Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Music March: Mic Drop

Now that I've got my reviewing stride back, I've got ideas for a bunch of song reviews, so I'm going to start another Music March event.  To open it up, in honour of the recent Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, I feel like doing another K-pop song.  But which one...?  Ever since I stopped playing the Pump It Up! games, my knowledge of the Korean music scene isn't what it used to be (and it wasn't very much to begin with).  I suppose there's always Psy, but he seems like too easy a target.  ...Wait.  There is another.  There's this boy band called BTS, and they did a remix of one of their songs not too long ago, that featured Steve Aoki and Desiigner...  Wait a tic, let me check it out.

(Listens to song)

Oh ho ho, I think we've got a review on our hands, ladies and gentlemen!

"Mic Drop"
  • Artist: BTS feat. Steve Aoki and Desiigner
  • Album: Non-album single (Original version from Love Yourself: Her)
  • Release: 18 September 2017
  • Genre: Hip-hop/Rap
  • Label: Big Hit (Sony)
  • Writers: Pdogg, Supreme Boi, "hitman" bang, J-Hope, RM, Desiigner (remix)
  • Producers: Pdogg, Steve Aoki (remix)

Before we continue, allow me to introduce our cast of characters.  BTS was formed in Seoul in 2013, and the name is an acronym of the Korean phrase "Bangtan Sonyeondan", or "Bulletproof boy scouts".  Then again, it has also been backronymed in English as "Beyond The Scene", so take that for what you will.  They have seven members, currently aged 20 to 25, and their names are Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, but I couldn't tell you which is which.  They have recorded in Korean, Japanese, and the random English phrases that are peppered throughout all Asian music these days.  The original version of this very single was also done in Korean and Japanese versions, in addition to the remixed, mostly-English version we have on our hands now.

Which brings us to our guest-stars.  Steve Aoki is a Japanese-American DJ of the deadmau5/Skrillex mold, and Desiigner is a Brooklyn-based rapper of the Future mold.  You may remember the latter from his inexplicable number-one single "Panda", but then again maybe not.  After all, what separates him from the other forty-six thousand eight-hundred fifty-three mumblecore rappers these days?  Also, what's up with the double "i" in his name?  ...Other than "because poor literacy is KEWL".

Now, this is where things get confusing.  See. there's the original version of the song, and then there's the remix, where some of the lyrics were replaced with English lines and Steve Aoki changed up the music a bit.  But there were two separate versions of the remix itself: the single replaces the first verse with a guest verse by Desiigner, but the one used in the music video (reposted above) still keeps the original verse, but still uses the Steve Aoki music.  And then there's a Japanese version of the original and oh no I've gone cross-eyed.  Well, let's try to make sense of it all, and review the lyrics from the video version, for the benefit of all of you playing along at home.

NB: Lyrics in italics have been translated from Korean.  Said translations were taken from the captions of the official music video (reposted above), and may vary with other sources.
Yeah, someone says my spoon's filthy (I come from a [adjective] background)
I don’t care, when I grab the mic, I beat them who got golden spoons
The first verse is kicked off by, let's see... J-Hope, who immediately hits us with an unusual metaphor.  Or maybe not; in English, at least, we use the phrase "the silver spoon" as a metaphor for luxury, so "golden spoon" would be close enough.  And J-Hope twists that around by saying that even though he does not come from luxury, his talents as a rapper are greater than those who do.  So, yeah, eat that, Puff Daddy.  Also, what's up with that additional line in parentheses?  I didn't hear anything in the song where that extra line would fit, so either that was just a translation note added for the captions, or the song itself really does have a [adjective] background.  ...Background vocals, that is.
I lash out
There are many rare steaks not cooked properly

I’ll be chewing over and over at the stars' dinner
Steaks...?  Yeah, it makes sense, it's just... silly.  Well, I'll give BTS this: they have no problem finding new metaphors to express their dominance over the haters.  Doesn't mean it's any less awkward, but it's more creative than anything I've heard before.
With this good scent, stinking is a foul
Mic, mic bungee
Also, "mic bungee".  J-Hope is so attached to the act of mic-dropping that, apparently, he put a bungee cord on his microphone so he can do it again at a moment's notice.  But what he failed to take into account is that this completely misses the point of the mic-drop.  You're supposed to just drop it and walk away, so the act serves as an emphatic punctuation on whatever it is you said.  But if you just pull the mic back into your hand, you clearly have something else to say, and the act thus loses its impact.  That is, assuming that's what he actually said and that wasn't just some Korean word that sounds like bungee.  But it's in the captions, so it must be true!  Meanwhile, Suga takes over:
Mic, mic bungee
Bright light, forward
You thought I was going down, but

I’m fine, sorry
My bad, Billboard
My bad, worldwide
Or, should I say, #SorryNotSorry.  I'm guessing he's fake-apologising for doing the mic-bungee thing too.
I’m sorry mom, your son is so killing it
Should I chip in for the duties you missed as a good child?
Okay, now you really mean #SorryNotSorry.  Wait, if you're able to remunerate your own mother, then what was that about not coming from luxury?  Are you and J-Hope on the same page right now, or what?
If you're so jealous and it hurts, then file a lawsuit, sue it
Well, since you opened yourself up to the prospect, I'd be wary of Desiigner.  You took his verse out of the video, so if anyone's going to sue you over your success, it's him.  But speaking of, the remix gets back on track with the main version starting with the first bridge, sung by Jungkook, V, Jimin, Jin.  I don't know why I just listed their names, since as we previously established, I cannot yet tell them apart.  But anyway, let's have at it:
Did you see my bag?
Did you see my bag?
It's hella trophies and it's hella thick
(laughs profusely)  There's just something about this line that cracks me up so hard!  I don't know, maybe it's the heavy slang, or the sudden transition from Korean to English, or just the thought of taking these lines literally, like they've actually lost some luggage with all their awards in it.  Of course, K-pop artists are no strangers to random English lyrics.  Why, BTS themselves gave us this gem from one of their previous singles, "Blood, Sweat, and Tears":
Peaches and cream
Sweeter than sweet
Chocolate cheeks and chocolate wings
And don't get the wrong idea: this isn't me doing some wonky translation from Korean.  No, this was originally sung in English.  While the original version of "Mic Drop" had some of these lines in Korean instead, BTS had re-written them in English themselves for the remix.  OMG, I want SO much for this line to become a meme!
What you think 'bout that?
What you think 'bout that?
I just told you what I think.  Namely, that the previous lines were some of the most gleefully ridiculous lyrics I've ever heard.
I bet it got my haters hella sick
One thing's for sure, the haters will be sick with laughter!  ...Okay, I'm cool now.  Let's just move on to the chorus, with... (let me see...) Jungkook, J-Hope, and Rap Monster:
Another trophy, my hands carry 'em
Too many that I can't even count 'em
Wait a tic, I thought you were using a bag to carry all your trophies!  Unless you got so many that it started overflowing and you had to carry the rest manually.  Given that you said you had too many to count, this is a distinct possibility.
Mic drop, mic drop
Foot, foot, watch it, your mouth, mouth, watch it
I don't get the structure of that sentence, unless it's telling the haters to put their foot in their mouth, a metaphorical statement used whenever someone says something stupid.  Which, given the context of the song, could have worked.  Mind you, this last line is in Korean, hence the italics I put on it, so maybe it is grammatically correct for all I know.
Baby watch your mouth
We come back around
The second verse, which my lyrics sheet tells me was sung by J-Hope, Suga, and Rap Monster, appears to confirm my previous analysis.
Once upon a time
We learned how to fly
How many hours do we fly?
I keep on dreamin' on the cloud
Yeah, I'm on the mountain, yeah, I'm on the bay
Then it's followed up by this odd line where they brag about being able to fly.  And surprisingly, they expand on that idea later in the verse, as if taking their boast literally.
Everyday we vibin', mic drop, bam
...Okay, if you can physically fly as you have so claimed, then that mic drop was actually well-deserved.  You've earned yourself an outro!
Don't need too see you anymore, this is the last farewell
Don't got no words to tell, don't even apologise
Don't need too see you anymore, this is the last farewell
Don't got no words to tell, don't even apologise
Yeah, this is our last good-bye to you, haters!  ...At least the second time we sing that line.  And we have no other words to mince with you!  ...Other than these next four lines.
See, you end up just like that
Just so fizzy, we're like cola
Your cornea gets shocked when it sees us
Quite, quite stylish, s-s-stylish yeah
Your metaphors aren't quite what I'd call stylish, but what do I know.

Now that I've finally run out of lyrics (for now...) let's take a break and talk about the music.  The original has a down-and-dirty hip-hop vibe.  It does the job, but BTS aren't quite the most hardcore of gangstas, so I for one can't take it a hundred percent seriously.  If you want to hear what that version sounds like, I've reposted a fan-made animated video which uses it.

The remix, meanwhile, takes bassline from the original and evolves it into a pseudo-dubstep arrangement.  Unfortunately, once you hear the high-pitched riff, you'll never not hear it.  Still, I appreciate the fact that this remix actually re-mixes the music, instead of the increasingly popular approach of just using the same song but with an extra rap verse.  Seriously, I love Bruno Mars's "Finesse" as much as the next guy, but just slapping on that Cardi B verse and calling that a "remix" is kind of a cheat.

As mentioned before, the single version of the remix features Desiigner in lieu of the first verse, so as a bonus, let's look at what he has to say.  The song starts with Desiigner doing a few ad-libs before entering his verse proper:
Playing that basketball, uh, we playing that a lot, huh
I'ma just get to the chicken, whip it, then I flip it, then trap it all, huh
Basketball... and chicken.  Way to play off black stereotypes right off the bat, Desiigner.  Actually no, "chicken" in this context is slang for a kilogram of cocaine, so that means he's throwing drugs-dealing into the mix.  Yay, more ghetto stereotyping! (thumbs-up into face-palm)
I gotta get to the dolla, all them haters, back 'em off (back!)
Smoking on gas a lot (gas!), ready to wack 'em all
This what I did to the haters, the choppa hit 'em, tell 'em back 'em off, huh
I'll give him this though: since the rest of this song has an overarching theme of one-upping the haters that apparently exist in BTS's collective lives, this at least fits that theme, which is more than I can say for most guest verses these days.  Mind you, I doubt BTS's methods of serving the haters involves murdering them, as is apparently the case for Desiigner, but their name does mean "bulletproof boys", so what do I know?
She like Apple Jack, huh, I like apple sauce, huh, huh
Oh ho ho, I think Desiigner just outed himself as a brony!  Or maybe he's dating a pega-sis.  ...Actually no.  "Apple Jack" in this context is a type of liquor distilled from apples.  Still, knowing this fact makes the pony character Applejack a teensy bit funnier, so either way, I'mma call this a win and move on.  There's really nothing else for me to point out in this verse, until the last line:
I'ma just get to the kitchen, and trap hard, with all my
...And that's it.  Desiigner's verse just cuts off there as the song goes straight into the pre-chorus bridge.  You know, the "Did you see my bag?" bit.  Granted, I appreciate any excuse for him not to drop the N-word, as I assume this line was going to lead to, but if not, at least let the man finish his thoughts!

As for my thoughts, this was a fun little song.  It's not the greatest thing ever to happen to music; the beat has its annoyances in both versions, and the lyrics aren't that deep either (which, in retrospect, I admit was also the case with "Gangnam Style").  But it's not bad either, and was in fact good for a laugh.  I may even seek out more from BTS in the future.  And who knows, maybe I'll branch out further into other K-pop from there!  Thank you, BTS, for teaching me how to love again.

Lyrics: 3 mics out of 5
Music: 2 mics out of 5
Performance: 4 mics out of 5
The Call: 3 mics out of 5 (C)

No comments:

Post a Comment