CL (finally) Gets Her American Debut with “Lifted”

CLLifted

I seem to like being part of the minority in Kpop, because I feel like I am one of a small group of people that never got into CL. Many people praise her for being very in-your-face as a rapper, and I can appreciate why people love her for that. It’s just that bombastic, swaggy material doesn’t appeal to me, especially the handful of songs that have made CL’s solo career.

It was no surprise that YG has been putting CL in the forefront of the Hallyu wave. She has just about everything that Americans like when it comes to rap music: confidence, good flow, and being totally in your face and unafraid to own a verse. Out of anyone in Kpop she is the most marketable one of the entire genre. However, the constant fits and stops when it comes to her American debut is likely to put a major dent in whether or not this song is going to take off or join the dozens of American debuts Kpop groups and soloists alike have come out with over the years. And at the end of the day, I’m torn.

Upon first listen, CL’s “Lifted” doesn’t have a lot of impact. The instrumental is a very subdued R&B track that recalls 90’s R&B acts like TLC. It’s a far cry from the bombastic swag anthems that both “The Baddest Female” and “Hello Bitches” turned out to be, and out of the three this is by far my favorite. It’s the kind of song you listen to on the radio on the way home from work. In a way, this makes the song have less impact than it should. The lyrics, which are delivered completely in English, still give us the swag vibe that CL has created in her solo career in Kpop, but it’s much more subdued than in your face. As a result, this song actually comes off far too safe for an American debut. One of CL’s strong points is the fact that she does have some attitude and confidence that is very rare in Kpop, and it’s one of the reasons that many people like her. Much as I like “Lifted,” it sounds like an album b-side rather than single, and it’s one of the biggest problems I have with it.

On top of this, the music video for this song comes off rushed and, again, safe for a debut. It looks very much like a hip-hop video would in the states: a dingy, filtered video; a lot of inner-city shots, sexy dancing, and (of course) drugs. And, granted, CL looks amazing here. But, unlike similar videos made by American artists, it comes off as inauthentic. When groups like Wonder Girls tried to debut in the US, it wasn’t so strange for the track to be completely produced because it happens a lot in genres like pop. Hip-hop is an entirely different animal, and it’s not something that can be totally produced by other people beyond the person rapping the lyrics, and that’s going to be one of CL’s greatest challenges when trying to make it in the US. At the same time, I do hope that YG puts more effort into giving her a career in the US, because I really think CL has the biggest chance of getting one.

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