For her recent solo debut, “The Baddest Female,” 2NE1 frontwoman CL pulled away from Korea’s super safe hip-hop scene and took inspiration from the likes of A$AP Rocky and the non-RedOne Nicki Minaj. The result was a woozy, slow-burning rap track with an alien beat and a big money shot that doesn’t show itself until the final act. Naturally, K-pop fans hated it and were confused by the nonlinear production, just as they had been by Girls’ Generation’s “I Got a Boy,” 2PM’s “A.D.T.O.Y.,” EXO’s “Wolf,” and virtually every other song that dared to be part of the experimental trend that’s been so big in K-pop this past year.
Once “The Baddest Female” flopped, CL was quick to announce that 2NE1’s then-forthcoming new single would be “very 2NE1,” and “very different” from her own solo work. She was right, and that’s not a compliment.
Titled “Falling In Love,” 2NE1’s latest confection is late to the party in almost every way. It jacks the dancehall sirens from “I Got a Boy,” the dub wobbles from “A.D.T.O.Y.,” and the hip-hop drums from “The Baddest Female,” and then attempts to condense them all down into a beige paste that won’t scare off the sheltered K-pop fans like the aforementioned songs did. The final product is a breezy but boring summer jam that finds itself stuck on awkward middle-ground: it’s too behind the curb to be interesting, and too dull to work as generic fun. The vocals don’t help matters either, as CL’s piercing voice ends up overshadowing all of her bandmates but Dara, whose autotuned talk-singing stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Once again, 2NE1’s shot themselves in the foot by trying too hard. The group’s too scared to go all out cray cray like SM Entertainment, but they think they’re too good to just do something simple and fun like 4minute’s “Is It Poppin’?” What you’re left with is “Falling In Love,” which fits nowhere and barely works on any level.
To end on a positive note, kudos to 2NE1 for the Snoop Lion urban-reggae lilt. That bit was good, and could’ve been amazing if they hadn’t fucked everything else up.