Tuesday, December 13, 2011

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: MTV Iggy's Best New Bands In the WORLD

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be in the audience for MTV's Best New Band Concert, live from the Best Buy Theatre in Times Square. The event was hosted by vintage MTV VJs Suchin Pak and Sway, and featured a stellar lineup of artists from around the world, including the headliner, my KPOP girl group fave, 2NE1, in their debut American performance. In addition to the four acts that performed live, six other acts were also featured under the 'Best New Band' heading, including Australian electro-pop artist Zowie and hardcore meets dubstepper Skrillex. The entire concert was streamed live at MTVIggy.com.

The theme of the night was simple: it doesn't matter what language you speak because music is a language in itself. It was a multicultural night of fun, complete with Spanish punk rock, soulful jazz from Malaysia, mellow reggae from Jamaica and of course, our superstars females from South Korea. The goal of MTV Iggy was to appeal to the youth culture who are interested in International Music, and was proof positive that you don't have to be in America's Top 40 to get exposure on MTV (even if it is on MTVIggy.com).

Me and Xtian, aka drowningn00b, on the streets of Times Square after dancing and screaming our heads off at MTV Iggy's Best New Band concert
After nearly three hours waiting in the blistering cold (the line to get in literally wrapped around the block), myself, my invitee (Xtian, who regularly contributes to our mutual friend McRoth's KPOP Blog, McRoth's Residence) and two of my Cassiopeia Twitter friends were FINALLY heralded inside the Best Buy Theatre, which is located directly below the Viacom building/MTV Headquarters. The hall was general admission, and packed (read: squished) to capacity with screaming fans, the vast majority of which were ardent supporters of 2NE1 (complete with signs and lightsticks). We managed to score a spot stage right on a raised platform so we could see over the crowd throng. Very helpful for vertically challenged people like moi.

The concert opened with Venezuelan punk rock band La Vida Boheme. Dressed in all white with paint splattered all over their persons (in various colors), the group jammed hardcore and was the perfect jump off point for the crowd. They easily got everyone pumped up and jumping around, us included. Their recent Grammy and Latin Grammy nods quickly came as no surprise to us -- they were easily my second favorite act of the night. Their singles "Radio Capital" and "Danz!" were blood-pumping uptempos that made you want to throw some paint around (literally), but my favorite was the album cut and darker "El Sentimiento a Muerto," complete with call and response screaming sections. EHHHHH! EHHHHH! They are very mainstream-accessible (minus being sung in Spanish) in a Two Door Cinema Club meets The Ramones kind of way.

La Vida Boheme's "El Sentimiento a Muerto," from the album, Nuestra

Malaysian folk/soul singer/songwriter Yuna was next, looking totally adorable and playing guitar. She's recently collaborated with Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D./Neptunes fame for her most recent single, and gained a lot of attention on the YouTubes for her folk-inspired cover of Nirvana's "Come As You Are" (yes, really). I really enjoyed her more toned-down feel, and what an inspiring person she really is! She's studied law and is also launching her own clothing shop, in addition to her burgeoning musical career in the international arena -- all without compromising her Muslim heritage.

Yuna's cover of Nirvana's "Come As You Are"

Then came Jamaican reggae singer Gyptian, complete with backup dancers and DJ in a "club" setting (complete with omnipresent air horn that got annoying after about its fourth play). A remix of his single "Hold Yuh" features Nicki Minaj. I'm not sure if the crowd was just growing restless in its wait for 2NE1, but I felt like the energy of the performance started wane a bit at this point. Perhaps it complimented Gyptian's mellow style. If hip hop reggae is your thing, make sure you check him out.

Gyptian's breakthrough single "Hold Yuh", featuring Nicki Minaj

After Gyptian's performance and interview (in which he revealed an artist he'd most like to collaborate with was bewilderingly Celine Dion), a promotional package for 2NE1 was cued up, discussing the Hallyu Wave and its impact internationally, not just in America. The package included musical clips from TVXQ!, Super Junior, MBLAQ (Dara's younger brother, Thunder, is a member of this idol boy band) and Miss A.

Then finally, after hours of waiting, lots of waving of MTV-provided lightsticks, and screaming till we were literally hoarse, CL, Minzy, Bom and Dara took the stage in color-coordinated red and black outfits designed by fashion designer Jeremy Scott with artfully placed metallic plates and they were mere feet from where I was dancing. Instantaneously, the venue turned into a madhouse. They performed four songs total -- "Fire" (!!), "Can't Nobody" (Korean Version), "Lonely" and "I Am the Best". 

2NE1's lead single from their second mini album, "I Am The Best"

All four of them sounded phenomenal (although poor Bommie's mic was malfunctioning at first -- but she was alright for the second half of the performance). There is no questioning that Bom (or as the VJs liked to call her, Boom) is the belter of the group, but I'm most fond of CL's voice (and sass and sheer fiercitude -- yeah, I'm coining that) and she certainly didn't disappoint. I was most surprised by Minzy (Minji), who sounded incredible, especially during "Lonely". Perhaps I associate her too much with her dancing/performing over her vocals, but don't be fooled. 2NE1's maknae has got some pipes on her. Dara rocked her pineapple hair (wrapped in a metallic ribbon), and Bom nearly flashed the audience with her barely-there mini dress.

Their energy was palpable and the audience threw it right back at them, singing along (and loudly) to every song. During "Best", the walls were literally shaking with the force of thousands of screaming "Naega Jeil Jal Naga!" at the top of their lungs. If anything, the performance proved what many including myself have reiterated -- 2NE1 is a live act. It's their bread and butter.

During the interview packages and prior to "Lonely", only CL spoke, mentioning New York was the place the group most wanted to visit and how they dearly love their BlackJacks. Jeremy Scott, the visionary behind much of their edgy image who claims the group as his muse, was also on hand to cheer on the girls and helped introduce them to the stage with Suchin Pak. Suchin, it should be said, was very visibly stoked to introduce the group -- you could sense her South Korean pride in naming 2NE1 as the official "Best New Band In the World," as voted by the fans.

After 2NE1's performance, the group was officially crowned (literally) the "Best New Band In the World" with large oversized crowns as seen in the logo for the event. KPOP Fansite American KPOP Fans captured video of the group's interview with Sway and their "background" package that talks about 2NE1's role in the Hallyu Wave in America.

Many many thanks to MTV, MTV Iggy, Suchin Pak, Sway and of course, all the artists (especially our girls!) for making this night truly extraordinary! Not only was it a landmark event that streamed all over the globe celebrating international music in its native languages, it was a wonderful introduction for me to three other incredible artists! Also, a huge shout out and love to my friend Xtian, for hanging out and coming to the concert with me! I had a blast!

So now, it's really official. I've seen all of my intense KPOP faves live and in person. Mission Accomplished.

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