Released in September of 2013, Coup d’Etat built on the touchstones of G-Dragon‘s 2009 debut album and his 2012 One Of A Kind mini. At this point, his immense star power had been cemented, allowing for high-profile collaborations that brought a more international flavor to his work. Within this framework, Coup d’Etat is one of k-pop’s more exhileratingly diverse collections of music, pin-balling from one genre to the next with energy and style to spare. Though he’s most specifically known as a rapper, G-Dragon sung more than usual on this album, giving the songs an incredible sense of versatility and texture. It’s an idiosyncratic work, and one of k-pop’s best albums.
1. Coup d’Etat (ft. Diplo & Baauer) – The album opens with one of its most hip-hop focused moments. Though it was released as a promotional track, Coup d’Etat’s haunting fever dream production and languid hook are far from pop-as-usual. As introductions go, it’s a pretty ballsy one.
2. Niliria (ft. Missy Elliott) – Global collaborations within the k-pop genre can often feel forced and uninspired, but by building Niliria on the traditional Korean folk song of the same name, the song feels like a well-balanced mixture of Eastern and Western elements. And where U.S. artists are concerned, it’s hard to imagine a better partner in crime for GD than Missy Elliott.
3. R.O.D. (ft. Lydia Paek) – Dubstep was a popular influence on 2013 k-pop, and R.O.D.’s distorted chorus lurches around with the best of them. The unexpected electric guitar breakdown at the song’s climax is a welcome touch, as is the inclusion of YG songwriter Lydia Paek, whose melodic refrain counters GD’s impish verses.
4. Black (ft. Jennie Kim / Sky Ferreira) – Released in two versions (one with a Korean chorus, one in English), Black’s sparse production results in one of GD’s moodiest pieces of music. It’s the perfect palette cleanser before the album kicks into uptempo gear once more.
5. Who You? – Who You’s crooning chorus is the album’s poppiest moment, allowing G-Dragon to once again prove how chameleon-like his vocals can be. It was a smart choice as Coup d’Etat’s final single, with a light sound that hearkened back to his debut album.
6. Shake The World – When Coup d’Etat was first released, it was cut into two parts that were unveiled over two days. Shake The World opens the second round of tracks, and its swaggering rumble does a perfect job re-establishing why G-Dragon has become such an iconic figure in k-pop.
7. MichiGO – Released as a single the spring before the album came out, MichiGO’s chaotic mix of trap, dubstep and hip-hop was initially hard to navigate. It’s still the album’s noisiest moment, barely contained by the force of GD’s inimitable charisma.
8. Crooked – The bloodied, beating heart centerpiece of the album, and one of the finest songs to ever come out of k-pop. If the rest of Coup d’Etat is operating at a ten, Crooked revs up the intensity to an eleven, providing the show-stopping climax that any essential album deserves. (Legendary Song Review)
9. Runaway – The perfect follow-up to Crooked, though in the album’s actual running order it’s preceded by a second version of Niliria. Runaway borrows heavily from funk rock, built upon a glossy guitar riff that allows GD to fully engage with his sneering rocker side.
10. I Love It (ft. Zion.T & Boys Noize) – Proving once again what a diverse album Coup d’Etat is, I Love It swings fully towards old school funk r&b. Zion.T provides the perfect vocal counterpart to GD’s similarly-pitched performance. The song is incredibly light on its feet and groovy.
11. Who Do (Outro) – More of a short song than an outro, Who Do is the album’s least-flashy moment. Its minimalist hook and directness gives the impression of a spontaneous, journal-like recording.
12. Window – Bolstered by its spacey synth backdrop, Window manages to feel spare and grandiose at the same time. It’s one of G-Dragon’s most gorgeously affecting tracks — a pensive soundscape that creates the perfect finale for Coup d’Etat’s ambitious restructuring of k-pop genre norms.