My sister Elva is a huge fan of the Korean girl group 2NE1. So she was appropriately excited when the leader and rapper of the group, CL, released her latest track The Baddest Female (나쁜 기집애), her first solo single in over five years.
While some K-pop fans have waxed lyrical over the music video (MV), others like Elva were underwhelmed by its similarity to label-mate G-Dragon’s One of a Kind. A few wished she rapped harder. One even opined she should have declared that she was “the Baddest Bitch” instead. Meanwhile, a number of Youtubers have accused CL of being inauthentic and aping black culture.
Lyrically One of a Kind seems slightly obnoxious. And personally I appreciate the steady confidence that the slower tempo seems to afford The Baddest Female. Beyonce’s Run the World (Girls) may be more uptempo and sound militant even. But it comes across more like a 8-year-old’s retort in the playground to a bunch of boys who won’t let her play with them, rather than a real affirmation of girl power — especially with that chanting chorus (Who run the world? Girls! Meeeh!).
CL, on the other hand, is coolly assertive and seems like the real deal — a boss female who is so secure in her awesomeness that she doesn’t need any reassurance or even your cooperation.
You want it come and get it now 싫으면 시집가
You want it, come and get it now, if you don’t wanna, that’s too bad
And true, the MV does have the usual trappings of an American hip-hop video — limos, gold chains, fur. But it’s unmistakably kimchi-flavoured, with the playful touches of a hopscotch game and the gold CL swing, and the technicolours (Western hip-hop videos tend to look harder, whereas Korean MVs are more tongue-in-cheek).
And it is ain’t just “fly girl” — it’s the Unnie (언니)* yo, a Korean female who’s not only fiercely fabulous but who’s also down-home and got your back.
A few Latinos have also called out on the exoticisation of their culture. While the appropriation of Latino gang culture is indeed dubious, as an Asian I can actually live with a “Korean Mexico” (because, you know, globalisation).
But as a female and a feminist, what I like the least is the English-language rap. The first part especially seems ingenuous:
This is for all my bad girls around the world
Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good, you know
You don’t — and shouldn’t — have to explain yourself if you are the baddest female around. Those two verses detract from the song’s message, I think, and could have been tighter, say, in Korean instead.
Isn’t she supposed to be the Unnie after all?
All in all, it’s a great song to bump or roll out to, but The Baddest Female could do better.
(Four out of five gold panther fangs grills)
*Unni simply means ‘older sister’ in Korean, but it is also used between girls who are friends.
Postscript: Where are G-Dragon’s pants? And what’s with the hair?!