K-Pop debuts can be tricky things. At times, they’re the best song a group delivers. Sometimes, they’re the only song a group delivers!
But, debuts can also be huge wtf moments in an artist’s career. In this feature, I’ll be looking back at debut songs through the prism of time, re-evaluating how well they hold up and how representative they are of an artist’s eventual singles run.
Debut Date: August 19, 2006
Bigbang returned with Still Life earlier this month, so it seems as good a time as any to flash back nearly sixteen years to their debut. The group emerged with a single album, of which a couple tracks were given a music video. But, We Belong Together stands as their first promoted track – as well as the CD debut of Park Bom who would later be known as part of 2NE1.
It’s hard to put myself in the 2006 frame of mind. I was not yet a K-pop fan, meaning the only “We Belong Together” that occupied my brain space was Mariah Carey’s huge hit. The two songs actually share a similar vibe, though BIGBANG’s version coasts on a more laidback melody. The track presents a leisurely hip-hop beat over which the guys trade rapped verses with Bom’s hooky chorus. By today’s standards, the production is very smooth and unchanging, highlighted by a delicate keys loop that gives the rhythm satisfying swing.
Interestingly, We Belong Together doesn’t utilize the group’s vocal talents at all. Bom does all of the singing and her voice comprises quite a bit of the track. This seems like an odd choice for a debut. You’d think YG would have wanted to highlight all of the members – not just a couple. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t be until 2007 that BIGBANG really broke through with Lies. You can hear the smallest bit of that groundwork being laid in We Belong Together.
Does the song hold up?
I mean, I still like it… but it sounds very of its era.
Is the song stronger or weaker than most of the artist’s title tracks?
It’s definitely on the weaker side. The group didn’t start really finding their way until a year after its release.
Does the song represent the artist’s music going forward?
It feels like a very bare-bones template. It offers a glimpse of their hip-hop/r&b sound but doesn’t hint at their EDM and rock influences at all.
so now that all the songs for the american song contest are out, i’ve decided to rank every single one (spoiler: almost all of them are mid, and a lot of them are generic country songs/ballads). here’s the entire ranking:
entire contest found dead, the killer: alaska (the story; 9.25)
all the good shit: minnesota (ready to go; 9), kentucky (sparrow; 9), delaware (train; 9), colorado (feel the love; 9), illinois (lifeline; 9), south carolina (not alone; 9.25)
be pretty decent: alabama (the difference; 8.25), iowa (wonder; 8.75), arkansas (never like this; 8.25), mississippi (fire; 8.75) kansas (tell me; 8.5), new york (green light; 8), montana (fire it up; 8.25), florida (flirt; 8.25), louisiana (now you do; 8.5), new jersey (i don’t take pictures anymore; 8.25), texas (mr independent; 8), south dakota (bad girl; 8.5), west virginia (working on a miracle; 8.5), massachusetts (shameless; 8), new hampshire (fly; 8.75), washington dc (i like it; 8.5), utah (sad girl; 8.25), connecticut (beautiful world; 8), idaho (steady machine; 8.25), vermont (rollercoaster; 8.75), new mexico (drop; 8.5), california (keys to the kingdom; 8), american samoa (full circle; 8.25)
cookies that weren’t in the oven long enough: oklahoma (wonderland; 7.5), puerto rico (loko; 7.25), rhode island (held on too long; 7), oregon (million dollar smoothies; 7.5) u.s. virgin islands (celebrando; 7), nebraska (never alone; 7.25), maine (get out alive; 7), tennessee (seventeen; 7.25), washington (a bit of both; 7), hawaii (4 you; 7.5), arizona (de la finikera; 7.25), georgia (diy; 7.5), wisconsin (feel your love; 7.75), north dakota (can’t make you love me; 7.5), ohio (every night; 7.75), michigan (natalie; 7), missouri (better things; 7.75), north carolina (right in the middle; 7.25), maryland (it’s up; 7.75)
did the juries think this was good: indiana (love in my city; 6.5), northern mariana islands (sunsets & seaturtles; 6.75), pennsylvania (plenty love; 6.5), virginia (over you; 6.75), guam (midnight; 6.75)
from the lowest pits of hell: wyoming (new boot goofin; 5.25)
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and not even the songs i gave a 9 would be on my top 10 songs of the year, that’s how mediocre the show was 😭😭
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I had to listen to Alaska’s song, and i don’t even like Jewel, and it’s a great song. Best thing I’ve ever heard her do.
Thank you for the ranking. Now to listen to a mere few …. be right back
… and I am back.
I am rooting for Delaware “Train”. It is like Annie Lennox using her Nina Simone voice to cover an old Pointer Sisters song. What’s not to like?
Colorado next. Sure it sounds like a Disney song, but that is fine by me.
Re: Wyoming “New Boot Goofin”: Well, alright. You may not know, but there was a country song in the early 90’s called the Boot Scoot Boogie. Insanely popular. If you have ever seen country line dancing, this is the classic song. Several decades on, if one wanted to do a tongue-firmly-in-cheek all-twerking hip-hop send up of that song with skimpy neon diamond back snake skin, it would be this song. I mean, just look at how much fun these people are having doing the boot scoot boogie, yes? No. ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj2JLVRbwvA
Wyoming is actually hard to find – here it is for y’all to “enjoy”.
To be perfectly honest, after sorting through too many boot scoot boogieing uploads, I prefer Wyoming, by far.
Oh right, this song. First time listening. Yeah, weird, why do you put another singer (who hasn’t herself debuted yet) as the lead off line and main singer too for most of the song? The guys parts are just about reduced to ad libs.
I always thought LaLaLa was their debut song but then again, as you stated, most of these songs had a music video: We Belong Together, A Fool’s Only Tears, and This Love. But I also always considered LaLaLa their debut song for some reason not to mention that their predebut survival show featured some of these tracks! I am a confused VIP
As for the song I always enjoyed these hip-hop YG days of Bigbang even if the group’s 2007 point of divergence was revolutionary. I got into them (and kpop) in ’09 so this era already felt like ancient history to my ears. Funny how now their material up to 2012 have a dated sound as well!
This song isn’t particularly exciting in any musical way, not unlike Still Life actually, and yet I enjoy it. It’s a very listenable song with solid raps and a strong melodic chorus. and that’s something I’ve always appreciated about most of Bigbang’s songs.
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I think the reason LaLaLa was considered their debut single for so long is simply because none of them like they barely have any role in Belong Together, and the song also flopped.
The song sounds good. It would make for a chill time during a late night drive.
Not feeling that cultural appropriation though…..
An issue that’s still in kpop after all this time. I’d really like kpop artists to stop trying to “be black” to validate a hip pop/urban concept. Doubt anything will change though, cause some kpop fans just won’t allow any criticism of their precious idols.
We seem to think kpop has taken over the world. I still think kpop is niche and has only become a more well known niche rather than fully accepted. Things like cultural appropriation will deter several potential fans so I would’ve thought they’d change that by now
Also, no hate to big bang in this particular case. It was 2006, so I think the “they didn’t know” excuse actually had value back then. I didn’t even know what kpop was back then.