To be Alive, is to be marked by much life, animation, or activity and also, knowing or realizing the existence of something (Merriam Webster).
Without a doubt, on the 27th of October, 2012, Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was alive with a crowd of 15,000 who turned up to support the group named after the cosmic explosion marking the beginning of all things -BIG BANG, which comprises of members G-Dragon, Taeyang, Seungri, Daesung and T.O.P.
Indeed, BIG BANG Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 began and ended with a bang. A good one and a half days before the concert started, at 10am on the 26th of October, the first group of fans hailing from Sabah had already began queuing up at the stadium. Hours before the concert commenced, scores of fans had congregated outside Stadium Merdeka. From official merchandises to freebies, the thronging crowd showed no qualms about having to queue up to obtain all these, snapping up the free and the expensive with no hesitation at all. BIG BANG stickers, a lighted bracelet, a customized badge made on the spot were some freebies distributed on the ground, but shirts and other goods were being sold just as quickly. Many were seen sporting blue hair, were dressed fashionably and totting light-sticks; some improvised and made their own crown hairbands while others flaunted the skeleton-hand hairclip G-Dragon wore in his Crayon music video. Preparations to welcome BIG BANG did not stop here: fans distributed lighted red and blue rings, spreading the message to synchronize the lighting up of the red and blue rings during Fantastic Baby and Blue respectively. Even peddlers selling food, beverages and raincoats set up stalls behind the stadium, contributing to the festive atmosphere that was not only characterized by gaiety, but also by the electrifying tension and anticipation.
BIG BANG too, had no qualms about making this concert a grand fanfare, as this was after all their first time in Malaysia. With a production value of a staggering RM 4 million, the one-night stage in Stadium Merdeka was only completed after one week with props and equipment shipped in from Korea, Australia and Malaysia.
Yet, even with all these preparations, the open-air stage was subject to the weather-the downpour delayed the performance by about half an hour. Decked out in raincoats and chanting ‘BIG BANG’ at intervals before the concert started, the crowd’s spirits were hardly dampened by the heavy downpour. When the curtains finally came down to reveal the BIG BANG members standing in capsules and breathing through oxygen masks, the audience forgot to breathe. Going wild with delight, the crowd began to scream even as the members emerged from the capsules and greeted Malaysia with a cheery “What’s up Malaysia! Make some noise!”
Bursting into their opening song Tonight, BIG BANG indeed made Tonight special for the fans by braving the rain and venturing onto the open-air stage at intervals. After they “got the [crowd] going crazy” with Hands Up, G-Dragon and T.O.P undoubtedly made their fans swoon and go crazy with Knock Out and High High, and then it was Seungri ‘s turn to dominate the stage with Strong Baby and What Can I Do. With Gara Gara Go and Number 1 and Cafe, “BIG BANG rocke[d] tonight” as the VIPs’ “number one”. Leader G-Dragon charmed the audience with short parts of Crayon and One of a Kind, and BIG BANG then played up their image as heart-breakers with Bad Boy.
Without letting the enthusiasm fizzle out even by a bit, BIG BANG slowed down the tempo with Blue, charging the atmosphere with a melancholy suffused with their gratitude, as the history of this song reminded both Big Bang and fans alike of the difficult times they had faced. After more sad songs like Love Song, Monster and Feeling, the spotlight was first on Taeyang while he performed Look Only At Me and Wedding Dress, and later on Daesung during his solo, Wings. Although fans were familiar with the lyrics of most songs, it was old song Haru Haru that most could memorize fully. Even without the accompaniment of the BIG BANG members, the audience serenaded BIG BANG, who in turn directed their microphones at the crowd and listened with pleasure to the fans’ singing.
Repeatedly, BIG BANG apologized to their supportive fans for not being able to stay long and professed their love for their VIPs with their songs, firstly with Lies- Baby Baby Baby-“[we are] sorry but [they] love you…[we] need you…and [we are] leaving..I love you, bye bye!” –and Baby Baby-“I don’t wanna be without you…Baby Baby Baby”. Emanating energy from start to finish despite this being their 9th stop in their world tour, BIG BANG clearly had fun on stage and enjoyed performing to the appreciative audience, whom they could not stop thanking for giving them ” such a memorable time” and for “supporting [BIG BANG]”. As this was BIG BANG’s first time in Malaysia, they promised to “never forget tonight. It was beautiful” and they were touched by the fans’ sincere enthusiasm “even though it was raining”. With a message to fans to “please take care till the day [they] meet again”, BIG BANG bid their farewells, yet with each “bye”, the VIPs would cry “no” so sadly that they seemed reluctant to say goodbye as well.
The stadium reverberated with the loud chants of “encore, encore”, and when BIG BANG reappeared for their encore stage, the frenzied crowd cheered as if they had only just seen them for the first time that night. BIG BANG returned with Heaven, bidding farewell to the crowd with the promises of [we] will love you, [we] will remember you”. Then, apologizing with Bad Boy again, the VIPs were reminded that even though the BIG BANG members were indeed Bad Boys for “abandoning” their fans with the end of their concert, this first meeting with their Malaysian fans were well treasured. Closing with Fantastic Baby and Hands Up again, BIG BANG lifted the spirits of the Malaysian VIPs, leaving them feeling very much Alive and rejuvenated, but not wholeheartedly satisfied, for which VIP can ever get enough of BIG BANG?
BIG BANG’s Alive Galaxy Tour 2012
With an entourage of 88 in total, BIG BANG and crew were in Malaysia for a total of 76 hours, and resided in 60 hotel rooms. A world tour with this magnitude only depicts the huge successes BIG BANG has and will achieve, with this tour covering in total 25 cities in 16 countries. Kicking off their world tour in Seoul, Korea on the 2nd of March, BIG BANG performed to three sold-out concerts in their homeland before packing their bags and heading to Japan’s Nagoya (17-18th May), Yokohama(25-27th May), Osaka(31st May-3rd June), Saitama (16-17th June) and Fukuoka(23-24th June). Next on the itinerary was China’s Shanghai (21st July), Guangzhou (28th July) and Beijing (4th Aug), Singapore (28-29th Sept), Thailand’s Bangkok (5-6th Oct), Indonesia’s Jakarta (12-13th Oct), Taiwan’s Taipei (20-21st Oct), Philippines’ Manila (24th Oct) and their 9th stop, Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur (27th Oct).
To date, BIG BANG has performed in US Los Angeles (3rd Nov) and Newark(9th Nov), but their tour is far from over. With upcoming concerts in Peru’s Lima (14th Nov), Japan’s Osaka (23-24th Nov), Tokyo (5th Dec) and Fukuoka (22nd Dec), their aptly named Alive Galaxy Tour 2012 will see BIG BANG finishing their tour with a bang tantamount to that of their cosmic counterpart, and herald in a new age in which they rein. With these achievements and more to boast of in future, who could ever say that a real galaxy tour in future is an impossible feat for BIG BANG?
Event covered by Huiying@hellokpop (L) and YunTing@hellokpop (R)
Additional information: starindex
Picture credits: Huiying@hellokpop and Running Into The Sun (without watermarking of hellokpop logo)
Girl-group T-ara debuted exactly three years ago on the 29th of July, but instead of relishing their successes thus far this year, the group has been involved in a scandal that threatens their image as a group. On the 30th of July at 1pm (KST), Core Contents Media president Kim Gwang-su announced that member Hwayoung‘s contract had been terminated, and that she would be leaving the group due to her “unacceptable behaviour”. Hwayong’s exit amidst bullying controversies have resulted in a T-ara crisis: the creation of online café T-Jinyo (We Demand the Truth from T-ara), the loss of fans on their fan café, the return of tickets to their concert, and even demands for the group to be disbanded.
T-ara originally consisted of six members: Eunjung, Hyomin, Jiyeon, Boram, Qri and Soyeon. Releasing their debut single Lies on the 29th of July 2009, T-ara has since then grown in popularity and also in size with the addition of Hwayoung in July 2010, and Ahreum and Dani in 2012.
Core Contents Media had recently held an opening ceremony for the official fan-club on the 14th of July 2012 to celebrate the anniversary of T-ara’s debut. However, rumors of bullying and “evidences” to go along have overshadowed the group’s successes, embroiling the T-ara members in their worst controversy yet.
The problem began with posts on Twitter. On the 25th and 26th of July 2012, T-ara staged their concert ‘T-ara Jewelry Box’ in Tokyo’s Budokan Arena. Member Hwayoung had injured her leg a few days prior to the concert, and as she had to wear a cast, she could only participate in the performance of Day By Day in a wheelchair.
After the concert, T-ara members have posted on Twitter comments that seem directed at Hwayoung, raising an outcry over supposed bullying of a member. On the 25th of July, Hyomin posted: “the difference in wills. Lets hold on to our determination, fighting!” Eunjung then re-tweeted Hyomin’s post and added in her own comment, saying, “one’s position in life is made by oneself. In the same way, self-determination is forged by the self. Sigh, it is a pity. You have to know how to take care of the people around you”. Also, Jiyeon replied to Hyomin’s post: “The difference in wills. It is a concept. Always modest. I applaud the acting genius.” Soyeon also replied, “the differences in will + etiquette + consideration for others, let’s all stay strong for today as well.”
The posts on Twitter did not seem to contain any other special meanings, but when Hwayoung left a post on her Twitter contradicting her members’ tweets, the attention of netizens were aroused. On the very same day, Hwayoung wrote, “at times, it is impossible to accomplish some things even with determination. It is upsetting when things like that happen, but I still believe that heaven stands for all that is positive. God, you know everything, right?”
As the word ‘determination’ was mentioned repeatedly by the members, netizens then began to speculate if Hwayoung was being ostracised by her own members. President Kim Gwang-su has since clarified that the tweets about ‘determination’ were references to the concert in Japan and Hwayoung’s injury, but stressed that the members were against Hwayoung’s participation in the concert only because they were worried about her leg and wanted to her to be able to rest and recover.
However, a post in reply by Hwayoung’s older twin sister Hyoyoung from 5dolls implies that Hwayoung has indeed been given the cold shoulder by the other members. She said, “my other half is suffering. My heart aches. Whatever anyone says, Ryu, I believe you can get through this.” Hwayoung then replied, “Only you (believe in me).Ah…” Also, Hyoyoung’s next moving reply – “What can one do with a pretty face? It’s the heart that has to be pretty. Is not a person in pain also human? I am also in pain. Really want to cry. Let’s just have practice together” – has been regarded by netizens as evidence that Hwayoung has been badly treated.
On the 28th of July, Hwayoung took to her Twitter again to express her thoughts, saying “to me, family and fans have been a priceless [and treasured] backbone. Please keep watch over me.” Although this was not a solid reference to the issue of ostracism, member Boram’s ‘un-following’ of Hwayoung on Twitter on the very same day indicated that there was existing friction in T-ara, as ‘un-following’ someone on Twitter carries the implication of not liking the person and not wanting to be friends anymore, and this action alone functions as a means to end relationships. Arousing the attention of netizens, previously published images of T-ara have since then been posted onto internet communities as supposed evidence of Hwayoung’s ostracism. Speculation has become rife as more “evidences” have been uncovered, and members’ treatment of Hwayoung in the past are now under public scrutiny.
The above photos are various scenes that have been singled out and said to contain subtle indications of the bullying of Hwayoung by the other members. Although it is known that variety shows allow members to showcase their close relationships while playing pranks on each other, some netizens, on hindsight, felt that the jokes made on Hwayoung’s expense had been too extreme in nature. In the above photos, Hyomin is seen poking Hwayoung in the eye by accident while doing a group pose, Eunjung is seen stuffing rice cakes into Hwayoung’s mouth during a game, and Jiyeon makes an “unkind” remark to Hwayoung. Although many regard these photos as signs of bullying, the nature of these entertainment shows requires artistes to jest with each other in order to make programmes more interesting to the viewers, and cannot be taken as proper evidences.
If these and other pieces of evidence (ranging from captures and various testimony to an alleged anonymous online post by Hwayoung in November), this could spell disaster for T-ara, as this would prove that Hwayoung was indeed a victim, and that she had been treated unfairly by the other members because she was an addition to an already established and popular group. However, as reports and “evidences” seem to contradict one another in this T-ara saga, it would be prudence to regard all the members as possible victims before the truth finally comes to light.
On the 30th of July, Core Contents Media had declared that Hwayoung was expelled on the basis of her “unbecoming attitude”, and this was “in consideration of the 19 staff members who had suffered greatly under her mistreatment” – five stylists, seven hair and make-up artists, five on-site managers and 2 team managers. According to a press release, in acknowledgment of their complaints pertaining to Hwayoung, the agency then discussed this issue with the other T-ara members who wanted Hwayoung to stay on, but ultimately decided that the issues with the staff could not be resolved unless Hwayoung left T-ara.
After news of the termination of Hwayoung’s contract was released, Hwayoung expressed her frustration online with her tweet, “facts without truths”. Hyoyoung also posted “………..…” on her Twitter, a vague but likely indication of her own shock. This has again led many to believe that the honest reactions of the twins are retaliations against the “biased” reports made by their agency, and Hwayoung’s sympathetic supporters appear ready to fight against the apparent injustice in the meting out of the “punishment”.
As of 30th July (22:45 hours, KST), it was reported that as many as 6,000 fans had left T-ara’s fan café, an obvious sign of support for Hwayoung and indicating displeasure with the agency and group for dismissing the rumours of bullying by expelling the alleged victim. Furthermore, the online café T-Jinyo has already amassed more than 270,000 members at time of writing, exerting pressure on Core Contents Media and T-ara with their ultimate wish of having the “truth” revealed. The number of anti- cafés has also risen, with netizens calling for T-ara to be boycotted and for member Eunjung to be kicked out of programmes such as We Got Married, which she is currently filming for, among many other demands.
Although talk of Hwayoung’s possible re-entry into the group has also surfaced, many have deemed it rather difficult as group dynamics have already been altered drastically as a result of the damaging controversies. In recollection of the happy Tweets that members shared last year on their second year anniversary of their debut, this year’s posts have ignited a fire which will leave them burnt and hurt, but which hopefully will also uncover the truths behind the allegations of bullying and clear the name or names of those who have been wrongfully accused.