In May 2009, Psy’s record label YG Entertainment debuted a four-member girl group 2NE1. Consisting of CL, Bom, Dara and Mizny, 2NE1 instantly made waves for easily pulling off unconventional tracks. The quartet mixed hip-hop and dance, blended diva belts with quick-spit rapping, each single always accompanied by an incredible visual.
To celebrate 2NE1’s half-decade together, Billboard takes a look back at five must-watch videos from the girl’s YouTube channel. There’s a reason the K-pop quartet have earned more than half a billion views, take a look at five below.
5 “Fire” (2009)
“Fire” was the first taste of what would become 2NE1’s signature YouTube presence: Over-the-top visuals, a fierce sound and automatic playback appeal. “Fire” opens with leader CL donning futuristic, LED-display sunglasses before the pulsing synths and rumbling percussion kick in. With costumes that straddled the line of sexy and bizarre — see CL’s cutout catsuit, Bom’s Playboy-bunny look — 2NE1 shone not only for their fearless video style, but as a fun alternative to the glamorous and cutie-pie female acts.
4 “Do You Love Me” (2013)
While 2NE1 has delivered top-notch, expensive visuals throughout their half-decade together, last year’s “Do You Love Me” is remarkable for being the antithesis to it all. No ridiculous sets or costumes, just the girls goofing off at a pool party, in the car and inside a club. Filmed with its Instagram-esque filter, it felt like the viewers were hanging right there with the band.
It was a fun, rare experience for fans to see the quartet stripped of the gloss and display their personalities at the forefront; a smart move given 2NE1 boasts four truly distinct characters.
3 “Can’t Nobody” (2010)
When “Can’t Nobody” hit YouTube in 2010, fans saw 2NE1 up their swagger to the next degree. The visuals were more detailed (CL sporting animal print in her hair, dope graffiti), the fashion was crazier (Minzy’s skeleton bandana, Dara swimming in an ocean of cloth) and the sets made you wonder “How’d they film that?” (see the shots where the girls play to camera while riding and down a flashy slide).
It also felt like we could get to know the members’ personalities more, like further solidifying Minzy as the ferocious booty shaker, CL as the charismatic, badass leader and Dara as the enigmatic beauty whose shy demeanor does a 180 in front of the camera.
2 “Missing You” (2013)
Again in 2013, the outfit revealed their softer side via this winter ballad single. The gorgeous, simple styling of the vid showcased sophistication with just the right amount of the group’s signature edginess (face stickers, unconventional hair styles, neon animal print) needed to make it a true 2NE1 video.
While 2012 electro-ballad “I Love You” also ranks high on 2NE1’s top visuals, the simplistic style of “Missing You” trumps for making an emotionally jarring experience. The climax of the video undoubtedly when CL bares all for the camera, covering herself with only her arms and legs, as a stunning visual metaphor for the track’s stirring raw sentiment. All or nothing, right?
1 “I Am the Best” (2011)
Throughout all the looks, styles and sound, none seem to define 2NE1 as much as “I Am the Best.” The visual to what might arguably be their signature song has more than 90 million views on YouTube — one of the most viewed K-pop videos ever. Utilizing everything from animals and cars to dominatrix catsuits and straitjackets, it all screamed “Fierce fierce fierce!”
If the “Fire” video was the initial promise to fans that 2NE1 would always bring it visually, “I Am the Best” is perhaps the girls’ best fulfillment of that…so far. And the girls smashing their own platinum records with baseball bats on third chorus seems to indicate that there are even more boundaries for them to push. Here’s to another five years of even more insane visuals.