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This Week In K-Pop Being Japan-ified: 2NE1’s Video For “Go Away”

Let’s go back in time and revisit something I wrote back in March when 2NE1 made a special stop in Japan to perform “Go Away:”

“It’s also clearly a female empowerment number, hinted at by the title but also driven home by the overall feel of this song and the video. Japan at least features a fair amount of these positive jams, but I’m intrigued to see how “GO AWAY” is marketed in this country because…it’s way more direct about its message. I’m especially curious about the Japanese music video, which almost certainly will have to be changed because I can’t imagine a clip featuring domestic violence would fly on these shores. Hell, any video with a socially conscious message above a fourth-grade level ‘the world should live in peace!’ poster board probably would rock the boat. That’s the best part about “GO AWAY” – it actually tries to tackle an issue, even while also being insanely good pop music.”

Well, 2NE1 have chosen to release “Go Away” as a Japanese single in the near future, and a video for it has appeared online. Let’s watch it.


First, the actual song remains basically unchanged from the original Korean version (save for the Japanese, obviously) and thank goodness for that because “Go Away” is a hell of a great pop song. Endearingly goofy electronics, that line about Beyonce and a really good chorus. I also love how “Go Away” embraces two things so many people dislike and makes them prominent pieces – the rapping bits and especially the Auto-tune. Great single!

Now…onto the new video. In all honesty, it isn’t bad. 2NE1 have certainly embraced “Japanese fashion” in order to appear more cute, which isn’t shocking considering a lot of people’s first exposure to them was through “I Am The Best” which features them wearing all sorts of weird-cute costumes. So this just continues that trend…especially the climatic “biker club” scene which is pretty similar to those shiny leather Misfits jackets they wore in “I Am The Best.” The whole clip is “cute,” but to the group’s credit (or whoever directed this) they at least go balls-out with it to the point this starts looking like kawaii Tim Burton. This isn’t the regressive cat-ears-tastic video for T-ara’s debut, but borderline ridiculous in the best way possible. Plus, that dog is wearing a hat!

Yet let’s watch the Korean version again, shall we?


The Japanese video isn’t bad…it’s actually pretty OK!…but the original version is a billion times more interesting. At the center of both are a pretty common story…woman leaving an unfaithful man, moving on with friends, finding hope…but the Korean version pushes an otherwise classic trope towards something commenting on a societal problem. This “Go Away” clip makes domestic abuse…both physical AND mental…a central theme, and the fact it even addresses it at all is pretty damn brave. It’s a great video.

Ultimately, Japan and Korea are very different markets where certain things won’t make a great impression, so I’m not surprised the Japanese “Go Away” clip went in a very different direction. Yet why can’t a Japanese video actually highlight a societal problem (especially one that is disturbingly prevalent) instead of shower us with puppy dogs and glitter? Plenty of Japanese pop singles actually comment on societal woes – hell, even AKB48 had a song about paid dating back in the day – but images end up being more memorable than words, which is why seeing the lead singer of 2NE1 slapped in the face leaves a deep impression. On one level, this remains a case of music executives just pandering to what has sold units in the past. Seeing 2NE1 run around with big pieces of corn or T-ara pretending to be cats isn’t surprising from a sales perspective. But it raises a lot of questions about a country that would rather not think about unpleasant truths in favor of dogs wearing hats.