Review: 2NE1 bigger than Psy?

Posted at 12/08/12 1:47 PM

Korean group's New Evolution 2012 Global Tour closes in Singapore

SINGAPORE -- “Bigger than Psy.” At the height of the "Gangnam Style" craze, Forbes made this daring pronouncement in October, after K-Pop idol 2NE1 staged sold-out concerts in both the US East and West coasts as part of their 2012 New Evolution Global Tour — a groundbreaking endeavor that made them the first Korean girl group to embark on a world tour.

Photos from YG Entertainment 2NE1 Official Facebook Page

'While the comparison may be a tad awkward, the contention is probably based on the difference between who’s watching and who’s buying.

While Psy’s ubiquitous single gallops to nearly one billion views on YouTube, unofficial tallies show sales at between five to six million downloads worldwide; it is his biggest hit since entering the music industry 12 years ago.

On the other hand, 2NE1 has sold over 27 million digital downloads since their 2009 debut, including "I Am The Best," which moved 4.5 million units and propelled them to a “perfect all-kill” sweep on Korean and other Asian music charts. It was only one of several songs that hit No. 1 for the group that was named MTV Iggy’s “Best New Band in the World,” describing the girls as “an unparalleled presence in today’s K-Pop scene.”

Singapore showdown

If their unexpected showdown in Singapore last December 1 was any indication, then Forbes might not be all that audacious in their forecast. Their shows clashed head-on that Saturday evening, filling the harbor skies with exciting K-Pop fireworks.

Psy pranced and regaled an audience of 4,000 who flocked to see his free concert at the Marina Bay Sands, while 2NE1 rocked the Singapore Indoor Stadium with a full house of more than 8,000 screaming fans who shelled out over S$200 for tickets.

At the end of the day, however, there is really no competition between the two acts since everything is kept all in the family — the YG Family to be exact. Both Psy and 2E1 (as well as recent Manila visitor Big Bang) belong to the same management group, YG Entertainment, whose chairman Yang Hyun-suk has been officially named the richest man in South Korea’s entertainment industry today.

Final concert for 2012

The gig closed the year’s New Evolution Global Tour for 2NE1, which jumped off from Korea last July and clocked nine shows across Japan, the United States, Taiwan and Singapore. (Scheduled tour stops in Indonesia and Malaysia were cancelled due to “unresolved technical issues.”)

Photos from YG Entertainment 2NE1 Official Facebook Page

While most of the songs were remixed versions of their previous Nolza concert playlist, the fans (collectively known as Blackjacks), obviously did not mind. Among the new numbers were "Scream" and "I Love You," their biggest hit for 2012.

In a multi-colored maze of pyrotechnics and laser lights, the girls emerged perched high on moving platforms to the familiar chant “Naega Jeil Jal Naga” — the catchy refrain to their monster hit, "I Am the Best," and wasted no time in sending the audience into a frenzy by following up with the signature anthem "Fire."

Speaking in English, the girls revealed they were teary-eyed during rehearsals since it was their last concert for the year. But they quickly reverted to fierce mode, with group leader CL (Lee Chaerin) taunting the crowd, “Tonight I’m gonna give you all I’ve got… Are you ready to go crazy?” before breaking into "Clap Your Hands."

What followed was two-and-a-half hours of non-stop singing, dancing, bouncing and prancing, highlighted by outrageous costumes (created by acclaimed designer Jeremy Scott), giant inflatable props, conveyor belts, a dazzling video wall (which at one point, simulated a rollercoaster ride for CL and Minzy’s fun duet, "Please Don’t Go"), and two topless hunks parading inside a plastic bubble.

At various points throughout the evening, the stage was transformed into a club, a theme park, a sporting arena, and a psychedelic fantasy world where colors, sounds and energy explode.

25-song set list

Going through a set of 25 songs — including three encore numbers — one can only marvel how incredibly fit the girls have become as they performed back-to-back dance tunes to vigorous choreography, courtesy of Emmy-nominated director and choreographer Travis Payne who sat at the helm of this tour.

Known for their trendsetting moves, the foursome proved to be unstoppable dynamos that kept the crowd on their feet as they set the stage on fire, with 18-year-old Minzy (Gong Minji) throwing in a couple of cartwheels at the peak of an adrenalin overload. Discovered while barely out of her teens and the “baby” of the group, Minzy is also their hottest dancer who never fails to amaze with her effortless, funky moves.

Not surprisingly, down time was dominated by resident belter Bom (Park Bom), who serenaded the crowd with her solo hits "Please Don’t Cry" and "You and I." Known for her strong and wide-ranged vocals, the US-educated Bom was enrolled at the Berklee College of Music when she decided to jump into the hallyu (Korean wave) bandwagon. It is also her voice that resonates in most of the memorable hooks and refrains of 2NE1’s music.

Sandara goes sexy

Darling of the crowd and consistently favored by the cameras, former Kapamilya star Dara (Sandara Park) is known to bring sugar and spice sweetness to every number. However, she took a sharp detour when she made a brazen announcement before her solo spot, "Kiss."

Photos from YG Entertainment 2NE1 Official Facebook Page

Throwing off her baggy jacket to reveal a tight cheerleading outfit, she teasingly remarked: “You already know what’s gonna happen next… I’m gonna be sexy tonight and I will pick out one guy from the audience… Since it’s the last time I’m doing this, shall I kiss him on the cheeks or on the lips?”

A collective howl broke out as she pointed to the lucky boy who was brought onstage. Towards the end of her song, she sat on his lap, nuzzled his ear and finally planted a light peck on his cheek before making a playful exit to the cheers of a thrilled audience.

Not to be outdone was leader CL, whose golden tresses flew across the stage all night long. While known for her singing and rapping skills, she has also shown undeniable swagger and force in her dance moves, earning her the moniker “the baddest female” in K-Pop.

Acknowledged by other members as the nerve center of 2NE1, she sets the pace and everyone follows. Bold, brash and sassy, she is also the most fashion-forward in the group, constantly experimenting with new looks and style concepts. (CL was also responsible for convincing Dara to shave the left side of her head, by far the most daring in her famous array of crazy hairstyles.)

Joining the world-class New Evolution crew were musical director Divinity Roxx (a bassist for the all-female band of Beyonce), keyboardist Dani Ivory, guitarist Sharon Aguilar, drummer Manuals Wallace and music engineer Eric Racy, who have all clocked touring time and recording sessions with some of the biggest names in the American popular music scene.

Before their final song, the girls gamely sat by the edge of the stage to have their picture taken with the jampacked crowd. A souvenir shot, they said, of their last show for 2012.

Then for their bonus encore, they made the fans choose which song they would like to hear again, to which the overwhelming response was "I Love You." And with this reprise, they waved a jubilant yet tearful goodbye.