K-Pop is a lot like one giant Madonna. It constantly reinvents itself, with artists returning multiple times per year with new looks and sounds, finding new places to draw inspiration from and then packaging it into the kind of slick and commercial package that can be enjoyed by pop fans across the globe.
For that reason, it can be easy to see why a lot of K-Pop enthusiasts get bored with 2NE1. The group only remotely tweaks its concepts with each comeback, and their heavily-westernized sound can pretty much be summed in two genres: radio-friendly urban-pop and radio-friendly electro-pop. But a lot of the negativity directed at 2NE1 is a little unfair. They’re a dynamic group of women, sufficiently talented (well, at least three of them are) and interesting to look at, and while their music may not be terribly innovative or original, it’s still rather good.
Take their latest single, “I Love You”, for instance. It’s the kind of song that would probably land on a Rihanna, Britney, or Ke$ha album if it had been shopped around the States. It might be fun to trash 2NE1, but realistically, you can’t put them down on the level of generic rubbish like Taio Cruz, Pitbull, or Nicki Minaj, because it’s simply not accurate. (At least, you can’t do that until they release their English album with will.i.am, which will probably be worse than all the aforementioned artists put together if any of his recent work is to go by.)
“I Love You” is another one of those 2NE1 electro-pop songs with a the slightly tweaked concept that I referred to earlier. They’ve toned down their harder edge and gone for a more feminine, sexier style this time around, both visually and sonically. They’re no longer man bashing, but instead wearing their hearts on their Jeremy Scott sleeves, professing their undying love, adoration, and dependence on a crush or a lover. Their worship of this mystery man is so completely over the top that it strays a little too far from their girl power image. With lyrics like “Don’t make me jealous, don’t make me become obsessed“, “Please hold onto me right now“, and “I’m curious where you are and what you’re doing“, 2NE1 don’t just seem lovesick — they seem desperate and weak. Showing your vulnerability is one thing, behaving like Shelley Winters in Lolita is another.
The production on “I Love You” is definitely one of the more interesting things that 2NE1 has done so far, with a lot of shifts and changes that steer the song away from becoming yet another predictable dance-pop confection. There’s a chilly synth intro that bleeds into a bed of futuristic club thumps, before turning into that Stargate knock-off drum beat from “I Don’t Care”, which then climaxes into a storm of aggressive electro and autotuned shouting. There’s even an “OoooOoooOooo” bit on the chorus that sounds like SISTAR’s “Loving U”, which was probably inspired by T-ara’s “Lovey-Dovey”.
There’s a hell of a lot going on in “I Love You”, bringing to mind After School‘s recent comeback single “Flashback”. Although both songs are quite different, they’re also extremely similar with their unpredictable arrangements and obvious top forty appeal. The funny thing is, that while 2NE1 and After School both tried to pander to mainstream pop trends while simultaneously trying to reinvent the genre, fellow girl group 4minute stuck to a more straightforward style of commercial dance-pop with their sax-infused club banger “Volume Up”, and ended up trumping both songs with ease. Sometimes the simplest answer can actually be the right one, as 4minute proved.
But just because “I Love You” doesn’t match up to 4minute’s stunning anthem doesn’t mean that it should be written off. It’s a fun piece of danceable fluff that any American pop diva would be lucky to get their hands on, and lyrical mishaps aside, it’s a solid evolution for 2NE1, who manage to change things up just enough with each new release to keep us interested.
Oh yeah, and CL dipping in that catsuit in the music video >>> your faves.