Whether you liked it or not, CL enjoyed support from industry movers and shakers for a long time. From will.i.am, to Scooter Braun, to YG himself, it seemed obvious that CL’s proximity to power would bode well for her own career. Critics cried favouritism, an oversaturation of resources that could have been shared with other female YGE artists; admirers touted CL’s work ethic as the reason for her success, being much greater than that of her female labelmates. Others wisely pointed out that the person really to blame for the unequal share of work was the company and its CEO.

No one thought that CL’s career would be affected. The image of her being the favourite, the breakout star, the logical choice for a solo career, was too powerful to shatter. But over years of inactivity, punctuated with “buzz singles,” nondescript features, a tour of 2NE1 covers, a My Little Pony soundtrack number, and a Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony performance she did her own makeup for, that image crumbled to dust.

Ergo, few people were surprised when CL finally did leave YGE, though the journey to accepting this fact is beyond shocking. CL herself obviously had thoughts on the whole thing, wasting no time in sharing them in her first solo EP — coming more than six years after the release of debut solo single “The Baddest Female.”

The romantic split that makes up the story of In The Name of Love is akin to a sticker on an apple — superfluous, promptly peeled away by those who want to get to the fruit underneath — is the demise of CL’s relationship with YG and her time at his (currently ex-) agency.

We begin with self-love anthem “+DONE161201+,” juxtaposing exasperation and hope through the womp bow bow vocalisations underpinning the track and CL’s soulful Oh-eh-oh-eh-oh hook. Things immediately take a turn for the introspective with “+처음으로(REWIND)170205+,” an ode to rebirth as CL asks to start back over. The mood is sustained through ” +투덜거려본다 (PARADOX)171115+” with CL drowning in her inner turmoil:

Am I doing well with my life right now?

Why am I already afraid of the end?

Can I handle all of this?

There’s no time

Am I gonna make it or not

It all comes to a head in “+ONE AND ONLY180228+,” as CL finds self-fulfilment to the tune of Byzantine-led synths and shimmering Spanish guitar. This realisation of her own ability and power leads us to “+안해(I QUIT)180327+,” wherein YG is officially kicked to the curb in a minimalist-yet-upbeat letter of resignation thanks to the staccato electric guitar and CL’s voice soaring in the pre-chorus before floating down into the calm and devastating “I Quit” that kicks off the chorus, mimicking the line we often walk between spilling out our emotions over a hostile work environment and maintaining a veneer of professionalism.

The date in each song (likely of its creation) is a damning reminder of the years CL spent unable to consistently release music, but they are also proof of her continuous hard work. We finally get to hear some of the work she created with DJ Dahi and Bobby Brackins (“Done”). Jean-Baptiste Kouame, who composed “Hello Bitches,” features again with “Rewind.” The list of her other collaborators is varied and random, with the only consistent collaborator being the mysterious lyricist Tokki, believed by many to be Dara.

The main throughline here is CL, and she masterfully blends breezy pop and heavy R&B to create a cohesive sound that is only faintly reminiscent of her co-composing credits on Crush. “Crush” is frenetic and “Baby I Miss You” sensual, qualities that do not match ITNOL.

The only song that comes closest is the plaintive “If I Were You,” its sadness plunged deeper into the abyss to create the EP’s closer, “+소중한 추억 (THNX) 190519+.” Having the album end on a ballad is too common, but unlike the identical rap breakdown structure in every song (the only staleness in an otherwise refreshing sound), CL’s fully solo-written and -composed “Thnx” is a heartrending reminder that no matter how positive you are and whatever hardships you overcome, that pain you felt and may still feel is real and valid.

Like “If I Were You,” the lyrics are romantic, but the betrayal in CL’s voice is something felt more universally. The accompanying video show cherries perched atop the fruit bowl, only to be disregarded. The yellow bear figurine (purposefully reminiscent of those in YG’s own collection) stands idly by as the house is emptied and seasons change, before burying the only organic thing left.

The video’s credits make sure we are clear just who the cherries represent, as well as that person’s creative input. Just like the songs of this album, CL was creatively involved in the making of all six MVs, one for each song. Unlike ITNOL‘s sound, there is a greater visual divergence despite a smaller pool of contributors (Daniel Russell directs the two videos with human talent, while kinotaku puts their editing skills to use in four).

With an execution that is overall vivid if not pristine, each video is apt for its song; additional props are deserved for “Thnx” and “I Quit,” the latter of which stars Caroline Blaike, Erika Chirino, Dre Hollingsworth, Shaheem Sanchez, Nancy Sacristan and Dwayne “Miggy” Christy dancing and singing the lyrics. The idea to dress them in white boilersuits and match the splatters to the colours of the lyrics is so beautifully textural, and cleverly steers the MV away from becoming too reminiscent to that of Justin Bieber‘s “Sorry.”

“Done” and “Rewind,” meanwhile, are notable for the inclusion of CL’s friends in music, including Dara, Bom and Minzy. Seeing them not only through photos in “Rewind” but also lipsyncing along to “Done” in a show of support must be pulling at Blackjacks’ heartstrings. Finally, “Paradox” and “One and Only” take a more abstract approach inspired by noraebang and dance, respectively.

In his 2018 Fader article investigating CL’s stalled march into the American music industry, Owen Myers posited:

If CL can find a way to use music to reflect on her own complex life story, including her industry struggles, it’s probable that her songs will have a better shot at connecting with listeners. It’s likely that her voice will ring out louder than ever.

We know now that CL had been thinking along those same lines from at least 2016. In The Name of Love gives us some insight into the years she spent in limbo, even more frustrated and hurt than her fans and supporters were.

Now, though, CL has not only her story, but her talent and hard work to bring it to life through music; her friends and fans to lift her up and support her and finally; her freedom to share it all with the world.

CL has been ready for this moment for years, ready to show us just what she can do. When even a two-minute digital single would have been received with gratitude and fanfare, CL instead goes for a flex of mammoth proportions, wrangling a wealth of creatives to create a six-track EP with six accompanying videos. We barely see CL’s face in any of the materials (a shy animoji at the end of “Done” is our only glimpse), and we don’t need to. CL’s presence is keenly felt throughout this refreshing and cohesive effort.

(Fader, Fuse, MelOn, Twitter, Vice, YouTube. Images via: SuneV, SB Projects)