.

If it wasn't for Rap Critic and Oancitizen's review of Jay-Z's "Picasso Baby" and some random Kanye West fans, I probably wouldn't have this reference of comparison for "Who You?. Just to make it clear, the Kanye comments were mostly about the concept pictures for "COUP D'ETAT" and not this song, but this music video is very "Picasso Baby" inspired. I think knowing that going into this video made me like it a little less. Obviously, the video concept is an interesting one and supposedly G-Dragon had a hand in making said video. I think it could've been edited a little better as the cuts and mix of video quality are a bit distracting for me. As for the song, I do like it more than "Picasso Baby", but that's besides the point. It's a fun, feel good song with a chipper melody. This track definitely got me back on board with enjoying the album a little more. It puts a smile on my face for sure and I'm a little embarrassed I didn't remember this song before reviewing this album, after all this time.

"Shake the World" has an interesting electronic introduction that reminds me of G-Dragon's Heartbreaker days. It has a semi-marching feeling in the chorus and lots of auto-tune. I'm not sure if it's a good fit for this album as the delivery seems too hollow and superficial, if that makes sense. It's not a terrible track or anything, but it just doesn't flow very well with the beginnings of the album.

"Michi GO" decided to hop out of Heartbreaker to the randomness of ONE OF A KIND. Since I wasn't too crazy about that album, I feel like this track was a step back in progression. I mean I enjoy watching G-Dragon play with these random drug induced ideas, but lately, they've been more miss than hit for me. I do like that he can have fun with these ideas visually, but listening to it without the video just sounds like a bunch of screeching electronic noises attacking my eardrums, which is obviously not a fun experience. Besides, "CRAYON" did a better job at being catchy and random than this.

"CROOKED" got a little back on track with G-Dragon's current style and would later reflect back into Big Bang's music. The video is definitely more tame visually and has an interesting story. I feel like it shows the many sides of Mr. Dragon's personality: mature, wild, and crazy. As for the song, it's nothing special and this feeling might be slightly tainted by the similar sounds I've heard from Big Bang between their Alive and MADE eras. It's not a terrible song in the least, but it just doesn't stand out too much and it's nothing I would listen to as much as say "COUP D'ETAT".

In case you wanted to hear a G-Dragon only version of "Niliria", it does exist on this album as "Niliria (G-Dragon ver.)". In short, it's just as enjoyable as the Missy Elliott version, but being the Missy fan that I am, I don't know why you want to exclude her from this fun track. It almost seems unbalanced and empty without her contribution.

"Runaway" brings in the rock and plays around with another side of G-Dragon. I should enjoy this more than I really do as I've become such a rocker thanks to Linkin Park and Japan's rock scene, but it does nothing for me. The track is enjoyable and I like the vocal arrangement from the semi-singing voices to the howling chorus. It's definitely interesting and I feel like he could play around with these kinds of rock sounds more often.

"I Love It" features the extremely talented Zion.T and Boys Noize in a jazzy, semi-disco dance track. It's another interesting sound that surprisingly works well for all three parties, although G-Dragon sounds kinda whiny...if that's him. I'm not familiar with Boys Noize, so it could be them during the chorus instead of G-Dragon. I feel like if I listened to this song more often, I can see it growing on me.

"You Do (Outro)" is a chilled out rock song that features a few hip-hop elements and a subdue rap delivery from G-Dragon. It's another song that I feel like it could grow on me as it's pretty laid back in sound and everything seems less forced and in your face. It's definitely a pleasant shift from songs like "Michi GO". In short, it's a good closing track for this album...even though there's two more tracks left.

"WINDOW" was a surprising favorite track for me. It takes the good elements from ONE OF A KIND, nurtures it to fit in this new era, and blends it perfectly for the partial theme of this current album. There's minimal auto-tune and gimmicks featured in this track and G-Dragon's vocals sound soothing and beautiful. It's easily one of my favorite songs to listen to repeatedly from the album and simply enjoy this vocal vulnerability given by G-Dragon. It just proves that there is an artist deep inside all that "yoloswag" nonsense.

Lastly is another rendition of "BLACK" that features SKY FERREIRA this time. I don't know why this was an option when Jennie Kim's vocals were quite impressive. SKY's vocals aren't terrible in the least, but it is a little off putting as it's not as gentle as Jennie's and the chorus is completely in English. I would understand having this song on here twice if G-Dragon also rapped in English, but his verses remain untouched and the song seems disjointed.

COUP D'ETAT was an improvement from G-Dragon's mini-album ONE OF A KIND, but it still felt disjointed and didn't impress me that much. While I enjoyed his collaboration with the iconic Missy Elliott and commend him for experimenting even more with his sound, I feel like he could've made more of an effort of being more cohesive. I didn't understand the purpose of having double tracks for "Niliria" and "Black", other than maybe trying to pander to two different demographics or countries. I think he [and the producer(s)] should've been more confident enough in Missy and Jennie Kim's talents to carry out this album. I'm sure whenever his next album comes out will bring more experimentation, but I'm kinda hoping that G-Dragon finds a sound that really suits him and that he spends some time perfecting that sound.

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