It seems like these past couple of months have been riddled with farewell songs. Bigbang‘s Last Dance kicked things off as a goodbye to an era, and just this week we had I.O.I’s final track. But none seems quite as definitive as 2NE1‘s Goodbye (안녕). When they were active, 2NE1 were my favorite k-pop girl group, and their disbandment was arguably the genre’s biggest loss in 2016. As a finale to their career, Goodbye can’t be judged the same way most releases are. Every inch of it is laced with a heaviness that can only be earned through accomplishment.
As expected of a group as transformative as 2NE1, Goodbye is a classic farewell song with a twist. Instead of the expected strings and piano arrangement, the song is driven by a repeated acoustic guitar riff. It’s an unusually prominent piece of instrumentation, made even more so by the sparseness of the track’s arrangement. It casts an effectively desolate atmosphere, giving Goodbye a stark appeal that forces attention on the girls’ vocals and lyrics. It’s also refreshingly devoid of the saccharine cheapness that can sometimes drive these types of songs. Within the fragility of the instrumental, there’s a certain strength that shines through.
The absence of founding member Minzy is a real shame, but even as a trio, 2NE1 fully captivates with their inimitable vocal tones. The melody vacillates between a pensive, diary-like feel during its verses and a cathartic release of emotion as the simple chorus hits. The song uses contrast well, capturing a variety of emotions within its relatively straightforward structure. As Goodbye echoes to a close, the group’s story seems oddly unfinished. But even if they never reunite again, they’ve reinvented what a Korean girl group can be, and left a remarkable catalog of pop music in their wake.