If you haven’t noticed, we love K-pop girl groups. They’re perfectly groomed by their labels’ respective training regimen, and know exactly how to tingle our hearts with sugary croons. Their cutesy antics and dazzling appearances also help a great deal. But often times, their actual talents as singers and performers come into question. High heels and coordinated mini skirts can dazzle a fan base only so far.
YG Entertainment’s girl quartet 2NE1 (a play on “to anyone”) breaks that mold. First appearing on the scene in 2009 with the label’s male counterpart Big Bang on a skull-drilling song “Lollipop,” the girls quickly rebounded on the disputed hype with a thumping club single “Fire.” Equipped with air horns, loud streetwear aesthetics, flamboyant rapping, and free-for-all choreography, the group stood out immediately in a market clustered with fembots. Thanks to the self-titled EP’s release, 2NE1 instantly became a hot commodity in the emerging K-pop market. With a successful follow-up, the official debut LP To Anyone, raking in 120,000 copies in sales, and each of the five singles selling an average of two million downloads, the clique of CL, Minzy, Dara, and Bom became international superstars. Psy who?
Aside from their great range of musical outputs, the group’s known for its excellent styling. While a typical K-pop girl group settles for schoolgirl uniforms or scantily clad dresses, 2NE1’s stylists deck out the members in a wide range of clothing from Brooklyn streetwear brand Mishka to French design house Balmain. This soon caught the attention of designer extraordinaire Jeremy Scott, as he personally set off to provide collaborative adidas Originals gear for the group, propelling 2NE1 as K-pop’s most recognized style icons.
Back in August, during their New Evolution U.S. tour, Complex captured 2NE1 in their finest wardrobes. Jeremy Scott sent us his Fall 2012 collection, and the girls brought in their own Givenchy and Balmain fashions.
Check our fashion photoshoot out in the thumbnails above, and read the next page for our in-depth interview where the girls talk about their upcoming ventures into the U.S. market, solo career ambitions, and how they stand different compared to other K-pop acts.
Interview by Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
How would you consider your visit to the States this time?
CL: We’ve decided to hold this tour with the intention of introducing ourselves. So, instead of embarking on a career in America, this is more so the start before the beginning. We’re here to introduce who we are, how we look like, what kind of music we make, and meet with our preexisting fans.
What are some difficulties you think you will face?
CL: We actually had this conversation on our way here. We feel like this is our third time debuting. We started in Korea, and then it was Japan last year. Like all starters, there are many places we have to introduce ourselves. When we debuted in Korea we had to do that, we did the same when we debuted in Japan, and it feels the same here.
There were other K-pop artists in the States. After seeing how they approached the U.S. market what have you guys learned, and how do you all expect to move forward?
CL: Well, instead of approaching it differently, we just like to enjoy doing our music. I just think we want other people to enjoy it with us. We’re not trying to use a specific plan. If we’re sincere about our performances, we’re sure many people will connect with us. We try to stay cognizant of it at all times.
What are some traits about 2NE1 that make tastemakers like Jeremy Scott and Diplo want to work with you girls?
CL: I just think we like similar things. We look toward similar goals. When we meet Jeremy, and Diplo, who’s friends with Teddy, we’re just all really passionate about what we do. It’s not about the money or the fame, they’re just people that really want to impact the world. Especially guys like Jeremy Scott and Diplo, they’re people that took things to the next level. And those people identify with other people like themselves. Real recognize real.
In comparison to other K-pop idol groups, did you ever feel like you girls are at the forefront of trends?
CL: What? We feeling that way about ourselves?
Yeah, like, “Oh, why are they biting our style?” Ever felt that way?
Bom: Yes. This is just my personal opinion. Let’s see. Don’t quote me. When we first debuted, you saw us wearing swimsuits. I feel like a lot of our styles are imitated.
How about musically?
CL: But, it’s not necessarily just us that are doing it. We’re just doing what we enjoy. So if others like it then that’s great.
But you’re the “baddest female.”
CL: Yes, I am. [Laughs.] But I wouldn’t say we’re trendsetters, we just like to do something new. Because it’s not fun when you’re doing something that’s already done. And telling people about it is also what gets us excited.
Is 2NE1 the group similar in style and characteristics to 2NE1 as regular girls?
CL: That depends on each member.
Bom: For me it’s very similar. Instead of music that’s too amped up, I like things that are subtler and in the R&B lane. It fits my personal taste. Our foundation lies in hip-hop, so it works.
Minzy: It fits me well. I like hip-hop, rap, and R&B as well. All the songs, and just musically the group’s sound fit me well.
Dara: For me it was a bit different. Initially, I was very quiet, and reserved. My personality and musical taste were also less obtrusive. After I became a member of 2NE1, many sides of me that I haven’t noticed started to unveil itself. So I’m having fun in that sense. I wouldn’t say I’ve changed, but just sides of me that haven’t been revealed started to come out.
CL: 2NE1 itself doesn’t represent one genre of music. Our foundation lies in hip-hop, but we like to intertwine various styles of music. “Ugly,” has more so a rock flavor, we’ve also done records with some reggae twist, so I think diversity works best for us. For me, I’m very different on stage. Chaerin and CL are opposites. I consider myself black and white. On stage, I become the baddest female. [Laughs.] Parts of us that we don’t even know ourselves just come out through the music.
On 2NE1 TV it seems like you guys have a wonderful relationship. How much of it is real?
CL: [Laughs.] In front of other people we’re more reserved, but when four of us are together, we’re unbearably loud.
Bom: We can’t act that out. If they force us, we just can’t do it.
CL: We really can’t. We chit chat a lot, and it’s a lot of fun. Bom, Dara, and Minzy are very funny together. I’m usually the quiet one that's just laughing. I’m only talkative during interviews.
Amongst the members, does the age gap affect the chemistry?
Bom: Not at all. Seriously. I don’t really want to say it, but we’re really like friends. Sometimes [points at Minzy and CL] they take care of us like mom and dad. They really look after us.
CL: A lot of people get surprised. And some look at it in a negative light, but once you’re around us you’ll know. Both [Dara and Bom] spent a long time outside of Korea, so they treat us like equals, and look at us as friends in a very natural way. And we just have to watch out and not cross the line.
CL, now that you’ve acquired your goal as a singer, what are some other aspirations you wish to achieve?
CL: I just love art as a whole. Right now, I’m pursuing music, but there are many aspects of art. Fashion is art, and everything is intertwined. I just want to continue working in this field, whatever it may be. You know, a lot of people work in fashion, and a lot of musicians get involved in it as well. I think doing that like others isn’t really that fun. I want to get into it, and share similar outlooks with other young people.
Now that you’re officially 21, what do you do for fun?
CL: When I said I’m a boring person, I also meant to say that I stay home a lot. I’m always working, and when I’m not doing something, I just stay home.
Bom: I think we’re all similar in that sense. Not sure why, but we’re usually just home during our off time.
CL: We’ll have to see about Minzy, though. She still has few years left. [Laughs.]
Dara, you’ve had an active career in the Philippines. What was the reason for you to join YG Family in Korea?
Dara: Working in the Philippines was a lot of fun, but since I’ve had huge aspirations of debuting in Korea, I’ve decided to join the label. I started out as a trainee. I knew I had to start all over again from the beginning, but at the time, I came without much affliction. And I wouldn’t say I was distraught when I did come to Korea, but I definitely missed the Philippines.
Bom, I first saw you appearing on a record with GD & Top called “Forever With You.” At the time, I thought you were going to be Korea’s Mary J. Blige.
Bom: Yes, at the time I was thinking that, too. [Laughs.] But I always wanted to be part of a group. I could have a solo career even as a group. Other members have traits that I don’t possess, so I thought it’d make more sense to debut as a unit.
Dara and Bom, where do you guys see yourselves in the next five years?
Bom: Not sure if I’m still going to be a singer. But I’m sure I’ll be doing something related to music. I could even be a vocal teacher, and if the opportunity permits, I’ll continue singing.
Dara: Not sure if I’ll still be active as 2NE1, but I want to continue on as a musician.
Bom: Let me just add just one thing. I might still be active as 2NE1.
If each of you guys were to partake in solo careers, what style of music do you see yourselves pursuing?
CL: I like so many different types of music. I think I’ll be making various genres of music. Even if I pursue a solo career, I think I’ll continue to sing, rap, and I really love band music as well. I want to try reggae, I want to try straight-up hip-hop…
Dara: I personally want to do something that’s more bright and lively. It could be pop music, or acoustic music. Since I grew up in the Philippines I’ve been influenced by a lot of the local music.
Bom: I’ve released some music as a solo artist, but if I do get an opportunity, I’d love to do something more like Mariah Carey. Or something that’s more so traditional R&B. Just something with more soul.
Minzy: Ever since I was little, I’ve always enjoyed R&B, rap, and hip-hop. My idol growing up was Michael Jackson, but I also love Snoop Dogg.
Were you jealous that Girls’ Generation did a track with him?
CL: [Laughs.] No, I wasn’t, but I wish I could do a song with him, too.
What’s 2NE1 afraid of?
Dara: Loneliness. After leaving the stage, when we’re back at our individual hotel rooms, I think all of us could agree, there’s this sense of emptiness. It’s a little difficult to explain.
CL: I think that applies to anyone who performed for a huge audience. It takes you all day to prepare for the show, and you give it your all on the stage. When you go home after such an ecstatic show, especially when we’re not in Korea, without our friends and family, it feels a bit surreal entering that hotel room. Where everything’s so clean, so organized, and it’s not a space you can claim as your own. You were just somewhere with thousands of people screaming, and then you’re somewhere awfully quiet. That contrast in surroundings, really affects the mood.
But seems like the overall energy of the group is very optimistic.
CL: Yeah, since we’re doing what we love to do. If you think negatively, negative things will happen as a result. So we think of positive things, hoping more good things can happen.
Were there other trainees that you guys knew, who didn’t make the group?
CL: It was just four of us. [Laughs.] But we trained separately. We were all training to be solo artists. Bom was practicing to be a solo act, Dara was training to be an actress, Minzy was by herself, and I was by myself as well. There were only four us, so we’ve known each other for a long time. We never imagined a group would happen. When they announced it, I thought it was so weird, and so different that it wouldn’t work. There was an age gap, too.
Bom: At the time, Minzy was a real baby. She was very small.
CL: But I think that worked to our advantage. We were short sighted, too. We thought it would only work if we were similar. But looking at it now, it’s better that we’re different.
Photography by Christelle de Castro for Complex
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