With the extinguishing of the Olympic flame at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic closing ceremony Sunday night (Feb. 25), the last few weeks of athletic competition, patriotism, and all that surrounded them have come to the end. But not without some help from some of Korea’s stars, including 27-year-old CL.
Born Lee Chaelin, CL was one of two K-pop artists, along with boy band EXO, that performed as part of the “Songs of Passion” portion at the Pyeongchang closing ceremony. “It’s an honor,” she told Billboard two hours after stepping off stage.
Calling in on her way back to Seoul from Pyeongchang — a trip during which she celebrated her 27th birthday — CL expressed her excitement over being asked to represent her country at the Pyeongchang closing ceremony. “It’s so special to me. I haven’t done a [performance] in Korea in a while so it was very meaningful. Just coming back home is real great.”
Though the singer hasn’t released any new music since 2016’s “Lifted,” her musical choices were apropos for a closing event celebrating impressive feats performed by talented individuals and teams, and featured songs that represented different points of her career as both a soloist and 2NE1 member. Her 2013 hit “The Baddest Female” served as an empowering, feminist opener while her solo rendition of 2NE1’s 2011 phenomena “I Am The Best” — which followed a quick transition featuring her 2015 “Hello Bitches” — had the entire stadium singing along to the swaggering anthem.
“I wanted to introduce myself with “Baddest Female” because that’s my song, my first single, and it represents me,” CL says. “And the 2NE1 song is world-known and everyone could sing along. I wanted to do something like that.”
The singer, one of Jeremy Scott’s style muses, took the stage for her first performance in South Korea in several years wearing a gothic black leather-and-chains outfit, and was flanked by backup dancers with futuristic styling. According to the star, it was an “amazing” experience.
The closing ceremony comes after near-radio silence musically from the star over the past few years following 2NE1’s 2016 breakup. It’s part of CL’s continued push, along with some television appearances, to reclaim her space at home after focusing on the U.S. market for several years while managed by Scooter Braun. It’s been two years since her last solo single, and the former 2NE1 member never released her long-awaited solo album.
As one of K-pop’s most prominent artists internationally, expectations are high to see whether CL can recover the momentum of her career with new music to follow her return to the spotlight at home after an impressive performance at Pyeongchang.
“I am working on my music and hopefully I’ll get to share this with my fans all around the world, and that they get to enjoy it,” she says. When questioned whether 2018 will see new releases from her, CL responded, “We’ll find out” before pausing for laughter and promising, “Yes, for sure.”
Along with performing at the Olympic closing ceremony, CL became a conversation starter earlier in the games when American snowboarding gold medalist Chloe Kim revealed that she listened to the singer’s music before competing. Saturday (Feb. 24), 2NE1 was back in the spotlight after two pairs of South Korean figure skaters also used the girl group’s music — including “I Am The Best” — to serve as soundtracks for their routines. “It was very meaningful to see my fans kill it,” CL says.
As for herself, the K-pop star said she’d like to be a competitive swimmer or snowboarder in another life. “Maybe I’ll learn from Chloe one day,” she says with a laugh.