2NE1 may think they’re ugly…

2NE1 2nd Mini Album

2NE1 2nd Mini Album Cover

…but they’re topping the charts as queens with their second mini album, aptly titled, “2NE1 2nd Mini Album.” As one of the most popular girl groups in South Korea, how does their latest release size up?

If you haven’t heard of 2NE1 yet, with almost unwavering assurance I can tell you that you have been missing out. Under constant lime-light since before their debut, everything the first girl group of YG Entertainment (one of the “big 3″ music labels in Korea) is under constant watch, and they have pretty much met the lofty expectations of them every step of the way. With their latest release, they may have even exceeded them.

YG has promoted 2NE1 in interesting ways, such as last year’s album “To Anyone” with three different tracks being promoted together. This time around, for the three months leading up to the release of the mini-album, YG released digital singles and MVs for four of the songs on the mini album, starting off with Park Bom’s solo track, “DON’T CRY,” followed by 2NE1′s song “Lonely.” One month before the release of the mini album, 2NE1 released the MV and digital single for the song, “I Am The Best.” Just weeks prior to the final release, the MV for “Hate You” featuring animated versions of the members in an action/adventure type story was released. Now that the mini album has come out, 2NE1 has finally begun their promotions with the title track, “Ugly.”

The mini album starts off with it’s first track, “I Am The Best” (내가 제일 잘 나가), an electronica dance song with lyrics that describe why they are the best. With these kind of lyrics, this is a song only a girl group such as 2NE1 can back up with their already established style and confidence. However, the lyrics itself are quite boring and repetitive. In fact, the chorus only has them repeating the song’s title “내가 제일 잘 나가” multiple times. The lyrics are distributed evenly as most 2NE1 songs are, and it is only through the girls’ talents (mostly CL and Minzy as usual) that the song doesn’t turn into another “Rainism” or “Bo Peep Bo Peep” (by Rain and T-ara respectively, songs which were very successful but I don’t think much of musically). The production is what we’ve come to expect from 1TYM’s Teddy, although almost borderline overproduced, the song carries a nice heavy synth beat throughout the song that’ll keep you dancing along, a melody that doesn’t lose it’s way, and less autotune sound effects than one would expect. As all songs with repetitive choruses go, this one is no different. It’s very catchy and it’ll have you singing “내가 제일 잘 나가” at the most random times. The song is enjoyable and no one can deny the energy that 2NE1 brings with it.
Sounds Similar To: 2NE1 – Can’t Nobody, Se7en – Better Together, Se7en – Digital Bounce (Feat. T.O.P)

Track 2 on the album is the title track, “Ugly.” The song is a little different from most of what 2NE1 has done in the past, and while the verses still have their electronica roots with slight accents of acoustics, the chorus is distinctly rock. The song’s lyrics are about feelings of inferiority, with each girl proclaiming how they think they’re ugly and no one wants to love them. I’m not sure I quite understand the direction they decided to take with these self-loathing lyrics throughout the entire song, with not even a hint of respite you would expect at the end of the song. I consider the lyrics more of light exposition of what almost everyone goes throughout their life (low self-esteem, etc.) and angrily expressing it vocally, ala screaming into your pillow. The song is well produced. I really enjoy the rock explosion during the chorus and the girls as always do a great job expressing the lyrics through their voices. The entire chorus is sung in English, and they do a good job with it as well. I actually consider this song one of their best to date, with good production values and expressive vocals and lyrics. It just feels like the girls have matured musically since their debut, and that’s always important for a musical act.
Sounds Similar To: BIG BANG – STUPID LIAR

“Lonely” is the third track, and it is probably my favorite track  off the mini album. The song is a mid-tempo ballad-type track that features an acoustic guitar as it’s main instrument and is carried by the vocals of each of the members. The lyrics are interesting because the girls are not lonely because they had just been dumped, but they are the ones doing the dumping. Though I’m sure the repeating chorus of, “Baby, I’m so lonely lonely lonely…” can still be related to by many of us. The production is simple, the melody is well done, the bass line brings out the verses, accents of violins polish the chorus, and the vocals of all the members, even Sandara in her specified roles, really make this song worth listening to. It’s not the best song 2NE1 has done, it’s not even the best song off the mini album in my opinion. For me, the song just works.
Sounds Similar To: 2NE1 – I Don’t Care, 2NE1 – It Hurts, 2NE1 – Love Is Ouch

“Hate You” follows up as the 4th track to the mini album, and is a very CL-centric track. Another electronica driven track, minimal auto-tune, the song is pretty generic as 2NE1 songs go. The lyrics are about breaking up and mentions the things they hate about the other person. Honestly, I enjoy the production of this song. It’s nothing spectacular, in fact, it’s very basic, and there may be a bit too much CL throughout the track and not enough Minzy and Bom, but I enjoy the lyrics and how the song is put together. It’s more of a mid-tempo song, but done in a way that it still sounds like a powerful song. The song was not even released as a digital single, whether due to the proximity of the release of the 2nd Mini Album, or whether the song was just generic. I still enjoy the track in a way that I enjoyed the album tracks of their first mini album. It will not hold as a standalone single, but compared to a lot of the crap that comes out in KPop these days, I still very much enjoy the song.
Sounds Similar To: 2NE1 – Go Away, 2NE1 – Let’s Go Party (Sort of…)

The 5th track on the mini album is actually Park Bom’s 2nd solo single, DON’T CRY, and because of this, I’ll be comparing it to her first single, You And I. The lyrics are about staying strong even after being separated from your significant other even though neither party wanted it to end (such as death). Park Bom has a great voice, although in a limited range, it is in that range that she is very effective. The production keeps that range in mind and she does not have to worry much about hitting notes that she otherwise can’t hit, and it’s not a knock on the song, on Bom, or the producer. I think it’s very smart, and makes the song enjoyable, although some may find it boring. I enjoy the snare build up to the chorus, and the heavy beat gives the emotional song a catchy toe-tapping effect that will keep the song in your head. While I think her first single, You And I, is the better song of the two, the song production is very similar and Bom sings well in both songs. However, I do enjoy the lyrics of DON’T CRY more.
Sounds Similar To: Park Bom – You And I (Obviously! lol)

The final track of the album had actually been released before, although not in Korea. “Don’t Stop The Music” is an upbeat energetic dance track and was the theme song for the Yamaha ‘Fiore’ CF in Thailand. The song is the worst track on the mini-album in my opinion, although that doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. It’s just very generic, but even a generic 2NE1 song is better than some of the stuff I hear out there. The highlight of the song for me is whenever Park Bom’s lines come on. As the final track for the mini album, I think it fits that position well, with it’s lyrics and style. It’s a fun track to listen to, and just like “Hate You,” really rounds out the album well.
Sounds Similar To: Umm, not sure lol

Although I was slightly disappointed in their first album, “To Anyone” last year, 2NE1′s 2nd Mini Album has shown to me that there is no reason to lower your expectations of them. It has some of their best works to date and I personally enjoy every track off this album. I love how every track has an MV associated with it, and I also think how they promoted the mini album for the 3 months prior to release was great. Although going from tracks 1 to 2 had me wondering, “First you’re the best now you think you’re ugly?”, this is definitely an album any KPop fan should check out.

2NE1
2NE1 2nd Mini Album
YG Entertainment, KMP Holdings
2011.8.1
01. 내가 제일 잘 나가
02. Ugly
03. Lonely
04. Hate You
05. Don’t Cry
06. Don’t Stop The Music

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