Crush, by 2NE1
Suggested by Noli-Rose Nikitaki
In the early Nineties, the heavy metal band Judas priest were taken to court in America. They were accused of planting subliminal messages in their music, using a technique called “backmasking”. Apparently, these messages were revealed when the album was played backwards, but would act as subliminal triggers when played forwards.
The messages were toxic, such as “try suicide”, “do it”, and “let’s be dead.” Two young men, high on booze and weed, had listened to their album Stained Class and then took up a shotgun and shot themselves. One died, one survived.
The band were accused of being evil, in league with Satan, all kinds of nonsense. The case was eventually dismissed, rightfully, after Rob Halford demonstrated that listening to music backwards threw out all sorts of incoherent sounds, sounds that the human brain tries its best to sift and sort. He played some Priest songs backwards, and the jury all heard the following phrases: “Hey Ma, my chair’s broken”, “I asked her for a peppermint, I asked her to get one”, and my personal favourite “it’s so fishy, personally I’ll own it.”
To quote the late Bill Hicks, it you’re alone in your room, playing your records backwards… you ARE Satan.
And so we get to K-Pop.
I know very little of the genre, a phrase which is fast becoming this project’s marquee statement. I heard that fans of K-Pop disrupted a Trump rally earlier this year (good work, you meddling kids!), and there’s Gangnam Style of course. Other than that? Nada.
2NE1 are a girl group, and Crush displays all the manufactured trappings that this moniker suggests. The music is very danceable, the vocals (which we’ll get to later) sound very empowering, and the songs are well crafted. There is something extra, something a little more unhinged that what you’d expect from a British analogue, which certainly adds to its charm. Everything seems ratcheted up to eleven, everyone is giving 110%, and each track seems slightly bolder than the real world around it.
Vocally, there’s a marvellous miasma of Korean and English phrases, delivered with panache in a variety of styles. There’s soulful diva voices coupled with staccato rapping and more. Presumably the band all sing and have their own distinct styles and personalities, like the Spice Girls on Crystal Meth. The flow between the languages is both jarring and sublime, in that it’s an exciting departure from the norm but it’s also massively irritating. Like Judas Priest, I was forever half-catching snippets of what I though was English as my mind frantically scrabbled for purchase. There was a lot of “did she just say what I think she said?!” before I’d conclude that no, she probably didn’t.
I particularly enjoyed Scream, and the bonkers opener Crush, but my favourite track was the unplugged version of Come Back Home that closed the album with a laid-back flourish. I’d give this a creditable 6/10, which is boosted a touch by the quirky sub-game of panning for lyrical gold in a field of foreign phrasings. Unfortunately, this quirkiness begs the question: would I like and listen to this if it were all in English? The answer is, probably not.