2NE1 (Korean: 투애니원, IPA: [tʰu.ɛ.ni.wʌn]) was a South Korean girl group composed of Bom, CL, Dara, and Minzy, formed by YG Entertainment in 2009. After appearing alongside boy band Big Bang in the song “Lollipop”, a promotional single for LG Electronics, the group rose to fame with the release of their two eponymous extended plays, 2NE1 (2009) and 2NE1 (2011), and two studio albums, To Anyone (2010) and Crush (2014). All peaked at the number one position on the Gaon Album Chart. They also scored nine number one hits on the Gaon Digital Chart, with “Try to Follow Me”, “Go Away”, “Lonely”, “I Am the Best”, “Ugly”, “I Love You”, “Falling in Love”, “Missing You”, and “Come Back Home”.
The quartet simultaneously conducted a similarly successful career in Japan, releasing first a Japanese version of their second EP, Nolza (2011) and following up with the studio albums Collection (2012) and Crush (2014). Following a long-term hiatus, Minzy departed the group in April 2016, Their final single “Good Bye” was released on January 21, 2017.
At the peak of their career and prior to their split, 2NE1 was considered one of the most successful and popular girl groups in South Korea. while The New York Times named 2NE1’s performance at the Prudential Center in New Jersey as one of the “Best Concerts of 2012”.
2NE1 was first mentioned by South Korean press in late 2004. Both Spica’s Bohyung and Fiestar’s Linzy were trainees alongside the 2NE1 members. However, they were eliminated before debut. The group’s name was initially announced as “21”, however, due to the discovery of a singer with the same name, the group was quickly renamed “2NE1”. The name, pronounced in Korean to approximate English as “To Anyone” or (US) “Twenty One”, combines the phrases “21st century” and “New Evolution”.
2NE1’s first extended play 2NE1 (2009) was preceded by two singles. The first one, “Lollipop”, was recorded with label mate Big Bang and released on March 27, 2009 to promote the LG Cyon phone. Though a music video was filmed, “Lollipop” was not promoted due to its product advertisement affiliation, which caused issues with the network chart eligibility. The second single, “Fire”, written and produced by 1TYM’s Teddy Park, was released that May and contained elements of hip-hop and reggae. Its music video had two versions — a “space” version and a “street” version. Within the first 24 hours of release, the videos each received over one million views. Both the song “Fire” and the group became popular online search terms. The final single, “I Don’t Care”, was released simultaneously alongside their first eponymous EP in July. Promotional activities quickly followed to demonstrate a softer, more feminine image of the group to contrast the edgier image previously portrayed in “Fire”. “I Don’t Care” became the most downloaded song of that month, later winning Song of the Year at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.
Although group members recorded and released their own solo materials in August, they performed a reggae version of “I Don’t Care” on Inkigayo in September. Due to the remix’s popularity, it was released to digital outlets on September 3 as their next digital single. Buoyed by the success of their singles, sales of 2NE1 totaled 100,000 copies by the end of the year. 2NE1 later performed at the 6th Asia Song Festival, representing Korea alongside three other groups and later winning the Asian Newcomer’s award.
In 2010, 2NE1 unexpectedly released “Try to Follow Me” in February through various digital outlets without any prior announcement or promotion to support the Samsung’s Corby Folder. The song peaked at number one on the Gaon Digital Chart. That summer, 2NE1 traveled to Los Angeles and London to record English songs for an American debut album with The Black Eyed Peas’s member and music producer will.i.am. The group recorded a total of 10 songs in their initial sessions. The quartet’s first full-length album, To Anyone (2010), was released on September 9, and debuted at number 7 on the Billboard World Album Chart. Prior to the release of the album, it had already received 120,000 preorders. Containing a total of 12 tracks, four singles were released: the top five hits “Clap Your Hands”, “Can’t Nobody”, “It Hurts (Slow)” and the chart-topping “Go Away”. A fifth song “Don’t Stop the Music” was recorded as a “special gift for Thai fans” and was also used in conjunction with the group’s Yamaha Fiore endorsement. At the 2010 Mnet Asian Music Awards, 2NE1 took home the most accolades: “Artist of the Year”, “Best Music Video” for “Can’t Nobody”, “Best Female Group”, and “Album of the Year” award.
On January 19, 2011, “Can’t Nobody (English Version)” was released on the Japanese digital retailer Recochoku as a ringtone and ringback tone. The following month, an accompanying music video was made available for download through iTunes Japan. Their Japanese debut single “Go Away” was released as a ringtone on March 9, and later used as the theme song for the Japanese television program Mezamashi TV. On March 16, the quartet’s first Korean EP 2NE1 was made available in Japan; promotional activities were canceled due to the Tōhoku Earthquake and tsunami. 2NE1 debuted at #24 on the Oricon charts, selling 3,860 copies in its first week of release. Initial plans for their official Japanese debut on Music Station were postponed to later that year due to the earthquake, though the quartet did participate in the Naver “Pray for Japan” campaign alongside many other Korean celebrities to raise funds for earthquake victims.
The group returned to South Korea with their second EP 2NE1 (2011), scoring three number one hits: “Lonely”, “I Am the Best”, which also won the “Song of the Year” award at the Mnet Asian Music Awards, and “Ugly” as well as the top three hit “Hate You”. The album itself was a major success, topping the Gaon Chart and selling over 108,000 copies. Following the end of promotions in August, 2NE1 held their first sold-out solo concert at the Olympic Hall in the Chamsil Olympic Park on August 26, 27 and 28 in Seoul, South Korea before flying back to Japan.
Choosing to re-record their second EP 2NE1 (2011) in Japanese, the album was re-issued as Nolza and released that same year, peaking at number one on the Oricon charts and selling over 48,000 copies. Japanese-language editions of “I Am the Best”, “Hate You”, “Go Away”, and “Lonely” were released as singles. They also commenced the 2NE1 First Japan Tour – Nolza on September 19 and 20 at the Yokohama Arena. That October, MTV Iggy held a global competition, in which 10 bands from all around the world competed in a voting competition for the title of “Best New Band”. With their song “I Am the Best”, 2NE1 was crowned winners of the title on November 10, 2011, making this their first US award. 2NE1 performed at Times Square in December to accept the honor. At the end of 2011, 2NE1 was also nominated for the Japan Record Award for “Best New Artist”, losing to Japanese girl group Fairies.
On March 28, 2012, 2NE1 released their first full-length Japanese album Collection along with their second Japanese single “Scream”. The album includes Japanese remakes of their Korean songs such as “Love Is Ouch”, “Fire”, and “I Don’t Care”, and a cover of Madonna’s 1984 hit song “Like A Virgin”. Multiple editions of the album were released to include a DVD containing the groups Japanese and Korean music videos, according to Oricon’s music website. The album peaked at #5 on the Oricon Daily Chart and went on to sell over 32,000 copies in Japan.
Later that year, 2NE1 and label mate Big Bang were invited to perform for the first time at 2012’s Springroove festival in Japan alongside some of the top American and Japanese hip hop artists. The previous year, 2NE1 and the subgroup GD & TOP were invited, but due to the Japan tsunami and earthquake tragedy, the festival was cancelled. 2NE1 also collaborated with Japanese hip-hop group M-Flo for the song “She’s So (Outta Control)”, which was featured on the artist’s sixth studio album Square One. It was released as the leading track from the album, two weeks before the album’s release on February 29. “She’s So (Outta Control)” reached number 43 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 chart. 2NE1 subsequently concluded their Japanese promotions by performing at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards Japan, which took place on June 23 at the Makuhari Messe. They also won the “Best New Artist Video” award for their song “I Am the Best”. A non-album single “I Love You” was also released in their home country, topping the chart and becoming their sixth number one single. That December, 2NE1 and Big Bang made MTV Style’s list of “Best Band Style of 2012”. The two YG Entertainment groups are the only Asian artists to make the list of 10, which includes One Direction, The Wanted, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, Fun and No Doubt.
On March 14, 2013, 2NE1 released the English-language single “Take the World On”, which was a collaboration with American singer will.i.am. The song had previously been used in an Intel Ultrabook commercial On March 21, in an interview with Elle, CL confirmed that the group has not yet planned an album for the United States, but wanted to produce more songs in English. A second collaboration with will.i.am brought forth “Gettin’ Dumb”; this time including his bandmate apl.de.ap. The song was featured on will.i.am’s second album #willpower, which was released on April 23. 2NE1’s next singles were not tied to any album, with the chart-topping “Falling in Love” and “Missing You”, becoming their seventh and eighth number one singles. A third, “Do You Love Me”, was a top three hit.
In 2014, the quartet appeared on an episode of The Bachelor in January and later, on the finale for America’s Next Top Model where the latter show was filmed in South Korea. The following month, 2NE1 released their second studio album Crush (2014). Two singles were released simultaneously: “Come Back Home” and “Happy”. “Come Back Home” peaked at number one on the Gaon Singles Chart, becoming their ninth number one hit. Their third single from the album, “Gotta Be You” was subsequently released on May 20 along with a music video. Crush sold 5,000 copies in 4 days in America, peaking at #61 on Billboard 200 and setting a new U.S record for “Highest Charting and Best Selling Kpop Album”, beating other groups such as Girls’ Generation and Big Bang. On June 26, they released the Japanese edition of Crush, which charted at #4 on the Oricon Daily Album Chart.
The group’s also held their fourth concert tour AON: All or Nothing, which included stops in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. From March to October, they performed a total of twenty concerts across 16 cities, totaling 180,000 attendees. 2NE1’s previous single, “I Am The Best”, was released on December 11 in the U.S. under Capitol Records. On December 18, their song “Gotta Be You” was crowned “Song of the Year” by MTV Iggy. The group received worldwide recognition at the end of 2014. Crush was the only record by an Asian artist to make it to Fuse TV’s “40 Best Albums of 2014” and ranked first in Billboard magazine’s list of “Best Kpop Album of 2014” as well as eleventh for its year-end World Album chart.
Following the suspension of Bom’s contract due to her 2014 drug scandal, other members began exploring independent ventures, sending the group effectively into hiatus. Dara re-established her acting career by starring in web dramas such as Dr.Ian and We Broke Up, as well as KBS’s Missing You. Minzy opened the Millennium Dance Academy. CL embarked a solo career in the United States with the release of “Hello Bitches” from her upcoming EP Lifted. The group’s only activity in 2015 was a surprise performance at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards in Hong Kong. After CL’s performance of her solo singles “The Baddest Female” and “Hello Bitches”, all members reunited to perform “Fire” and “I Am the Best”. The performance is now the most-viewed MAMA performance by a girl-group. It was applauded and as a result, was listed as one of the best performances of 2015 by Fuse. Despite not having made a comeback, 2NE1 nonetheless was the 16th most reblogged K-pop group on Tumblr for 2015. Additionally, both 2NE1 and CL were given a nod by Spotify in their “Year in Music” Twitter Campaign for each achieving over one million listeners, and being played a “staggering” 165 years worth when combined. They also won China’s 2016 Korea First Brand Grand Prize award for “Top 10 Most Anticipated K-Stars of 2016”.
After a year of hiatus, YG Entertainment confirmed the departure of Minzy in April 2016, stating that the group will continue as a trio. inspired by a letter CL initially wrote to Minzy. The song topped Billboard World Digital Songs.
In 2NE1’s debut EP 2NE1 (2009), the group was noted to have a distinct, mixed style. While “Lollipop” was categorized as for pop, debut single “Fire” is predominately influenced by hip hop. “I Don’t Care”, however, was intended as a song with a reggae feel.
Their comeback album, To Anyone, was marked by a strong shift into electronic music. “Go Away”, the most successful promotional single from the album, is classified as dance. However, songs like “It Hurts (Slow)” are R&B, another style that also characterized their first EP. The three title tracks, “Clap Your Hands”, “Go Away”, and “Can’t Nobody” were noted for their lasting impressions.
2NE1 was known for a “unique and edgier style”. During their debut single, the group was noted for being “hip-hop” and the female counterpart to Big Bang but changed this perception with “I Don’t Care” into strong, feminine women. During the “It Hurts (Slow)” music video, the members were noted for their Gothic, black attire and strange hair and wigs. Zack Greenburg from the American business magazine Forbes described 2NE1 as a pop group characterized by bold, bright outfits and big, catchy hooks punctuated by rap verses and an “in-your-face swagger”. He also considers the group to be “bigger than Psy”, singer of the worldwide hit single “Gangnam Style”.
The quartet have used their image in a number of advertisements and promotional tie-ins. In 2009, they signed a modelling deal with Fila to a new commercial campaign. In early May 2013, the website “2NE1Loves.com” was launched along with mysterious videos of the members. “Go Away” as the theme song for the Japanese television program Mezamashi TV, and “Don’t Stop the Music” for their Yamaha Fiore endorsement. During the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and tsunami, 2NE1 lend their image to the Naver “Pray for Japan” campaign to help raise funds for victims.
2NE1 recorded R&B songs with styles that encompasses urban and dance-pop. They have credited the Spice Girls and TLC as girl group influences.
Park Bom cited American singers, Beyoncé and Mariah Carey as her main influences because of their strong vocals and powerful performances. She has listed hip hop and R&B as her favorite music genres. Dara states that singer-actress Uhm Jung-hwa is her inspiration, and idolizes Regine Velasquez, a well-known Filipino singer and also known as being Asia’s songbird. She also enjoys Britney Spears’s style and music, citing her as a role model, whose songs she often sang to while growing up, during American interviews stateside for their New Evolution World Tour stop in California.
When the group debuted, their song “Fire” and the subsequent live performances were dubbed unconventional and impressive. They won many awards on the weekly music shows, such as The Music Trend and Music Bank. “Fire” also brought them the Song of the Month and Rookie of the Month awards for May. They won This Year’s Stage, This Year’s Album, This Year’s Song on 2009 GQ Awards. They received 4 out of 10 nominations on Rhythmer Awards 2009 including Rookie of the Year, R&B Artist of the Year, R&B Single of the Year for “I Don’t Care” and R&B Album of the Year for their 1st Mini Album. Rhythmer.net is famous for hip-hop and R&B promotion for both mainstream and underground Korean music.
2NE1 won their first Artist of the Year and Album of the Year award for To Anyone at the 2010 Mnet Asian Music Awards, in addition to awards for Best Female Group and Best music video for “Can’t Nobody”. They are the first artist who has won all 3 grand awards at Mnet Asian Music Awards.
On November 29, 2011, 2NE1 won the Best Vocal Performance by a Group for their song “Lonely” and was awarded their 2nd Song of the Year for “I Am the Best” at the 2011 Mnet Asian Music Awards. After 2011, 2NE1 has won the most grand awards, for a female artist, in MAMA history with 4 wins (2 Song of the Years, 1 Album of the Year and 1 Artist of the Year).