Review

Song Review: BIGBANG – Still Life

Bigbang - Still LifeI have a few “holy grails” in K-pop – comebacks I’ve wished for so long they seem impossible. BIGBANG’s return is one of these landmark moments. Hints of a comeback first emerged back in 2020, waylaid by the pandemic. Two years later, the group confirmed they would finally release new music, and I couldn’t have been more excited. BIGBANG are – and forever will be – K-pop royalty, and their presence has been sorely missed.

As more information emerged about this comeback, my hopes were tempered. No album this time. No music show performances. And, a shockingly small amount of pre-release hype. Before Still Life (봄여름가을겨울) had even been unveiled, I resigned myself to its existence as a fan song with limited promotion. After all, it’s better to set expectations low when you’re dealing with a release so tied to sentiment and nostalgia.

First off, let me say how incredible it is to see and hear these guys again. K-pop doesn’t make idol groups like this anymore – and that’s not just my age and bias talking. From the strength and individuality of their vocals to their unique and commanding presence, BIGBANG exemplify the best that K-pop can be. Just seeing them standing on a music video set, styled to perfection, is a bit emotional. I can’t believe I get to write about a new BIGBANG song in 2022!

With that said, Still Life is the subdued comeback I feared it might be. This is fine. BIGBANG are masters at delivering dynamic hip-hop ballads. Some of their strongest material is also their most pensive. But, Still Life feels more like a denouement than a big moment. And following Last Dance and Flower Road, we’ve had quite a few of these from the group.

BIGBANG sound incredible on the track. Taeyang opens verse one and all is right in the world. Over the past few years, vocal color and expression have become less emphasized in K-pop, replaced by airtight choreography and bombastic production. But, it’s such a vital element. These four vocal tones are iconic – instantly recognizable and wonderfully idiosyncratic. They power Still Life to the end, even if the actual song borders on throwaway when compared with BIGBANG’s strongest material.

The production opts for a bluesy rock backdrop, fueled by fiery guitar and emotive keys. Those elements are tied to a Beatles-esque arrangement, which works better for BIGBANG than you might expect. The song leaves room for bursts of rap courtesy of TOP and G-Dragon, but is decidedly low-key throughout. Its structure takes a moment to sink in. As far as I can tell, Still Life doesn’t have a definite chorus. Instead, the song works with a series of melodic themes, building upon each other before climaxing in a cathartic chant. The track opens and closes with the same refrain – the closest to a “hook” we get. This approach rewards repeated listens, even if it may feel a little underwhelming the first time through.

In the end, I really can’t be objective about Still Life. BIGBANG have been such an integral part of my own K-pop history. Had any other act released this song, I’d probably call it “fine” and move on. But, BIGBANG’s performance will always stop me in my tracks and tug on my heartstrings. That’s just the way it is. This is a lovely – if inessential – addition to their discography. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t hoped for more, but I guess that’s the nature of a “holy grail.” They’re meant to be elusive.

Still Life certainly feels like the end, though we thought that about Last Dance as well. If this is truly the conclusion of the BIGBANG story, they’re going out on their own terms. There will never be another group like them.

Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

28 thoughts on “Song Review: BIGBANG – Still Life

  1. It’s gorgeous and touching and they look SO GOOD. I love their Beatleseque moments a whole lot – If You might be my favorite song of theirs. I feel the same way I did when I had my first SHINee comeback last year as a baby fan. Absolute top of the class.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such a beautiful song! I can’t believe we’ve come to witness (probably, sadly) the end of the greatest act of kpop.The individual shots, the 4 empty chairs, the ever lasting and bigbangish “la la la” brought me full circle to their early days.
    I also really loved the “Still Life” – “Still Alive” thing going on.
    Now, I really should go back to the roots of their discography and make my way to this, to fully feel “Still Life”.

    (as a side note, Nick, I don’t think I’ve ever posted on a blog, but yours really made it into my routine.Now everytime I remember there’s a comeback going on I get on your blog, read your review and, comparing it,I do understand my feelings about a song way better.Not to mention that, everytime I listen to someting, I’m thinking: “Damn, Nick must love/hate this track”, make some type of Nick-POV-review in my head before you are posting the review and wait to see if I’m correct.I LOVE IT!”)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Man, I really liked this. I’m biased as hell but I think it’s gorgeous. I’ve always thought Bigbang’s vocals were underrated. Their production tends to let their voices shine in a way that’s seems weirdly rare in a lot of K-pop (I’d love to know more groups with a similar production style).

    And even though there’s no chorus, the melodies build on each other and the unusual structure, the little injection of rap, the nostalgic guitars all work together for me. Just lovely.

    Like

  4. I was really, really curious to see what their return would look like, and I think this strikes a fitting tone. “Still Life” does that rare thing of feeling both personal and universal at the same time, and as Nick identified, it’s wonderful to hear the individual, distinct voices of this group again.

    I’m not a VIP and I’m not one for ballads, but I hope VIPs get some… peace? catharsis? satisfaction? out of this.

    Also I kind of chuckled at T.O.P’s rabbit mask, I feel like it was his idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “BIGBANG are – and forever will be – K-pop royalty, and their presence has been sorely missed.”

    100% with you on that, Nick! Big Bang are tied with EXO as my all-time favorite male kpop group. I am not sure any other group will replace them, even if this is their last hoorah to us (VIP’s), it will truly be a sad day for me….

    all the signs are there that this just may be ‘it’ for this iconic kpop group, and while i wish we could have gotten more (last time or not), i could never be upset with Big Bang because of all they are, have been, meant, and mean to kpop….

    all i’ll ever be able to do is say goodbye and thank you….i have not listened to the song as of yet, but i will….your review has me kind of choked-up, as my heart does feel the guys are going to go their separate ways….i guess we will eventually see.

    -t. gumbo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I cried. The fact that they are never in a single shot together… It’s probably just me but Daesang looks broken and TOP isn’t even on the planet. That end look, imo,says “I told you I wasn’t coming back. Listen to me this last time. I’ve moved on.”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I don’t like this song, but I’m not a fan whatsoever, and one of the newer K-pop fans so I don’t really feel the emotion on this track.

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  8. This song gave me emotional vibe. Same vibe at my college graduation ceremony, we singing goodbye anthem together in black coat, warm embrace, and teary eyes.

    leaving back the youth memories, clearly not ready to say goodbye, and not ready for the hard reality.

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  9. This song works simply because of how how strong of a group big bang is. I feel like if you name any fourth generation group they wouldn’t be able to do a song of this nature and succeed. No hate, just facts

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    • Very few swan songs (especially in K-Pop) are ever considered to be the artists’ best material. I think this piece was meant more of a “This is a thank you and a farewell to all of our fans that were patiently waiting for a comeback that never came.”, rather than a serious attempt to give the world another BIGBANG mega-hit.

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  10. Can we talk about the elephant-sized stain in the room? Imagine you’re GD, T.O.P, Taeyang, or Daesung. You spend over a decade building an empire. You go beyond the tortuous regime of idol life and compound the ordeal, willfully, by pouring every last drop of yourself into maintaining a pirouette atop your well-earned pedestal. You’re not just an idol.. ..you’re an icon.

    Then one of your own brothers (Seungri) decides to fly too close to the black sun that is Yang Hyun-suk. He adopts the “I’m king of the world” mentality and fully embraces the thuggery and douche-baggery of his demented mentor. Then, in a punch-drunk stupor of disregard and narcissistic fervor, he kicks the lantern over in the barn. Imagine being one of the four “true” members of BigBang watching their arduously crafted blood, sweat, and tears legacy burn to the ground because of the selfishness and stupidity of someone you once called, “Brother.”.

    What would your final song sound like? How would you appear in the video for that song?

    P.S. MAJOR sad-face emoji x 100!

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    • seems like it would be all the more reason to come back with that classic Big Bang comeback that is a flat-out kpop bop!….i mean if this is goodbye, then why not go out with a bang?….it’s just sad to me….

      VIP’s are fiercely loyal to Big Bang….we deserve better than this….nothing lasts forever and i guess we may be seeing the end of another iconic kpop group….i guess it is what it is….

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      • “VIP’s are fiercely loyal to Big Bang….we deserve better than this…”

        I would think a true fan would care more about what’s in the hearts and minds of the artists, rather than what’s in it for themselves.

        But that’s probably just me…

        Liked by 1 person

        • as a fan, whatever they decide will be fine with me, because there is nothing in it for me other than being a fan, and i am a ‘true’ fan of Big Bang, and just like me, i am sure many VIP’s would have liked more than this, but maybe that’s just us….

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  11. Déjame primero felicitarte un gran comentario, tan cierto y sincero. La verdad soy VIP antigua y cada vez que estos reyes lanzaban un single o un álbum todo el mundo vibra!!!, al igual que está canción ¡es eterna! Tienes razón, inicia y termina igual mostrándonos a todos que Big Bang es y será el grupo icono del kpop en muchos sentidos. Lamentablemente comparto tu opinión sobre las últimas producciones, es más, me sentía un poco aburrida en estos años por escuchar lo mismo, canciones melódicas con coreografías robóticas y poco tacto en letras; no he escuchado canción dinámica, divertida, interesante, atrayente con letra y ritmo único en todos estos añossss!!!! ha sido una repetición de lo mismo(cómo los extrañaba). Los grupos de estos años estan conformados por niños y niñas centradas en imágenes de caramelo (incluso el maquillaje y el color del cabello) con talento por desarrollar pero limitados por las letras o ritmos “comerciales” y poco sinceros. Un sinsentido que hayan todavía talentos ocultos que lastimosamente no cuentan con los medios ni empresas que puedan impulsarlos. Es triste ver que los reyes no dejan a un sucesor encaminado a ser siquiera como ellos o incluso superarlos (como si eso fuera posible). Pero igual para mí Big Bang como grupo es y siempre serán 5, no 4 ni 3, pero como fan internacional son más son Miles de almas que vibramos y sentimos las canciones de ellos ya sean sus singles y álbumes en coreano o japonés o inglés o sus famosísimos covers y datos curiosos súper cómicos y dados a la imaginación. Big Bang es más que una banda, es más que un fanclub o empresa, Big Bang es un corazón que nos enseñó a creer que nuestros sueños se harán realidad.
    Aún recuerdo en el 2010 cuando mi amiga me hizo llorar diciendo que jamás los conocería ni iría a uno de sus conciertos, y a mí en el 2014 mostrándole mi entrada al Alive tour y el concierto más grande y genial de mi memoria, ellos me enseñaron que el poder que está dentro mío solo lo defino yo y el cielo y sus límites los pongo yo en mi vida.
    De nuevo muchas gracias por tu reseña y disculpa el comentario tan largo.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Es un comentario personal, por favor no está dirigido a ningún grupo en especial, si no les gusta no hay problema ignorenlo.

      Like

  12. “If this is truly the conclusion of the BIGBANG story, they’re going out on their own terms. There will never be another group like them.” wow this one brought tears to my eyes. Being a fan is a weird thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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