2NE1‘s full length album is out guys and here I am, with fellow blogger Tuc trying to make sense of the whole thing. I’m still on the rocks about this Euro-club-dance-frenzy of an album. I keep getting turned on and off by it and after letting my sister listen to it, who doesn’t regularly listen to Korean pop music, but has before – Her and I both got into it at the same time interestingly through 2NE1, but I’ve obviously stuck it out much longer than she has – I had to sit back and really think about how much my music taste has changed, how this album wont make it far in the US and the fact that she doesn’t like one drop of it.
WARNING: Long-ass post to follow!
McRoth Says: Electronic nuances haven’t been more prominent in the Korean music industry than they are today. I had a feeling YG was coming to grips with its electro/digital obsession when they released 2NE1’s ‘Please Don’t Go!’, but man have they crucified the genre with this album. From the obvious auto-tune that everyone has grown to detest over the past year, to the obscene amount of sirens, clicks, dips, brrrings and boings. This album has a good amount of heavenly moments, but, unfortunately, a lot of dark and messy flaws as well.
Tuc’s Take: 2NE1 is definitely a versatile group. Transitioning from something like “Fire” to something like “I Don’t Care” is something that not many groups can do. Having seen this trend, and the trends of other YG artists, I suspected that 2NE1 was going to go through another change with their new album, and I was right… For the most part.
There are definitely songs on the album similar to “Fire” and “I Don’t Care,” but the group has also experimented with new types of music, as well. Joining the oh-so-familiar tracks we know and love are some club and ballad-ish tunes. Some of them worked for me, while others just seemed okay. Autotune is a tricky thing to use, and I think this album is cutting it awfully close to the line you should never cross.
[NOTE: Only the six new tracks of the album are reviewed and they’re ranked from 1 to 5; 1 being shit and 5 being the farthest thing from shit]
1. Can’t Nobody / 12. Can’t Nobody (English)
McRoth Says [3.8/5]: I’m not saying this album sucks, but there are moments when I lose touch with the feel of it all. For example, the verses in ‘Can’t Nobody’ aren’t my cup of tea. Partly because the processing is so severe on CL’s voice, that I vote we make it illegal to do such an atrocity on her ever again. She isn’t like Sandara who is highly dependent on auto-tune. CL’s rap and quirky tone can stand on their own. She’s proven it time and time again. However, not all is bad, because the chorus is actually catchy and really pretty. I’ll just say it now, Bom makes every chorus sound beautiful. If they switch her out with any other member, I don’t know if the chorus could be as magical. Her job is to step in and calm the other girls down before stepping back and letting them run wild again. She does a good job of it, if you ask me.
Tuc’s Take [3.9/5]: This song really had a lot of potential, and I feel kind of bad for giving it a score below four, so I knocked off only a tenth of a point just to be fair. My main concern with this song is the fact that its structure sort of throws me off. It seems consistent at the beginning, and then the structure is completely broken at the end, where it sounds like an entirely new song. In other words, the cohesion of the song built up to that point was basically thrown out the window. Another part that resulted in some loss points was the fact that CL’s rap was a little over-processed. I wouldn’t have minded if it were only at a couple parts, but throughout the entire song, CL’s voice seems to be lost, and it was a little hard to distinguish her from Dara’s voice, whom I don’t mind having autotune at all, because, frankly, she relies on it. On a positive note, I really commend the members for their excellent English. They’ve definitely got the language skills necessary to make a U.S. debut. Even at a pace like this, it’s still extremely understandable, and I would argue to say that they sound like natives.
2. Go Away
Mcroth Says [4.3/5]: This one is my favorite of the three singles because it proves that not all has gone down the drain in the development in 2NE1’s songs. It’s got that sass from ‘Pretty Boy’, but a brand new electro-pop sound that I haven’t heard from these ladies. The obvious thing the production team could have done was completely annihilate the idea of auto-tune straight out of their minds because, especially in the Korean music industry, they might (and will) end up being compared to groups such as 4Minute, if not with this song, most definitely with one of the others. This song is fun and possesses the quirks of 2NE1 I knew would appear at some point in this album.
Tuc’s Take [4.5/5]: I’m agreeing with Arnold here and saying that this is my favorite of the three title track songs. Think of “Go Away” like a on-steroids version of “I Don’t Care.” It starts out a little iffy, but it definitely satisfies the rest of the way through. Autotune here is used appropriately, and it matches the “club” feel that the song is no doubt going for. One of the highlights to the song, for me, is definitely the chorus. Bom really shines in this song, although I would have really liked some longer, held-out notes near the end.
3. 박수쳐 [Clap Your Hands]
McRoth Says [3/5]: Personally, I prefer hearing my rap with minimal processing. So naturally, I wasn’t as drawn to this song for that reason. The sirens and men barking in the background drive me up the wall. I don’t think I have to say much about the rap – the girls know how to flow and do it ruthlessly. By the way, is it just me or is YG having trouble placing Sandara in the proper place in some of these songs? The lines she gets are weird and I don’t believe her to be the rapping type in this song. She should just remain Bom’s backup singer. Sorry? The change in pace at the middle eight was a nice touch.
Tuc’s Take [4.3/5]: It seems like I liked this song a great deal more than my friend Arnold did. Dara rapping was really taking a risk on YG’s part, because she’s not really the most talent-strong member of the group, but I think she did pretty well. Like I said earlier, I don’t really mind Dara’s voice being processed, as long as CL’s voice is untouched, and, for the most part, it’s untouched in this song, save for a few points. The change in pace near the middle of the song to introduce CL’s rap was pretty hot, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. My home girl needs more solo time. Our ero-Minzy also performed beautifully.
4. 난 바빠 [I’m Busy]
McRoth Says [2.8/5]: I don’t like this song. At all. It doesn’t sound like the females singing are the hipsters I grew to adore. And remember how I mentioned that one of these songs could be compared to 4Minute? This is it. It’s everything 4Minute stands for – recycled beats, deadly processing, and strange transitions. It sounds like 4Minute trying to sound like 2NE1 trying to sound like 4Minute, except the rapping is a hundred clicks better. It opens with a digital feel, but quickly loses its grip on that idea. Not even Bom’s chorus saves this song for me, guys. I might bare to hear it if I’m in a club and totally out of tune with what I’m listening to. Again, the rap is hot, but the sum isn’t greater than the parts. I keep thinking that Teddy (or whoever) just couldn’t get over what they did with Se7en and had to mess around with 2NE1 in the same fashion. Look what happened…
Tuc’s Take [3.5/5]: Simply speaking, I felt like this is the worst song on the album. The weird talking/autotune thing was interesting… But it didn’t quite do it for me, and unfortunately, it’s through most of the song. Moving past that, the verses, especially CL’s raps, and the chorus are highlights of the song. I found that listening to this song for extended period of times really tired me out, because I couldn’t mentally decide on what to focus on with all the electronic processing going on in the background. That being said, this would definitely be a hot song to dance to in the club, and I think that’s what should be meant for. See you at the next Ningin club night, track four.
5. 아파 (Slow) [It Hurts (Slow)]
McRoth Says [5/5]: Ahh, finally a break from all the craycray production. This song is far removed from everything I’ve heard so far. The style is completely different, as is the treatment on 2NE1’s voices. The song is great, though it does throw off the cohesiveness that was going on earlier. I really like this song because you can here how the member’s singing voices have matured. I mean, do you hear Minji!? She sounds different! Girl has a nice tone in her voice, and as for CL, her vocal competence is obvious now. I hardly heard her sing before, but now I can really tell she’s the total package. The melodies are beautiful and the simple instrumentation compliments them nicely. Thumbs way up high for this one.
Tuc’s Take [5/5]: After a long night in the club dancing to all the previous tracks, you’ll probably be saying “it hurts” more than once while laying in bed, right? Hahaha. Lame jokes. Anyway, back to the song. This song is definitely a nice break from all the processing, good and bad, that was going on earlier in the album. R&B is definitely something that 2NE1 should do more often, because the group definitely has the vocals that fit it. Not only does CL have an incredibly… “black (?)” voice, but the other members also have vocals that seem to fit right with hers. Bom obviously is the “powerhouse” of this song, and she steals the show away in the chorus. Minzy is someone I would consider a prodigy. At the age of fifteen, she’s already got impressive rapping, dancing and singing skills. Her voice has a unique timbre to it, and I absolutely love it in this song. As for Dara… Oh, Dara… Well… She did a good job transitioning between the other members… Sorry, but she isn’t that vocally impressive.
6. 사랑은 아야야 [Love Is Ouch]
McRoth Says [4/5]: The album might have opened on a sour note, but it ends much more promising than you would expect. And hey look! Sandara has more than 2 lines in a song! And done pretty well, too. This group isn’t a powerhouse when it comes to their vocals, but they know how to work with what they’ve got. I mean, they gave Sandara this sweet melody that doesn’t go out of the three notes she know how to hit. That’s one of YG’s strengths – they’re freakishly melodic. This song is subtle and focuses more on its classic style than pounding peoples faces in with excessive noise.
Tuc’s Take [5/5]: From the beginning of this song, I was hooked. I don’t know why, but the trademark “2NE1″ at the beginning in the midst of that eerily quiet gap gave me shivers. I’m glad Dara finally got some legitimate lines, because she was pretty much getting shafted in the other songs. Keep in mind that she doesn’t only just get more lines, but she gets more lines that suit her voice and singing type. I really enjoyed the change in pace into the chorus, and I give a kudos to the producer for the placement of CL’s solo rap in the middle of the song. This was a really nice song to end the new half of the album.
McRoth Says: This album is really noisy and it sometimes sounds like it’s a disaster, but it’s going to take plenty of patience to come to grips with everything going on. They obviously wanted to make a club/dance album, and although I’ve raised my eyebrows here and there, they’ve accomplished that. Yes, I’m a little disappointed with the production and treatment of this album, but I don’t hate it. After the MVs and performances are out, it might be a completely different story, who knows!
Tuc’s Take: Despite my complaints of over-processing here and there, I think this was a pretty solid album overall. Listening to the songs alone is only half of it; we have yet to see the girls perform on stage, where I am sure the autotune and such will be greatly reduced in order to highlight the actual voices of the members. Music aside, the lyrics of all of the song are quite powerful and really show 2NE1’s goal of empowering women in this new age of gender equality. I just think it’s hilarious that here we have two MEN reviewing and raving about songs on this album.
Arnold Says: 3.8/5
Tuc’s Take: 4.4/5
A&T combined score: 4.1/5
I’d also like to add that I completely agree with Mellowyel‘s commentary on 2NE1 and the album (click here to read her fabulous article). I second her point about 2NE1’s music. As much as they are innovative and outlandish, they’re still in the industry making music for mainstream audiences.
When it boils down to it, though, they’re still making pop music. It can’t be too revolutionary or else people won’t listen to it. In an industry where instant success isn’t just the goal, it’s the standard, they can only deviate from the norm so much. However, their uniqueness in an industry filled with cookie cutter girl groups seems hard to deny. While I don’t think the album is game-changing, it is explosive, filled with fast beats, improved vocals and that trademark 2NE1 swagger k-pop’s been missing in 2010.
Another detail in her blog post that I gave an overwhelming AMEN to is her comments on Teddy:
First, of all, I think YG is wearing Teddy out. His sound is unique, and it wowed us back in 2008 when Taeyang’s first solo EP came out. However, he doesn’t seem to be growing past that. Taeyang’s full album was a lot of Teddy, but unfortunately not a lot of awesome because he failed to produce a lot of stand-out tracks. Now he’s back on 2NE1’s album, and the songs are good…but not groundbreaking, and that’s my concern. “Clap Your Hands” is a pretty standard hip-hop track without much substance…I worry that by next year, k-pop fans are going to expect something new from him and he won’t be able to deliver…I’d hate for him to peak so early in his career.