The same time I entered the K-pop scene, 2PM left it. While they built a music career in Japan, my knowledge of them was restricted to the Jay Park controversy, Wooyoung‘s solo début, Dirty Eyed Girls and Dream High, the drama which served as my introduction to the group through Taecyeon and Wooyoung’s appearance in it.
Apart from that, my life was void of 2PM until last month, when JYP‘s flagship boy band announced their Korean comeback. Though I knew about their hyper-masculine image and fierce acrobatics, it didn’t feel right to expect that same kind of boisterous energy from a 2PM that would have obviously matured since that time. And judging by the most recent trailer released, this notion could be correct:
Those are just my expectations though. What do those who are much more familiar with the group and I think of the upcoming album Grown, and their career thus far? I have a lot of questions about 2PM, which I posed to Ambika, Nabeela and Amy.
1. What was the reception for 2PM like when they first debuted?
Ambika: I came into K-pop after 2PM’s début, but from what I gather from watching their performances and their variety from the time, they seemed to fill in that niche of young, built boys being boys, especially when you consider that the other debuts of the year were groups like 2AM, SHINee, and U-KISS. There was just a lot of this raw energy and masculinity with the right touch of cheekiness to draw fans in.
Nabeela: I think it was fantastic. A lot of people seemed more receptive to their edgy, grown up angle, if you will, than I had anticipated. In the hey day of the flower boy, 2PM brought an extremely refreshing vibe to the table. Like Ambika said, they really milked the “boys will be boys” idea, and I think they did so in a way that allowed them to stand out without being overdone or utterly obnoxious.
Personally, I didn’t like 2PM during their début. They were definitely different, at least to me, during that era of music, and that took a minute to get used to. Then there came this obscure point where I fell head over heels for them and I’ve never looked back.
Amy: I remember it being pretty good because people weren’t so used to boy groups that made so much fun out of being youthful and boyish. Their video was a riot and I people really enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor, and that they were able to make fun of themselves, which at the time not a lot of groups did.
Ambika: Jay Park seemed like the center of the group, the one whose image the group was supposed to emulate. He brought this naughty and sometimes over the top attitude to variety shows, and it seemed like it was something none of the other members were comfortable displaying when on their own. In the period right after Jay left, the group seemed okay in terms of relations with one another, but they lacked a spark of sorts in their public presence that had been there before. Since the separation, I think 2PM has overcome that, becoming wacky variety characters on their own and feeling more comfortable with their situation, both aspects that were shown really well in their 2PM Show. The success of their albums after the split probably helped make their future seem more promising after one of the most popular members left.
Nabeela: Honestly, when Jay Park started on the scene as Jaebeom, it was my understanding that he was involved considerably in the group’s conceptual presentation and choreography. The minute he left 2PM took a seriously dip in originality. The aggressive b-boy flavor in their choreo and the R&B undertones were completely nonexistent. It was just drab from there on out.
It’s pretty obvious that since Jay left that Taecyeon has assumed some place at the top, though I still think Jun.K should have stepped up to the leader’s position. I mean, he was the second oldest and has the most experience (well certainly more than Taec) in music production and lyric writing. Plus it would have given Jun.K an opportunity to not be as irrelevant or stop sulking in the background. But that’s just biased my fangirl heart bleeding out.
Amy: I actually think 2PM as a group got stronger dynamic-wise. That’s not to say that Jay made the dynamics worse, but it was more like the group felt a keen sense of loss after Jay left, and in his absence their bond grew even stronger.
In all seriousness though, Taec has become such a tool in recent years he makes it really hard to follow the group’s activities. Anyone remember his rampant shirt ripping phase?
Ambika: I think 2PM is doing it right in Japan by spending a lot of time there, putting out some original Japanese tracks, and essentially selling a sophisticated version of their Korean image over there. It showed that they were taking it seriously rather than popping in to release a Japanese version of an old song and running right back to Korea after a month. Some highlights from their Japanese activities are just seeing them on Japanese shows speaking Japanese decently, understanding, and just interacting.
Nabeela: I am so proud of their Japanese discography. Honestly, some of their better post-Jay material happened in Japan. The boys really took a lot of energy into making a name for themselves there, and their hard work is evident. “I’m Your Man” and “Masquerade” are definitely my favorites.
Amy: I’m not a huge fan of their Japanese material. I think a lot of their stuff sounds really awkward and JYP hasn’t really made an attempt to J-pop-ify their sound. I did like the concept of “I’m Your Man” — so simple! boys in suits! — but the song wasn’t my thing.
3.b) What would you like to see 2PM bring back from their Japanese activities to Korea?
Ambika: I’d like to see a melding of the intricacies in some of their Japanese songs, like the tie moves in “I’m Your Man” or the mask ones in “Masquerade,” with their normally tougher choreography. In Japan, there wasn’t as much movement in their songs as they normally bring in their Korean releases, which made them seem a tad lacking to me, but if some of those finer points were brought back and somehow incorporated with their next release, I think it could work out well.
Nabeela: 2PM channels a lot more artistry in their Japanese concepts, whereas I’ve considered their previous Korean concepts as rather ginmicky (“Without U,” even “Hands Up” honestly). It be nice to see that mature and more artistic angle come to Korea since 2PM is no longer choreo intensive.
4. There are now many boy bands out there with masculine concepts — how do you think 2PM will fare with the increased competition when they come back?
Ambika: 2PM will do all right as long as they have a good song. They have years of experience over the rookies and a good command of the stage. They also benefit from being one of the first of this generation’s idols to have that strong, beast image and be able to continuously prove their strength. If anything, living up to that expectation should push the group to bring out a good set of promotions.
Nabeela: I have no idea. So much has changed and become so diversified since 2PM left. I mean, SNSD were the divine dolls belting out “Gee” and “Genie” back then and now they’re fearless femme fatales with “IGAB.” If that’s not enough indication of change, then I’m not sure what it.
Either way, 2PM has to play their cards right not to get washed away by the rookie tidal wave that’s been KILLIN it since last year or be outshined by their contemporaries who’ve been more active in Korea. I’m a little scared, truthfully. I’m not sure working masculinity alone is going woo anyone over. They’ve got to ultra amp or no game.
Amy: The thing that they have is that they were really the first ultra macho group, and I don’t think that any successive groups have really done the image as well. I mean, they practically shoved their masculinity down our throats for all of “Heartbeat” and by now, they have enough seniority and experience to really own their masculinity swagger.
Ambika: Yes. Yes I can. Nichkhun was a wink machine from the day he debuted. If they did an aegyo concept, it would be the softer, mature kind, something a bit like Super Junior‘s “No Other.” Anything bubblier I think would look more like a joke than a serious performance.
Nabeela: No. Please don’t even make me consider it.
Amy: I actually think they’re not bad at doing aegyo, but their image is overall so serious that I won’t be able to take them seriously if they did aegyo as a legitimate concept. There are groups like Super Junior who can do both because they’re so adept at it, but I think 2PM is the kind of group that can’t flit between the two extremes very easily, outside of taking on aegyo as a joke.
6. Lastly, a fun question: if you could take One Day and rearrange them according to different concepts (ie- instead of “ballad” and “buff”) , what would the concepts be, and which members would be where?
Ambika: This is a hard one. I”ve kept them so firmly in each group to keep track of all the members. The first combination I thought of was size: Taecyeon, Nichkhun, Chansung, Seulong, Jinwoon, and Changmin in one group while the other has Junho, Minjun, Wooyoung, and Jo Kwon. That’s probably not the best of ideas as the ballad giants don’t really get much dance practice. Unless that’s their new concept: the vocalists stand still or do minimal movements while the rappers do most of the heavy dancing. But hey, One Day could also separate into the group their already formed: Dirty Eyed Girls with 2AM’s Jo Kwon and Seulong and 2PM’s Wooyoung, Chansung, and Taecyeon. They could make funny parodies of girl group songs. The remaining five could do covers or something of girl group songs instead.
Taec, Jinwoon, Wooyoung, Chansung, Seoulong — tall boys and the muppet visuals, mad over autotuned tracks that you hate yourself for loving
Amy: I would actually like to swap Junho to 2AM, put Jinwoon in 2PM. And instead of the “ballad” vs “pop” thing, I would have preferred it if they didn’t all debut together as part of One Theme. I think them debuting together is what’s forcing 2AM into this corner of “ballad” when I know they can do something more dance-y and pop-y with no problem. They have so much more potential than their popularity reflects, and it’s really sad because 2PM is clearly not the more talented group compared to 2AM, but because JYP was such a genius with this idea, 2PM is of course going to be more popular.
Fun fact: I used to have a crush on Taecyeon. He was the entire reason why I even started watching Dream High and I still find him the most physically attractive member in 2PM (sorry Nabeela). Now that I’ve got that off my chest, on with the rest of my thoughts.
I hardly think 2PM was the first ever group to highlight their masculinity, but, as Amy said, they definitely were successful in mixing that with humour to create the cheeky image with which they debuted. A lot of the time it feels like masculinity and humour are separated in K-pop, and while it does come across as rather bawdy in some instances, 2PM did a pretty good job of bringing them together. The group’s aggressive dance style also helped a lot with giving the group its masculine image, especially when considering that few other groups would be able to pull off choreography of that calibre. And the abs don’t hurt either.
But while the group started out light-hearted, and even returned to it with their last Korean release “Hands Up,” there is a feeling that 2PM have Grown out of this image, as perhaps hinted at by the title for their upcoming album. It does look like the group will be bringing back some of the sophistication seen in their Japanese releases. This would be a great move to signify the group’s maturity and thus their seniority over other groups with aggressive images like B.A.P. And with Shinhwa also making a comeback soon, 2PM may also be able to push the youthful angle as well. The two groups thus far seem to be going in the same direction, image-wise- for their respective albums, and I look forward to seeing how things pan out between them.
As for an aegyo concept, I don’t think they could do something like “No Other,” either — it feels too soft for a group like 2PM. But who knows?
Readers, what are your thoughts on 2PM? When and how did you discover them? And do you think they could indeed pull off an aegyo concept?
(JYP Co., Osen)