Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NOW KPOPPING: 2NE1 feels "Lonely"

I honestly can't wait for the day when I can appropriately tag the four fierce females in 2NE1 without mentioning KPOP (ie. with the impending release of their alleged and mysterious English album here in the 'States -- let's get on a move on there, will.i.am), but for now, I'm more than willing to support their Korean endeavors. South Korea's best girl group (this is not even open for discussion, people) have come back to us in a rather surprising way, and this time, I truly mean it. I may be a big fangirl for SM Entertainment's boy bands, but I have to give it to YG Entertainment. Just when I think I have 2NE1 pegged, they go and flip the script.

2NE1 (in the picture to the left, from left to right, Dara, leader CL, Park Bom and Minji) made their name on their very futuristic, brash, ballsy kind of girl group sound -- they are strong, they are independent, and they don't take ish from no-one. This type of swagger is relatively unmatched in the Korean Girl Group department, where you typically see girls being a little too preoccupied in looking cute and appealing to their oppas rather than embracing more gritty, oh-no-you-didn't type of material. We saw that in "Fire", in "I Don't Care", in "Try to Copy Me" and especially in the anthematic "Can't Nobody" (one of the best KPOP, or rather pop songs period, of 2010). With each progressive video and single campaign, I continue to wonder just how YG expects these girls to outdo the fabulosity they've already done, and yet they always stun and manage to do the impossible.

After a highly successful album release in the form of 21, released last year on the back of a slew of popular singles ("Can't Nobody", "Clap Your Hands", "Go Away"), 2NE1 is finally gearing up to return as a four-piece after some work in Japan and various solo cuts. The first release of their upcoming mini album release, due in June, is called "Lonely", released in South Korea in mid-May.

Scratching your head yet? Gone are the laser-like synthy underdubs. Gone are the Autotuned, robotic vocals. Gone is the thumping bass. Gone are the key elements that made a 2NE1 single a 2NE1 single. Instead, we are left with a surprisingly harmonious, feminine, vulnerable piece of pop art set to delicate acoustic guitar and brimming with four-part harmony. It is no less catchy, no less striking and no less 2NE1 in its own way.

My only complaint remains to me that when I want high energy KPOP, 2NE1's music is a given, and with the summer quickly approaching, I was banking on them to bring the dancefloor stunner. However, it is still very early in the promotion process, and I applaud the girls and YG for bringing us something truly surprising. If anything, this helps solidify the point that 2NE1 are more than flash-in-the-pan teen idols but legitimate artists capabale of being truly cross-genre. It also helps solve the common complaint of throwing too much of the vocally difficult parts to Ms. Park Bom, as all four members demonstrate their vocal talents in "Lonely".

The song has already topped many charts in South Korea. Here's hoping an English version will grace the tracklisting of that (completely, impatiently awaited) English album. So, now that you've proved your vocal competence and wowed Asia by choosing a single without your typical dancefloor tactics, feel completely free to followup with a blazing ace of a toe tapper for Single #2. Kamsamnida.

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