Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Garth Brooks, Jem (of the Holograms) — all pop stars who have gone through an identity crisis. Add the name G-Dragon to that list. The K-pop superstar explored duality, identity and celebrity in front of his kingdom Wednesday night at Toyota Center. Set to a booming dance-pop soundtrack.
His loyal subjects — mostly young women, all feverish with excitement — hung on every word. They filled the venue to all but the upper levels, some in blinking yellow crown headbands, even more waving crown light sticks. Before the doors opened, lines snaked around the building. Once the lights went down, all he had to do was raise an eyebrow or put a finger to his lip to elicit screams.
For the uninformed, G-Dragon is a South Korean rapper and singer who has found immense success as part of boy band Big Bang and as a solo artist. His current EP, “Kwon Ji Yong,” has sold more than 1 million copies in China alone and topped iTunes charts in 46 countries. It also entered the U.S. Billboard 200 after selling 4,000 copies in one day.
His music video for ballad “Untitled, 2014” has earned more than 30 million views since June. And his social media numbers are in the millions.
Between songs, videos played meant to reveal Kwon Ji Yong, the shy, normal guy behind the G-Dragon persona. Other K-pop artists and family members detailed the differences between the two in black and white clips.
“The reality is sometimes it feels too heavy on me,” he said during an extended video monologue. “Still, sometimes I’m afraid to take it off. I don’t know who you want me to be.” The crowd, as if on cue, began chanting “Kwon Ji Yong! Kwon Ji Yong!”
G-Dragon videos played on screens before he appeared inside a red LED cube to booming pop track “Heartbreaker.” A quartet of four dancers quickly became 10. Lights flashed. Screams never subsided. G-Dragon whipped through a series of red outfits.
The songs snapped between English and Korean. One tune, “Obsession,” even included a count to cuatro in Spanish.
There’s no real American counterpart to what G-Dragon does. His attitude and presentation draw heavily from hip-hop, but he has an androgynous allure. His sound is a seamless mashup of genres, from rock to rap to pop to EDM.
“Breathe” boasted a club bounce built on a robotic female vocal. “Michigo” blasted into the air on a dubstep groove. “A Boy” and “But I Love You” channeled ’90s hip-hop. Silky ballad “Black” was like a Ja Rule/Ashanti throwback, featuring a hook sung by Sky Ferreira. “Who You” has the charm of a summertime smash. And songs like “Middle Fingers Up” and “Bullshit” are high-energy, hands-in-the-air anthems that would be huge hits for any number of singers.
He danced. He rapped. He ventured out into the crowd for sweet ballad “Untitled.” He thanked Houston and promised to be back. And, by the end of the show, G-Dragon seemed at peace with both sides. “Sometimes I feel lonely,” he said. “But when I sing like this onstage in front of you guys I feel happy and alive.”
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