If you have even the slightest interest in K-pop (Korean pop music), you’ll be familiar with 2NE1. Of the many brilliant girlbands from Korea, 2NE1 are the most accessible for Western music fans. My favourite of their songs is the super-catchy and brilliantly egotistical I Am the Best, which was used in a 2014 Microsoft advert.
Throughout 2NE1’s career, lead singer/rapper CL has recorded solo songs (most notably 2013’s The Baddest Female), and featured on tracks by other K-pop artists such as G-Dragon. In 2014, following his success with PSY, it was announced that pop svengali Scooter Braun had signed CL as a management client, with a view to launching her in the US in 2015. This year, CL appeared on tracks by Diplo and Skrillex (and PSY – but I’m choosing to ignore that!), and released an impressive dance video for her free download single Hello Bitches, choreographed by the team behind Justin Bieber’s Sorry. The scene has been set for a serious attempt at worldwide success in 2016.
As I wrote in my Future Pop post on CL a few weeks ago, I think she has a chance of achieving the long-term pop career in the English-speaking markets which has so far eluded all Asian pop artists. To do this, she needs to be positioned as a contemporary to Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, not a novelty act or niche curiosity. Scooter has the necessary connections and experience, and a better chance than anyone of pulling it off, but history has shown it will be no easy feat. K-pop acts may be able to sell out arenas in the UK, but they remain virtually unknown outside of their fanbases. I’d like to believe that Americans and Brits are ready to accept artists from different cultures, but recent news stories have shown we can’t underestimate the xenophobia and racism still prevalent in these countries. If CL does achieve the mainstream success she deserves, it will be a triumph for all Asian artists, and a clear statement to the music industry that difference can sell.
Click here to find out more about This Must Be Pop’s Stars of 2016 and come back on 18th December to vote for the artists you think, and hope, will be the biggest stars of 2016. The results will be announced in the Future Pop mailer on 4th January.