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ALPHA Verónica A. Bastardo , November 18th, 2021 08:15

A fresh new beginning for ex-2NE1 singer, with a Korean noise-music flavour mixed with western pop and hip hop sounds

The hibiscus flower really bloomed with CL’s new album. The former 2NE1 singer has been teasing us with her solo debut album for over a year but the wait has certainly been worth it. The eleven song track-list is the presentation card of a rapper, singer, and creative mind who has reinvented herself after leaving her label of ten years in 2019. She has come back with an album that screams redemption after fighting to putt her voice out there.

A year ago she introduced us to ALPHA with the first song we heard of the project, ‘HWA’. “The hibiscus flower has bloomed” –  you can hear that chant over and over again in the Korean lyrics of a catchy hook, over a minimalist trap track in which her interpretation puts the power in the table. A key way to begin the journey to ALPHA, with a statement that tells the world “I’m here, re-born, I’m still the queen”.

Something unique in CL’s proposal is the combination of her veteran years in K-pop, where intricate mixes with rusty electronic elements and pop beats play an important role in major songs. Like ‘Paradise’, the most K-pop track of the album, that remind us of absolute classics like “I’m The Best’ by her former group 2EN1, but re-imagined with the sense of exploration and experimentation of an independent artist who doesn’t have to meet a share for no CEO-boss. Here you’ll get the best of the loud-music side of Korean hyper-pop, the western-style trap-pop beats that Ariana Grande popularised, with the voice and flow of a unique rapper and her distinctive nasal-metallic voice timber.

This is clear since the first beat of the album with ‘Spicy’, an absolute banger from head to toe. A three-note electronic loop carries through the whole song, being the only grounding feeling in this beast of a track. So much happens. CL raps, whispers, talks, flows from fast to faster, a chorus of backing vocals supports her while she proudly says “I’m Korean,” with the most catchy hook and boss-like lyrics.

The western trap-pop I mentioned? ‘Love Like Me’, a classic structure from verse to pre-chorus to instrumental drop chorus with the ideal hook for a radio-friendly track. Here CL shows more of her singing voice, with a touch of mysticism given by the heavy reverb and the airy spaces that you often find in EDM songs, but with more emphasis in the beats that carry the rhythm.

‘Chuck’ is the most fun song of the album. Once again she proves her position as a powerful woman, but this time backed up by distorted electronic metals and a hook that feels too much like the hip-hop of the early 00s (Missy Elliott would be proud). Something she knows how to do is play with the simplicity of the composition, while this song – and many others of the album – sound loud and strong, nothing is ever over done. There are perhaps only four or five channels of sound in the production, but it’s all so well done, with just the right amount of electronic beats, reverb, ad-libs, and backing vocals for added power.

‘Cherry’ (how CL has introduced herself in this album) even had the time and the audacity to mix soft ballads into a tracklist that seems too loud to have mellow melodies. From ‘Xai’, an unexpected mid-tempo electronic love-song with an intimate interpretation, to closing the set with something like ‘5 Stars’, which just feels right after listening to such a Michelin-worthy album. This last track of the project is a slow-beat pop song with so much emotion coursing through her voice and a classic piano synth that follows her own melody for support.

CL came to make up for the lost time while she was still contracted to YG Entertainment, trying to push more of her sound and proposals out there. She builds an album that features the best of Korean performance-driven music and mainstream western trends. This is from a female Korean rapper who decided to reinvent herself in front of everyone and made a strong statement out of it.