Why CL Has a Better Chance of Making it in America Than Anyone Else in K-pop, As Told By CL in ‘Hello Bitches’

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Editor-in-Chief

 

After more than a year of teasing and preparation, K-pop’s baddest female finally dropped her first American solo single on November 21. Despite the fact that CL is calling “Hello Bitches” a street single (as opposed to an official drop from her forthcoming album), the new song signals the 2NE1 leader’s first official foray into the American market as a solo artist. Accompanied by famed choreographer Parris Goebel and the ladies of New Zealand’s own ReQuest dance crew, CL’s new music video is nothing short of dope.

 

CL certainly isn’t the first K-pop artist to attempt an American crossover, but she probably has the best shot at it. In fact, she says it all herself in the lyrics of “Hello Bitches”, which are explicated below for your convenience.

 

“My boys won’t hesitate to run up on your boys”

By all forecasts, global super group and darlings of Korea Girls’ Generation should have been the first K-pop act to go mainstream stateside when they brought “The Boys” out in 2011. They had a great single with awesome choreography, but appearances on Letterman and an English-language single mean nothing without a network of American promoters, celebrities, fashion icons, and managers to turn the buzz into hype and the hype into mainstream. GG gave it a good try with “The Boys”, but they didn’t have the local support of the real-life “boys” that they needed to run up on anybody in the U.S.

Meanwhile, CL has some major industry heavyweights in her corner, and they’re all ready to go to war for her. You would be hard-pressed to find a manager more connected than Scooter Braun, and with his roster already bragging international influencers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Tori Kelly, and Black Eyed Peas, one tweet from each of them and CL’s PR practically does itself. Then of course there’s the fact that two of the world’s greatest style icons – Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld and Moschino’s Jeremy Scott – have taken a shine to her. And did I mention that Katy Perry, Diplo, and Skrillex have all shouted her out?

The list of CL’s superstar supporters seems to go on forever without even taking into account the fact that her YG Family and their millions of followers have her back unconditionally. CL has a devoted team that’s ready to run up on anyone who doubts her, and their influence is going to tip the scales in her favor when it comes time for the 2NE1 member’s debut solo album to drop in America.

 

“Hello Kitty’s getting hella old”

We all love that legendary little kitty, but let’s face it: the cartoon cat just turned 40. Hello Kitty has been an adorable icon of Asian pop culture for four decades now, but in the year 2015, Asian pop culture is no longer cute.

The global proliferation of K-pop over the past few years has ushered in a new era of Asian pop culture icons with CL leading the pack, and I would hardly call her “cute”. Fierce? Yes. Talented? Absolutely. Authentic? For sure. But “cute”? CL is not “cute”. And neither is K-pop; K-pop is a genre of music that has been legitimized by more than 20 million non-Korean fans all over the world, a genre from which sprang the world’s most watched music video of all time, a genre that has adapted to and dominated the ever-changing landscape of digitalized music.

K-pop may have started out like Hello Kitty with cute and colorful hits like “Gee” and “Tell Me”, but that kitty has since evolved to become as ferocious and as forceful as the roaring tiger embroidered on CL and crew’s black leather onesies. One only has to look to “Hello Bitches” for proof of this. Hello Kitty, we love you, but CL is here to say that you and your pink bow are out, and that she and her diamond grill and fishnets are in. Goodbye kitties, hello bitches.

 

“Bad bitches get down on the floor”

When I showed “Hello Bitches” to my mother a few hours ago, the first words out of her mouth were, “Ooh, she’s a bad girl!” followed by her exclamations of “Oh my!”, “Goodness!”, “Get it girl!”, and lots of head shaking and embarrassed laughter from me. I can think of no other K-pop artist that could elicit the concurrent reactions of shock, delight, and ovation from anyone, least of all my mother.

K-pop is a notoriously prudish genre of music, with lyrics that discuss the profoundly shallow topics of being nervous to holding your crush’s hand, missing a significant other when they don’t text you back, or the innocence of true love (CL has a lyric for this one too: “want me to love them long time and I tell ‘em ‘NOPE.’”). “Hello Bitches” is bold, brash, and provocative – everything K-pop traditionally is not. CL de-sanitizes the genre, dragging it down from its glistening pedestal and onto the grimy floor of a warehouse. Conventional K-pop was too sterile for the American market, so CL got nasty with it.

Most K-pop groups would refuse to compromise their immaculate public images for the sake of American fame, because it jeopardizes the group’s status back in Korea. If you dirty up your image in the hopes of making it in America, and then fail stateside, you have nothing to fall back on. But CL humps the floor with the confidence and assertion of a bad bitch who doesn’t need a fall back and for that, everyone in America (including my mom) will love her.

 

“엉덩이 빵빵빵, 남자들은 time time time, 입술 냠냠냠, 어딜가든 당당당, 등장은 차차차, 뛰자뛰자 방방방, 디스코 팡팡팡, Hello Bitches.”

Most of us have no idea what a majority of that line means, but that’s exactly the point. CL’s decision to keep the chorus mainly Korean is so important.

The inclusion and even dominance of the Korean language in “Hello Bitches” is what allows CL to maintain her authenticity as an artist and her identity as a Korean. It makes the song just confusing enough for the American audience to recognize that it’s foreign, while the English verses lend the familiarity necessary for mainstream success.

The bilingual single also ensures that CL cannot be falsely perceived as anything she’s not. If she had released an all-English single, many would criticize her for abandoning her Korean heritage and paint her as a try-hard. If she had released an all-Korean single, she wouldn’t stand a chance at mainstream success in America.

CL weaves in and out of Korean and English seamlessly in “Hello Bitches”, and her finesse at imperceptibly transitioning from one language to the other is exactly what allows her to remain true to herself and her art.

 

If the rest of her solo album is as good as “Hello Bitches” CL has a good shot at succeeding in the United States, but we’ll have to wait for the singer/rapper to release more than just a street single to see how she’ll really do in the American market.  Rushing into an overseas debut can be deadly for an artist, and with that in mind CL has been biding her time for more than a year now, acclimating to American celebrity culture, surrounding herself with the most influential and talented people in the world, and hopefully, carefully crafting a new album that will allow you to tell all of your friends who roll their eyes at K-pop, “I told you so”. 

 

All visual and audio media courtesy of YG Entertainment
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