Tuesday, June 28, 2011

[Review] “I Am The Best” by 2NE1

Not long ago, 2NE1 laid down the gentle and restrained single, ”Lonely“, and while it shined a light on the girls in a way that no one had heard them before, we might as well have considered it the calm before the storm that they were preparing to unleash upon us next.

I’m probably not alone in saying that it wasn’t going to take long before 2NE1 marched their way back to the loud and hectic sound they call home, and that’s precisely what happened this month.

From “Fire” to “Can’t Nobody“, 2NE1 has continuously been cranking up the decibels in their music and refining their unconventional style year in and year out to bring that swag and kick that they are known for to today’s K-pop.

Now 2NE1 are back at it again; this time, with their latest smash hit, “I Am The Best“.

Much like the lead singles before it, “I Am The Best” encompasses everything 2NE1 sets out to serve: fierce verses, monstrous hooks, and a beat so high-energy that it could survive in the busiest clubs without a trace of vocal add-ons.

Yet, it’s those vocals and how they bounce off the background noise that fans exalt over, and if anything, this may actually be one of their sweetest up-tempo vocals in a while.


Before this 2011-phase came around, 2NE1 were glued to what the world has come to condemn: auto tune. The worst use of it on these four was hands down in “Don’t Stop The Music“, which although a mere CF song, was very brutal on the ears.

But truth be told, 2NE1 won’t be letting go of auto tune any time soon because they depend on it. They debuted with it and they will retire with it (unless the music industry at large calls for a global ban on its use, which is very unlikely). However, auto tune isn’t just that distorted vocal processing you hear in mainstream/techo/electronica/every-other-genre-of music, it’s written in its name; the use of it corrects or tunes vocal pitches where pitches need tuning, and it’s used just about everywhere because it’s a standard of vocal production.

There’s nothing wrong with pitch correction, but it’s that aforementioned over produced, glitchy vocal treatment that has become the bane of everyone’s existence.

Well this time around, it seems like YG Entertainment (or producer Teddy) has caught whiff of the stench, because the use of it has been reduced throughout “I Am The Best”, if only slightly.

It’s still very much present, but it’s not nearly as pervasive as before.

In “I Am The Best”, 2NE1 sound their best in the verses and hook, both crucial to the success of this song, and it’s what ultimately kept it from crumbling like it could have. What YG Entertainment’s songwriters are vicious in is coming up with crazy-good verses. They flow so well within themselves with syncopation to boot, which is something that happens here.

What also works in “I Am The Best” is the ‘naega jeil jal naga‘ hook. Yes, we’re calling this a hook because this song lacks something very vital that we’ll get to in a second. The hook is introduced by CL at the beginning of the song, which is also paired with the even more engaging and addicting chant, ‘bam ratatata tatatatata‘. It looks ridiculous in writing and I wonder how this line was pitched to the head honcho of YGE, but it’s as rhythmic as the beat, and so catchy that it works. In fact, so much so, that it could have easily been manipulated to contain actual words and exist as the driving force of a chorus, but as it stands, it is the missing link in “I Am The Best”.

In other words, there is no prevailing melody. Although this song comes off as edgy and badass, 2NE1 are still pop artists and are delivering music to mainstream audiences in that fashion. “Fire” (this song’s parent, if you will) had all the same components, but with a memorable chorus. “I Am The Best” has everything but that – it almost feels like it had a chorus, but was abruptly skipped altogether.


2NE1 are incomparable for their style, but they walk the fine line of being all style and no substance with this song. Listeners are at that point where they can pin-point 2NE1’s every move before they make them.

At the beginning, they blew everyone out of the water because they brought something very unique to K-pop, and things have never been the same since. Today, 2NE1 have stuck to their guns, but in doing so, have become somewhat predictable and repetitive. Basically, ”I Am The Best” is exciting, over the top, and in line with the trends of Western pop music.

Stating what I just did above would have you thinking this is just an average tune, but in the same breath, it’s the fact that 2NE1 know exactly who they are as pop artists that makes their music worthwhile

The structure of “I Am The Best” is disjointed (it feels like someone had a dozen ‘cool’ ideas, and rather than spreading them throughout different songs, decided to plop them all into one), but because 2NE1 as entertainers bring so much of that sass, swag, and fearless presence to K-pop, it doesn’t ever completely compromise the overall effects of their music.

They have yet to top anything on their debut EP, but since this year’s work is a step higher than last year’s serving, we may actually run into some of their best work yet.

source: allkpop

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