Monday, July 18th, 2011

2NE1 – I Am The Best

The last thing you will see before death….


Edward Okulicz: “I Am The Best” fiercely packs in as many disparate musical elements as it does pounding moments of pleasure. It’s K-pop with tips of the hat to U.S. pop in the swagger and beats and Europop in the harsh synths, and the strings in the break are a reminder that the Indo-Arabic pop influence can move east as well as west. Even better, they spit “best” and it sounds like an elongated, naughty “bitch.” Not quite a billion-dollar hook like these self-described billion-dollar babies would hope, but pretty damned close to it. In my dreams, the next Electrik Red album will have one song that sounds exactly like this.

Katherine St Asaph: These verses would be absolutely unfuckwithable if they led to a chorus. 

Michelle Myers: Just as ambitious and maximalist as any good Lady Gaga song. Those circa-2003 pentatonic string synths sound delightfully anachronistic against all the 2010s dirty bass and sing-rapping.

Jonathan Bogart: I’m not sure whether, or how, the ways in which Asian pop differs from American pop read as distinctive or generic; in plain English, I just haven’t listened to enough. But as long as the beat’s as strong as this and the hooks are as sticky as this, my anxiety about it can fade into the background.

Anthony Easton: I have been bored and exhausted from Western pop as of late. With few exceptions, it seems to have ended its formal experimentation or its strangeness. For some reason –and I am really trying not to Orientalise this, because if I lived in Korea, would I feel like pop in the East had gotten stale? — Korean pop seems fresher, more aggressive, more willing to push boundaries. Plus, the video for this is amazing.

Michaela Drapes: Look, I’d adore this even if it wasn’t for the studded leather jackets with Misfits patches and the Gareth Pugh outfits in the video. Remember when electropop was unpretentious and fun, with internationally-flavored stompy club beats? 2NE1 does, apparently, and for this, yes, they are the best.

Zach Lyon: 2NE1 are so absolutely divine in the video that it’s easy to forget the song doesn’t have a real chorus. It’s a sensible sacrifice, unfortunate though it may be: that missing chorus would only serve to point our attention to the song itself, but it’s really the job of the song to point our attention to the girls.

Brad Shoup: With the mighty march of the intro and those nonsense syllables (YouTube hears “bam ratatata tatatatata”), one might think this is big-budget teenage agitpop. But no, it’s just an electro-house single about being awesome. The first verses out of the chorus get a rinky and playful two-note flourish that’s all the better for its underuse. Each girl stakes out her own territory, but the mission is clear: let CL do her best Roman Zolanski impression.

Frank Kogan: It’s CL who defines this, even though the others are all implicated: Bom, the one who sings and can look sweet if she chooses to; Dara, the one who also sings and does the daftest stuff possible with her hair; and Minzy, the dancer and second rapper who likes to roll around on the floor. Minzy’s got as many lines, but it’s CL’s rasp that speaks for them all, sandpaper voice against sandpaper riff. NAE GA JE IL JAL NA GA. I Am The Best. Then the others come in, harmonic and percussive, ramming beauty into our ears like ice picks. As the child of a physics professor, CL moved all over, Seoul, France, Japan, yet here sounds like a streetrat in the QB, stepping out of a laundromat, spewing words and attitude while a Marley Marl frantically cues up his cassette recorder. Yet in this song it’s also CL who later re-enters blissfully, reclining amidst the aural hailstones and proclaiming herself a million dollar baby. Commentator James Turnbull at The Grand Narrative apologetically translates one of the lines as “Even if you were me you’d be envious of my body.” It doesn’t make sense, but I can make it make sense: in the physical me there’s the image of an even more amazing me and a promise that maybe I the mere person can occasionally match, but if you were me you’d certainly fall miles short. But if you’re 2NE1, and producer/songwriter Teddy Park, you gotta wonder about the future: how is the next riff going to be bigger than this one? How’ll the next haughty glance freeze even more people? What’s a new impossibility, now that we’ve mastered high-money dominance and high-trash exuberance? We’ve compacted rap and harmony into one hard ball. Now we’ve got to ask ourselves: is there a way to sneak out the back door into a different adventure?

4 Responses to “2NE1 – I Am The Best”

  1. Huge missed opportunity for BUTTON. DOWN. CHROME.

  2. Is that an Alice Cooper shout-out I hear?

  3. In case nobody has seen this (hat tip to Andy Hutchins for re-blogging it on Tumblr):!


  4. And here’s DJ Bedbugs: