Album Review: "Seo Taiji and Boys IV" (1995)

"Seo Taiji and Boys IV" was the fourth and final studio album by the South Korean hip-hop trio of the same name who eventually became famous for creating the genre of K-pop. The album, which went on to sell more than 2.4 million copies, was the group’s most successful and best-selling album, and made it so that all four of their albums were amongst the best-selling South Korean albums of all time.

While writing and recording this album, group leader Seo Taiji made the decision for the group to disband, much to the surprise of his bandmates - Lee Juno and Yang Hyun-suk.

Two of the songs from the album received some controversy at the time of its release. The first of these controversies surrounded the song “Come Back Home”, which was seen as being too similar to the 1993 hit “Insane in the Brain” by American hip hop group Cypress Hill, who were aware of the similarities and the controversies, but, according to member B-Real, “we were cool about s**t like that”.

Meanwhile, the song “Sidae Yugam” (which translates to “Regret of the Times”) was rejected by the Public Performance Ethics Committee for lyrics that criticised the government of the day. Seo Taiji declined to alter the lyrics. Fan backlash was so immense that the system of “pre-censorship” by the Public Performance Ethics Committee was abolished the next year.

The album was originally released on 5 October, 1995, with a fifteenth anniversary edition with bonus tracks being released in 2007.

The fourth and final version of the now well-known opening number of Seo Taiji and Boys albums - “Yo! Taiji!” - comes in as the longest version yet, at a total of one minute and five seconds in length.

The second track featured on the album, “Sad Pain”, is a rock ballad with somewhat depressing lyrics about the sad pain that is felt in the singers world so that others can fly, while being tired of his life.

The third track to feature on the album was “Must Triumph”. The song featured an alternative rock score, which marked a triumphant return to the sounds and genres that classically made the group famous to begin with. However, the song does still use some of the “screamo”-like techniques used in their prior album.

“Must Triumph” is very much a production of the time period during which it was released, sounding like what I can only imagine 1995 would be if you recorded it.

Come Back Home” comes in as the fourth track on the trio’s final album. This was most definitely a final foray into the “gangsta rap” genre for the trio with this song, which acted as the title song of the album. It was also another lyrically challenging number from the group, although not as much as other songs they’d produced had been, or even as much as the next song on this list.

The lyrics behind the song of “Come Back Home” talk about the societal pressures which are placed on the teenagers of South Korea, especially those members of the youth that were pushed to run away from home. Although clearly a look at Seo Taiji’s past, it also looks at his future, with the chorus reflecting on the perspective of the parents of these children.

In South Korean society, the song acted as a mediator between embattled youths and their parents, managing to even bring many homeless youths back to their homes.

Third generation superstar boy group BTS released a remake of “Come Back Home” in 2017 as a part of Seo Taiji’s twenty-fith anniversary project “Time:Traveler”.

Yet another Seo Taiji and Boys song to come with controversy, the fifth track is “Regret of the Times”. So controversial were the lyrics that the song was blocked by the Public Performance Ethics Committee ahead of being released, and the group were forbidden from including lyrics that were deemed critical of the government.

After refusing to rewrite the lyrics to the song, Seo Taiji demonstrated his protest by still including the song on the album, just as an instrumental version rather than one with lyrics. Enraged fans protested against the Public Performance Ethics Committee for their banning of the song, which led to even greater public outcry and the eventual downfall and abolishment of the censorship system the next year.

The lyrics the government originally wants to be removed or altered can be found below, translated into English:

“Gone is the era of honest people . . . I wish for a new world that will overturn everything . . . I hope that I can avenge the grudge in my heart.”

The album’s sixth track comes in the form of “1996, When They Conquered the World”. The backing track sounds like it could have come straight off of the group’s very first album, with record scratching, hip hop vocals, and the fusion genre of swingbeat that they used during the early days.

Never fear, “Taiji Boys” are here, in a fast-paced and high-speed track that could feature over an action scene from a movie. While a fun song I enjoyed listening to, it is rather unfortunately short in length, coming in at just one minute and twenty-seven seconds.

It’s almost time to say “Good Bye” to the trio we’ve followed for the last four days with this track from their final album. The song was a farewell note from Seo Taiji, who only performed the number for the first time during his twenty-fifth anniversary concert in 2017.

When the album was originally released, this was an instrumental-only track, hiding the lyrics and the meaning of Seo Taiji’s message for a later time. Of course, the version available on Spotify features the group’s vocals on the track.

“This was a song that expressed how I felt back then, and I dared not sing it to you until now.”

The ninth track on the album is “Free Style”. The only track to not be written solely by Seo Taiji, “Free Style” features the writing and composition skills of South Korean rock musician Kim Jong-Seo, who first came to fame in the 1980’s.

What I would describe as a soft rock song, “Free Style” makes for easy listening, while the influence of guest songwriter and composer Kim Jeon-Seo can be clearly heard throughout the song as a whole. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but makes for an interesting listen.

The tenth track to feature on "Seo Taiji and Boys IV", and thereofre the final track we will be covering as part of this four-article special on K-pop's first group, is "Inabilisnabi".

“Inabilisnabi” is a short, seventy-one second outro performance by the group, which rather fittingly sounds the end of this journey through the discography of Seo Taiji and Boys. The space-like sounds of the outro meaningfully signify moving on to me after listening to several hours of the groups music for the first time, and being influenced by their work into writing this four-part article.

When the album was re-released for its fifteenth anniversary in 2007, only three more tracks were eventually added. They included: a live version of an earlier song from the album in “Sad Pain (‘04 Zero Live)”; another live version of a song in “Must Triumph (‘04 Zero Live)”; and a remix of a song coming in the form of “‘07 Come Back Home (Remix)”.

Have you listened to the final studio album of the world’s first K-pop group with “Seo Taiji and Boys IV”? We certainly recommend it (and their discography as a whole)! Give it a listen and let us know what you think by commenting on our socials @KpopWise.

Ford Carter

Ford Carter is an online blogger studying journalism who's hundreds of articles across half a dozen fansites from the music and television industries have now been read more than 300,000 times. From his home in regional Australia, you'll often find him binging kdramas or rewatching old editions of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post