When it comes to girl groups, 2NE1 are like no other in the kpop world. They sit at the very top of my bias list, and much of that is due to their fierce image and the fantastic songs that they’re given. While I wait (somewhat) patiently for a comeback after their excellent 2014 album Crush, I thought I’d take a shot at whittling down their brilliant singles run to my top ten favorites. It was hard going, but we have a result!
10. Fire (2009)
The group’s official debut, and still a song to be reckoned with. It toes the line well between playful and bold, with some surprising production flourishes that give it staying power.
9. Crush (2014)
Released as a Japanese single, although the Korean version also appears on their album. It’s an addictive hype track that feels like the natural successor to I Am The Best.
8. Ugly (2011)
While the English lyrics still give me pause, as I’m not sure how I feel about the song’s message in relation to the group’s overall image, there’s no denying that fist-in-the-air, glossy power rock chorus.
7. Hate You (2011)
Of all the singles released in 2011 (their best year), Hate You is the most underrated. It doesn’t have a gimmick or even a single stand-out quality, but the hook is one of the best earworms of the group’s career. It’s just so effortlessly cool.
6. Happy (2014)
2NE1’s music is more often about empowerment and bravado, so it was nice to see them do something a little more subdued and flat-out upbeat. Though Come Back Home stole some of the attention from this when it was released, Happy has proven itself as an enduring pop song and a reliable mood-lifter.
5. Lonely (2011)
One of the great modern Korean r&b ballads, the strength of this song is its simplicity and raw emotion. 2NE1 isn’t always known for their melodic tracks, but this is the rare song that would be just as powerful with a simple piano accompaniment.
4. Missing You (2013)
2NE1’s best ballad, and one of the most gorgeous kpop tracks released in the last few years. The final segment kills me every time, when the beat drops out and the song warps into a stunning choral arrangement.
3. Come Back Home (2014)
I’m not a big fan of trap as a music genre, but Come Back Home incorporates the 2014 trend seamlessly into a song that borrows from all sorts of genres to cobble together a distinctly Korean hit. The yearning, expansive chorus ties everything together and packs an unexpected wallop.
2. I Am The Best (2011)
One of the few kpop songs known to western audiences through its use in advertisements, I Am The Best is so much more than a little soundbite. As a hype track, it represents the very best of what YG Entertainment has to offer. Attitude and charisma fuels the track, but that elastic beat is a modern classic.
1. I Love You (2012)
2NE1’s most successful foray into European dance music, I Love You is a dynamic piece of pop production. They could have kept it simple, but instead of opting for a streamlined, solid song, the stop/start beat gives the track peaks and valleys that keep it engaging and interesting throughout. This also allows for some of the best builds of their entire discography, with that euphoric chorus providing a sugar rush of excitement each time it rears its head.