2NE1: “‘I AM THE BEST’ on stage” (Pt. 1)
There used to be a time in the Korean history when having a job in singing and dancing was regarded as a shameful thing. But now that is something very hard to believe for younger generations here. Singers are adored and get praised for their god-given talents, and without a doubt, they are now the leaders of Korean culture and fashion; and that’s where 2NE1 stands.
2NE1, debuted in 2009, is a group of four transgressive young women artists pioneering new music styles and fashion. Going beyond synchronized dance routines and repetitive chorus, they were the first K-pop group to dominate local online music charts with five singles in a row: ““Don’t Cry,” “Lonely,” “I Am The Best,” “Hate You” and “Ugly.”
If you think the group’s international acclaim in a little over three years of their singing career is hard to believe, wait till you hear what is next: “NEW EVOLUTION.” (Note: The original article wrote “REVOLUTION”.)
In between releasing the new single and going for the theatrical run, 2NE1 told the magazine about their world tour, “NEW EVOLUTION,” and their new tune– a cross-genre song of electronic and trot music– at the YG Entertainment office building in Seoul on July 6.
People of your generation didn’t grow up listening to trot music [an old Korean pop music genre based on four beats and sad melody from Japanese ballad "enka’”]. Was it not difficult understanding and digesting the genre?
Minzy: My parents love trot music so it wasn’t new to me at all.
CL: Even if you don’t grow up being exposed to trot music, you know the feeling of it. It wasn’t so difficult imagining what kind of message trot music has inside (its lyrics and melody).
Sandara: My mom loves trot so I used to sing “The man in Shinsadong” (translated title) a lot.
CL: Minzy was good at singing the trot parts of our new song.
What’s attractive about trot music?
CL: I’ve realized that this is a very difficult genre to learn. Not only do you need to get the nuance of it but go deeply into the song and feel it. It requires a different singing style as well. I tried the intro part of the song but couldn’t pull it off well.
Aside from the genre’s unique characteristics, were you guys able to digest the lyrics?
CL: Since our debut in 2009, we’ve been singing about love from a unique perspective. This time, it’s just a typical love story. But when you go deep into the details in the lyrics, it’s a stalker basically; a scary woman singing about love (laugh).
How was “I LOVE YOU” made?
CL: As far as I know, our producer, Teddy, made it for fun last winter. It was a long time ago when he came up with the tune and everything. I guess he was looking for something very different from our past songs, since we are always seeking for something new, and more sensational. (When the song came out) We members thought it was fresh and figured “I LOVE YOU” will connect different generations and people from different backgrounds.
Last year, you guys were singing about how cool you are in “I AM THE BEST, which is totally the opposite of what you sing in “I LOVE YOU.” Was it not difficult getting into the lyrics?
CL: If you’re a woman, you always have those two different attitudes at the same time. “I AM THE BEST” shows the peak of one’s self-confidence whereas “I LOVE YOU” describes a woman who yearns for love. I guess everyone holds these two emotions concurrently.
Which song would you say describes 2NE1 better?
CL: “I AM THE BEST” only on stage (laugh).
How about the following singles after ‘I LOVE YOU’?
CL: We were initially planning to release ‘I LOVE YOU’ together with other songs. But since we were putting a lot of work into each song, it was going to take us too much time to finish all to release it (this summer). We’re currently working on the next single and not sure when we’ll drop it. It will be much closer to 2NE1’s style and freer than ‘I LOVE YOU.’ I’m expecting to do some weird things on the next one (laugh).
What is your new fashion style going to be like? Any special stage props this time?
CL: We’ve tried to look feminine and classic. When you watch our music video, you’ll feel that it has a lot of vintage and antique feelings. It might be too much, but we wanted to go classic by using many vintage-style accessories and outfits. At the same time, we also combined some Korean look to let people know more about Korea. It’s those small details that make our new concept special.
Sandara had a dramatic change in her do. Weren’t you worried about changing to undercut hairstyle?
Sandara: I was a bit worried at first but I think I did it without a thought (once I made my decision).
Was it to go with the album’s new concept? Whose idea was it to do the undercut?
CL: No it wasn’t for the album actually. At first, I was thinking about changing my hairstyle like that and figured it will make my sharp impression stand out even more. I thought someone with a pretty face should do it so I suggested the undercut hairstyle to Sandara.
Sandara: I did it… but…
CL: I was right next to her when she was getting the cut and the hairstylist told me to cut her hair before shaving it. Sandara later shaved it while crying.
Sandara: I wasn’t literally crying with tears running down my face. It was a bit like the sad feeling before going to the army, you know (laugh). I’ve already shaved it two or three times and now it feels like nothing.
2NE1: “Meaningless to do music when we can’t be inspirational to people” (Pt. 2)
Your first world tour, “NEW EVOLUTION,” is like throwing your hat in the ring to go global. Do you have specific plans about how and what you want to do at “NEW EVOLUTION”?
CL: We think our next world tour after this year’s is the real start. This time, it’s more like visiting and communicating with our fans abroad. We’ve worked with many foreign musicians and professionals to meet global fans.
If you were to choose just one country where you look forward to perform next time, which country would that be?
CL: I’ve heard that we have a large number of fans in Latin America. Maybe it’s the passionate and strong feelings that Latin American music is known for (that 2NE1 is popular there). I really want to perform there.
Bom: I heard from will.i.am that 2NE1 has a lot of fans in Brazil. I would love to go there soon.
How’s the preparation for the world tour going?
CL: We already began practicing for the tour two months ago and we’ll really buckle down to push things forward (before it kicks off in Seoul this month). From next week, we start doing band rehearsals and all our staffs from abroad will fly in. Oh, and we’ll play the same versions for all cities we visit. We held our concerts last year and since then we’ve only released one new song, ‘I LOVE YOU.’ Since the setlist is going to be pretty much the same as last year, we’re doing some remix for all songs except our latest love tune. Our performance director is preparing a flamboyant stage and adding to that, we’re wearing Jeremy Scott’s stage costumes. Everything will be fancy and showy.
Do you guys have a lot of burden on your shoulders for the world tour?
CL: We’re actually excited about it and can’t wait to start the tour. Perhaps answering questions in interviews can be more stressful than performing on stage. Anywhere in the world, we’ll be able to truly enjoy staging our shows.
Sandara and Park Bom are turning 30 next year. What would you guys like to do during the last five months of your 20s?
Sandara: I have a load of things I want to do. I’ve been too busy with my work the past few years. (If I have to pick one) I’d like to fall madly in love but as you can see, I have only six months left so I highly doubt that’ll happen (laugh).
Bom: For me, I don’t think I have anything particular. Being over 30 will be attractive in its way.
What do you want to do the most these days, Minzy and CL?
Minzy: I have a few things that I want to learn. Whether it is learning a language, dancing or whatever, I want to set one-year plan to learn something new. Lately I’ve been reading a lot. The title is ‘You’ve Been Hurt Because You Are in Your Youth’ (translated title).
CL: I have so much that I want to do that I don’t know which one to start with. This is actually what G-Dragon and I have been talking about together. It’s related to culture and fashion. But since we’ve been so busy with our work it never got carried out in action. Anyways, that’s my dream: creating a space to allow people in our age and the next generation to keep developing the Korean culture. I’m not sure how exactly it will turn out but certainly it’ll be music and fashion-related.
It’s been three years since 2NE1’s debut. What’s your ambition as a member of 2NE1?
CL: We’re always craving to show something new. When people feel that 2NE1’s music or our style is sensational and boring, I’d be more disappointed that they are. It’d be meaningless to do music when we can’t be inspirational to people.