Ironically, because it looks like it took one day to make and edit, “Do You Love Me” is the superior single that 2NE1 has released this year.
What has always set 2NE1 apart, and why they, more than any other K-Pop group, has the most potential to break into the mainstream Western market is their ear for beats and loud but distinct personas. Ever since the group debuted four years ago, 2NE1 has consistently brought an attitude and fierce individuality that, when combined with their love for euro, reggae and hip-hop, makes for a pretty easy transition to other markets. “Do You Love Me” reminds everyone why 2NE1 should still be considered a force in K-Pop. The girls exude energy and fun in a genuine way that is impossible for groups to construct through well choreographed dances and carefully practiced aegyo. 2NE1 may be the only group in K-Pop which can release an instagram video compilation clip music video and make it more charismatic, exciting and enjoyable than most of what passes for edgy fun these days.
“Do You Love Me” is vintage 2NE1 and a welcomed return for a group which has spent the last couple of years expanding out to American pop (“Ugly” and “Lonely”), more J-Pop inspired trends (“I Love You”) and the fairly disappointing “Falling in Love” which ended up being a lifeless mix of J-Pop sterility and reggae instrumentation that was about as disastrous as one would think. The bass for “Do You Love Me” kicks things off and the electro-synths hit as hard as anything 2NE1 has released since “Fire”. CL comes in with the hook, and it’s as simple as it is effective. The high record scratch-like beat that plays above the bass keeps things appropriately hard while the lower-grinding synths bring some club sensibilities to the arrangement. Bom is brought in for the chorus and she owns it (Bom has one of the most unique, and clear voices in K-Pop and is a joy to listen to). Minzy and Dara fill in at the edges, with Dara hitting some of the higher registers and Minzy going for some of the lower tones. They do well but, like most good 2NE1 songs, it always comes down to CL and Bom and the two rock out like the stars they are. “Do You Love Me” is not anything that 2NE1 hasn’t done before but at this point, after branching out for years and not having much more to prove, it does remind everyone why people love 2NE1 in the first place.
As for the video, it is a perfect visual representation of what makes 2NE1 special within the K-Popsphere. Seemingly shot by the girls themselves, it looks and viscerally feels real. One could feasibly believe that 2NE1 acts like this on some particularly fun nights. It takes a lot of work and cache to build up a reputation so that something like this is possible and 2NE1 has never strayed far from their brand of being some of the funnest and baddest girls alive (having their own TV show certainly has helped in regards to showcasing their personalities as well). Thus, 2NE1 filming each other having a party in a bathroom? Yeah, that sounds right. 2NE1 trashing their hotel room in the wee hours of morning. Passes the smell test. 2NE1 rocking the fuck out with Hong Chul at the club and then going to a pool party? Completely believable. For an “impromptu” look into the life of an artist (or group) to work for a video, the key is that the viewers must have some idea of the personality of the artist to properly judge and “buy into” the act. If the artist fails at this, then the entire thing comes off as contrived at best and manipulative at worst. 2NE1 have worked their asses off to have the individualistic, I-don’t-care-what-you-think-I’m-awesome cred to release something like “Do You Love Me”. “Do You Love Me” isn’t just a home-video style music video, it’s a thesis statement for 2NE1.
It is kind of remarkable what 2NE1 is able to do with “Do You Love Me”. It is a near perfect representation of what the group has worked to let its’ listeners experience since the day they were founded. SNSD couldn’t do something like this without causing sones to suffer from severe cognitive dissonance. T-ara couldn’t as the group is suffering from a huge “authenticity” problem at the moment. The closest group who could make something like this at this point is probably 4Minute but even there, only Hyuna has a defined personality while every member of 2NE1 has been able to craft a distinct identity. The quartet all shine in their own unique way in “Do You Love Me” and the fact that they can is what makes 2NE1 one of the best acts in K-Pop and one of the most promising acts to breakout internationally. Do you love me may be a question, but “Do You Love Me” rephrases that question in a subtle but perfectly 2NE1-ian way. How could you not?
Rating: 5 Yeses out of 5 Do You Love Me’s