2NE1: Collection

CD, YGEX, 2012

There are so many reasons to love 2NE1, and I barely even get into them in this Japan Times review. The main thing is just how utterly, infectiously happy these brash, loud, utterly silly pop nuggets with their loopy, over-the-top production, swaggering spoken word intros, sassy asides and curious penchant for 1980s U.S. pop references make me.

One memory of my recent trip to Europe that will stick with me is watching a packed crowd in Ljubljana reacting to what might have been the first time 2NE1’s I Am the Best (or possible any K-pop at all) has ever been played in a Slovenian club. Electric doesn’t even begin to describe it. Earlier in the year, I dropped Fire into my set at an indie club in Kumamoto and again, you can just see the reaction ripple through the crowd. Whatever it is 2NE1 have, it taps into some kind of primal disco force.

Of course you can’t please everyone, and I gather some people found it a bit confusing. Obviously when writing a CD review, one doesn’t set out with the intention of provoking anger, distress or head-scratching bafflement in one’s readers. Unfortunately, much as I wish I had time to deal with a mixed-ability readership, that doesn’t lie within my capabilities at this time, so all I can offer is gentle encouragement that some people might want to step up their game.

2NE1: Scream

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3 Comments

Filed under Albums, Reviews

3 responses to “2NE1: Collection

  1. miffy

    You know, if you play 2NE1 songs in a Malaysian club, some people will just roll their eyes and think “urgh, kpop”.
    A lot of appeal of Kpop for non-asian countries lies on its exoticism and how it appeared out of nowhere (post 2007)
    But over here, it been gaining traction since around 2003 so its growth is viewed as more organic
    Sure, 2NE1 is good but its not a huge departure from the Kpop formula for most people over here.

  2. Well certainly the context in which people hear it is going to influence their reaction, depending on the country, the city, the people, the kind of club or bar etc. I don’t really know about how K-pop is received in non-Asian countries (Japanese people sometimes refer to “Asia” as if it’s somewhere else, a bit like how the British talk about “Europe”, but Japan is inescapably *in* Asia) but insofar as K-pop is exotic in Japan, it’s the stuff they crib from American/European electro and R&B and the more confident, less infantile femininity (and the rougher-edged masculinity) of the stars.

    In 2NE1’s case, I think they do have something special. It’s hard to imagine a Rainbow, an Afterschool, a T-ara or any of those other identikit girl groups making an effective stab at a 2NE1 track because most of the songs seem to have been tailored around the personalities of the members. It might not be a huge departure in the sense you mean, but it takes familiar musical and production tropes beyond mere formula. I think that’s the operative word actually: 2NE1 don’t depart so much as go beyond — everything they do is about being more and bigger and sillier, not so much about being an entirely new thing, if that makes sense.

    You’re right though in that familiarity is a key factor. Apart from Big Bang, the YG Production crowd haven’t had much impact in Japan, so it’s not just the four girls themselves but a whole production philosophy that’s new on these shores, and coming just as the Girls’ Generation formula is starting to flag, it’s injecting a much needed shot of personality into the kind of K-pop that we’re seeing in Japan.

  3. Pingback: Top 20 Releases of 2012: No.9 – 2NE1 – Collection | Clear And Refreshing

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