It's been a year of growth for 2NE1. They have accomplished a balance between musical presence and the electronica/club style they've developed over time. 2NE1's identity is clear in their second mini-album and they've executed their strengths in ways that work flawlessly for them as a pop girl group. This year, 2NE1 plowed through the summer with "I Am The Best" (Review), which not only brought back the kicking chaos they're known for, but a not-so-obvious restrain on jarring vocal processing; it was Teddy's addiction in 2010, but now, the auto-tune has been lessened to a mere additive detail (which is apparent once you reach the bonus track - "Don't Stop The Music"). 2NE1 also showcased a fresher side; "Hate You" (Review) was calm, cool, and collected, while "Lonely" (Review) took the lead as one of 2NE1's most memorable releases of the year with a refreshing, minimal arrangement. The last hoo-rah of their promotions this year is the lead single, "Ugly." ==== A lot of the details I've grown to appreciate in "Ugly" unveiled themselves the more times I played it. The most obvious is the treatment on 2NE1's vocals, and consequently, their delivery. For instance, CL, who's a fantastic rapper, is also a singer and I'm pleased by the way she was used here, albeit briefly. CL is quite the shouter, and while that may come with some negative connotation, I'm here to point out the appropriate use of this kind of voice. Considering the pop-rock style of this song, CL's overbearing vocals were used in the chorus, which is the best place in this song to hear them. She matches well with the energy of the song, while the other members bring it back during the verses and climax. And what a climax. If there's one song where Sandara truly shines, this is it. While she lacks depth as a singer, her voice lends itself really well to vocal processing. What Dara has going for her is color, and when Teddy sprinkles the right amount of treatment, she hovers all of a sudden, kind of like when you play a harmonic on a violin and you get this weird sensation there's something floating above you. She's kind of the halo of the group. - Aside from the nicest display of vocals I've heard from this group in a long time, "Ugly" also emphasizes a strong pop-rock style. 2NE1 haven't really approached pop music from this angle, but as their first go with "Ugly", it translates as believable and surprisingly honest. The arrangement works best throughout the verses, where it builds and blends well with 2NE1's voices. Personally, I would have loved to hear a stronger use of the drum kit, especially near the end where a killer solo would have knocked this song out of the park, but I don't expect a house like YG Entertainment to have a full understanding of rock on their first attempt with these ladies. ==== Though I'm not used to seeing (and hearing) 2NE1 display such a vulnerable image, it is the coherent ties between it and the musical delivery of "Ugly" that make sense in the end. 2NE1 aimed to strike a chord with their audience, and cheesy chorus aside, they've done so. "Ugly" is vibrant, semi-angsty, and has a clear direction. From Minzy's graceful stanzas to Bom's controlled overtones -- 2NE1 are sounding better than ever. And this isn't even a crazy uptempo track! — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGe0hHvAGkc — Overall Rating: 4.4/5 — Overall Cumulative Album Rating: 4.3/5 [excluding the bonus track, "Don't Stop The Music"] — What are your thoughts on 2NE1's newest song? — Suggestions for a future review? Hit the author up on Twitter (@rothsresidence) or via e-mail (email@example.com)! — Rating Overview: 0 – 1.9 ; poor, without any redeeming qualities 2.0 – 2.9 ; mediocre, but with some saving graces 3.0 – 3.9 ; good, with noteworthy highs and lows 4.0 – 4.9 ; excellent, with minimal flaws 5 ; superior, and as near to perfection as the song/album can be — Note: This article does not reflect the opinions of allkpop, only of the author.