Let’s get the personal out of the way first. G-Dragon’s Crooked was released a day before I took off for a two-week trip to the U.K. The song, and its accompanying album, became the soundtrack to that trip, as I meandered though London streets, tube stops and alleyways. Crooked is a song for the city, and the gritty, urban setting of the music video (coincidentally, shot in London), is impossible to separate from the song itself. Some tracks are about melody or production. Crooked is all about attitude and mood. I can’t think of any kpop song that better captures the idea of desperation and sadness hidden underneath puffed-up-chest bravado. It’s a raucous sounding track, but far from a party. Instead, the chugging guitar and haunting, siren synth give the impression of a character out of control, in a swirling mess of a situation with no exit.
G-Dragon isn’t known as a vocalist, yet his vocal tone is one of my favorites in all of kpop. You can be the most amazing singer in the world, a technical marvel, but it won’t mean anything if you can’t convincingly convey emotion. It’s clear that a song has been perfectly produced when you can’t imagine anyone else singing it. With his gnarled delivery, he spits out the hip-hop verses with utter conviction, jeering and hissing until it culminates in that explosive chorus. It’s performance art in the best way, wrapped in a song that could easily stand on its addictive melody and production alone. Taken together, it’s game over.
Crooked practically invented the modern template for angsty rock songs from YG artists, and no one’s been able to match its power yet. The bombastic, sky high chorus is lifted straight from 80’s power rock, but anchored in sadness and real emotion. It’s the rare track that can function both as a stadium sing-along and an intimate portrait of an artist’s frustration.
“Propulsion” is a word I use quite often to describe my favorite songs… that forward movement and momentum that gives a song drive and a surging quality. That feeling is all over Crooked. Musically, it paints a picture of running through a frenzied city, of escape through endless action. It all culminates in that final, breakneck chorus where everything crashes down and the song collapses into darkness. It’s at once heartbreaking and liberating, and you kind of feel like you need a rest when it’s all over. It’s also a bit of a red herring in G-Dragon’s discography. He can create all the brilliant, hype tracks he wants, but I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to match this kind of pure power again.
And that’s what makes it a Legendary Song.