It’s been a while since we’ve seen an US debut from a Hallyu artist. However, with YG’s CL – given her international upbringing and English fluency, as well as her personal preferences for more authentically American-style music – a debut in the US was inevitable. The MV for CL’s US debut, ‘Lifted’ was released on 18th August 2016. CL, legendary for her fierce and aggressive style and rap performance, continues with the same trend for ‘Lifted’.

One of the biggest dilemmas one must face when watching a US debut is to ask: how should I watch this – as a Hallyu fan or as a Western audience? On the one hand, if you’re expecting a Hallyu-style track sung in English, then ‘Lifted’ is not for you; but if you’re happy to see a Hallyu artist play and experiment with more Americanised sounds, then CL is who you should be looking for!

As an MV, it has various things that stand out. The cinematography is lovely and the video style is very bright and open, pulling you into the New York background without any effort. It makes you feel part of the environment rather than being an audience member watching a stage.

It is also quite refreshing to watch a Hallyu artist try something very different: even with other American debuts (such as BoA and SPICA, or more Americanised tracks like Hyuna’s ‘How’s That?’), where the Hallyu style is very apparent, whereas CL could climb the ranks of other rap-heavy artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj very easily. Both the MV and the actual track are devoid of that Hallyu twang which is probably why it is being disseminated more widely amongst American and Western audiences much more than other K-Pop tracks.

However, as a Hallyu fan, this is precisely something that would push you away from the MV and track. Truth be told, as an MV, ‘Lifted’ leaves me rather unfulfilled: there’s no story, no interesting choreography, and whilst it is as colourful as some of the better Hallyu videos, colour and cinematography is used differently.

So it bring us back to our original question, which will have to make us confess that ‘Lifted’ is a great American MV, but definitely not a Hallyu one. After all, the scenes are familiar to Western audiences – a more American black culture and normalised smoking and alcohol culture backdrop – which would not necessarily be seen in Hallyu MVs. (Though, having said that, the cloud-riding scene is kind of more K-Pop than we’d like to admit!)

Given this, credit to CL for bringing such scenes into her MV and bridging aesthetic gaps that the two cultures wouldn’t otherwise tackle without being brought to attention by more internationally brought-up artists like CL.

One of the appeals of ‘Lifted’ is very much that it is entirely an American-style track and MV, and whilst others might find this very emphasis as negative, it only proves CL’s success as an artist to be able to develop her own style whilst being a predominantly Hallyu-influenced artist. Kudos to CL! Keep ‘em coming!

Review written by Tariq Mir

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