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[Artist Profile] 2NE1

2 Jul

Today marked a special occasion for me since I bought my ticket for the 2NE1 New Evolution World Tour in New Jersey this August. Well I actually bought it last night but it took me a good two or three hours before I could settle in my head the very fact that I am going to see one of my three favorite artists in the world onstage. In addition, 2NE1 released their newest teaser for their comeback on July 5.

Dara’s:

CL’s:

To prepare for their arrival, I wrote a retrospective of their magnificent, and in my opinion, important career so far. In just a short amount of time (three years), 2NE1 has become a phenomenon in Korea and parts of Asia, especially the Philippines, but also garnered some attention from fans in the western hemisphere. Their distinctive musical style and fashion has made them famous.

Before their official debuts, the plan for a girl group in YG Entertainment went back as far as 2005 when the company announced it. By 2007 we’ve already been introduced to two of the members: Bom Park, the lead singer of the group who possesses powerful vocals, was constantly featured in many YG artists’ songs, particularly and most importantly in BIG BANG’s riff on Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” (the connection is slight at most but as a fan of Mariah Carey in middle school, I was quite offended that this song somehow had the audacity to share the same title as Mariah’s megahit. Suffice to say, I hated BIG BANG back then).

Apart from being a substitute to the three actual singers in Big Bang, Bom Park showed tremendous talent back then and I have to say her musical style then is far more fitting than what she is doing now. Bom has a voice built for R&B melodies and though I haven’t exactly reconciled my love for Mariah’s WBT with my disdain for Big Bang’s WBT, Bom captivated me even back then when I was introduced to this song in middle school before I even had an inkling of what K-pop (apart from my knowledge of Se7en) meant.

For Filipino fans, like myself, I was introduced to Sandara Park in a very different format.

Here, she auditions to be on Star Circle Quest where the judges were quite taken with her adorable affectations and quirks (that pageant wave).

And here we have a fully formed performance that pretty much highlighted two things about Sandara, one positive and one negative: On the positive side, she radiates an immense likability and a charisma that is unlike anything that the Philippines has seen before (Can you hear those fans yell? That’s love). On the negative side, she isn’t really a talented singer but mainly that’s because she chooses the wrong songs to sing (Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly” and Regine Velasquez’s “Dadalhin” are WAY BEYOND her range). But as the judges gladly pointed out, she’s a “concert queen” and that people love her simply because she’s just damn charming. While her acting proved to be futile and limited, she did have some hit movies (I’ve seen D’ Lucky Ones and that was just horrible all around) and her music career there was quite successful, even selling platinum records and number one songs. But above all of these, she maintained her charming persona as Philippines’ Krung Krung, a nickname she’s associated with even to this day among fans.

The other two members weren’t quite as big as these two girls but they’ve earned enormous praises since their arrival to the forefront. CL, the group’s leader is quite a vocalist and a rapper while Minzy is known for her dancing skills at a young age.

Their debut year, 2009 was an extraordinary one. To say that 2NE1 had a very successful debut is an understatement. When 2NE1 came into the picture, they came out with a bang and their rise was meteoric. 2NE1 attracted an enormous amount of attention for their pre-debut song “Lollipop” with labelmate Big Bang.

Their official debut song, “Fire” won them ravenous amounts of fans and critical praise.

Their debut song was the song of that summer and it was an instant smash. In addition, the girls broke barriers. Before their debut, most girl groups were doing variations of cute and aegyo that unfortunately denigrated the rest of K-pop as some sort of adolescent music for international fans who know nothing about it. 2NE1 connected with fans because they brought a fresh new style of music: badass chicks that can be both sexy and strong. “Fire” is an outstanding track because it has all the hallmarks of a great 2NE1 dance track: the hiphop melded with the pop vocals of Sandara, Minzy, and Bom Park aided by CL’s fantastic rap performance. Furthermore, they won a slew of awards from music programs–something truly rare for new artists. Instantly, they became one of the biggest names in K-pop.

The rest of the songs on their first mini-album were just as impressive and offered different variations of their musical style. “In the Club” proved such a sad track that features, in my opinion, Dara’s best vocal performance while “Let’s Go Party” offers another slow jam for fans.  “I Don’t Care,” another fan favorite, will be the closest to cute as 2NE1 will be.

This song is a beautifully hypnotic track with angry and fierce lyrics grounded by  the light, airy melody of the track and the girls singing.

By the end of the year, they were winning awards for their debut music and earning endorsements. In addition, they tried solo material. For Bom Park, it was particularly effective, with her song “You and I” a hit among fans. Bom is such an impressive vocalist that she needed her own song just to highlight how amazing she is.

In 2010, the girls came back with their very first full album. Entitled “To Anyone,” the girls got a little lost in auto-tune in some tracks but for every missed opportunity, they had some true artistic triumphs: “Go Away” featured one of the most impressive use of auto-tune to make the track resonate more but also displays CL’s best rap performance to date.

“It Hurts” was a seismic ballad that masterly combined atmosphere, genuine emotional singing, and impressive lyrics into one beautiful and moving track.

By the end of the year, they have earned more awards and prizes for their first full album. They even attracted the attention of Will.I.Am who wanted to work on their American debut album.

The summer of 2011 brought another 2NE1 mini-album that features at least three of their best songs to date. At this point, they have already well-established themselves as respected “veterans” even if they have only been in the industry for three years. Their second mini-album is another artistic triumph for them. Their first track, “Lonely,” is arguably their best song to date: it feels the most personal, vivid, and most engrossing songs of their career thus far. There aren’t any false notes here.

Then came “I Am The Best,” the song that made 2NE1 a curious attraction for people who aren’t well-versed in K-pop. It was an international jam that was played in clubs in LA or NY (even in DC when I went to a club I heard 2NE1. No, it wasn’t an Asian club!) The girls is a force to be reckoned here with them at their friskiest and most adventurous.

Finally, they closed that summer with “Ugly”, a song that displays 2NE1 at their most vulnerable featuring one of the best vocal performances from both Minzy and Bom Park. That chorus is a perfect display of English and vocals from CL and Sandara Park proved her mettle with an impressive bridge.

With their comeback in a few days, the girls are seeking to further their legacy. There have been many girl groups that have tried to take on the challenge of being the new 2NE1 and so far none of them have succeeded. 2NE1 is a one of a kind group that will undoubtedly become one of K-pop’s most triumphant and important artists for the next decade.

–Clarence

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2 Responses to “[Artist Profile] 2NE1”

  1. ija July 3, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    2NE1 is not just a K-Pop Hallyu star but they are able to conquer the world. Love Dara most!

  2. ygstan July 5, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    such a great review…yeap..i like quality of Bom’s voice when she didn’t debut yet..
    and due to her bombastic solo..i’m sure she will be still famous as diva though she isn’t part of 2NE1…
    2NE1 such a great girlsgroup..not for KPOP only..for the world sake…

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