002. I AM THE BEST // 2NE1


We began last time by discussing Girls’ Generation’s 2009 epoch “Gee,” one of the most influential and immaculate recordings in Korean pop history. But it wouldn’t take long for competing girl group 2NE1 to advance an alternative every bit as exquisite.

It’s important first to note the divergent philosophies of the companies that made them. 1 In Korea, record labels are typically also talent agencies, production houses, management teams, brand strategists, and dormitories at the least, if not film production firms, publishing divisions, tourist traps, and amusement parks to boot. SM Entertainment is probably the most genre-omnivorous agency in Asia, but their digest is always predominantly pop 2 One (glorious) exception. – a fact perhaps most cleanly distilled in “Gee,” their flagship girl group’s signature song. YG Entertainment, founded a year after SM in 1996, is a pop powerhouse as well, but one that in sound and image has typically reflected the hip-hop preferences of its CEO, Yang Hyun-suk. It’s only recently, as of 2014, that they’ve begun releasing music without hip-hop as an active ingredient.

Now the most internationally successful (straight-faced) act Korea has produced to date, 2NE1 arrived in 2009, during just the earliest months of “Gee’s” long shadow. 3 Evidently, they were first mentioned in the South Korean press in 2004 – a testament to the endless conceptualization and star training timelines that go into most K-pop debuts. After previewing their skills in a technicolor collaboration with established labelmates Big Bang in March, 4 For a song and video funded by and in promotion of LG for the corporation’s new Cyon phone; this type of branded content is known in Korea as a “CF,” or “commercial feature,” sometimes involving a full-fledged single that is sold and promoted live like any other. the girls ramped into their standalone debut with breakout hit “Fire” in May.

Few K-pop groups arrive fully formed, however, and it wasn’t until 2011’s “I Am The Best (내가 제일 잘 나가)” that 2NE1 really channeled their aesthetic into a song capable of rewriting Korean music history. By all domestic standards, the song was a smash: it sold 3.5 million digital copies in half a year, 5 Amazingly, still less than two other songs from the same EP: “Don’t Cry” and “Lonely.” took home Song of the Year at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, and helped 2011’s 2NE1 win the Best Album award at the MelOn Music Awards despite being just six tracks in length. Most remarkably, in 2014, the song enjoyed a second life in the west after Microsoft used its all-Korean chorus for their biggest (English) ad campaign of the year, helping it top Billboard’s World Digital Songs chart and gain the most significant FM airplay a K-pop single’s ever earned in the United States – despite not being officially released to the airplay market. 6 That October, the song passed the 100 million mark on YouTube, making it only the 8th Korean song to do so, and 2NE1 only the second Korean girl group in that small club – the first being Girls’ Generation, with three entries and a fourth on the way. In the three years between, “I Am The Best” ignited an international media firestorm for 2NE1 that must by now tally the largest wordcount and photo album ever accrued outside of Asia by a Korean act.

As now seems to be the case only for avant-garde rap stylists like Young Thug and Rae Sremmurd in the American and British markets, 7 And, we might add, British house pop from the likes of Disclosure and Clean Bandit, whose big hits aren’t too strange but are certainly sophisticated (on which terms, sure, “Uptown Funk” might also qualify). Asian charts frequently reward eccentricity, and “I Am The Best” owes much of its success to its ingenuity. It is, without question, the strangest and most ambitious song 2NE1 had released to that point. 8 A personal record they wouldn’t best until 2013’s orphaned single “그리워해요 (Missing You),” which we will pay a visit in the future. Though it begins with a gesture clear in both genre and intent – a lone synth bass pendulum, like spotlight strafing across a dark dancefloor – “Best” surprises throughout, with a number of twists and turns packed into its deceptively complicated structure.

The key to understanding how “I Am The Best” operates can be found in its harmonic approach. Though K-pop is full of songs that make inspired use of key changes, YG’s lead in-house producer/songwriter Teddy here achieves a wide variety of moods and meaning without changing so much as a single chord. “I Am The Best” is firmly planted on C, but it’s a dexterous alternation (and juxtaposition) of modes that allows the song to stickshift through its jagged structure smoother than baby cheeks through a Korean 13-step skincare routine. Consider the following a gratuitously intimidating timeline of the song as a whole, which will nevertheless help us understand how “I Am The Best” works musically, metaphorically, and – dare we daresay – culturally (!).

iamthebest_croppedtimeline

bestheader-synth
In the first eight seconds, we get the synthline that is the song’s central figure. It’s a tricky one: doused in glissando, it’s constantly sliding between pitches, and never really “hits” any one specific note. This slithering quality is what makes it so versatile, and allows the loop to lurk throughout the song’s many modal shifts without ever sounding garbagesque. Though the line is musically ambiguous, its general arc can best be understood as being C Phrygian, which is a mode that has a relatively dark, minor feel to it, without technically being minor per se. You can hear the scale of this mode as well as the basic outline of the synth in the audio clip below, which will be the format for all of the audio deconstructions in this post (parsed and notated by the inimitable Scott Interrante, as usual).

i am the best - synth

The important takeaway here is that this line’s Phrygianness is what provides its tension and darkness, which immediately announces a more menacing attitude than we typically hear at the top of Korea’s charts. It’s also interesting to bear in mind that even when more elements enter the arrangement and this synthline sidechains 9 Sidechain compression is a production technique a little more involved than we have time to discuss, but those interested can get acquainted here. It’s all over modern dance and pop music. and chops itself up a bit, the pitches emphasized in the line are still recognizably Phrygian. So although we’ll only bother mentioning it once more in this analysis, it’s interesting to keep in mind that throughout all these modal shifts, the song is using this synthline to juxtapose a different mode against it. Impressively, it works every time.

bestheader-firstchorus
After four bars, CL enters with the titular hook – “내가 제일 잘 나가” – and we’re in chorus territory. Except it doesn’t feel like it: the arrangement is still spare, adding only a four-on-the-floor kick drum and gradual filter sweep. It feels like a build; we’re still in the song’s introduction. The chorus will come around again, of course, but in a different arrangement – so we’ll call this unusual build-refrain ChorusA.

bestheader-postchorusa

i am the best - chorus1

Oddly, it’s the first time we hear the post-chorus – before any verse at all, rare even in songs that open with a chorus – that it feels like we’ve arrived somewhere. On first listen, you’d most likely guess at this point that this post-chorus is in fact the chorus itself: beneath a barrage of universally rhythmic syllables, 10 The “bi!” pickup that jumpstarts every line, granted, sounds so much like “bitch” to an English-native ear that Microsoft in fact had YG scrub it from their edit to be safe. I’d venture that in the original this misprision was a deliberate bit of cross-lingual wordplay on Teddy and/or 2NE1’s part: as we are about to discuss, “I Am The Best” is a song that is very playful and self-aware in its studied adoption of more western pop attitudes. the dancehall snares and added bass deliver the momentum promised in ChorusA. And like ChorusA, the next time this post-chorus comes around it’ll be markedly different, so we’ll call this one Post-ChorusA to be clear.

Lyrically, most transcriptions have asserted that CL’s wordless hook here is actually onomatopoeia for the sound of a machinegun: “Bam, ratatatata / tatatatata.” This interpretation seems well-founded, especially given that later in the music video these lines soundtrack the image of the 2NE1 girls…well, firing machineguns. So even in the song’s wordless lyrics, “I Am The Best” asserts the militant independence of its singer-heroines. 11 This technique is similar to the implied wordplay of Brit-Sri Lankan M.I.A’s 2007 hit “Paper Planes,” whose enduring international resonance seems not to have been lost on Yang Hyun-suk and Teddy as they were designing and refining the sound of early 2NE1.

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i am the best - verse1maj

We’re cruising full sail by the time Bom comes around, but barely 40 seconds deep “I Am The Best” arcs its widest curveball yet: we’re suddenly C Major! Unlike the Phrygian’s minor feel, Major tends to be happy vibes and sunshine. As you can hear above, we get that from Bom’s melody line and the cheerful little interjections of the farfisa organ. There’s still a swagger to it, but the menace of the initial synthline is all but gone (even as that synthline continues to orbit in the background!). The change does much to defang the song’s earlier menace, even as Bom struts her stuff. When Dara grabs the baton at 0:55, we shift again to C Major Pentatonic, which basically means the C Major scale with a couple of the notes knocked out – so, even simpler and cheerier. In fact, although Dara threatens “I jump on top of the table you’re sitting at / I don’t care,” the sing-songy melody she delivers it in is practically a chipper schoolgirl’s chant. 12 I think it actually is quoting a classic schoolyard tune – do tweet or comment if you can identify it. When CL reappears at 1:02, it sounds like we’re more in C Mixolydian, which is basically back to regular Major, 13 But with a lowered 7th scale degree, if we’re finicking. and still feels charming even as CL dons a straightjacket and asks someone to spare a little help.

i am the best - verse1pent
This moment best encapsulates the cross-cultural fine line 2NE1 has been balancing since day one. It’s the central paradox of K-pop’s global aspiration: the industry’s western influences (and market pursuits) lead to wholesale appropriation of western pop tropes and gestures, while producing acts that nevertheless live primarily in an Asian (foremost Korean) social context. So although 2NE1 is inspired by and assumes the stylistic and cultural postures of a specifically (black) American expression (and experience), they have to safely operate within the Korean entertainment complex in order to secure their longevity. 14 Girl groups in particular face a lot of scrutiny in Korea, and sometimes suffer major career fallout over what appears to be little more than witch hunts. While in America the public tends to romanticize the musician’s or actor’s free-spirited lifestyle (and, in a rock’n’roll or hip-hop sense, a cyclical arrogance both powered by and prerequisite to fame), in Korea there is an understanding that a star should never forget how entertainment is a service industry: there is a regular routine of literal “fan service,” and its corollaries, that any idol must observe in order to maintain and expand their reputation with the public. One such obligation, especially for (but not at all limited to) female celebrities, is aegyo: an infantilizing affectation for which the dutiful star assumes a high-pitched child’s voice, and makes cutesy faces for the general amusement and cockle-warming of all. 15 As Hyeri from Girl’s Day demonstrated last year, a convincing (preferably all-natural!) bit of aegyo can in fact elevate a group’s popularity from one tier of stardom to another. In other words, it’s the exact opposite of the intent behind a group like 2NE1, who frequently express in both domestic and international media their desire to “break the [stereotypical] image of the Asian woman” as being “shy” or “submissive.” And yet, the demand for something like aegyo is so overwhelming in Korea that even the girls of 2NE1 have complied, as can be seen in their original televised launchpad 2NE1 TV (which, with its subtitle and opening sequence seen here, demonstrates K-pop’s ever-present “worldwide” ambition despite such specifically Korean concessions).

This first verse, then, is a distinctly Korean trope: it’s very K-pop to establish a prevailing mood-feel for a song and then change gears barely half a minute later, and all the moreso when done to interject a neutralizing dose of aegyo. As has been obvious since the song’s placement in one of the biggest western ad campaigns of 2014 and accidental breach of American FM radio, the opening salvo of “I Am The Best” is some of the most America-ready K-pop ever made, and the hip-hop inflections of the music and video are crucial to that quality. But if the whole song had been like that, it probably wouldn’t have sold some 4 million copies in Korea. It makes a lot of sense in most Asian music markets, when striking a pose as threatening as four impeccably styled future-women cathartically reaming off machinegun cartridges, to make sure you also save room for your cute side. Watching Dara deliver her lines here at 0:55 in the video makes this point abundantly clear, but it’s an obvious feature of the music itself.

Tellingly, the Microsoft ad excerpt cuts right before the verse (which complicates the vibe of the song in a way American audiences haven’t had to process much since “Bohemian Rhapsody”), while CL’s solo career wound down in Korea after just one song in 2013, since the very idea of being “The Baddest Female” doesn’t have much market or social value here (and, tellingly again, CL is now shifting her focus to America, where she finds plenty of precedence in everyone from Aretha Franklin to Charli XCX). 16 This is true, in various ways, throughout much of east Asia: this recent article on the ostracized “third gender” that is the female PhD candidate in China is a worthy read. The transition from the first 40 seconds of “I Am The Best” to the next 40 seconds of “I Am The Best” is the single best expression of this fundamentally K-pop paradox we’ve encountered – a particularly concise case study in the long pantheon of Asian pop culture’s simultaneous reverence and revulsion toward its western inspiration. (And great music, at that.)

bestheader-prechorus
Minzy grabs the baton at 1:10, and for a moment just about everything else falls away: her lines are rapped, the drums take a breather, and only a pitched-shifted tom hit adds any kind of musical content at all. The song’s modal center becomes a bit ambiguous, which seems deliberate. Our protagonist, the Phrygian synth loop, continues to do its thing, but in thoroughly filtered, deep-background form – like the arrangement is airing out some vapor of C Phrygian before reviving it altogether. Teddy seems to be aware that jumping right back into the real deal without warning might be a bit jarring, after the past minute of various Majorness.

bestheader-chorusb

chorusb

At 1:24, we finally get a chorus that feels like a chorus. 17 Ever since my first real K-pop experience, After School’s “Shampoo,” I’ve respected how K-pop understands the power of making you wait for it. Unlike ChorusA, this isn’t a build, but pure release. ChorusB, as we’ll call it, effuses percussive detail, and sneers with the additional affront of some brick-thick synth riffs (heard above), in a clear return to sinister C Phrygian . It’s almost like the song getting back at us for having had to smile and bow a bit during the verse – or maybe that was all just a feint, to make this chorus slap that much harder?

bestheader-secondverse
In any event, we’re soon back to those gestures. (Note, weirdly enough, that while ChorusA cued us to expect a post-chorus, ChorusB doesn’t give us one and goes straight to the next verse – all part of the song’s masterplan.) At 1:40, Minzy brings us back to C Major, Bom shows us into C Major Pentatonic at 1:55, and Dara wraps things up at 2:02 with what we don’t feel uncomfortable calling C Myxolidian – all in the same amiable sequence as the first verse. 18 Fun to note, as a little easter egg in the song’s structure, that the timecodes of all these events happen exactly a minute after the first go around: 0:40 to 1:40, 0:55 to 1:55, 1:02 to 2:02. True also of the other sections: the first pre-chorus occurs at 1:10 with the second at 2:10, and the first ChorusB occurs at 1:24 while the second will at 2:24. Meaningless in one sense, but then also something most pop songs don’t do, and a neat way to sublimate the careful thought that went into “Best’s” pacing. But while the girls brag about how fine and socially exceptional they are, the Major feel of the music and the video’s depictions of its stars do much to temper this more western brand of arrogance. Minzy showcases an exactingly executed choreography (a feature of K-pop as crucial to most singles as is the music, and one that certainly imposes a traditional top-down power structure that places both the corporate manager and general audience above the performer), Bom counterposes her dismissal with preening gestures not far removed from aegyo, and Dara goes all the way with the mixed message by nervously twiddling her fingers and making cutesy faces while she threatens to dump a lame duck boyfriend. Of course, these scenes each have an inverse interpretation more in line with the song’s broader message: while Minzy brags about her body she’s physically demonstrating her own control and agency over it, Bom’s preening demonstrates exactly why everyone stares at her all day, and Dara’s gestures serve to mock and emasculate the guy she’s dissing as much as to entertain the audience she’s courting. But this duality of meaning is exactly in the spirit of 2NE1’s nimble advances toward both the Korean and international markets, and the semiotic flexibility needed to circumvent the contradictions of that double identity.

(As for the girls’ personal preference between the two, the rest of the song is about to make that quite clear.)

bestheader-prechorus
The same as the first go around, but with CL rapping instead of Minzy. Along with a few prior “alrights” and a monosyllabic bit of wordplay we’ll hear in the bridge, as well as Dara’s first verse nod to 2009 hit “I Don’t Care,” CL’s “billion dollar baby” quip here is the only English in this song. (And, awesomely, none of which appears in Microsoft’s ad.)

bestheader-chorusb
Both visually and musically, we’re miles beyond any aegyo considerations here: we’re back in the the full ChorusB bluster of C Phrygian, and now the girls are using their cameratime to gnash their grills and smash up a platinum hall of fame with a heavy bat. Musically, nothing has changed about the chorus since its last appearance (hence we’re still referring to its arrangement as ChorusB), but the song’s biggest surprise is yet to come.

bestheader-bridge
Once again, our expectation of the post-chorus – such a strong hook that, on first go around, it actually sounded like the chorus itself – is denied. Instead, we get a new section and mode altogether: the C Phrygian Dominant bridge. Phrygian Dominant is very close to if not interchangeable with modes found in traditional gypsy flamenco, Klezmer music and Hebrew prayer (where we hear the closely related Freygish scale), North and South indian classical (Basant mukhari and Vakulbharanam, respectively), and a variety of Turkish, Egyptian, and Arabic forms. This shift comes per the addition of a dramatic synth-string part, which emphasizes a bit of that Middle Eastern feel that we began to hear in moments of the “tatata” line in the post-chorus. And once the beat re-enters, it’s now augmented by fills on what sounds like West African hand drums, a detail the video apocryphally envisions as some kind of blindfolded, synchronized ritual (with Illuminati undertones, why not). The imaginary Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in each of these parts combine to give “I Am The Best” a pointedly exoticized feeling: western listeners might hear that quality as being east Asian, and for east Asian listeners it might scan in the general western cultural catch-all of “hip-hop,” but what’s really at work here is more Middle Eastern and African (at least in the reductive senses we, as outsiders, tend to reference and appropriate these sounds).

best-bridge
I recall here that in 2009 a lot of the glowing press around Lady GaGa’s (fantastic) “Bad Romance” focused on the song’s wild abundance of hooks, which seems to be the standard “Best” is trying to beat. 19 2NE1 seems to have taken several cues from GaGa by 2011: both “Bad Romance” and “I Am The Best” are towering epics that overflow with hooks, bilinguality, kaleidoscopic appropriation, and a crucial non-chorus that winds up being the most memorable part of its song in large part because it’s onomatopoetic nonsense. And as with M.I.A, the effortlessly global success of GaGa’s brand of cool in the late ‘00s was at once mainstream and hip – it’s beyond unlikely that she wasn’t a source of inspiration in the YG war room at the time. Here, in the bridge, we get another vocal hook all its own, best understood for our purposes in romanized Hangul: “Nuga naega naboda jeil jal naga? / No, no, no, no / Na, na, na, na.” There’s a syncopated jeer to it that’s effective in context, but what’s really special here is the bilingual wordplay. In the first line CL is asking, “Who is better than me?” She then replies to a presumptuous contender, first in English – “no, no, no, no” – and then, in the margin between both languages: “na, na, na, na.” On the Anglo side of things, “na” functions both as a kind of schoolyard taunt (recalling Dara’s sing-song children’s melody in the verse) and as a universally recognizable pop phoneme unto itself, in the tradition of The Beatles, blink-182, and plenty between. In Korean, “na” is the (sometimes offensively) casual way of saying “me.” You know me well enough by now to guess that I like to think of this moment as another instance of 2NE1’s deliberate duality, in terms of both inspiration and aspiration: “nuga naega…” (Korean), “no” (western), and “na” (both at once, and by extension, truly international).

bestheader-postchorusb
At last we get that post-chorus again! And yet it’s not at all where we’d expect it: the one time we’ve heard it before, it was tied to the end of what we by now know is the chorus. And yet here, for its long-awaited return, it follows the bridge instead. It probably goes without saying that this is…not how post-choruses work, usually. 20 We might then wonder if our identification of it as a post-chorus is altogether incorrect, but the other possibilities – an “outro” that just happens to also happen at the beginning of the song, or a chorus that only happens twice in the whole song – make even less sense. It’s just a very eccentric post-chorus. But that unexpectedness is what makes the whole song hold together so well, and its sparing presence is what makes it so gratifying to finally hear it again so deep in the song. It being the most catchy thing in the whole composition, its infrequency is a daring choice on Teddy’s part, especially given he forewent another perfectly good opportunity to use it after the second chorus. 21 A temptation Lady GaGa and RedOne couldn’t resist, and one place where “Best” bests them. – a hallmark of restraint in a “genre” seldom credited for it. 22 K-pop isn’t a genre, per se, but much moreso an industry – a discussion for another time, we’re sure you’ll agree.

What’s more, the arrangement of Post-ChorusA is augmented here by the strings and hand drums introduced in the bridge, making this the rightly climactic, coda-like Post-ChorusB. This also means that we’re getting not just the C Phrygian synth line (which has, again, been coursing through every section of the entire song) but also its vocal (“bam, ratatatata”) in addition to the “Middle Eastern” C Phrygian Dominant strings, which, as theory whiz/human hyperlink Scott Interrante is sure to remind us, means we’re getting both E natural and E flat. Crossfire between notes a semitone apart typically creates a nasty friction called “dissonance” (sometimes cool!), especially when there’s so much going on, but here the controlled chaos goes down butter-smooth. By the time Teddy’s tour de force has run its course and CL concludes with an awed interjection – “Oh my God” – we’re right there with her.

Even though K-pop was an especially hot commodity there at the time, “I Am The Best” was not a huge success in Japan. Its failure to translate came likely in part because the intermediary aegyo throughout the song and video is subtle by most standards (and offset by the unapologetic 2NE1ness of the rest of it). 23 It’s interesting, though, that the song’s Japanese lyric sheet is quite different. They retain the Korean of the original hook, and otherwise translate the gisted meaning into Japanese, except for a full English verse (!) from Minzy. “Gee” had recently seen a much-belated Japanese release in October 2010, a little over half a year prior, and it was that Girls’ Generation variety of Korean aegyo that the Japanese market has rewarded with the heavy ¥en ever since. Even today, the heavy-hitters there are the likes of A Pink, who harken back to the aesthetic Girls’ Gen first made saleable in Japan. 24 Truly Japan-massive boy groups, like TVXQ and Big Bang, are best saved for their own discussions. But of course, that more American bent that might be a liability in Japan is its best asset in the west, where 2NE1’s track record has been unmatched. Just as “Gee” blazed an important trail in Japan, so did “I Am The Best” in the States and, per America’s status as the effective hegemon of global pop culture since the post-war 1940s, in the western world writ large.

It’s interesting that no one has made truly effective use of that trail to date, but it makes a lot of sense that the 2NE1 camp might. Even after six years of an incredible career that deserves plenty of celebration (most of all for its musical highlights, which precious little of their overabundant western coverage has ever much discussed), team leader CL is at the time of this writing still not even 24 years old. That’s around the age that Korean audiences and agencies typically begin to consider many pop stars passé, but in America, she’s ahead of a curve that includes careers that might not even begin until 26 or 27. And considering she’s working with everyone from Ariana Grande through Diplo to Florence and the Machine, and under the wing of Scooter Braun, I mean it when I say she is likely going to be the most successful Asian pop star in American history. The potential is massive, perhaps best understood by considering how 2NE1’s entire trajectory – as memorable and lucrative as it has been on its own merits – may have simply been the preface to this moment. Her American debut is expected to drop sometime in the coming few months.

We hope she’ll still play this one live.

Appears On
• 2NE1 mini-album, YG Entertainment, 7/8/2009
• 내가 제일 잘 나가 single, YG Entertainment, 7/24/2011 [includes instrumental version]
• Nolza mini-album, YGEX, 9/21/2009 [Japanese version]
• 2NE1 1st Live Concert (Nolza!), YG Entertainment, 11/23/2011 [live version]
2012 2NE1 Global Tour: New Evolution in Seoul, YG Entertainment, 12/4/2012 [live version]
• All or Nothing in Seoul, YG Entertainment, 5/23/2014 [live “Motorcycle” version] 25 This is a heavier, live rock band version that adds some nu metal muscle into the mix – we’ll talk all about the legacy of that phase in Korean pop history, in due time – and some motorcycle sound effects for tension, which perhaps owe something to SebastiAn.
• 2NE1 Best Collection, Avex, 12/10/2014

Further Reading
My 2014 interview with 2NE1 for Vice
My 2014 YG feature for Vice (with plenty about 2NE1, CL, and a word or two from Dara)
Trevor Link’s K-pop manifesto (with thoughts on 2NE1 and “I Am The Best”)

Credits
Written by Jakob Dorof. Transcription and theoretical consultation by Scott Interrante. Insight and influence, as always, courtesy Tzechar.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

3 thoughts on “002. I AM THE BEST // 2NE1

  1. I would absolutely love one of these on f(x)’s Rum Pum Pum Pum. I think it’s one of the best K-Pop songs of recent years.

    This is really interesting stuff, thanks!!

  2. Thank you for such an in-depth, theoretical analysis of these K-pop songs. So many people in the West tend to write-off K-pop as not only textually-shallow, but musically dull, too, when the reality is so far from that. I don’t know if it’s the elitist predilection for downplaying the inventiveness and depth of pop music in general that leads most people to considering it inferior to the classical music of many cultures, or if it is, in particular, South Korea’s still-present international reputation as the purveyor of at-best second-rate goods that leads people to think that K-pop is almost necessarily going to be tawdry and inane–and there are definitely an abundance of examples that validate that generalization. However, a generalization it remains, as there are loads of very musically-interesting compositions in K-pop, with work from Ga-in and the associated Brown Eyed Girls sticking out in my mind. Anyway, thanks again; I’ll be following in the future!

  3. Hi. This is only closely related I’m afraid but anyone who is into the Avant-Garde of Young Thug then Exotica by Mauricio Kagel is an absolute must-listen!!! Hope that helps x

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