In some cosmic way, ’Rebirth’ seems like the perfect fit for renowned artist and Vogue Singapore’s cover star CL. Having sunk deep into global stardom from a young age as part of 2NE1, Chaelin Lee—her real moniker—has inevitably had to take the time to find a balance between her much-assumed identity as the leader and rapper of the K-pop quartet and herself as an independent artist. And perhaps time was all she needed; for the musical versatility that her first full-length album Alpha offers is telling of her reaching into a new sound that breaks away from what many were expecting from her solo move.
One only needs to press play on tracks such as ‘5 Star’ and ‘Lover Like Me’ that shone the spotlight on her lilting vocals, swerving away from the typical trap sounds or commandeering rap verses she had commonly been associated with, as per her previous solo singles like ‘The Baddest Female’ and ‘Hello Bitches’. But even with these vocally-led moments, it’s an undeniable fact that the tour de force of CL’s package comes through the vivacious, self-assured energy that is often enacted via means of her powerful lyrics and titillating refrains.
But for her fans? Her ease, confidence and message of empowerment on-stage is one that clearly harks back to the days of CL’s time with 2NE1. The group had been iconic in their own right—for challenging the expectations of K-pop girl groups with their unapologetic style and fiery charisma. But of course, this translates best through their music and on-stage performances; one only needs to recall the jaw-dropping performance of the group’s undisputed banger ‘I Am The Best’ at Coachella earlier this year, where the girls brought the stage down amidst their teary reunion.
So when it comes to really understanding the musical calibre of Vogue Singapore’s cover star, it’s only standard for you to familiarise yourself with some of the music from the artist’s early days as part of the group. Below, we present to you a shortlist of the best hits of 2NE1—that truly set them apart from the rest. And to the Blackjacks out there, we say happy reminiscing.
‘Gotta Be You’
Ask any Blackjack and you’ll easily be met with a resounding agreement for the sheer, underrated quality of this track—nestled deep in their Crush album. If anything, the near four-minute song gives its other title tracks a run for their money considering how well it combines 2NE1’s addictive vocals and melodic rap verses with the urban-house music that only started gaining popularity later in the decade.
‘Come Back Home’
One might call this track a surprise package—for the journey it takes its listeners through upon the first play. From its mesmerising, trance-like tones at the beginning of the track to the clear reggae underpinnings of the song, this track was a perfect encapsulation of Bom’s sweet, airy vocals mired by CL’s suave energy.
With the girls mostly belting out powerful vocals when they’re on the stage, ‘Ugly’ came as a welcome surprise for its emotional and raw lyrics—albeit delivered in a rock-style chorus. Its main message of insecurity was one that related to many of their fans and was definitely a peek into a more honest side of the K-pop quartet.
‘I Love You’
A love song—true and true. Whilst CL’s opening line: “When you feel like there’s no way out/love is the only way” might point to the simple, romantic mood that the song seems to take, its otherwise riveting synth beats and titillating swerve at the song’s hook proves its true genius.
Their final song that took us all away—especially after knowing that this was supposedly dedicated to cherished member Minzy after her departure from the group—this track is a certified tearjerker for most Blackjacks. Delivered with a raw guitar riff, this touching ballad is one that will touch most hearts when you’re recalling an emotional parting with a loved one.
‘I Am The Best’
Without a doubt, you didn’t need to be a Blackjack to know this one. Known to have risen the charts at a phenomenal pace upon its release in 2011, this was also the first music video from the girls to hit 300 million views on Youtube at that time. With its recognisable intro that got just about anyone in the room grooving, this electric, synth-led track was a bonafide hit that sent the quartet into a whole new direction.