BlackPink & 2NE1: Unexpectedly Different

On Aug. 8, 2016, YG Entertainment’s long-anticipated girl group BlackPink debuted with their first digital single album Square One with title tracks “Whistle” and “Boombayah.” Now a household name in the larger K-pop fandom, BlackPink was the label’s first girl group since 2NE1’s debut in 2009, a fact that immediately warranted comparisons to their predecessors thanks to their similar musicality and four-member lineup. As 2NE1 inched closer towards disbandment in late 2016, Blackjacks saw BlackPink’s debut as a nail to the 2NE1 coffin, and remained especially hesitant to support the new group.

Alongside an introduction post about the new group, I constructed only weeks after their debut an in-depth comparison of the two groups and arrived at the conclusion that the groups were uncomfortably similar. To summarize, both groups had four members , an edgy electropop/hip-hop infused sound, and members that grew up both within and outside of Korea among other similarities. The only small differences were in the ages of the members, visuals of each group, and the lack of an assigned leader in BlackPink.

At the time, this analysis was valuable in forming an informed opinion about BlackPink’s individuality (or lack thereof) as a group. But they have now reached their one-year anniversary, and have three more tracks, variety appearances, and other developmental factors from which a collective group character is beginning to emerge, one that was not very visible only weeks into their debut. Upon reevaluation, BlackPink and 2NE1 seem more different than we originally thought they were.

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Since their summer debut last year, BlackPink has since released three more tracks — the EDM-influenced “Playing with Fire,” campfire bop “Stay,” and bubbly electropop “As If It’s Your Last.” The group has also begun to perform on more music shows than just SBS Inkigayo (YG Entertainment’s relations with other Korean broadcasting stations has been notably cold in recent years), and has appeared on Weekly Idol, Radio Star, and Knowing Bros in addition to various CFs. For comparison, 2NE1’s activity in the same time period includes disbandment in November 2016 and the release of their last song “Goodbye” as three members before entirely parting ways in January of this year.

Despite 2NE1’s disbandment, the question remains: How does BlackPink, now a sustained and trending K-pop artist in their own right, compare to 2NE1 at its peak years ago?

At the time of the group’s debut, “Whistle” and “Boombayah” wielded a powerful impact, but failed to show onlookers that the group was very different or new. With electropop, EDM influence, rap, and some attitude, BlackPink debuted with largely the same sound as that of their YG predecessors (albeit updated to match more current music trends). Had BlackPink continued entirely on those lines, the group’s musical color would be nowhere near as unique as it is now.

But through the promotion of their more recent releases, we have seen greater variety in their discography, performance, and aesthetics. Their next release, “Playing With Fire,” utilized structural changes rarely present in 2NE1’s music and employed noticeable differences in performance and styling.

BlackPink’s member structure initially seemed almost identical to that of 2NE1, but with the release of new singles, differences slowly became more apparent. Within 2NE1, CL both rapped and sang, while Minzy debuted mostly as a rapper and transitioned into singing more over time. At debut, Jennie’s role in the group largely took after CL as a rapper and singer, but her role seems to have at least slightly changed over time — she only sings in “Playing With Fire,” “Stay,” and “As If It’s Your Last.” Main dancer Lisa, unlike her 2NE1 counterpart Minzy, handles mostly rapping in BlackPink’s three latest tracks. These differences may seem minute at first, but they clear up one of my biggest assumptions from a year ago: that each BlackPink member would take after a specific 2NE1 member. While this is still at least somewhat true — Jisoo still largely takes after Dara, and the same can be said of Rosé and Bom — any differentiation here is valued, and it becomes even more important when examining the larger structure of BlackPink’s songs.

Most of Lisa’s lines in “Playing With Fire” are found in the rap section after the first chorus, similar to her part in accompanying A-side track “Stay.” 2NE1’s songs, on the other hand, took on two structures, either a back-and-forth between rapping and singing in verses — “Fire,” “Go Away,” “Falling in Love,” “Gotta Be You,” and more — or consisted entirely of singing — “Ugly,” Lonely,” “I Love You.” BlackPink songs have developed a largely different structure, delegating singing parts to three members who do not (usually) rap, and instead having one member handle one rap section along with occasional singing lines here and there.

This structure segregates rap and singing more aggressively than YG releases have in the past, conforming more closely to other K-pop releases from groups like f(x), SHINee, 9MUSES, and others in which only one rap section is included after either the first or second chorus of the song, handled by a rapper who doesn’t appear much outside of those lines. This structure was almost entirely absent in 2NE1’s music, and demonstrates a large shift away from 2NE1’s sound that, in many ways, did not conform with that of the rest of K-pop. Here, we see BlackPink deviating from YG’s sound on the whole to be more typically mainstream K-pop.

“Stay” is also an interesting departure from the YG sound. By all means, the label excels at releasing reflective and evocative ballad-oriented music, with 2NE1’s “Missing You” and “It Hurts (Slow)” as great examples. But the incorporation of a folk-inspired sing-along chorus in “Stay” differentiates it entirely from any 2NE1 or BIGBANG song. While we have yet to see BlackPink’s somber side develop, the instrumental and melodic construction of “Stay” tells us that the group’s overall sound may be different than that of their YG predecessors.

Beginning with “Playing With Fire,” the performance and styling elements have contributed most significantly to BlackPink’s emerging individual identity. While 2NE1 opted for crazy stage costumes with bright colors, crazy shapes, and outrageous yet trendy hairstyles (see: Dara’s palm tree hair), BlackPink has opted for a style that is more traditionally pretty in the world of K-pop, wearing school outfits and elegant red carpet outfits instead of crazy Jeremy Scott designs (see: CL’s unicorn dress) and bright, feathery jackets and dresses. BlackPink’s style, which is also reflected in their choreography, facial expressions, and other performative nuances, is slightly more delicate and feminine. And despite the fact that many girl groups, including TWICE, GFriend, and Red Velvet sport more feminine fashion, BlackPink largely establishes their own trends, as their dress is high-fashion and chic, often coming from luxury brands. While 2NE1’s outfits were less flattering to facial beauty and body curves, BlackPink shows off regality and poise with their fashion, and precipitates into a more chic and feminine performance as well.

2NE1 & BlackPink: Comparing Fashion & Styling

2NE1 Black Pink
2NE1 Black Pink Teaser
2NE1 Black Pink Playing With Fire
2NE1 Black Pink As If It's Your Last
2NE1 Black Pink Boombayah
Black Pink

Many of these differences are once again visible, if not amplified, in the release of their recent “As if It’s Your Last.” While many fans felt this track was reminiscent of 2NE1, the BlackPink members explained that this song captures the group’s “Pink” side, which differentiates from previous releases that were more “Black.” And the dichotomy is clear — this song has the members smiling, making cutesy expressions on stage, and wearing school uniform-inspired outfits even in the music video.

The major difference here is, while 2NE1 had a cuter side as demonstrated by songs like “Falling in Love” and “Do You Love Me,” none of their music ever fit into a “Black” or “Pink” dichotomy, as their music was usually along a smaller spectrum within what we could consider on the “Black” side. 2NE1 was undoubtedly edgier and more hard-hitting, while BlackPink fuses some of that style with more delicate visuals and musical elements in their discography. This difference, like many of the others, leans again towards current mainstream K-pop genre, as the majority of girl groups at the moment are very, if not entirely, focused on cute concepts and feminine delivery.

Surprisingly, BlackPink’s deviation from the characteristic YG style in favor of the stylings and strategies of other K-pop groups contradicts with what the group has said in response to comparisons with 2NE1. When asked about the similarities, the members say that they “do not purposely try to be different from 2NE1,” and remain focused on maintaining the YG sound. However, as the group continues to diverge from YG’s sound and style, their response becomes less consistent with their performance and music. Rather than maintaining the YG sound, it seems BlackPink is more focused on expanding and diversifying it with contemporary K-pop colors.

Clearly, BlackPink has largely distinguished itself from 2NE1, and for that reason, Blackjacks and older K-pop fans in general may feel more comfortable supporting the group and its members going forward. As BlackPink deviates, however, it does conform more strongly to the K-pop mainstream, and for that reason among others, the group seems to lack some of the impact that 2NE1 had on the larger industry.

2NE1 were known as Korea’s top digital sellers for a while because of the sheer power of their songs — “Fire” and “I Don’t Care” exist among the top-selling songs in South Korea’s history, while almost all of their following singles have charted within the top four of weekly Korean song charts, including a total of eleven number-one singles (excluding their post-disbandment release “Goodbye”). At their peak, 2NE1 had the ability to entirely take over music charts and flatten competition, and much of their music won daesangs (major awards) at end-of-year shows. The group existed among few girl groups to amass a large fandom, allowing them to sell albums in huge quantities in Korea as well. It is for these reasons that 2NE1 was immediately considered the definitive number two next to Girls’ Generation, and the now 10year-old group’s strongest competition at each group’s respective peak.

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While BlackPink has sold considerably well and seen the development of its own fandom, the group has failed to excite the public to the same extent as their predecessors did. Obviously, BlackPink is an incredibly successful girl group, but their only single that has really taken over charts to date is “Whistle,” and some of BlackPink’s singles like “Boombayah” and “Stay” have already charted lower than pretty much any of 2NE1’s singles. BlackPink has failed to clear out competition the same way 2NE1 could, as “As if It’s Your Last” had some difficulty competing with MAMAMOO on the charts upon release. The group has also yet to win many major awards, and has not distinguished themselves as the definitive competitor next to the generation’s top-performing girl group, which is, at this point, TWICE. Instead, that title would likely go to Red Velvet or GFriend at the moment, likely because these groups have promoted more and debuted earlier, and have already captured the public attention.

It seems that, along with confounding factors like the oversaturation of the girl group market (especially with post-I.O.I debuts and comebacks), BlackPink’s blend into the mainstream has hurt its competitive viability. While the group will enjoy success, BlackPink’s music, style, and promotion strategy might need to be reconsidered if YG wants to replicate the explosive responses 2NE1 received.

Contrary to initial (and still popular) belief, BlackPink truly is different from their predecessors 2NE1, but from the standpoint of success and achievement as musicians, that may or may not be a good thing.

How different are Black Pink and 2NE1? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Weekly K-pop Faves: Jan. 16-22

A week of farewells had K-pop saying “Goodbye” to girl groups 2NE1 and I.O.I, while CLC revamped their image. This very estrogen-filled week’s playlist is rounded out by Girls’ Generation’s Seohyun, who released her first solo album.

”Goodbye” by 2NE1 (Released January 21st)

And that’s all, folks. 2NE1’s “Goodbye” hit me hard — I still can’t stop listening to it and feeling the same emotions I felt on the first listen. This group’s untimely end is chock full of rumors, scandals, possible discord, and more. But this song, with its soulful vocals and acoustic instrumentation, gives us the ability to look back on what really matters — the revolutionary career of a legendary girl group. As one of YG’s only immediately English-subbed music videos, “Goodbye” communicates the members’ feelings about disbandment to both domestic and international fans through honest lyrics “Don’t trust the broken stories,” “Even if things get rough, it will be okay,” “Come find me when you need someone to lean on,” and the song’s main refrain, “Goodbye until the day we meet again” hit close to home for millions of Blackjacks around the globe. The song is my pick for this week simply because it is so simple yet so evocative, and it embodies the iconic 2NE1 sound so well. It’s sad to think that I’ll never have a chance to write a Weekly Playlist about them again, but as CL says in the first verse, “Not everything lasts forever.” So, to Blackjacks everywhere, I hope your grieving period isn’t too hard. We will miss having all four girls together forever, but at least we have this song as a final reminder of the beautiful songs — both pop and ballad — that they’ve released since their debut in 2009. Goodbye, 2NE1. You won’t be forgotten.


”Love & Affection” by Seohyun (Released Jan. 17)

Of all the songs on her sultry Don’t Say No album, the showstopper is Seohyun’s “Love & Affection.” It’s the shortest track, but also the one with the most distinct sound: building rock instrumentals mesh with playful synths and electronic beats collide to create a playful cacophony of sounds. The track is dominated by Seohyun’s strong vocals as she express “I hate your love, love & affection!” before adding in a few vocal trills and whistled “oooh ooohs.” Even though it hasn’t received as warm of a welcome as some other songs on the album (like the jazzy, but slightly boring, “Bad Love”), “Love & Affection” isn’t just by chance a great electropop song: along with lyrics written by Seohyun, it was co-written by Fredrik Häggstam, who co-wrote the Chainsmokers’ recent hit “Paris,” Red Velvet’s addicting “Ice Cream Cake,” and TVXQ’s “Blink.” While it may not be to everyone’s taste, there are few flaws in “Love & Affection,” other than the obvious matter that it is far too short.

— Tamar

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”Meow Meow” by CLC (Released Jan. 17)

“Close your eyes, So that I can breathe, And pretend we have something”

Much has been said about CLC’s recent transformation into the new 4minute and it is sad to see them completely copy their sister group but more 4minute is never a bad thing. Their album “Crystyle” is a strong tight mini and I’ve been really enjoying their live promotions for lead single “Hobgoblin.” “Meow Meow” is the best of the lot though, a trop house cut about the arrogant young girls’ frustration with hesitant boys. It’s not a frustrated song though: the synths replicate relaxed steel drums. They’re prominent but remain languid and laid back. Elkie’s shrill pronouncement of being Harley Quinn and Yeeun’s continued Hyuna impersonation (she even goes as far as making a “Roll Deep” reference) add some great dynamics to the vocals. Even when becoming another group, CLC are still great.


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”Downpour” by I.O.I (Released Jan. 18)

In this tragic week of final releases, popular girl group I.O.I released their last song together along with a heartbreaking music video showing the formation of the group and their various experiences over the past year. Written by Seventeen’s Woozi, this emotional ballad was a perfect sendoff for this temporary group since it gave them the chance to show off their vocals as well as express their earnest feelings for the unfortunate disbandment. With the use of the simple and effective metaphor of rain to represent both difficulties and tears, “Downpour” is a sad but an extremely encouraging song, with lyrics such as “It’s alright, this shower is going to pass quickly” and “We shall smile again and be together,” promising fans that this won’t be the last they would see of these girls. Indeed it wouldn’t, since many of the members are already in new girl groups or are debuting solo in the near future. All good things really do come to an end but fortunately for fans, I.O.I provided a wonderful platform for the members to start their individual careers and they have bright futures ahead of them.


Which song was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

A Teenage Fangirl’s Farewell to 2NE1

On the 21st of January, iconic girl group 2NE1 released their final song, “Goodbye”, as a farewell to their fans. This release was comforting yet extremely heartbreaking for Blackjacks (2NE1 fans) in that it provided a closure to an otherwise abrupt disbandment of the group and allowed fans to listen to them sing together (well, ¾ of them) for the last time. Except, why did it have to be the last time? For a group that has been through so much together, experiencing immense success, as well as various member scandals, it just seemed unthinkable that their phenomenal 2015 MAMA performance would be their last. In that memorable performance, the female quartet showcased what they had always been doing best: simply being their beautiful, unique selves in a powerful and confident manner.

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It was this quality that first drew me to 2NE1, all the way back in 2011. I had heard of the group previously, but it wasn’t until they released the songs “Lonely” and “Ugly” that I truly became a fan. I had never heard a Korean girl group sing so honestly about such negative emotions (especially since they are pretty much taboo topics in the K-pop industry), but for some reason, I felt emotionally connected to the group even though we were worlds apart. They seemed to understand and share my insecurities and fears, even if they were different than me. They were brave enough to take it and put it into their music, loudly proclaiming it all over the world. To a teenage girl who always felt lonely but kept trying to maintain her facade of a social life, these songs were truly empowering, since it felt like 2NE1 was telling their listeners that it was alright and even natural to feel lonely; it was nothing to be shameful about.

Perhaps the fact that these songs came from a Korean girl group, of all countries, made it even more significant and inspiring. Korea has always been well-known for its emphasis on external beauty, as evidenced by its booming plastic surgery and cosmetics industries. Even young ordinary students apply makeup with finesse everyday when they go to school. The pressure to live up to society’s standards of beauty is thus exceptionally high in Korea, which is why it’s even more important to recognise that we’re all beautiful in our own ways, even if we might be seen as “ugly” to the rest of the world – a message that 2NE1 definitely conveyed through their entire career. From the carefree revealing of their bare faces early on in their careers to the unique styling that constantly set them apart from regular pretty girl groups, 2NE1 showed that they could be confident and beautiful even if they differed from the norm.

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2NE1 took this message a step further with their other iconic hit “I Am The Best.” Though it was also released in 2011 they kept performing it year after year, and it eventually became the last song they would ever perform together. This song was representative of their entire career, since they effectively showed the world that they weren’t just the best at what they were doing, but they knew and believed it too. That confidence really struck and empowered me, especially during the times where my self-esteem hit all time lows. I was constantly defeated by the problems life threw at me, but even more so because I kept comparing myself to the more beautiful, more talented people around me. I was never satisfied with myself and I ended up reaching a stage where I simply became another person whenever I stepped out of the comfort of my home. I was quieter, more introverted, never able to be myself because I was just too afraid and concerned with how the people around me would criticise or judge me. While I wouldn’t go so far to say that 2NE1 was the main reason why I ended up getting out of that slump, they certainly propelled me in the right direction (“I Am The Best” was literally my daily anthem for a period of time) and it’s still my go-to song whenever I feel like giving myself a pep talk.

I could go on forever about how 2NE1 has impacted my life in both small and big ways, and there are probably also many other fans out there who have had similar experiences. However, it all boils down to this: 2NE1 will really be missed. There’ll always be a void in this fangirl’s heart that will never again be filled because I’ll always be longing for this irreplaceable girl group to come back with the same inspiring power and force that they’ve shown together all these years. Despite the unhappiness and the unfortunate way the group came to an end, from the bottom of my heart, I’m thankful that I got to stan such an unique and talented group; that I got to mature and grow up along with them; that I got to learn so much from them. Although the members will go their separate ways from now on, 2NE1’s legacy will never be forgotten, even 10, 20 years from now. Or at least, I will never forget them, and I’m sure many Blackjacks out there feel the same way.

Until the faraway day when we meet again, goodbye, 2NE1.

What do you think of 2NE1’s disbandment? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The new evolution lives on: 2NE1’s disbandment through a Blackjack’s eyes

I woke up yesterday morning with no knowledge that breaking K-Pop news had transpired overnight. Like most millennials, I immediately grabbed my phone upon waking, laying in bed and scrolling through Facebook and Messenger.

“Why is 2NE1 trending?” I thought as I clicked through the mobile Facebook app. I assumed it was news of another CL English release, or could it be something related to Dara? Tragically naive, I continued to believe the news would be minor and only related to one member of the group. That is, until I saw the words “2NE1 Disbandment” come up across my screen. In disbelief, my fingers immediately closed the app. Is it actually happening? I raced to check major K-Pop news outlets for answers.

“YG Announces 2NE1’s Disbandment and Nam Tae Hyun’s Departure from WINNER,” the headlines read, and my heart sunk. Don’t get me wrong. As a Blackjack who felt the heartbreak of Minzy leaving a few months ago, the frustration of Bom’s scandal, and YG consistently delaying comebacks — as well as the sobering dread of consecutive disbandments and member leaves come out of this year — I was aware that 2NE1’s untimely breakup wasn’t too far off. As a result, I think my K-Pop fanboy emotional turmoil has been spread out across this year, so the blow of 2NE1’s disbandment was small in magnitude, but still sharp, painful, and cold.

Unlike many other dedicated K-Pop fans, my story with 2NE1 didn’t begin with their debut. I wasn’t actually made aware of 2NE1 until December of 2011, when I still thought K-Pop was over-autotuned garbage (sorry, I was a bratty middle-schooler). My friend Alice, insistent on proving me wrong, sat me down in front a computer screen at our town’s public library. I watched, skeptical and stubborn, as she pulled up “I Am the Best” and jammed her headphones in my ears. She pressed “play,” and my life was instantly changed.


To say I was absolutely amazed is more than an understatement. From the dazzling lights to the metallic outfits and shiny sets, I saw 2NE1 take music videos to a level that American pop stars rarely have. And the song — full of bombastic confidence, strong vocals, and unparalleled power — redefined my understanding of music. Until then, I was listening to the conventional mainstream American pop artists and, not to say that those artists aren’t talented or deserving of their fame, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my music options. In my search for a musical identity, 2NE1 filled a large, gaping void with a more refined sound and visual than I believed Western music could offer. From that one, fateful day, I ran forward into the world of K-Pop and I haven’t looked back since.

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Yes, I believe I missed out on being a Blackjack during 2NE1’s formative years. That didn’t stop me, however, from watching all of their old music videos and performances, getting to know each member, and watching the entirety of 2NE1TV as an optimistic grade-schooler. And I was not only amazed by their music and performance ability, but also by their style, by their confidence, by their boldness. I was amazed by the stunning music videos, by the colors and designs they wore in their clothes and hair, by the choreography they seamlessly danced through in beautiful, eye-catching sets. 2NE1 was sharp and powerful, but still beautiful and evocative. Something about them was so fresh and refined, like they had completely reinvented pop culture and fashion to support their own extraordinary style and swag.

No, 2NE1 was not K-Pop’s first “edgy” girl group — the most frequently cited counterargument to that claim is simply the existence and legacy of Brown Eyed Girls, another girl group I deeply respect. But 2NE1 had a lot to do with breaking the girl group standard. They mixed hard-hitting sounds with loud personalities and fun performances to make themselves visibly and audibly infectious. I was pulled in by 2NE1 because they gave off an an aura of their own, creating a certain vibe that was entirely unique to them in the competitive world of K-Pop girl groups.

Now, I’m not saying they ignored every rule of the girl group world. For one, they definitely capitalized on the hook song trend — while Girls’ Generation sang the words “gee” and “baby” in rapid repetition and Wonder Girls did the same with “Nobody,” 2NE1 followed a similar formula with their songs “Fire” and “I Don’t Care.” But unlike other K-Pop groups, 2NE1 stood for more than wooing the boy.

They weren’t ‘cute,’ and they didn’t try to be likable or visually charming with their music. Instead, they came to make a statement, something K-Pop groups rarely do. Their refusal to follow the typical girl group formula of the time and ability to set their own trends has, no doubt, contributed to the empowerment of women, both Korean and international and growing confidence among all of their fans around the world. Watching their facial expressions, choreography and vocal color develop throughout various performances, I began to see that 2NE1 had created their own unique sense of femininity, one that wasn’t so focused on being delicate, innocent, and pretty. Even though each of these girls are visually stunning, they weren’t popular for their looks, as many groups are — they were popular for relatable and exciting music, and for carrying themselves with so much prowess and fierceness. Fans found solace in not only their confidence and unapologetic badassery, but also their ability to connect with listeners. I was captivated by every performance — I grew an attachment to their vibrant stages, high-quality music, and colorful visuals over time.


And while they opted not to maintain the conventional charm that other girl groups did, CL, Dara, Bom, and Minzy showed that they were funny, loveable, and caring through 2NE1TV. From shopping trips to MV shoots, it was clear that they were hardcore onstage, but real, down-to-earth people offstage. I learned to admire them for both sides — I wanted to be just as confident, commanding, stylish and refined as they were when they performed, but also as loveable, friendly, and funny as they were when they weren’t on stage.


In terms of the grand scheme of K-Pop success, I think it’s easy to forget just how successful as a group they were due to their lengthy absence and limited discography. The girls are considered digital queens for a reason — with only four major Korean album releases, they’ve had 12 number-one songs and many more within the top five of digital charts. To this day, none of their Korean singles have ever charted below #4 on weekly charts, something that no other Korean girl group has been able to accomplish. With the exception of their final album Crush,, 2NE1’s Korean albums have also sold in excess of 100,000 copies, making them one of the only girl groups in the modern K-Pop era to achieve both digital and physical success. During their most active years, 2009 through 2011, they were the most nominated and most awarded artist at the Mnet Asian Music Awards. Within only three years, 2NE1 had won four MAMA daesang awards, the highest of any artist in history (including legends like Rain, BoA, Girls’ Generation, TVXQ, etc.), until BIGBANG overtook them in 2015. And despite not having been awarded since 2011, 2NE1 is still tied for most awarded artist at MAMA for non-daesang awards. To anyone who watches the charts or award shows closely, 2NE1 is legendary for being able to command such popularity and success in such a short amount of time. Along metrics of public impact and numerical success, along with style and music, there is no other K-Pop artist like them.


But as we all know, that success didn’t last forever. YG’s poor management steered them into a downward spiral, one that started with some delays, saw a drug scandal in between, and ended with a member leave before announcing their disbandment. To this day, I’m sad that I never got to see 2NE1 at their prime, performing daily on music shows or taking awards at MAMA. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

2NE1 effectively changed my life. As an impressionable student watching their videos and performances, I was inspired, and my ambitions shifted. I was now more immersed in the 2NE1 aura that was so beautiful, strong, talent-oriented, and well-presented. I worked to emulate it in my own, not-as-glamorous life — from buying some nicer clothes and working harder at my own singing, to doing better in school and becoming a leader in my school community. 2NE1 had and still does give me motivation to be the best version of myself, and that passion has permeated all aspects of my life. Watching 2NE1 on- and offstage has given me the determination to achieve the same level of quality and success in my life that they brought to every project they worked on.

Not to mention, 2NE1 is what started me on my journey as a K-Pop fan — from them, I hopped over to videos from f(x), Girls’ Generation, BIGBANG, SHINee, 4Minute, KARA, and more, each of whom modified my worldview and intensified my ambition. As an Indian-American, learning more about K-Pop exposed me to aspects of Asian culture I was unaware of as well. I owe all of that to 2NE1, and I’m eternally grateful. As they became less and less active, I watched their videos with love and a heavy heart, embracing the lighthearted nature of “Can’t Nobody” and “Fire,” and admiring the fierceness of “I Am the Best” and “Come Back Home.” I’ve fallen in love with all of their songs over the years, and I’ll never stop listening to them. That’s right, the New Evolution of the 21st Century (the core meaning of 2NE1’s name) does not end here. Whether it’s in Blackjacks’ hearts or ears, 2NE1 lives on.

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In many ways, this disbandment could mean we might actually see more of them, now that the members are no longer under the group’s constraining framework that, given logistical problems and YG’s subpar management, just wasn’t working. CL is still working on English music, and while succeeding in the American music market is hard, it isn’t impossible, and I have faith in CL to give us some good music over the next few months. Dara is still signed to YG, and I’m excited to see her as an actress soon in her upcoming movie One Step. Minzy is now under Music Works, and her solo debut is hopefully only months away. And that leaves Bom, whose future is currently being called into question after it was announced that her contract with YG was not renewed. But I have faith — her recent Instagram post shows her “working on a song to sing” for us all soon. We can only wait, and hope that, in due time, Bom will regain the strength to come back and give us something new. While we probably won’t see them together anytime soon, the fact that each of them may have a future available to them in the entertainment industry says a lot about each member’s power, talent, and versatility. And as a Blackjack, that’s something I’m proud of.


Thank you, 2NE1, for inspiring me to remain open-minded and receptive to different types of entertainment and music. Thank you, 2NE1, for giving a voice to the “Lonely” and “Ugly”, those of us who needed to be told that we are, in fact, more than what we see in the mirror. Thank you, 2NE1, for having such a transformative impact on my life. Thank you, 2NE1, for defining so much of my livelihood growing up.

Thank you for everything. Nolza forever!

How do you feel about 2NE1’s disbandment? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

BlackPink vs. 2NE1: The ultimate analysis

BlackPink 2NE1

Around the time of their debut earlier this month, I wrote a detailed introduction to YG Entertainment’s long-awaited girl group, BlackPink. Now that the group’s history and its members have been properly discussed, the time has come to analyze the group’s structure and sound. While YG made it clear that he originally wanted to create a group like Girls’ Generation from rival SM Entertainment, the label ended up opting for something much more like its own act 2NE1. BlackPink’s formation, in my opinion, is definitely the safer route. Instead of pushing its boundaries to create a larger girl group with bigger visuals and personalities, YG maintains its trademark styles of fusing hip-hop and pop while emphasizing rap and vocals over everything else. Because the songs match YG’s style so closely, the question must be asked (and it is being asked all over the K-pop community) – what differentiates this group from 2NE1? The answer is, well, not that much.

I will, however, dive into the similarities and differences to provide more insight.

Also on KultScene: 8 misheard K-pop lyrics part 6

In terms of members, BlackPink mirrors 2NE1 almost exactly. Jennie’s place in the group is almost identical to that of CL because her specialty is rap, but she can sing and dance as well. She gives off the same badass, hardcore vibe that is so notoriously CL. Going off of that, Jisoo mirrors Dara, serving as the visual focus of the group and handling some singing lines. The importance of her role is performance much more than any specific raw talent, which is exactly what Dara contributes to 2NE1. Rosé easily matches Bom, as both are main vocals and handle only singing lines, especially ones that require the most vocal skill and power. The most recognizable connection is between Lisa and Minzy – both are maknaes (youngest members), and are (or were) the most versatile members of their respective groups in terms of talent. Lisa handles rap and dance along with a few singing lines, similar to Minzy’s role in 2NE1 around the time of their debut.

And like 2NE1, BlackPink’s musicality and lyricism is influenced very much by the members’ international backgrounds – both groups have only one member born and raised in Korea (Jisoo in BlackPink, Minzy in 2NE1), another member who lived in Southeast Asia (Lisa in BlackPink, Dara in 2NE1), two members from English-speaking countries (Jennie lived in New Zealand while Rosé lived in Australia, CL and Bom lived in the USA), and some European influence as well (Jennie is originally from the Netherlands, CL spent a few years living in France).

blackpink whistle

And obviously, the biggest similarity is music/concept. 2NE1 (in their original four-member form), could probably sing both “Whistle” and “Boombayah.” Even though 2NE1 may have matured away from this kind of sound in recent releases (and that makes sense, since BlackPink as a group is much younger in age). “Boombayah” is absolutely reminiscent of “Fire,” although not as much in sound, but definitely in concept and line distribution (the more obvious sound comparison can be made with songs like “Fantastic Baby” and “Bang Bang Bang” by BIGBANG). Only time will tell if BlackPink will move to deeper, more evocative concepts like 2NE1 did with “Come Back Home,” or if they stay with more lighthearted yet hard-hitting songs like “Boombayah” and “Whistle.”

The differences between the two debuts aren’t significant or groundbreaking, but still definitely notable. YG definitely put more interest into visuals this time around, trying harder to pick members that match Korean standards of beauty. In the eyes of the Korean public, this probably gives BlackPink a little bit more of the attractive qualities that groups like Girls’ Generation bring to the industry. And while 2NE1 is incredibly beautiful and likeable, the group was a bit more focused on hard-hitting performances even in member structure, so we see YG deviating from that concept a little bit by pushing the visuals.

From the styling to the sound, BlackPink’s two debut songs and accompanying videos seem to be produced meticulously. In this sense, BlackPink is more polished than 2NE1 was at their debut, since YG was still experimenting with girl group visuals and sounds back then. Another notable difference – BlackPink doesn’t have a leader. While CL wielded leadership proudly, BlackPink demonstrates a little more equality among members. This leaves probably the most exciting difference – all of the members are incredibly versatile. While Jisoo is the group’s visual, she has a strong singing voice, allowing her to develop her sound further over the group’s upcoming releases in ways we might not expect. Even Rosé, the main vocal, is a fantastic dancer (well, based on their Dance Practice video that went up on YouTube a little while back), meaning her role can exceed expectations as well.

The verdict – overall, BlackPink is incredibly similar to 2NE1, and it speaks an incredibly loud message about YG’s desire to put out a girl group that could emulate 2NE1’s success, rather than try something drastic and new. Even Yang Hyun Suk himself commented on the similarities, expressing his interest in maintaining the YG style and sound. So BlackPink isn’t exactly breaking any boundaries, but they are carrying the YG name with a feminine touch, something K-pop has been missing since 2NE1 went haywire following a drug scandal back in 2014 (and a little bit before that, as well). For at least that much, I applaud BlackPink.

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The rest of my first impression of BlackPink is, however, much more nuanced. With such striking similarities to 2NE1 in structure and sound, BlackPink is YG’s way of saying that the characteristic “YG sound” is not as important as the artists themselves. Sure, it’s cool that YG as a record label has its own way of distinguishing itself, but it’s unfair to the artists to box them off within the boundaries of what YG does with its sound. Not to mention, it’s incredibly unfair to Blackjacks, who have been waiting for YG to do something about Park Bom’s scandal and give 2NE1 a comeback. The existence of a new girl group is not at all a problem, but the similarities seem to indicate that YG wants this group to carry on the “YG sound” by effectively replacing 2NE1, the girl group that contributed so much to the establishment of the “sound” in the first place. While 2NE1 might be on a downward spiral, debuting what is essentially a more polished version of them is disrespectful to them and their fans.

That being said, I plan on supporting this group, just not as strongly as I’ve supported 2NE1 (if you couldn’t tell by now, I am a Blackjack). BlackPink’s concept is a two-edged sword, as it makes them unique in K-pop right now but not at all within their label. But no matter the negatives, they are here to extend and carry on 2NE1/YG’s original mission of creating a girl group that shamelessly challenges K-pop’s neverending dichotomy of innocent vs. sexy.

Somehow, both 2NE1 and BlackPink simultaneously fall right in the middle of the spectrum and entirely outside of it. Despite the lack of originality in concept, BlackPink is full of talent, beauty, versatility and, most importantly, good music. And for those reasons, I’m rooting for them. I hope they find a way to stand out among YG’s slowly converging discography, because that may be the best, if not only, way to continue to success they’re currently receiving.

How do you feel about BlackPink’s debut and 2NE1’s legacy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

The K-Pop Phoenix: The New Generation of Girl Groups

Girl Groups

K-pop is one of the fastest-changing industries known to man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike. Just think about it: two years ago, MAMAMOO’s derpy quirks, Sana’s “Shashasha” and GFriend’s stage falls were almost or entirely unknown to the public, Korean or international. But fast forward a few debuts and comebacks later, and the world of K-pop has changed immensely. I recently explained why the Second Generation of K-pop Girl Groups is slowly (and painfully) falling apart. And now, some seven or eight years since the fateful debut stages of legends like Girls’ Generation and 2NE1, the New Generation of Girl Groups is here carry the torch forward.

The advent of a new generation is pretty exciting — it essentially only happens once every few years when a wave of popular girl groups hits the scene around the same time. Starting in the late 1990s, the First Generation consisted of groups like S.E.S, Fin.K.L, and Baby V.O.X. It was about ten years until the Second Generation came around, with Girls’ Generation, KARA, Wonder Girls in 2007, joined by 2NE1, SISTAR, 4Minute and more in 2009-10. Now, we finally see the Third Generation, starting with MAMAMOO and Red Velvet 2014 and joined by TWICE and GFriend in 2015. The exact breakdown and timing of the Generations is something commonly debated by K-pop fans (and believing it breaks down differently than I described is totally cool, too), but it’s pretty clear that, regardless of how you define the generations, a new wave has come to dominate K-pop post-2014.

While our past faves may be beginning to fade, the K-pop phoenix is reborn again with the advent of the Third Generation. And the new groups both parallel and differ from their predecessors immensely. Let’s take a closer look at four of K-pop’s newer stars, and see how they stack up next to top Second Gen groups SISTAR, f(x), 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation.

Also on KultScene: Intro to Red Velvet

SISTAR has quite a reputation in the K-pop world. With unforgettable hit-after-hit, the four member act has asserted its place among girl group royalty since their debut in 2010. Most notably, SISTAR is known for their memorable hook songs, which tend to define an entire season of the year. They are affectionately considered the Queens of Summer Bops, launching 2012’s “Loving U,” 2013’s “Give It to Me,” 2014’s “Touch My Body, ”and 2015’s “Shake It” to the number-one spot on the Korean charts every summer. And, as this is being written, the group’s latest release “I Like That” inches closer and closer to a perfect all-kill as well. Few groups have been able to cultivate such a long string of hits. [ed note. It is currently within the top 5 on numerous Korean music charts.] With so much public recognition for their songs, SISTAR has one considerable weakness in the spectrum of girl group success: fandom strength. Since the group is so known for its public popularity, it lacks a strong fandom to buy up albums and sell-out concerts when the chance comes around.

Sistar and Gfriend

GFriend, a six-member girl group debuted only last year, boasts a similar situation. So early into the game, the group has two very well-known songs: the cute, catchy and stage-fall inducing “Me Gustas Tu,” and the intense and memorable mega-hit “Rough,” which dominated charts early this year, becoming February’s monthly number one song against frighteningly powerful artists like Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation, who released her single “Rain” around the same time. Digitally, GFriend shows a lot of potential, and boasts a lot of public popularity and recognition as well. While they are quickly being noticed as a top girl group, GFriend isn’t exactly known for having a huge domestic or international fandom. While this could definitely change in coming years, and the groups are stylistically and musically very different, GFriend seems to line up with SISTAR’s legacy right now — captivating the public with a stellar title track and leaving the albums to a small, dedicated group of fans.

Like SISTAR, f(x) is one of K-pop’s Second Gen giants, but for a different reason. While SISTAR is more public-friendly and promotes music that people can quickly find fun and engaging, f(x) is known for an experimental style, bringing in exotic musical styles that are less familiar to the Korean crowd. They brought some alternative electronic with “Rum Pum Pum Pum” in 2013, EDM with “Red Light” in 2014, and house with “4 Walls” last year. The now four-member group has introduced and familiarized diverse musical styles among the South Korean music scene. For a K-pop girl group, it’s pretty impressive that they’ve maintained relevance for so long even though their songs aren’t the most public-friendly off the bat. The SM-produced group also has a huge fandom behind it, as albums regularly sell in excess of 80,000 copies and concerts quickly sell out.

f(x) and Red Velvet

And as f(x) enters its later years (it’s now been about seven years since their debut), labelmates Red Velvet are poised to follow in their footsteps. With distinct R&B, alternative and electronic influences, Red Velvet has become one of K-pop’s newest jewels, with multiple top 10 singles “Happiness,” “Ice Cream Cake,” “Dumb Dumb” and, most recently, “One of These Nights.” With a very distinct and eclectic musical style, Red Velvet sets itself apart and succeeds. Much like f(x), Red Velvet has established a unique musical color with a strong fandom behind it, as their two mini-albums and studio album have all topped album charts and sold about 50,000 copies, much more than other girl groups at the moment.

Now we get to the really big leagues — digital and talent monster groups with strong domestic and international fandoms. With the most number-one singles of any act in South Korean history, 2NE1 is exactly that. Iconic hit after iconic hit, the group was known since 2009 for promoting multiple singles from the same album (something very rare in K-pop, but typical of YG groups), and succeeding with each and every one of them. Since their debut in 2009, 2NE1 have launched immensely successful songs to the forefront of K-pop trends, starting with their debut single “Fire,” is one of the best-selling songs of all-time in South Korea. To date, the group has never promoted a single that charted below number four on weekly charts (that totals to seventeen top-four songs), and consistently sold albums into the 100,000s. They are also the only of K-pop’s girl groups to complete two full world tours, demonstrating their fandom power both within and outside of Korea.

2NE1 and Mamamoo

While a stylistic 180 from 2NE1, MAMAMOO aligns most closely with where 2NE1 stood in the K-pop world a few years ago. With a similar four-member structure and powerful vocals, rap and dance, MAMAMOO has the incredible stage presence, talent and personality that made 2NE1 so successful to begin with. The group already has two top-three singles “Um Oh Ah Yeh” and most recently, “You’re the Best,” and MAMAMOO is known particularly for having a large and supportive fanbase. While Daum Fancafe isn’t always the best metric to determine how many fans a group has, the numbers tell us something interesting here: MAMAMOO currently has about 75,000 members in their fancafe and counting. They were the fastest girl group to 50,000, and their numbers exceed other majorly successful girl groups including AOA, 9MUSES, f(x), and even 2NE1. Going off of that, all 8,200 tickets to their first solo concert sold out in only one minute. And considering that 80% of the ticket sales were to female fans, the group is definitely finding its place as 2NE1’s successor.

There are, however, some major differences. While 2NE1 went for badass electronic pop music, MAMAMOO is one of K-pop’s only jazz-influenced pop groups, bringing in some of those elements in “Mr. Ambiguous” and “Piano Man.” The group also regularly performs on shows like “Immortal Song” and makes appearances on varieties like “We Got Married,” something 2NE1 rarely did (another YG custom). With impressive talent and stage presence, MAMAMOO is all set to rise up in the Third Generation of K-pop, just as 2NE1 did in the Second.

Last but the opposite of least, Girls’ Generation epitomizes what it means to be a successful girl group in Korea. With nationwide public recognition, a frighteningly large fandom, international acclaim, and strong digital sales, the group definitely led the Second Generation. Once GG made it big in 2009 with iconic title track “Gee,” no one stood a chance against them in the fight for the number-one spot among girl groups. From Korea to Japan, Girls’ Generation has become a household name and a nationwide craze. Speaking of Japan, GG was arguably the most successful Korean girl group there, as their debut Japanese album sold a whopping 870,000 copies. Even the Korean version of their 2011 album The Boys sold 140,000 copies in Japan — yes, the Korean version — not to mention over 450,000 album sales within Korea itself. As we can tell, it’s pretty hard to live up to a monster girl group like GG. So who is the ringleader of the Third Generation?

Right now, it seems to be none other than JYP Entertainment’s TWICE. Right off the bat, the groups are structurally similar — three strong vocals (Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun line up with Jihyo, Nayeon and Jungyeon), a visual center (Yoona lines up with Tzuyu), an aegyo-centric attention-grabber (Sunny lines up with Sana) and a strong dance line (Sooyoung, Yuri and Hyoyeon line up with Mina, Tzuyu and Momo). The groups also wield a similar, glamorous girl-next-door vibe, looking for love and accessing their femininity. TWICE’s success is comparable as well — in fact, they are the only girl group other than Girls’ Generation to have an album selling above the hundred-thousand mark, which their most recent mini-album Page Two did very quickly. Along with a fierce fandom, TWICE’s digital sales are nothing to laugh at, either. After two months, “Cheer Up” still remains in the top ten of most charts, which is an incredible success in the K-pop world.

Also on KultScene: Let’s Discover: Mamamoo

Going off of these facts and stats, some have been quick to call TWICE an SNSD-copy, trying to emulate their success by emulating the group itself. The differences between the groups, however, throw this accusation right out the window. While TWICE may have successfully become the Third Generation frontrunner for having a similar vibe as SNSD, they definitely aren’t the same. The most glaring is the member dynamic — while Girls’ Generation is all Korean or Korean-American, TWICE has five Korean members, three Japanese, and one Taiwanese, making international expansion that much more logical and accessible for the group. Dahyun and Chaeyoung also serve the roles of Lead and Main Rapper, respectively, which are positions that weren’t very defined at GG’s debut. TWICE title tracks also deviate incredibly from the GG mold as well, employing diverse vocals, rhythm-changes and instrumentalism that GG’s more musically homogeneous tracks don’t use.

Girls' Generation and Twice

Fundamentally, all of these groups show similarities to their predecessors, but the differences make it clear that K-pop isn’t simply repeating itself with the Third Generation. Our Second Gen faves aren’t being replaced and forgotten. Instead, they’re being honored and built upon with new sounds and ideas. Such is the nature of the K-pop phoenix — not only being reborn again, but also with new talents, music and charms to share with the world, learning from past mistakes and successes. As the girl group landscape changes yet again, we can only hope that our new faves become just as well liked as the ones before them, and carrying the K-pop legacy forward for the man, woman, fanboy, and fangirl alike to enjoy.

Who are your Third Generation faves? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Fandom, Not Genre, K-Pop Surpasses The Limitations Of Music


When a friend of mine recently asked why K-pop is a fandom rather than a genre, it was puzzling; of course K-pop is a fandom. Looking around at K-pop’s international fanbase, the question hardly makes sense; it’d be like saying The Beatles are a genre when they are in fact so much more. But that doesn’t resonate with people unfamiliar with what K-pop is, who just assume that K-pop is a very specific type of music rather than an entire entity.

K-pop, at its heart, isn’t one sound but rather a production style coming out of South Korea today and the pop culture surrounding it. K-pop is Korea’s music industry and all that it contains. Similar to Hollywood being the umbrella term for the industry, its stars, and its products, K-pop is the blanket term for music, celebrities, and a variety of other aspects of Korea’s pop culture.

Also on KultScene: Playlist Sunday: K-Pop In Wonderland

Understanding that K-pop is the overarching term for a variety of music coming out of South Korea is key to erasing the idea that K-pop is a single musical style. What most people think of “K-pop” is actually idol music, pop music acts produced by large entertainment agencies. There are usually, but not always, synchronized choreographies. K-pop doesn’t just mean idol music though, since all of South Korea’s mainstream music is now coming under the title. But that’s not everything under the sun in South Korea, and even Korean indie acts are falling under the broader K-pop umbrella; this year’s SXSW’s K-Pop Night Out includes a girl group, two R&B artists, an IDM producer, an alt-punk indie duo, and a glam metal band.

And they’re all included in the idea of K-pop to some degree, despite their blatant genre differences.

Because of its utter enormity, fans of K-pop aren’t just fans of a specific style of music, which would in fact make K-pop a genre. A fan may be a fan of an act act, such as idol groups like SHINee or 2NE1, but unlike fans of musical genres, K-pop fans express affinity to the artists rather than the musical style; musical affinity isn’t bound to being a fan because K-pop is impossible to pin into one individual style. While both SHINee and 2NE1 have distinct styles within the K-pop world, their songs themselves are known for genre-blending and musical experimentation rather than sticking to one specific musical style.

Saying K-pop is a musical genre is limiting, since the songs falling within K-pop’s realm range from folk to R&B to bubblegum pop to hip hop and beyond. (It also diminishes the face value of music coming out of South Korea today, since K-pop gets a bad rap as a wholly manufactured industry with little innate artistic value.)

In a recent interview, members of Korea’s most popular boy band Big Bang deplored the idea that K-pop is a single genre. Seungri argued that the title doesn’t express what is good K-pop versus bad K-pop and G-Dragon highlighted the fact that K-pop isn’t K-pop to Koreans; it’s just music. Meanwhile,T.O.P argued that the terminology itself was a failing, and implied that there were racist connotations to lumping all Korean music under the idea of a single genre.

“It’s like this,” he told the Washington Post. “You don’t divide pop music by who’s doing it. We don’t say, for instance, ‘white pop’ when white people make music.”

But clarifying that K-pop is just general Korean mainstream music isn’t really easy to explain in a casual conversation since most people are not likely to understand the nuances of why it’s not a single musical style, making it difficult to expand on the broader definition of how and why K-pop is dissimilar specific genres like country or metal.

Metal fans, like other fans declaring favoritism to a specific style, favor acts that fall under a specific overarching musical genre. Just like K-pop, they identify one another on the streets based on band tees and get excited when a new act comes to town. But without the specific tones of being a metal band, those same fans won’t be interested. If a metal band put out an album inspired by jazz music, their fans would likely be confused and pan the album. K-pop fans eat up that sort of experimentation, since it’s part of what makes certain songs fall under the K-pop title.

But with K-pop, the most genre-bending music “genre” of all, the music is just the beginning of the pitfall that leads fans to start liking all aspects of the K-pop scene. While many songs sound similar, and there are trends in K-pop overall, a K-pop fan can be biased towards the slower, more mellow ballad tones rather than the dance music, but still be a K-pop fan. Most fans of K-pop claim partiality to specific acts and join that act’s fandom (i.e., Big Bang fans are known as VIPs as a whole) but still are a part of the overall fandom of K-pop. They cheer when a K-pop act beats out other acts internationally, coming together to support the industry’s international growth, and get upset collectively when a single fandom may be under attack from outside fandoms.

Also on KultScene: 5 Acts That Define What ‘Kpop Star 5’ Is About


While “K-pop” once stood for the specific idol music coming out of Korea, it is now essentially a word handed out freely to describe all Korean pop and even all Korean music. Looking at idol groups alone, there are allegedly hundreds of different sounds and concepts. But when someone says they’re a fan of K-pop music, they’re not saying that they’re a fan of the specific sound of K-pop music because there is no such thing. Rather, they’re saying that they are a fan of the world of K-pop. What that world is is up for debate in South Korea nowadays, just as Big Bang said, but K-pop is no single musical style, despite the Guardian trying to peg Grimes as K-pop in a recent article.

If K-pop were a genre, it’d be the all-encompassing world of Korean pop music and then some. It’s the industry consisting of music production companies in South Korea and the musicians themselves as well as the music. Some of it is idol music, some of it is hip-hop, ballads, indie-style folk music, etc., but it’s the production value and promotional aspects that makes K-pop what it is and why fans love it. It’s an idea moreso than a genre.

Yes, K-pop songs are mostly Korean pop songs, and you could say that K-pop is a genre. But a genre is a style with a limited range of musical tropes. K-pop is definitely an entity, but that entity is so much more than any music genre; it’s an entire scene that, yes, surrounds a certain type of music, but is so much more than a single genre.

What do you think of defining K-pop as a fandom rather than a genre? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

8 Moments You’ll Want To Rewatch From MAMA 2015

MAMA 2015 2NE1

One of the biggest events of the K-pop year was held earlier today in Hong Kong and, needless to say, a lot went on at the Mnet Asian Music Awards that you don’t want to miss out on. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the show live, or just want to relive it, then this rundown of all of the memorable moments from MAMA 2015 is definitely for you.

1. 2NE1 Returned

If there is one thing to take away from the 2015 MAMA ceremony, it was that 2NE1 was back. There was silence, tears, and shrieks from fans watching live and at home as CL disappeared beneath the stage after her solo performance of “Hello Bitches” and Dara rose up, followed by Minzy, Park Bom, and CL. The performance was like a rebirth of the group, which has been on hiatus for over a year, and they brought their fierce talent performing their debut song “Fire” and their most popularity song to date, “I Am The Best.”

Also on KultScene: MAMA 2015 Award Show Scoresheet + WINNERS


2. Jolin Tsai Dominated The Stage

The Taiwanese singer surprised the crowd with a performance of her hit song “Play.” The Queen of C-Pop showed everyone what she was worth, offering a fierce rendition of “Play.” Backed by a crew of male backup dancers in drag, Jolin Tsai showed the camera who is boss with her intense gaze and sharp dance moves, matched by her fire-spit rap and belting vocals. And when she broke character and couldn’t help but show her bright smile, it was absolutely great.

Honorable mention to the fangirls who just couldn’t believe what was happening.

3. JYP Embarrassed Everyone

Park Jin Young, also known as JYP or J.Y Park and the CEO of JYP Entertainment, took to MAMA with a mature performance that left people with their eyes wide and jaws open. Except for the members of JYP Entertainment idol groups Twice and GOT7, who were looking for the exits. The members of the two idol groups went so far as to cover their eyes and imitate killing one another to keep themselves from seeing their mentor get down with the female dancers.

4. The Fashion Was On PointBIGBANG MAMA 2015 Fashion

Everyone came out in their best, combining chic urban wear with fabulously classy numbers. Fur was a big component in several people’s outfits, including HyunA, Truedy, Yezi, and Jessi’s. BIGBANG went all out mobster chic, while BTS brought a retro, Grease-inspired fashion for their performance of “Run.”

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Actress Stephanie Lee stood out amongst a lot of classic black and white numbers worn by presenters by wearing an eggplant-colored dress with cut outs, while actress Park Shin Hye opted for a little black and white preppy lace number.


And San E’s stylist should maybe rethink things because his entire outfit was a mess, just saying.

5. Yezi & Lil Boi Strutted Their Rap Stuff

If 2015 was the year for any rapper, that rapper was none other than Fiestar’s Yezi. The “Unpretty Rapstar 2” contestant joined “Show Me The Money 4” contestant Lil Boi on stage and they just couldn’t be controlled. The “Show Me the Rapstar” segment was a rap battle between the pair and Truedy and Basik, the winners of their respective competition shows, but Yezi proved to everyone that she’s not just a pretty face while Lil Boi brought a bouncing rap that had the crowd feeling the rhythm.

Also on KultScene: 6 INFINITE Songs That Will Prepare You For INFINITE Effect

6. EXO & BIGBANG Were Crowned Kings of 2015

EXO won three awards, including Best Male Artist and Best Album of the Year, while BIGBANG took home four awards for Best Music Video, Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, and MAMA Worldwide Favorite Artist.

Enough said.

7. The Seungri+Sehun Ship Set Sail

The most shocking, or hilarious, moment of MAMA was when BIGBANG’s Seungri cozied up with members of EXO during “Bae Bae.” EXO’s Sehun reciprocated by pretending to fall asleep on Seungri’s shoulder, and that was it. The (relation)ship soon filled Twitter as fans reacted to this unlikely encounter between members of groups from the two largest Korean entertainment agencies.

8. There Were Lightsabers

While the battle could have been better, MAMA included a lightsaber duel. What more could you ask for? It’s “Star Wars,” but live!

What was your favorite moment from 2015 MAMA? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Unappreciated Singers: Equality Of Line Distribution In K-pop Songs

bigbang line equality

BIGBANG finished off their “MADE” series two weeks ago with their latest singles, “Let’s Not Fall In Love” and “Zutter” (G-Dragon & T.O.P). As usual, they achieved international success in both album and digital sales. Amidst the rave reviews for the songs though, netizens and VIPs (BIGBANG fans) were quick to point out the inequality in the line distributions, especially for “Let’s Not Fall In Love”. This issue is not a new one in the world of K-pop or even for BIGBANG, but the fact that G-Dragon & T.O.P had a single of their own this time around highlighted how the other vocalists in the group (namely Daesung and Seungri) are seemingly unfairly treated.

The accusations are not unfounded, “Let’s Not Fall In Love” is indeed dominated by the other three members and Daesung and Seungri have a mere three lines each. They also seem to get the short end of the stick in their first single of 2015, “Bae Bae”, with their meagre number of lines. Why are the members constantly short changed in this manner? To say that their voices simply do not fit the mood and emotion of the songs seems a bit far-fetched to me, especially since this pattern can be seen in several of their releases. They certainly are not lacking in terms of their vocal ability either, as their successful solo debuts in both Japan and Korea can prove.

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You may wonder why line distribution is such a big deal to netizens and artists, but the number of lines a member gets is almost directly proportional to the amount of screentime he receives on music shows or television broadcast performances. With more lines he is able to showcase more of himself, which at times can be integral to an artist’s ego and individual growth. When a member gets more lines, he also has more pressure to perform well and up to standard, which will automatically result in him practicing more and consistently improving himself.

INFINITE’s L is the living example of that. Back in the “The Chaser” days, he used to get a mere two lines in the entire song and as a result his vocal abilities remained rather stagnant. In the past few years however, his parts in each release have gotten longer, and he was even given the opportunity to be a lead vocal for his subunit INFINITE F. His confidence in singing has obviously grown by leaps and bounds and his improvements can be seen and heard.

(Skip to 3:30 for his high note)

Equal line distribution maintains a balance between the members and their unique abilities in the song. In BIGBANG’s case especially, every member brings something different to every song that they sing. For example, T.O.P’s speciality is his deep voice, which makes him a very charismatic rapper and singer. Classic BIGBANG releases such as “Haru Haru” would definitely be very different without his low accompaniments and raps.

via youngbaebae on tumblr

However, members such as Seungri and Daesung also have their own charms which remain a big part to BIGBANG releases. Take for example BIGBANG’s “Loser”, which was released along with “Bae Bae” earlier this year. Seungri and T.O.P sang the chorus together, and his higher voice contrasted nicely with T.O.P’s voice, creating a perfect balance in the song. This balance was lost in “Let’s Not Fall In Love” however, where G-Dragon sang the chorus of the song. Although G-Dragon certainly has the vocal techniques to pull this off, he sang it in a rather low key and flat manner, causing the chorus to sound rather boring as compared to the rest of the song. T.O.P did the same thing in the later chorus as well, although Taeyang’s high notes and ad-libs were brought in towards the end. If Seungri had sung along with them, just like he did in “Loser”, I have no doubt that the resulting effect would be very different. Seungri’s voice may not be as polished or smooth as Taeyang’s and G-Dragon’s voices, but it is melodious and projects a certain calm that the other members don’t seem to possess. In his quiet ways, he is enhancing the songs through every part that he has.

Just like Seungri, Daesung’s voice is unique and instrumental to BIGBANG songs, even if he is often underappreciated. As a soloist, he is also very famous in Japan, so it’s a pity that he isn’t given more lines. His style of singing might not be popular in a mainstream sense, but there is no doubt that he sings with all of his heart. Every note is interjected with tons of emotion, and he sings with more feeling than anyone else in the group, no matter how small his part. “Loser” just wouldn’t be as melancholic and passionate without his heart-wrenching vocals, and Daesung makes up for the lack of emotion that is sometimes evident in the parts of his group mates (i.e T.O.P).

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Maybe it’s a YG Entertainment thing, but BIGBANG’s labelmates 2NE1 also face this problem. Despite the fact that there are only four members in the group, the lines of their songs have always been extremely skewed towards CL and Park Bom. Dara, on the other hand, never gets more than ten lines in a song and at times, and occasionally even gets only two lines. It is a well-known fact that Dara’s weak vocals do not match up to her groupmates, and even in her small number of lines her voice is almost always heavily edited. However, I still believe that Dara can bring something special to 2NE1’s songs, if her voice is used in the right way. Although her voice is soft, it is also sweet, and she can comfortably balance the rough and loud edges CL sometimes brings in her voice, adding more emotion and depth to the songs.

This skewed line distribution does not just affect the member with the least lines, it also places a heavy burden on the other members who are given more lines, especially in small groups like 2NE1. “If I Were You”, a track from 2NE1’s 2014 release, “Crush”, is a good example of this. CL ends off the ballad in a quiet and emotional way, and it sounds fine in the track, but not so in live performances. During 2NE1’s performance on “Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook,” CL was out of breath by the time she reached the end of the song, and understandably so, because she had to carry several high and long notes throughout the song. This unfortunately lessened the sadness and emotion of this piece. If Dara was the one singing this portion (she only got about one line in the whole song), CL wouldn’t have had to exert herself so much in the performance and Dara would have been able to nail it with her gentle vocals.

(Skip to 3:11 for the ending)

I’m not criticizing BIGBANG or YG for the unfair line distributions because many other K-pop groups also face these problems (especially big groups such as EXO and Girls’ Generation). However, I do believe that each member (this applies to every music group out there) has a special part to play, and if their talents are harnessed properly, the group will be able to create music like never before – music that can highlight every single member’s strengths.

Artist Spotlight: A.KOR


In the wake of their most recent sub-unit single, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit A.KOR’s career in the hope of finding more than a controversy.

When most K-pop fans think of A.KOR they only think of one thing: Kemy’s diss track about 2NE1’s Park Bom. The controversy has completely overshadowed much of the group’s career to date. If you look at the comments of any article about them or video of theirs on Youtube, you will find legions of 2NE1’s fans insulting Kemy and the group. While controversy was likely the whole point of the track, it hasn’t done much to further A.KOR’s success. I’m not here to pick over the details of this though. I’m here to ask you to give A.KOR a chance without the weight of controversy hanging over them. What you will find are exciting tropical beats, two of the best female idol rappers working today, and a whole lot of fun.

The recent use of rappers by boy groups like BTS and B.A.P has not really crossed over to girl groups in a big way. These boy groups have enough talent within all their members to have songs that focus primarily on rapping or vocals. Gone are the early K-pop days of having one token rap verse. However, A.KOR is possibly the only girl group that can achieve this at the moment. A.Kor’s rappers Kemy and Min Ju have distinct flows that contrast each other brilliantly. These coupled with the incredible vocals of Ji Young, the breathy Daya, and Tae Hee’s strength make for an extremely talented group.

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A.KOR actually only debuted with three members, Kemy, Min Ju, and Ji young, for some reason I cannot ascertain. Whatever it was, it didn’t make a difference to their output. Their debut from summer 2014 “Payday” sounds like a 2008/2009 K-pop song with today’s production standards. The banging Europop riff sounds glossy yet cheap at the same time and it has a stupid spoken opening that screams early JYP. Ji Young’s voice has a classic Wonder Girls feel to it that lends to the retro sound and absolutely blasts the choruses.

“Payday,” like all good debuts should, sets down a unique sound for A.KOR. The whole song has a tropical feeling to it that would be exploited some more on later tracks. Matching this with the hip hop stylings that they were being promoted with was a masterstroke. Kemy and Min Ju’s raps work so well together and with these sounds. It’s a genuinely fresh and exciting sound that is uncommon to K-pop.

Luckily for us, A.KOR only improved on their debut with “But Go” later in 2014. Their first song post-Park Bom scandal seems to channel the rage they felt. “But Go” is an explosive track that showcased how powerful girl groups can really be. Once again, the rapping takes center stage behind more foreign beats, this time booming Middle Eastern drums. Kemy and Min Ju are brought into even greater contrast with Min Ju delivering particularly high pitched bubblegum raps against Kemy’s angry strength. Between the two of them, they are the perfect female force for defying the traitorous men this song is about, with Kemy acting as the insulter and Min Ju as the belittler.

“But Go” also introduced the two final members of A.KOR, Daya and Tae Hee. They do the best work they can do here in that they fit in without any fanfare and just join in with A.Kor’s previous line-up. That being said, the new members perform their parts well. Daya especially has a certain charm. Her voice has a strained, out of breath quality to it which I quite like. It adds another dimension to A.KOR’s sound on top of Ji Young’s power and the slick rapping.

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As was the trend for so long, A.KOR eventually went down the sexy route with their next single “Always.” It drops the foreign beats in favour of a standard pop rock sound. Unsurprisingly, this change of concept corresponds with their worst single to date. While not being a completely bad song, it remains uninteresting. Conforming to the trends meant that A.Kor looked uncomfortable in a role which was probably never meant for them. I guess you can’t blame them too much for trying it out considering their lack of success.

The song itself might have been seen as a way of promoting A.KOR’s vocalists more than before. Tae Hee especially gets more lines than she ever had and delivers them well. She has a strength to her voice that suggest something bigger than she is showing us. Maybe given time we will see her really test her pipes.

Also not surprising is that the raps are what keep this from being completely forgettable. Kemy and Min Ju have proven to be a continually interesting duo. So when it was announced they were forming a hip-hop sub unit called A.KOR Black, I got excited. Despite being only a sub-unit this recent comeback confirms A.KOR as an incredibly talented group.

“How We Do” fits into another recent trend of K-pop, the nineties. Here it works really well, as the stylings match with the hip-hop sounds and the song itself has a retro tinge to it. It also signals the return of the tropical sounds in the form of steel drums and synths. These go on top of a beastly hip-hop beat to create something as badass as it is fun. This is the song for summer 2015.

I don’t have to explain just how good the rapping is again, but I will say that it’s the best that the pair has done so far. What is also great is the pop chorus they have; the infectious hook sung by Min Ju is the perfect accompaniment to the cavalcade of rapping.

Even now with “How We Do,” A.KOR’s comment sections are filled with hate. Hopefully, in time, people will learn to forgive Kemy and her group mates (especially since she already apologized). If they do, they will discover a unique and exciting group. Not only are they bringing new sounds into K-pop, but they are showing how badass female idols can really be when it comes to rapping. The power of “But Go” surpassed all other female idol groups last year and “How We Do” is showing they can capitalize on their greatest strengths.

Maybe it’s actually better that they remain lesser known so I can keep them to myself while everyone else can stay on the other side of that infamous feud.

What do you think of A.KOR? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.