When I reviewed Crush back in 2014, how was I to know that the album would be the final release from Seoul’s Baddest Females, 2NE1? Having gotten into K-pop in mid-2008, 2NE1’s powerful entry in the K-pop scene in 2009 was awe-inspiring and a breath of fresh air. With 2008 seemingly being marked by Wonder Girls‘ reaching the highest highs with “Nobody,” and 2009 starting out with the now classic “Gee” by SNSD, the quartet’s debut was momentous. 2NE1 brought to us a new different type of girl group – a group that was not confined by the preset molds of sexy or innocent or a weird combination of both. Instead, here was a group that was a completely different beast all together – a female Big Bang, but even this epithet does not describe how 2NE1 has shaped the current sound and look of a different breed of girl groups.
With fan favorite tracks such as “Fire,” “Can’t Nobody,” and “I Am the Best,” 2NE1 is probably best remembered as the group with in-your-face empowerment, with hip-hop and RnB inspired tracks abound in their upsettingly small discography. Because despite the popularity and highs that 2NE1 has reached, a sad fact is that their discography is small, especially when compared to contemporary, 2009 debuting groups such as f(x). Instead, the group has only had two Korean full length albums, two mini-albums, and five non-album singles (and this is including “Lollipop”).
A tradeoff is that most of their discography has more consistency, and their identity that made them unique was in every track – this includes the softer, less bombastic tracks such as “Go Away,” “Missing You,” and “I Love You.” 2NE1’s music, because of the smaller discography, is an argument for quality over quantity. That being said, given that there has been a previous Side B for the quartet, it made compiling this list less of a greatest side B’s and more of Side B’s you might not have heard yet. Nonetheless, as the group rests in twilight before the release of their final track, “Goodbye,” let’s have a look of the gems that were not promotional singles.
“Pretty Boy,” 2NE1
This track off of their first mini-album, 2NE1, is the quintessential 2NE1 circa 2009 track. Before they pushed their boundaries and ventured into other musical inspirations, they were dedicated to their hip-hop and RnB infused pop sound – and “Pretty Boy” is just one of the many examples.
2NE1’s discography can be split into two categories, and “Pretty Boy” falls into the more known category that is 2NE1: powerful and domineering. The song is energetic, it is dynamic with the way the instrumental plays off of the raps by Minzy and CL, with a chorus that feature’s Park Bom‘s voice at it’s peak, with Dara‘s sweet tones used to off-play the fullness of Bom’s.
“In the Club,” 2NE1
The second category that 2NE1’s discography is riddled with are the softer, tracks, but “In the Club” is in the middle ground. The mid-tempo track is more typical of Western music, sounding like a track off of Rihanna‘s Good Girl Gone Bad. Given that that album in particular is one of my favorites, I only compare as a compliment.
Like “Pretty Boy,” “In the Club” was also performed in Inkigayo, with the stage set up to look like the interior of a club. The track in itself is the steady tunes that 2NE1 released early on in their career – there was a template to their sound, and it was executed rigorously with as little deviation as possible. Considering that the group’s image and their overall sound was different from the other groups, it’s easy to see why this is in hindsight. But also, given the experimentation that the group was later allowed to delve into, their first releases only served as a solid foundation for every thing else.
“If I Were You,” Crush
Of the tracks listed, “If I Were You” is a personal favorite of mine. A CL produced track, this is a softer tune from the quartet. What stands out is the lyrics, which helps create a picture and ground the meaning of the song in a way that some other tracks cannot.
The only one to listen would be me
Along with the burning candle
There’s not much left to my heart
This beautiful house feels like prison
The tactless night sky is so beautiful
Another standout of this track is the way all member’s voices are utilized, highlighting their strengths along with the melodic piano. When compared to the first two tracks of this list, it is only evident the amount of progress their vocals have achieved, as well as the maturation that has happened.
To finish this list is “Crush” off of their 2014 full length album of the same name. Written and produced by CL, “Crush” is a spiritual follow-up to “I Am The Best” without it actually being a follow-up. The track features lyrics that are similar in message to “I Am The Best,” with lines such as;
I’m every girl’s hot crush
A rush that makes your heart beat faster
Pretty unnies like me
Because you become prettier if you like me
They love me cuz im hot
They love me cuz im cold
They love me cuz im real
They love me cuz I kill
And these are quintessential elements of what 2NE1’s image is: it is about feeling confident, despite whatever happens. While they deviate from time to time, with songs such as “Ugly” as well as songs that talk of love and heartache, it still remains that the group, that 2NE1, remains Seoul’s Baddest Females.
While the group’s career is at it’s end, let it be known that 2NE1 is and will not be a mere footnote in K-pop history. Rather, they are a chapter all on their own, and their legacy will live on in the girl groups that have taken shades of the empowered, in-your-face female that 2NE1 championed.
Which are your favorite Side B tracks from 2NE1?