Continued From Part 2
The quality of the back-up dancers was outstanding, both male and female. It seems YG puts in almost as much resources in its stars as its back-up dancers. The dancers seem to pretty much be of pop star or pop idol quality. It’s beginning to be clear why YG holds so many talent search and auditions. They are probably not just looking for future pop stars but are also looking for quality back-up dancers. These dancers may very well be the trainees who didn’t get selected to form a pop group. Interestingly, since the founder of YG Entertainment himself started out as a back-up dancer he must have a healthy respect for back-up dancers. And that’s probably why they are of such top quality.
The other remarkable aspect of the concert came as a total surprise. Not long into the concert discerning listeners would have quickly noticed the rawness of the drumbeats and the lively rhythm of the music. Well, right smack in the middle of the stage was a live band! Unlike most recent K-pop concerts in the U.S., 2NE1 was performing to a live band. The inclusion of the live band rather than using tracks was outstanding. It’s like drinking freshly squeezed orange juice, instead of “from concentrate” that was frozen half a world away. Moreover, nothing compares to the responsiveness a live band can provide to match the pulse of audience.
An amazing moment occurred close to the end of the concert, which electrified the crowd. 2NE1 seemed to have taken a scheduled or unscheduled breather, and the crowd started getting antsy. At this the drummer hit up a beat “dum-dum-ka”, slowly at first, and then gradually picking up the pace. The pretty savy fans quickly caught on and started chanting to the beats, “twen-ty-one”. Suddenly the whole arena was blazing in the drum-led chant. The drummer picked up the tempo to a rapid pace, and as they say “the crowd went wild”. Planned or unplanned it was epic.
The 2NE1 band was made up of the musical director and bass player Divinity Roxx who has toured withBeyonce. Divinity then hired Manuels Wallace on the drums from The Gorillaz, Danii Ivory on the keyboard who Divinity hired from Cee Lo Green’s band, and finally the guitarist Sharon Aguilar also hired from Cee Lo Green’s band. It was not a large band, which is pretty amazing, and the skill level and nimbleness of the band members is unmatched. This talented quartet came together because of Travis Payne, who used to be the choreographer for Michael Jackson and has worked with other reputable pop stars. He was hired to be the co-director for the 2NE1 New Evolution World Tour. It turns out that the same lady that manages Travis Payne also knows Divinity Roxx and then hired her to be the musical director for the tour. It pays to network, folks.
No one has had more influence over the music of 2NE1 than Teddy Park. Teddy Park, a former K-pop star in the defunct group 1TYM that was signed to YG Entertainment, produced the very first song that propelled 2NE1 to stardom at their debut called “Lollipop”. “Lollipop” was a collaboration between 2NE1 and Big Bang.Big Bang is the boy band equivalent of 2NE1 under YG Entertainment. Teddy Park, who turned down a production offer with Lady Gaga, then went on to produce the entire first 2NE1 extended play album titled 2NE1, which includes songs like “Fire” and “I Don’t Care”. Teddy’s prolific talent continued to be widely utilized for 2NE1 in their first full-length album, To Anyone. He produced and wrote more than 75 percent of the songs and lyrics in the album, including “Can’t Nobody”. His influential style involves heavy hip-hop style beats, contemporary R&B rhythms, as well as reggae pulses and sounds like “Prrrraaaa!”
It’s probably worth it for a moment to compare 2NE1 to other popular K-pop groups. Although, their were some die-hard 2NE1 in the crowd, when asked how they compared 2NE1 to Girls Generations most did not and could not put one over the other. They felt that each girl group had their own unique style and pretty much could not be juxtaposed. Essentially, comparing Girls Generation to 2NE1 is like comparing apples to oranges. Finally, when asked if both where performing on the same day which event would they attend, only one fan definitely answered all the others that were asked fell silent, truly stumped by the question. After all, which girl or woman would choose being cool as in 2NE1, and forego being cute as in Girls Generation. Come to think of it, no one ever refers to 2NE1 as princesses!
In further comparing 2NE1 with other Korean-pop power houses like TVXQ and Super Junior who have a more structured style that reflects more of Korean or Asian culture. 2NE1 blends the Asian structural way of doing things with the more western freestyle attitude. It is this blend done so effectively that may prove to be more successful in breaching the American music scene. It is not hard to foresee a time in the near future when 2NE1 may be invited to and nominated in an American music award show like MTV awards or even BET, especially if the work they are doing with Will.i.am bears much fruit.
Finally, why is K-pop growing in popularity in the western hemisphere, after having conquered the other half of the globe? According to Divinity Roxx, when she was talking about taking on the 2NE1 job even before meeting the members of 2NE1, she said “their songs are fun!” Ultimately, as long as K-pop stays fun and doesn’t become overly sexual, violent, and well… political, K-pop will continue to grow in popularity globally.