Review

Random Shuffle Review: Topp Dogg – Topdog

With over 2,300 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!


Year Released: 2014

2014 marked the year where “hard” hip-hop really started infiltrating the boy group landscape. BTS were early adopters, debuting with their version of the sound a year prior, but many other acts followed in their wake. Like any trend, over-proliferation resulted in quite a few forgettable songs, but Topp Dogg (now known as Xeno-T) were always a group who brought a welcome sense of experimentation to their otherwise trend-chasing sound. At the start of 2014, Arario did this by incorporating traditional Korean instrumentation to rousing effect. Its follow up, the self-referentially titled Topdog, was even more ambitious.

The song samples Amadeus’s iconic Symphony No. 25 in G Minor as a frame for its verses, opening with a symphonic flourish that carries through to create a fantastic instrumental. The members’ mixture of vocals and rap is all over the place during these segments, veering wildly in rhythm and performance style. It’s hard to get a handle on at first, but this freewheeling — almost cypher-like — construction meshes surprisingly well with the classic touches of the frenzied production. The repetitive chorus is less impressive, amounting to little more than an opportunity for the guys to shout their group name with as much faux swagger as they can muster. This laziness is even more apparent after the standout pre-chorus, which swells with layered harmonies. Topdog’s unique arrangement still makes it an unqualified (and deeply weird) success, but a standout hook would have really sent it soaring.

 Hooks 7
 Production 10
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

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3 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: Topp Dogg – Topdog

  1. This is one of my least favorite songs in all of kpop. No. 25 is one of the few Mozart symphonies I actually enjoy listening to, and whoever wrote “Topdog” absolutely butchered it. I mean, the most salient issue is that they’re using blues scale vocals with classical strings over the top which… clashes, to say the least. Why would one even do that? The blues scale didn’t exist when Mozart was a thing. Which brings me to my next point: Mozart is totally inconsequential to the music here. I could take Mozart’s work away and it would really still be the same song in the end, which is kind of disappointing. As you mentioned, the hook is disastrous. Like, who thought shouting the group’s name over an incongruous breakdown would be a good idea? There’s just, just so many things wrong with it. As a classical musician myself, I think classical music in pop is actually a really cool idea that can be done very well. This ain’t it.

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    • It’s always interesting to hear your perspective, especially since it’s rooted in much more music theory than mine.

      I think I’ve always liked the anything-goes, kitchen sink production of this track. It’s not the cleanest of arrangements, for sure, but it has a certain brashness to it that appeals to me — despite the overall messiness and that disappointing chorus. Love it or hate it, it certainly stands out!

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      • Despite my misgivings I definitely appreciate that it does stand out of the crowd. I’d definitely rather hear a group release this than YET ANOTHER trop house track!

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