2010’s fantastic To Anyone was a game-changer in the K-Pop industry: it was an amalgam of unabashedly sugary synth goodness and powerful hip-hop, appealing across genre and gender divides alike and propelling 2NE1 into superstardom. It yielded three hit singles, the best of which is the beatific “Clap Your Hands.” The song’s foundation is its emphatic beat, on which members CL, Dara and Minzy (yes, those are real names) play out an unpredictable game of Russian rap roulette before token power belter Bom slays the chorus, imploring her listeners to “raise your hands up high, shout to the sky.” When it comes to hedonistic pleasures, this one’s surprisingly sweet and innocent—and with the late break into jungle rhythms, pretty cathartic as well.
2011, however, saw the girls entering their creative renaissance. Their first single from the year, “I Am The Best,” provides a dark blast of self-aggrandizing joy, allowing lead rapper CL to throw line over line until she has you firmly in her grasp. It’s tough but undeniably empowering for anyone who wants to shout “NE GA JEIL JAL NAGA” with her:
The group’s most recent single, “I Love You,” is also its most accomplished. Sure, the title may hardly raise an eyebrow, but the song explores deceptively sinister overtones to its titular sentiment. Exhibit A? The music video, which keeps all four girls isolated in their private miseries—only to bring them together in an explosive finale that would give “I Am The Best” a run for its money. Newcomers may be surprised by the aftershock, but it’s yet another example of what 2NE1 does best: navigating romantic and personal complications with candor and honesty before exorcising them on the dance floor.