Amongst the rush of new girl group debuts within the K-Pop industry, YG Entertainment changed the standard with the debut of 2NE1 in 2009. Of all the girl groups, I can confidently say that 2NE1 had the strongest debut and has stayed true to their sound throughout their career. With the release of their latest album, 'Crush,' it seems fitting to cover the transformation of 2NE1 into the spearheads for K-pop's penetration into the Western music industry.
A Hot Debut
The four members, CL, Bom, Dara, and Minzy, made their informal debut as a group through a commercial campaign for LG Electronics—their song, "Lollipop," with Big Bang for the campaign was a huge hit. The girls made a big splash with not only their sound (for me CL stood out as a rapper to be reckoned with), but also for their fashion as well (who could possibly overlook Dara's palm tree hair?). It was evident that 2NE1 would bring a fresh sound to K-pop, making their official debut a highly anticipated event.
2NE1 made their official debut with "Fire." "Fire," produced by Teddy Park of 1TYM, highly contrasted the cute and/or sexy concepts of all other girl groups at the time. Rather than catering to male viewers, 2NE1 made a strong first impression with their badass swag and sense of female empowerment. This new approach changed the game for future girl groups and the K-pop music industry.
Following the success of "Fire," 2NE1 continued to release chart topper after chart topper. They established an unconventional digital hip-hop sound completely unique to the group. What impressed me the most about the group was their ability to continue making progressive music while staying true to a sound where fans could listen and know, "Oh, this is 2NE1!"
In my opinion, the next milestone hit for 2NE1 was "I Am the Best." Although there were many chart toppers between their debut to this point in their careers including the 'Song of the Year' winner, "I Don't Care," and my personal favorite 2NE1 track, "Go Away," "I Am the Best" catapulted 2NE1 into a new level of success. Not only was the production value of this song seemingly higher than those of their previous videos and artistically brilliant, but the sound was also catchy; in 2NE1 saying, "I am the best," with that level of confidence, they established themselves as truly being the best. The track was heard around the world in clubs and backtracks in popular shows, catching the eyes of famous producers and designers as well--this song solidified 2NE1's status as global idols.
A more mature sound
After their unprecedented success in 2011, 2NE1 again killed the music scene with hits such as "I Love You." "I Love You" demonstrated a more mature sound, with each verse fitting the voice and personality of each member flawlessly. I believe this is one of 2NE1's strongest tracks, contrasting their hard/tough image with a more vulnerable sound.
Although many fans complained that "Falling in Love," (and their subsequent promotion "Do You Love Me") were weaker than the previous songs, I really appreciated the sound of "Falling in Love." Rarely do you hear reggae undertones in K-Pop music. This illustrates what appeals to me most about 2NE1--rather than focusing on commercial success, they aren't afraid to experiment with sounds and think outside of the box with their music, which is what makes them true artists.
2NE1 came back strong last year with "Missing You," which swept the charts. "Missing You" was a beautiful song about heartbreak--they ditched their raps and showcased their vocal talent in this surreal-sounding track. This, to me, stomped all predictions that 2NE1 had already hit their peak.
Finally, we come to the present, with 2NE1 again topping charts with their newest album, 'Crush' including the all-kill single, "Come Back Home," which somehow manages to incorporate sounds that resemble reggae and EDM (not sure how that works, but it does...). The music videos for "Happy" and "Come Back Home" were finally released on March 2, and they were well worth the wait.
"Happy" is a very light and fun song. The video is very 2NE1-esque with bright wardrobes, crazy hair, and tons of positive energy--this was paired with graphics by the ever so talented Mina Kwon, taking the bubbly-ness of this song to a new level.
As for "Come Back Home," I thought this music video was done beautifully. The analogy of the "virtual reality" mixed with the computer graphics recreating a "trip" experience aligned well with the tempo of the song. And not only did the girls look fierce, rocking multiple hair-styles per usual, but through this video we were able to see a new artistic concept from the group.
Many are saying that this is 2NE1's strongest album yet, and I'm looking forward to following their promotions!
When it comes to fashion and music-style, 2NE1 truly is on their own level. They are able to incorporate new genres of music into their own sound, yet remain strikingly consistent with their general sound, leading to the success of their tracks worldwide. Unlike other groups it is difficult to say that 2NE1 has drastically changed since their debut—they have always stayed true to their individuality and their sound (their debut was that strong). However, it is safe to say that 2NE1 has matured as a group, now composing their own music and, of course, experimenting with new fashion. 2NE1 pushes boundaries that other K-Pop artists don't dare cross, which has evidently paid off seeing the worldwide love that 2NE1 has received. As someone who has followed their growing success, I am extremely excited to see what more 2NE1 has in store for us!
Which 2NE1 do you prefer, the one that brought the fire and I don't care attitude or the current one with a more mature sound? Vote in our poll below and share your opinions in the comments!