CL: The Baddest Female, The Most Global Kpop?

This week I’ve been working on presenting my research in the form of a prezi, which can be viewed here.

Image sourced from CL's instagram account @chaelin_cl

Image sourced from CL’s instagram account @chaelin_cl

“Music has no language barrier. It’s just music, you could just listen to it and feel it. When you’re on stage, you connect to it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Korean, or in English. It’s just a matter of what we show and inspire.” – CL (YG Ladies 2012)
Lee Chaerin 이채린 goes by the stage name CL and is known primarily as the leader of the globally popular South Korean pop girl group 2NE1. Within the group she is a singer, rapper, lyric writer and dancer (YG Entertainment cited in CLtheBaddestFemale 2012). She is also fluent in Korean, French, Japanese and English, which often sees her speaking on behalf of the group in interviews conducted in English (as demonstrated in the Wall Street Journal interview embedded below).
 
 
What sets 2NE1, and by extension CL, apart from other K-pop acts is their strong global appeal. CL once credited Japan as having the largest Blackjack (2NE1’s fanbase) population, but with collaborations with popular U.S. artists such as will.i.am and Skrillex in recent years the audience for 2NE1 has become both cross-cultural and massive (Hawkins 2012; Poole 2012; Herman 2014).
 
As far as communicating with fans goes, CL’s only outlet appears to be her Instagram (@chaelin_cl) that has over 1.72 million followers and I think is self-managed. There is also an official Twitter account for disseminating running tour and group news to fans of the group at @GlobalBlackjack that has around 252 000 followers at present (Oh! Kpop 2012). Apparently CL at one stage had a personal Twitter account but deactivated it after a long period of being largely inactive on it, which again suggests that CL is managing her own online presence (letsgo2ne1 2011).
 
Based on her public appearances, her Instagram activity and how she presents herself in her music videos, it seems to me that CL is presenting herself as a firey, stylish diva and as something of a “bad girl” amoungst the sexy heartbreakers and cute “girlfriendy” types that make up much of the rest of the Kpop landscape for women in the industry. Again, as I experience the celebrity persona and performance of CL I get a sense of uniqueness and honesty that sets her apart from the heavily manufactured and marketing-driven feel that many of the other popular K-pop groups have. Of course this is working off the assumptions that CL’s unique image isn’t itself also manufactured and carefully managed by marketing teams. In fact a lot of what makes CL stand out to me as a performer could be a constructed persona designed to appeal to a more international audience. My own biases and assumptions regarding Korean pop music might actually be being used against me for the purpose of selling me the 2NE1 brand. Another assumption I’m making is that a global audience is inherently more likely to engage with American music styles and tropes rather than those unique to Kpop; which may hold true for the US and even Australia but perhaps wouldn’t necessarily in other countries and cultures where 2NE1 have also managed to grow a large fan base.
 

References

CLtheBaddestFemale 2012, ‘CL: History in the making’, CL the Baddest Female, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://clthebaddestfemale.com/cl-history-in-the-making/&gt;
 
YG Ladies 2012,’Lee Chaerin’, YG Ladies, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://ygladies.com/2ne1/cl&gt;
 
Hawkins, L 2012, ‘K-Pop Group 2NE1 Discuss Breaking Into the U.S.’, YouTube video, 9 October, Wall Street Journal, viewed 19 August 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNQuDL7fdes&gt;
 
Poole, R M 2012, ‘Korean Hip-Hop: K-Hop Goes Global’, News Week, 13 January, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.newsweek.com/korean-hip-hop-k-hop-goes-global-64305&gt;
 
Herman, T 2014, ‘Big Bang’s G-Dragon and 2NE1’s CL Get Featured On Skrillex’s ‘Dirty Vibe’ And Prove That Their Rapping Skills Go Beyond Idoldom’, Kpop Starz, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.kpopstarz.com/articles/84215/20140322/big-bang-g-dragon-2ne1-cl-featured-skrillex-dirtyvibe.htm&gt;
 
Oh! Kpop 2012, ‘Follow Big Bang and 2NE1’s First Official Twitter Accounts Now!’, Oh! Kpop, 22 March, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://www.ohkpop.com/48758/follow-big-bang-and-2ne1s-first-official-twitter-accounts-now&gt;
 
LetsGo2NE1 2011, ‘[NEWS] Dara and CL Join Twitter!!!’, LestGo2NE1, 1 April, viewed 19 August 2014 <http://letsgo2ne1.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/news-dara-and-cl-join-twitter/&gt;
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4 comments

  1. Listening to the video, I really thought their music was catchy. Then I read your conclusion, and I was forced to think about why I was able to engage with the music and I have to agree with your assumption that a global audience is inherently more likely to engage with American music styles and tropes rather than those unique to Kpop. I think that it would be interesting to compare the ‘success’ of a celebrity such as CL to an American pop artist in terms of social media following, album downloads, tickets sales etc on a global level. Do you think perhaps the reason we think Kpop is unique is because we are so used to American styles? Awesome post and the prezi is looking good, gave me some ideas for how I’d like to present mine, thanks.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your post this week and although I have never really heard of CL or her band, I found it very interesting how in recent years they have done collaborations with popular U.S. artists such as will.i.am and Skrillex that I actually looked it up and was very amazed at how “Western” their music seemed and how different the music was to traditional K-pop music. I think it is also very interesting to question their popularity and the way that their music is able to reach all types of audiences on a global level. I am looking forward to learning some more about the music, and actually might also research this band for next weeks post. Thanks heaps!

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  3. I’ve never heard of CL although I am not very aware or K-POP in general. But I think it is interesting to see and listen to other cultures and how their music differs from ours. There is definitely a difference between traditional K-POP and K-POP which has involved American Artists like Hannah said above. It is interesting to see how two different cultures are able to come together and perform together.

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  4. I must admit that I do not know very much about K-pop other than what little trickles through into Western media and culture. From my limited observations however, it’s interesting to compare the differences in the way Korean and other Asian female pop stars create and maintain an image of themselves to that of western audiences. You mention that CL presents herself as a “fiery, stylish diva and as something of a “bad girl” amoungst the sexy heartbreakers and cute “girlfriendy” types that make up much of the rest of the Kpop landscape for women”, and I agree that the K-Pop stars I’ve come across fit that “cute/girlfriend” aesthetic. When I think of Western divas, I think of them as more presenting themselves the way that CL does; as strong, fiery, sexy women that don’t need no man, like Beyonce, Havana Brown or Rihanna. Perhaps it is the way CL projects herself/ set herself apart from other K-Pop artists that has generated international appeal/

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