Since their fiery, eye-catching debut in 2009, 2NE1 has generated a relentless and diverse string of hits like the club banger “Fire,” mid-tempo R&B track “I Don’t Care,” the emotionally-vulnerable “Lonely,” rock-influenced “Ugly,” hard-hitting “I Am The Best” and last year’s K-Pop Hot 100 No. 1 “I Love You.” All of which were heard on the girls’ first world tour, keeping them busy throughout 2012.
After a year’s break from the K-pop scene, the YG Entertainment girl group quartet are finally back with another the genre-blurring “Falling In Love” with a plan to roll out a new single every month until dropping a new album in October.
If “I Love You” roped in listeners for its innovative combination of electronic beats and singing style of trot (the oldest form of Korean pop music), their latest, “Falling In Love,” grabs ears for its reggae beat intertwined with hip-hop stylings.
“Falling In Love,” released July 8, is a refreshing hybrid of surging reggae rhythms and a jaunty, feel-good melody. The sophisticated, very-catchy track is accentuated by each member’s unique vocal strengths resulting in a summer love anthem packed with loads of sass. The song was produced by YG’s in-house producer Teddy and Choice 37 — both of whom were responsible for YG sonic goodies like BIGBANG’s “Bad Boy,” “Fantastic Baby,” G-Dragon’s “One Of A Kind,” Lee Hi’s “Rose” not to mention a slew of 2NE1 hits.
After their first TV appearance on Mnet’s “M! Countdown,” the girls (fashionably dressed in matching London artist’s Kesh’s collaboration line with American Apparel), met with Billboard for an exclusive interview at YG Entertainment’s Seoul headquarters to discuss their new musical direction, concept and plans for rest of 2013.
“We are extremely excited as this is our first single in a long time,” says the self-proclaimed “baddest female” and seemingly-fearless leader CL. “It is actually our first official album release in two years. We really wanted to be onstage together so I think it’s going to be fun. All the great energy we received during our world tour is reflected on our new album.”
In “Falling in Love,” 2NE1 sets aside their tough, hard-edged charisma to find their inner femininity, displaying a striking transformation as they sweetly croon and rap. Take for example, the translated lyric, “My lips are drying up, my insides are freezing up; I can’t look at you, you’re so dazzling boy, I’m so blind.”
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“We wanted to come out with a summery, fun track,” explains CL of their newest musical offering. “It is a love song that is definitely not scary [laughs]. It was a daring move for us since it is a love song with positive lyrics. I think it will display 2NE1’s cuteness as well loveliness. We were all about showing our fierce charisma with ‘I Am The Best,’ so through this stage, we plan to smile and present our loveliness as much as we can.”
Their in-your-face stage presence is nowhere to be found as they brightly smile and lightly float on stage.
“We felt a burning passion for this new track,” says Sandara. “It felt like we were starting fresh as this was our first time pursuing a sweet, love song.”
2NE1’s musical power lies in their ability to discard the old and adopt new styles. The easy-to-sing-along melody on top of CL’s bouncy, yet heavy, rapping and Park Bom’s soulful vocals turns anything into an immediate head-bopper.
Fans will be able to see more of 2NE1 in the later half of this year. They’ll release a single and accompanying music video once a month, until the album is released in October and there are plans to promote at least four all new tracks from the upcoming album. However, their most anticipated schedule is their upcoming exclusive concert in Korea.
2NE1 plans to launch their long-awaited concert in Korea, sometime in October or November. “We want to meet as many fans as we can through our performances,” say the girls collectively. “We love performing onstage and we hope to learn a lot from the people we’ll work with through our concert.”
So what about the U.S. debut the girls have been teasing for so long?
Despite working with will.i.am (2NE1 featured on “#willpower” track, “Gettin’ Dumb”) CL confirms that “there are no official plans to crossover.” After their world tour last year, the girls are putting the focus back on home base, Korea. But the leader adds, “We really want to visit South America. I heard our fan base is the second biggest there… When I first met Will.iam., he told me that we were really popular in South America and we’ve been wanting to perform there for a while.”
Though no matter where they make waves (officially or unofficially), 2NE1 continues to be a leader for the exponentially growing K-pop scene. Despite some time away from the scene, 2NE1’s new album — which promises a single each month until its October release — and the excitement (and coverage) it brings will be a testament’s to the girl group’s global presence.