The New Queens: Successors to 2NE1 in the K-pop World

You guys have probably seen that I post about K-pop from time to time; to briefly recount my love affair with this genre, I started listening around 2012, even though I don’t speak Korean, partly because it was way more accessible than J-pop on streaming platforms, and many K-pop groups release Japanese music anyways.  I was immediately drawn to 2NE1 (pronounced more like “21”), a charismatic group of four girls from a label known for hip hop and rappers. Their music and fashion have huge Western influence; their style is neither too cute nor too sexy, but instead a powerful, confident vibe known as “girl crush.” 

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CL, Dara, Minzy, and Bom of 2NE1 in 2012 (Mirza.A.H [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])
You can check out some of their music videos in my previous posts about them from my K-pop 101 series:

  1. Surface Pro 3 Says 내가 제일 잘 나가 (I am the Best)
  2. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Clap Your Hands”
  3. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Hate You”
  4. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Do You Love Me”
  5. K-pop MVs (Star Wars Special): 2NE1’s “Follow Me”

Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 2016, and while the members are pursuing solo careers, the loss of 2NE1 has left a hole in the K-pop industry as well as in the hearts of all their fans, called Blackjacks.  In the years since, many new groups have stepped forward, and while no one will ever replace 2NE1, there are three groups in particular I think are doing a great job picking up and carrying their mantle.

1. Blackpink

This group is the most obvious, direct successor to 2NE1.  They were put together by the same label, YG Entertainment, to debut in the same year that 2NE1 disbanded.  The two groups even share a producer, Teddy Park. Blackpink also has a girl crush vibe, with a similar Western influence in their music (both groups have fluent English speakers).  However, they are not quite as avant garde in their fashion and visuals, or as experimental in their music, sticking with more of a straight pop feel.  

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Blackpink performing in 2017 (RAS 99 [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])

On stage, both groups have a similar lively energy, but Blackpink focuses more on choreography over live vocals, typically using head mics to allow for more intricate dancing.  They are very polished, consistent performers.

When I started listening to Blackpink, I quickly realized that YG copied the successful group composition formula of 2NE1 by bringing together four girls each with a different specialty.  The vocal/rapper/dancer/visual combo works very well for both groups, allowing each member to shine in her own way.

2. Mamamoo

On paper, Mamamoo and 2NE1 don’t have much in common, except each being composed of 4 women.  Mamamoo consists of three powerhouse vocals and an unconventional rapper, and their most famous songs have a jazzy feel.  However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see why so many Blackjacks are also “Moomoos:” it’s all in the attitude.

Like 2NE1 before them, Mamamoo is renowned for their stage presence and live performances.  They recently won the girl group reality competition show Queendom (where Park Bom of 2NE1 was also participating).  Their live vocals are the some of the best in K-pop, and like 2NE1 they typically use hand mics. They frequently change little bits of their choreography or lyrics, doing some ad libs or shout outs to fans that make each performance different and compelling.

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Mamamoo in 2019 (NewsInStar [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])
Although they don’t come from a hip hop background like 2NE1, Mamamoo can successfully pull off a number of styles, both lyrical ballads and energetic numbers.  Recently they have been switching it up even more, with some straight rap and pop dance songs.

Perhaps most importantly, the girls follow in 2NE1’s footsteps by challenging cultural ideals of beauty and feminine behavior, especially Moonbyul with her androgenous style and Hwasa who has been criticized for her looks and fashion.  From a country like South Korea where idol culture and plastic surgery are ubiquitous, the body positivity in their songs and presentation is very refreshing and affirming.

It also helps that the members of Mamamoo are themselves fans of 2NE1.  Lead vocalist Wheein was very excited to collaborate with Park Bom on her single “4:44,” and you can see some moments of Mamamoo fangirling on Queendom as well.

3. (G)-Idle

This is the youngest group on my list: they were rookies last year but have already taken the K-pop world by storm, and this year really cemented their status as a spiritual successor to 2NE1.

Pronounced “Idle” (the G is silent), this group contains six young women, including members from China and Thailand, which probably enhances their international appeal.  They are from Cube Entertainment, the label that launched Hyuna and her girl crush group 4Minute, though their main singer Miyeon trained at YG with the girls from Blackpink.

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(G)I-dle performing in 2019 (PlayIN [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])
I fell in love right away with (G)-Idle’s version of the girl crush concept, and this year they’ve expanded to include Latin influences and American hip hop in their music.  They also participated in Queendom, putting their own spin on 2NE1’s debut song by covering “Fire.” While their style is not avant garde, they are definitely trendy in the same way as Blackpink and use fashion purposefully.

(G)-Idle is led by rapper Soyeon, whose incredible stage presence brings to mind 2NE1’s leader CL, a legendary performer.  Soyeon has the same huge charisma, plus she’s the best female idol rapper of her generation (not to mention she produces the group’s songs).  She’s already been featured in two League of Legends promotional songs with Western artists (once with Miyeon), and I can really see her going far in the industry and even having appeal in the US.  One more cute touch: she uses a bright yellow hand mic in performances, bringing to mind the colored mics still used by 2NE1’s members.

K-pop MVs (Star Wars Special): 2NE1’s “Follow Me”

We’re finishing out this series with my favorites 2NE1…and a surprising Star Wars cameo!

This is a typical crazy K-pop video, featuring motorcycles, fun dancing, and questionable sartorial decisions (including copious amounts of colored animal print??).

But then at 1:43…we get “Dara Vader” and her stormtroopers (later revealed to be Minzy and CL).  The first time I saw this, I was like WAIT WUT.  2NE1 and Star Wars together…so random, so awesome.

After watching it a few more times, I noticed that at the end of the video (around 2:55), they are all wearing Star Wars baseball caps!  I noticed Minzy’s R2-D2 one first; also, Bom has the stormtrooper, CL has Darth Vader, and Dara has C-3PO.  These hats were sold at the time of the video (2010) by New Era in Japan.  I would have loved to have one!

The members (in the order they start singing):

  • CL (0:02)—leader, main rapper, lead vocalist
  • Bom (0:44)—main vocalist
  • Dara (0:50)—visual, vocalist
  • Minzy (0:55)—main dancer, lead vocalist, lead rapper, maknae

“Main” is ranked higher than “lead” in these positions.  CL is actually not the oldest but simply has the personality to be the leader.  The “maknae” is the baby of the group.  The visual is basically the most attractive member who does promotional activities.

More from 2NE1:

Also check out EXO’s Star Wars collaboration video “Lightsaber”

K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Do You Love Me”

I though this video was stupid at first, but once I became a fan of 2NE1 I really started to appreciate it.  It was shot by the group members themselves, a unique concept for an MV.

I love how the girls’ personalities come across in this video.  I highly suspect there may have been some alcohol involved at points, haha.  My favorite part is around 1:53, when Dara’s doing bicycle legs on the windowsill and CL shakes her head and makes her get down.

Also great: Bom’s surprise kiss at 2:30 and CL covering up Minzy’s booty popping at the end.

There’s also a bunch of celebrity cameos, including Dara’s brother Thunder, rapper Dok2, and comedian Noh Hong-chul, better known as the Elevator Guy from “Gangnam Style.”

This MV doesn’t show much of the choreography, but a practice video was also released–and they’re actually singing live in their dance practice!

The members (in the order they start singing):

  • CL (0:16)—leader, main rapper, lead vocalist
  • Bom (0:31 and 1:16)—main vocalist
  • Dara (0:47)—visual, vocalist
  • Minzy (1:01)—main dancer, lead vocalist, lead rapper, maknae

“Main” is ranked higher than “lead” in these positions.  CL is actually not the oldest but simply has the personality to be the leader.  The “maknae” is the baby of the group.  The visual is basically the most attractive member who does promotional activities.

More from 2NE1:

K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Hate You”

We’re back with 2NE1, my favorite K-pop group, for this animated music video.  If you like anime, you should check this one out!

The girls have been transformed into their animated selves as seen on the cover of their second mini album.

2ne1 hate you

I like the MV’s story of the girls’ bounty hunter team trying to capture the terrorist bomber guy (who kinda looks like a character from Death Note…).  It has some fun action, and manages to show their personalities as well, with their choice of weapons, etc.  And the animation is really cool!

The members:

  • Minzy (short black hair)—main dancer, lead vocalist, lead rapper, maknae
  • Dara (long brown hair)—visual, vocalist
  • CL (blonde)—leader, main rapper, lead vocalist
  • Bom (red hair)—main vocalist

“Main” is ranked higher than “lead” in these positions.  CL is actually not the oldest but simply has the personality to be the leader.  The “maknae” is the baby of the group.  The visual is basically the most attractive member who does promotional activities.

When I first heard this song, I couldn’t tell their voices apart, so if you are curious:

  • 1st verse: Minzy
  • 2nd verse: Dara
  • Pre-chorus: Bom
  • Chorus (the “hate you” part): CL

More from 2NE1:

Like many K-pop groups, these girls also have English and Japanese singles:

K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Clap Your Hands”

2NE1 is my favorite K-pop group bar none.  You’ve seen me feature them before in my post about the Surface Pro 3 commercial; “I Am the Best” is their most famous song and one of the best K-pop videos of all time.  Here’s another from them:

This song/video leans a little toward hip-hop.  The choreography, especially the ways they use the bench in each set, is top notch.  Speaking of sets, the video opens in an alleyway that looks like the one from their debut Fire (Street version) video.

This video also does a great job of cutting back and forth between group shots and close-ups of the current singer.  The clothes, sets, etc. all provide great visual interest, and the different sets contrast well with each other.  I always liked that you can tell who’s who easily in this video because they don’t keep changing hair colors throughout!

The members (in the order they start singing):

  • Minzy (0:18)—main dancer, lead vocalist, lead rapper, maknae
  • Dara (0:23)—visual, vocalist
  • CL (0:32)—leader, main rapper, lead vocalist
  • Bom (1:00)—main vocalist

“Main” is ranked higher than “lead” in these positions.  CL is actually not the oldest but simply has the personality to be the leader.  The “maknae” is the baby of the group.  The visual is basically the most attractive member who does promotional activities.

More things I love about this video:

  • Dara is not the group’s strongest singer, so this is one of the few songs where she’s really highlighted, and she pretty much kills it.
  • Raps from both Minzy and CL, who is one of the best female rappers in K-pop.
  • Everybody looks great! No complaints about the hair/makeup/sartorial choices.

 More from 2NE1: