If you don’t know who CL is, now you know. She’s taking music, fashion, and culture by tsunami, and should she continue on her incredible upward trajectory, will be the first female Korean super pop star.
BBC released an article 2 days ago noting that CL’s new single, “Lifted,” reached the “top 30 of iTunes’ Hip-Hop/Rap chart within three hours of its release on Aug. 18.” Only days later, she was ranked No. 17 on Billboard’s Social 50 chart — knocking Taylor Swift out of the spot. The chart gathers social media comments and engagement from around the entire world to gauge how much conversation — or how “hot” — a star currently is.
One important point from our chapter on Korean pop culture is that it didn’t just spontaneously arise. Instead, it grew out careful planning, government backing, corporate media growth, and deliberate strategy. CL is no exception. She honed her star power as a member of famed K-pop group 2NE1, which is responsible for her voice, dance, and style skills. K-pop groups are held to notoriously strict schedules to ensure they develop the right skills to become international stars.
As a solo artist, however, CL’s persona shines through — distinctly Korean, but also distinctly global, from her fashion choices to the way she slips seamlessly between Korean, English, Japanese, and more in her songs. She’s hip-hop, but clearly Korean hip-hop. She’s girl-power (think Britney Spears), but clearly Korean girl-power. She’s a powerhouse dancer (think Beyoncé), but clearly a Korean dancer. Her appeal is linked to no one culture and no one sub-group.
In one interview, when asked if her new songs would be like a “rebirth” in the American market since she is already so well-known across Asian countries, she immediately shoots down the concept: “My fans are internet kids so I don’t feel any particular way.” She is smart to recognize that her fan base doesn’t grow out of any particular nation because it’s a particular nation or a particular place, but that her appeal and fanbase are instead mediated by digital expression and are popular because of the breakdown of borders between nations. In another interview, she states it plainly: “My creative is for the world.”
If you want to know what a pop star looks like in this modern wave of globalization, CL is it.
Also if you want to know what Korean hip-hop looks like, look for Keith Ape: