G-Dragon’s Act III: MOTTE concert wasn’t really a concert. The “Act III” part of the title is the first clue that G-Dragon aka Kwon Ji Yong was actually performing in a three-act musical play about the creative journey he’s taken since his debut.
The last song he performed was “Outro: Divina Commedia,” a song inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, a three-part poem about one man’s journey between hell, purgatory and paradise.
Visually and musically G-dragon’s concert was divided into three similar acts.
The frenzied first act of the musical play featured GD’s early breakout hits, including “Heartbreaker” and “Breathe,” plus mesmerizing snippets of film and disorienting flashes of light, perhaps suggesting that the first part of his career was hellishly difficult and occasionally felt overwhelming. Although Kwon debuted with Big Bang in 2006 and had his first solo record with Heartbreaker in 2009, he lived the life of a trainee for longer than most k-pop performers, first being discovered at age 5. His childhood and adolescence focused on perfecting his performance skills.
At the end of Act I, G-Dragon engages in a monologue evoking Old Hollywood glamour, asking the audience to like him for who he truly is. He performs the monologue in a slinky sparkly robe, teasingly shifted as if to channel the naked vulnerability of a fading Hollywood star. Think Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard or Blanche Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire.”
Do you really like Kwon Ji Yong, he asks his audience? Could you possibly really like me for who I really am—without my superstar trappings. The monologue seduced the audience with a glimpse of the real Kwon Ji Yong stripped of disguises. But after working as an entertainer for more than 20 years, it’s hard to know if the vulnerable Kwon revealed in the monologue is any less a product of his imagination and creativity than any of the other personifications of G-Dragon that his fans have seen before.
Illusion or sincere request, his fans are grateful for any glimpse of intimacy.
Act II suggests that the brighter GD’s star shone, the more he chafed at some of the creative restrictions his career imposed and the more he sought to express himself creatively. G-Dragon may have been the singer’s name when he debuted with BigBang in 2006 but the clearly defined persona of G-Dragon as a party boy, fashion icon, and trendsetter, is a second act phenomenon. For anyone familiar with the k-dramas that shape and reflect the Korean psyche, Act II is the makeover episode, the one in which Kwon Ji Yong is made over in the image of G-Dragon. His every physical detail—from candy-colored rainbows of hair to runway-worthy clothes—glosses the product he participates in making.
As Kwon’s popularity soared so did his power to control the product. By Act II the image of GD fractures into a kaleidoscope of contrasting personalities—from the suave cheater in “That XX” to the crazy clown in “Michigo.” When he performs “Who You?” it’s a question he must constantly ask himself.
By the third act, Kwon displays the mastery he’s gained over his creative life and what he’s lost in his personal life. Sitting in a director’s chair may seem like paradise, but being a star also begins to seem hollow. According to the lyrics of his latest album, he doesn’t trust the tiresome aspects of the business he’s always confronted with; he’s sometimes tired of keeping up an image. He needs somebody to love, “just anybody” to love, but love seems to elude him. His social circle is small, suggest his lyrics, and he feels trapped in a world he helped create. He’s living the life he saw on TV but at what cost? He rejects much of what he sees as the falseness of his glamorous world but how can he escape it?
The last song he performed during his three-act concert play was “Outro: Divina Commedia.” If the concert was truly inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, then this act should be Paradise, but like the main character in the Divine Comedy, G-Dragon realizes that paradise—or life as you grew up seeing it portrayed on TV—may only be as good as your ability to cherish it.
Before performing that last song in Brooklyn, G-Dragon sang “Untitled 2014,” which chronologically belonged earlier in the set, but was a useful way to showcase his vulnerable new image and also make the point that becoming a superstar makes it harder to cherish relationships.
The artist formerly known as G-Dragon has been trying to find himself but now that he’s arrived, he’s not quite sure where he should go from there. For G-Dragon the moment of truth implied in his concert’s title may be that he has to figure out who he really is before he can go any further—personally and creatively.
Where does G-Dragon aka Kwon Ji Yong go from here? No one knows, beyond the fact that he will have to enlist soon for his South Korean two-year mandatory military duty. He may not be sure either but when he gets around to summing up who he is then, his fans will be waiting.