Pop Cult: 2NE1, Wonder Girls (ft. Akon), Blur
Knee-jerk reactions (the best kind) to pop culture happenings all over the world.Posted by Allen Huang
On An Impermanent Basis
2NE1 – “I Love You” : B+
I think this is a really intelligent move by K-Poppers 2NE1, who have the pressure of what might be the most widely anticipated comeback of the year. Wins via the MTV Iggy Awards and their collaborations with artists like m-Flo and Will.I.Am have spread their buzz far and wide. The products of these collaborations haven’t been more than “meh” though, so some original material was necessary to keep the train chugging. Instead of going for a guaranteed hit, YG Entertainment focused on showing growth, and “I Love You” displays that in spades.
The reason so many non-Korean fans have such hopes for 2NE1 is they avoid a lot of the negatives that other K-Pop groups are saddled with: four members instead of 7 or 9, sex appeal over aegyo, and a style that translates easily to any pop market. “I Love You” is an extension of these positives, a club-hard beat, spotlights on each of the members, and a tone that, while just as exciting, is a completely different tone than the balls-out swagger that “I Am The Best” displayed.
There’s a bit of disappointment brewing in regards to hardcore K-Pop fans, mostly claiming that the song is “nothing special” and a bit “typical.” But it serves the quartet well that they are willing to do a bit of a reintroduction after the sudden worldwide surprise of “I Am The Best,” something to get fans new and old on the same page. Also, it’s just the first single. Chill out.
Wonder Girls ft Akon – “Like Money” : B-
The Wonder Girls, bless their hearts, keep banging their heads on the door of America in every which way possible. First a tour with Bieber, then an awful Disney TV movie produced by Nick Cannon, and now a single featuring Akon. All with distinctly different visual styles and visual concepts. We are now at the point that two people can be talking about the Wonder Girls and be talking about two entirely different concepts. And that is confusing as all hell.
I like the song. The beat is a bit of YG lite, as a lot of groups are doing right now, but it bounces and it works. Akon’s presence doesn’t feel out of place, and Yubin is amazing as always. But it’s not better than “Be My Baby,” which in addition to being their best song, is way more distinct and American than “Like Money.” If you’re going to make a splash in America, you have to do it on the back of what you think might be the biggest song of your career. “Like Money” isn’t even the best Wonder Girls song of this month (“Like This” takes that prize). Looks like yet another visual concept change is in the works, poor things.
Blur – “Under the Westway” : A
Blur vs Oasis was never even a question for me. Only assholes liked Oasis. Blur were the true connoiseur’s choice (actually Pulp was probably the correct answer). But after years of infighting and Graham Coxon’s (my favorite member) increased surliness, my interest in them died out quicker than you can say “Damon Albarn Side Project.”
So hearing them together again, and on such a Blur song as “Under the Westway,” brings a heavy dose of nostalgia to my day. I am reminded of a time where I honestly believed in the power of a life lived less ordinary, one where the band and the road was the only true way for music of meaning to be made. Before I realized that Albarn and company were just really exceptional songwriters. And before when I cared about stuff like authenticity and band loyalty and brand loyalty and all that other nonsense. And then I put “Let It Be” on the record player and said, “maybe this is the day I start to like rather than just simply appreciate the Beatles.” Then the song ends, the moment fades, and my love of Brit-Pop and indie rock are simply relics of my past once again.