K-Pop Queens 2NE1 Return with Glorious New Anthem, “I Love You”

K-pop quartet 2NE1 (that’s pronounced “twenty-one” or “to anyone,” depending on how the spirit moves you) have been utterly slaying the Korean music industry since 2009–which is approximately 20 years in K-Pop years.

With their hook-heavy electro-pop smashes like “Fire,” “Go Away” and “I Am The Best,” (go ahead, just try and get that “Ra-ta-ta-ta!” line out of your head ever again) and vibrant, fashion-forward styling, the girls have rapidly garnered a feverish fanbase (called the Blackjacks–see what they did there?), countless awards and near global domination. (Near global isn’t enough, obviously: The group has been hard at work recording an upcoming 2012 English-language debut with will.i.am while planning an international tour that’s also hitting US shores, with costumes designed by one of American fashion’s most, err, colorful characters, Jeremy Scott.)

Almost one year since their last Korean single–the incredible “Ugly”–the girls are back (don’t call it a comeback!) with their brand new track: “I Love You.” The song is actually based around a music genre called “trot,” which gets its name from the foxtrot–characterized by a two-beat rhythm–and is actually one of the oldest forms of K-pop music. (Reading rainbow, the more you know!)

With its gently cooed verses and throbbing chorus (which almost reminds me of Namie Amuro‘s “Come”), “I Love You” is an entrancing slice of next-level electro-pop. There are roughly a million or so genius moments as the song progresses–“I said yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!“, the Pac-Man-like noises at the 2:45 mark, the ferocious sort-of rap that explodes around 3:30, the stuttering vocals at 3:35–that make it much, much more than a cheap verse-chorus-verse-chorus pop production. In fact, with so many layers, it almost feels like a Girls Aloud track in execution.

The accompanying video, which was released earlier today, sees the lovely ladies slowly transitioning from space-pop styling to a more glamorous affair, posing and pouting on beds while showing off their intricate nail design and gorgeous lashes–and new haircuts! Naturally, I’m all about Dara, the ferocious diva serving a Cassie-like half-shaved head. Queen.

In an interview yesterday, 2NE1 leader CL sort of startled the group’s fanbase by proclaiming that if their music no longer feels fresh or new, they’ll quit.

Luckily, the Blackjacks have nothing to fear: “I Love You” is fresh. It represents some of the best that K-Pop has to offer at the moment, and it’s solid proof that 2NE1 has what it takes to actually (truly) break out into the mainstream in the West.

Go girls, go!

“I Love You” was released on July 5. (iTunes)

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