Big Bang’s “Loser” – On social anxiety, depression and chronic unhappiness

Big Bang won tons of awards and even the daesang (grand prize) at MAMA 2015 Hong Kong. It has been topping charts and nominated in various international awards. I’m not surprised. And if the world was fluent in Korean, perhaps it would have touched more people in ways it is capable of. The lyrics to Loser is written by T.O.P, Teddy and G Dragon. The tempo and composition of the music doesn’t quite fit the morbidity in which the lyrics are drowning in. It has become like a trademark of sorts, for GD to compose songs that do not fit the lyrics quite well. If you listened to Adele’s Hello, you’d immediately be engaged by the mellow tones of the slow piano melodies. Needless to say, the song is in English and so it isn’t difficult for a wider range of audience to quickly delve into those emotions, as opposed to the songs written by GD in recent years. I am not comparing them but a little contrast may show the hidden potential of Big Bang’s songs in recent years.

Similar to GD’s Crooked, the contrast of a mid-tempo song in Loser is juxtaposed against lyrics that are drenched in sadness. Not understanding the meaning behind the words may have done the song injustice.

Loser, loner. A coward who pretends to be tough
A mean delinquent. In the mirror, you’re
Just a loser. A loner, a jackass covered in scars
Dirty trash. In the mirror, I’m a

The chorus is a voice of a hopeless and detestable “loser” who sees no goodness in himself. He “pretends” and is “covered in scars”. The same chorus repeats throughout the song, a requirement to constantly remind himself that he is nothing. It isn’t clear if he’s blaming someone or society; it’s possible that the only person he blames is himself.

Honestly, I’ve never fit in with the world
I was always alone

The first verse opens with this “confession”, a declaration of understanding that he was always the person who could not find a place and could not ” fit in with the world”. There isn’t quite any other feeling that can compare when one feels like they are constantly and persistently out of place; the vast world has no place for a person like himself. 

You and me both
We’re just sad clowns, tamed and scripted

The phrase “tamed and scripted” really gives the extra punch, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “Life’s Brief Candle”. It demands attention yet proclaims that life itself is a futile effort of putting up shows that signify nothing. As clowns, humans are just made up in ways the society expects and then trained to follow scripts that are designed to meet societal expectations. And all this is merely a start. Chronically unhappy people are potentially those who are aware of the bleak hopes of life; bleak in that there really isn’t hope. Having clarity in their perspective of what life really amounts to, what society is actually made of and the question of whether reality exists or is just mere products of human imaginings lead to chronic unhappiness that plagues the human psyche.

At some point I started looking
at the ground more than the sky
It’s hard even to breathe
I hold out my hand
But no one holds it. I’m a

The kind of anxiety that pervades the thoughts and being of a person who is forced to constantly care about how others perceive them that, at some point, they would rather look “at the ground” to avoid looking at people. The vicious cycle of social anxiety lies in the assumption that someone is judging them, because most humans are inclined to do that, and then allowing that judgement to affect one’s self-esteem. Albeit it is unclear to the individual whether people really did perceive them in the way he had imagined. Even with the attempt to reach out to someone, no one holds his hands and it sort of reassures his presumption that others perceived and judged him in a certain way.

At some point
I’ve gotten scared of people’s eyes
I’m sick of crying so I tried smiling
But no one recognizes me

And despite his attempt to break that vicious cycle, the world seems like a cruel place. It’s not exactly about getting validation or acknowledgement but the presumption that repeatedly gets reaffirmed by the people around. This locks the person up in their own bubble because they’re hurt and no longer know how to meet social expectations. And then “at some point”, one simply gives up.

The fact that T.O.P and GD had written this song together (and also Teddy) sheds some light on their inner worlds. T.O.P is often locked up at home when they don’t have any work. (He mentioned this in Happy Together as well) He would stay home for however long it is and avoid meeting people if he doesn’t have to. While I’m not claiming that both of them have social anxiety just because they decided to write this song, it reflects the way they might at times perceive the world. And I would say that even though they are performers, to some extent, they are also introverted people. Undeniably, they do enjoy being on stage. Yet, it doesn’t mean they don’t need some time to recharge and rejuvenate alone. I think that part of GD’s song-writing skills stem from his personality that often is reflective of his inner world. (Also in Happy Together) he mentioned how people may assume that the Big Bang members party all night after their concerts but they don’t. They go back to their hotels and rest as they are all exhausted as well. He said that it sort of reflects on this song that the glorious appearance of celebrities may simply be a façade that covers up the fact that they are like anyone else; or perhaps even more so, a “loser…covered in scars”. Another scene in Happy Together was when Seung Ri made fun of all the older Big Bang members. He did that out of his intention to brighten up the mood even more and it was perhaps a habit from the hosting work he has done. (I’m not that surprised because sometimes, Japanese and Korean shows do that a lot when they are hosting with comedians, especially.) He mischievously teased T.O.P for lowering his voice each year, since becoming an actor, to appear sexy to their audience. He quickly defended himself by saying that his voice is like that; he’s saying: “this is who I am”. While they said T.O.P should just take it in stride, since it’s a joke, I believe to some extent the song is showing how he and just about anyone are equally concerned about the way people might judge and subsequently misunderstand certain actions or even traits that cannot be changed.
image

GD often appears to be very quiet and his lyrics are often very blue. Yes, even their song Blue. T.O.P also co-wrote the lyrics to this song. Perhaps, this shows how they are actually very sensitive people; very often sad too. GD writes many upbeat songs too, of course. But his sad songs, as well as the years of practice in writing lyrics as if they were journal entries, shows that a part of him is quite blue. It isn’t a bad thing and I don’t think chronically unhappy people are inevitably depressed. It’s just that, as a personal opinion, they are better at crafting very dark or sad writings. An example might be Franz Kafka too. The thing about writing is that it is often a reflection of who the person is or what they feel inside. Similarly, GD’s lyrics are often – possibly – a mirror image of his feelings. And if intentional, the composition of the songs might have been done on purpose to be utterly incongruous with the lyrics. Or it’s just that he knows which sort of melodies are most welcomed by their audience. I try my best to tread carefully when I describe them as introverts but I do think that they are to that extent extroverted introverts.

 

I’m standing alone at the edge of a
cliff. I’m going home
I wanna go back. To how it was before

I think that for anyone who has ever come close to feeling depressed would know how it feels like to stand “at the edge of a cliff”. The helpless feeling, the inability to pull out of that feeling is probably something that most people would feel powerless against. There’s also the repetition of the imagery on “going home” which gives a sense that there is a better time and place to return to. But, is there really some place or past like that? The desire to do so is perhaps just wishful thinking, not just on the narrator’s part but also for everyone else.

One imagery in the MV is when T.O.P was wearing gloves in particular. It is commonly known that he doesn’t like wearing short sleeves or even short pants. He even wears socks when they go to the beach. I personally saw this as an emphasis to his own personality and preference of covering up as much skin as he can. It is perhaps a way to remain out of touch with others, the rest of the world. Reinforcing the main idea of being a “loser” and being afraid of people and also the world.

This song is yet another great song from Big Bang. The lyrics are really touching and it’s packed with strong emotions that would be easily recognisable or acknowledged by those who have experienced it.

For reference purposes:
7 habits of chronically unhappy people
7 thoughts from a chronically unhappy person

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