Bang Yongguk Returns to the Scene with First Album
Former leader of B.A.P Bang Yongguk is finally back on the Korean scene! His first mini-album BANGYONGGUK comes on the heels of pre-release track “Hikikomori,” which dropped about a month ago. Fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of their favorite leader since it was announced that he’d be leaving TS Entertainment and his group behind.
If there is a title on this album, it’s certain to be “Hikikomori.” The release of this track left a lasting impression on all those who first listened, as it’s an incredibly powerful expression of mental illness, likely reflecting Yongguk’s own personal experience with a panic disorder. “Hikikomori” is a Japanese word that describes a condition of extreme isolation from society, already giving the listener a clue of what they’re in for with this track.
The song itself has a dreamy tone to it, soft and melancholy. Yongguk sings of his desire to be left alone in his own little bubble, expressing feelings of depression and isolation that he’d rather experience than face the world. The listener can feel the pain in his faint and slow rap, with lyrics such as “If you love me, can’t you leave me alone? You make a fool out of me, with another bruise I’ll be hiding in my room, I’m hikikomori” pulling heavily at the heart strings. If you’ve ever experienced hurt, I guarantee you’ll be crying by the end of this song out of empathy.
The music video is especially powerful in the visual metaphors used to express his inner turmoil. The video begins with him ending a performance, a blindfold over his eyes as a metaphor to show that his true colors are being hidden behind that mask. He returns to a completely demolished room, a metaphor for the inside of his head. His acting is extremely raw and powerful, as the video ends in a scene of him switching between unending laughter and pained screaming in his completely tidy room, showcasing a range of uncontrollable emotions that comes along with being pushed to your limits. “Hikikomori” is the type of song you will never see a K-Pop idol be allowed to release, since it showcases the dark side of everyday life experiences for idols. However, that is what makes this release all the more intense and passionate, leaving a lasting impression that will never be forgotten.
There are a total of 15 tracks, with the final three being instrumental versions and a remix of previous tracks on the album, which adds up to a total of 12 unique tracks for fans to enjoy. BANGYONGGUK kicks off with the light “Diary,” a smooth, early hip-hop influenced track that has a soft beat contrasting Yongguk’s husky voice. Next comes “대화가 필요해,” a velvety and mellow track that is a perfect fit for Yongguk’s unique vocals. The song has more modern influences, with some EDM interspersed in the chorus.
“Hikikomori” takes third place on the album and is followed by “모조리,” a sensual R&B track that features Sogumm and brings a new flavor to the album. This song leaves quite an impression, because while it does have that smooth R&B vibe, there’s a little bit of a distortion to the melody that is impressionable and unexpected, almost as if Yongguk is trying to express two polar-opposite feelings together. The relaxing melody returns with “야해,” a warm track that perfectly melds Yongguk’s deep voice with the temperate rhythm. “Holiday” comes along next, a track featuring Paul Given. “Holiday” slows down the tempo significantly, but keeps the sensual vibe and amplifies it.
Shaking up the melody halfway through the album, “여행” features a prominent acoustic guitar and lighter alternative sound in comparison to the other tracks. Truthfully, these lighter tracks don’t quite fit Yongguk’s deep and husky voice as well, so they’re not my favorite. But if you’re looking for a quick change in the overall feel of the album, you’ll find it in “여행.” “Portrait” offers the first ballad of the album, a mournful instrumental track that features a piano and violin rather than Yongguk’s vocals. The change in pace certainly leaves an impression, and it’s hard not to feel some level of sadness after listening to this song. Unexpected is an understatement when it comes to reaching this song on the tracklist.
“Codex Gigas” maintains the sorrowful atmosphere as it comes next, with Yongguk rapping rather intensely over a slow tempo. The song changes its make-up halfway through to feature a chanting melody, switching back and forth between that and the purely instrumental melody. There’s some distortion elements used in the song, further amplifying the feelings of misery that come along with this complex track. As we arrive to the tenth track “AM 4:44,” emotions run deep in Yongguk’s lamenting tracks thus far on the album. “AM 4:44” has a feel that’s a mix between “Codex Gigas” and the earlier R&B tracks on the album, but it’s hard to deny the heavy emotions that come along with this track.
“Xie Xie” will certainly catch you off guard, as it has a more intense hip-hop feel than anything on the album thus far and is a total contrast to the heavy atmosphere that has been present in most of the songs before it. The traditional Eastern influences in the instrumentation of this song are refreshing as we don’t hear them too often these days. If you’re looking for the banger on this album, you’ll definitely find it in “Xie Xie.”
The two instrumental tracks on the album are “대화가 필요해” and “AM 4:44,” both of which have a nice ambiance without the lyrics added. These two songs are perfect for a study playlist. The album then concludes with a remix of “Xie Xie,” which features Sway D, Liquor, and LE of EXID. Hooray for banger times two!
All in all, BANGYONGGUK is a solid album full of different melodies that all fit Yongguk well. While the acoustic tracks can sometimes feel off in comparison, the rest of the album holds so much personality of who Bang Yongguk is. It’s easy to feel the emotional impact of the heavier songs, and just as easy to enjoy the more upbeat tracks. Yongguk certainly shows his talent as an artist through this album, and we’re glad to have him back.