I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) by 2NE1 (투애니원): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

(Source)

It’s a strange feeling, being disappointed by the release of a 2NE1 music video.

Perhaps the closest analogy would be a few weeks after you first leave home, when the excitement of non-stop partying wears off. Suddenly, you realize that it’s up to you to do the housework, take care of yourself, and somehow pay the bills. Maybe even—heaven forbid—go to bed at 10 like your parents did.

Likewise, Areia’s trance remixes of Follow Me (날 따라 해봐요) and especially Can’t Nobody are how I personally came to love 2NE1, and they’re such epics that I couldn’t help but be taken along for the ride. But, once the magic had worn off a little, I had to admit that their music videos made little sense really, placing the onus on YG Entertainment to produce something more original and coherent this time.

And in the same style as the above image, the teasers did make me hopeful, especially given the constant delays to its release. Like Ashley at Seoulbeats said:

Is it too much to hope for an entirely animated MV with with the girls clearing out a warehouse, Tomb Raider style? They’ve got guns!

But instead we got a veritable smorgasbord of images and props again:

About which Noelle of the (awesome) Always Rational K-Pop Podcast said:

Let’s see… CL the boxer (or wrestler, take your pick) and the mental patient in a straightjacket and later on with a kitten that looks suspiciously like one of my kittens; Bom in skintight leather and studs rocking the dominatrix look with a poodle; Dara in a sports car and later with a hat with two ice creams in metal; Minzi in armor (which reminds me of Joan of Arc) who shows off her nifty dance moves…and all the girls with guns shooting glass. Nice!

What can I say? Well, nothing much but yeah, the world is theirs to conquer.

To which I’d add the—yet again—outrageous expense of their outfits, which surely undermines their maverick and/or bad-girl image?

Much as I’d like to deconstruct Bom’s BDSM side then, or ponder the symbolism of CL stroking her pussy, the incoherence of the video defies such efforts, so I’ll wisely just concentrate on the lyrics here. But don’t get me wrong: disappointment at missed opportunities aside, the video is still very addictive(!), and I love the song itself so much that it’s no less than my second ever MP3 purchase! (600won/US$0.55 from Naver, if you’re curious)

UpdateMy First Love Story puts my love-hate relationship with the video very well:

“I Am The Best” is the title of the new 2NE1 single. Fitting, as 2NE1 may in fact be the best girl group in the world at this very moment. And this is taking into account that the above video is rather typical 2NE1. It’s flashy, sleek, and professional, but it’s not like we haven’t seen this type of look-book video from them time and again. Thankfully, a typical 2NE1 video is still worlds better than an amazing video by approximately 99% of other girl groups in the game right now.

Update 2 – And Subi at Seoulbeats discusses the question of if this music video means that 2NE1 is really as original and unique as they seem.

(Source, all screenshots)

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

누가 봐도 내가 좀 죽여주잖아

둘째가라면 이 몸이 서럽잖아

넌 뒤를 따라오지만 난 앞만 보고 질주해

네가 앉은 테이블 위를 뛰어다녀 I don’t care

건드리면 감당 못해 I’m hot hot hot hot fire

뒤집어지기 전에 제발 누가 날 좀 말려

I am the best (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Whoever sees me thinks I’m a little killing hot

To be second to someone would be such a pity

You follow behind me, but I look ahead and race forward

I jump around on the table you sit at, I don’t care

If you touch me you won’t be able to bear it

Someone stop me before I go crazy

I’m surprised to learn that this is actually only the second 2NE1 song I’ve translated on the blog, and so will try to speed up the other 2 or 3 almost-completed ones I have floating around on my hard drive somewhere. Until then, please take my word for it that the brevity of their lyrics tends to belie their vagueness and contradictions, and in particular that subjects and objects are so often omitted in this song that—lest they make the translation unreadable—I decided to forgo all the extra square brackets to indicate my guesses (but I think I’ve got most of them right!).

That caveat aside, in line 4 “killing hot” is my wife’s literal translation, but which I’m sure you can make more natural-sounding in English (“looks to die for”? “looks that kill”?). Likewise, I thought the “a little” (좀) detracted from, maybe even flatly contradicted the point that she was very attractive, but as it’s in the original Korean then there you have it.

Fortunately the rest is just a matter of getting the dictionary out, as is the next verse, so I’ll pass it on without comment. But as always, please feel free to ask any questions about anything I don’t cover (and I’ll add my explanations in the corresponding sections of the post).

옷장을 열어 가장 상큼한 옷을 걸치고

거울에 비친 내 얼굴을 꼼꼼히 살피고

지금은 여덟 시 약속시간은 여덟 시 반

도도한 걸음으로 나선 이 밤

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

I open my wardrobe and throw on my sweetest clothes, then

meticulously inspect my face shining in the mirror

Now it’s 8, my appointment is at half past

I leave this night with a proud, arrogant step

I am the best (x4)

내가 봐도 내가 좀 끝내주잖아

네가 나라도 이 몸이 부럽잖아

남자들은 날 돌아보고 여자들은 따라해

내가 앉은 이 자리를 매일 넘봐 피곤해

선수인척 폼만 잡는 어리버리한 Playa

넌 바람 빠진 타이어처럼 보기 좋게 차여

어떤 비교도 난 거부해 이건 겸손한 얘기

가치를 논하자면 나는 Billion dollar baby

뭘 쫌 아는 사람들은 다 알아서 알아봐

아무나 잡고 물어봐 누가 제일 잘 나가?

내가 제일 잘 나가 (x4)

Whoever sees me thinks my look is the end

Even if you were me, you would be envious of my body

Men turn their heads and look at me, women follow me

I am tired of people trying to take my place [as number one] everyday

A stupid, naive playa who only poses like one

Like a tire that’s had it’s air let out, you look well rejected

I don’t accept some comparison, this is my modest story

If you planned to guess my worth, then I’m a billion dollar baby

People who know about stuff, recognize all this by themselves

Grab anyone and ask: who is the best?

Lulled into a false sense of security by the previous verses, this one frankly had me wanting to rip my hair out. Fortunately, I don’t actually have any, but you get the idea!

  • In line 1, as you can probably guess “my look is the end” is a literal translation, but note that it means exactly the same thing as “I’m a little killing hot” in the corresponding line in Verse 1.
  • If you’re confused by line 2, because you think that if you were one of the 2NE1 members then surely you wouldn’t be jealous of their body because it was now yours, then you’re not alone. So please don’t shoot the messenger!
  • In line 3, don’t misread the “돌아보다” like I originally did: it’s not “돌보다”, which means “to look after”.
  • Line 4 is literally “athlete-pretend-form/pose[only]-grab[that]-stupid/naive-playa”…after reading which I seriously began to despair. But my wife telling me that “선수” (athlete) also means “playa” in many contexts helped, and our final “a stupid, naive playa who only poses like one” does make some sense: the guy referred to is a poser rather than a genuine playa perhaps?
  • Line 7 would be better translated to “Nobody compares to me” in English, but what’s up there is closer to the original Korean. No, I don’t think that that’s a “modest story” either.
  • Line 9 I couldn’t make any head or tail of, and so the translation is entirely my wife’s. I throw myself on the mercy of the court!

In compensation for the difficulty I had with all that though, fortunately the song is already almost over:

누가? 네가 나보다 더 잘 나가?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

Who? You are better than me?

No no no no!

Na na na na! (x4)

Bam Ratatata Tatatatata (x4)

Oh my god

And on that note, apologies for the slight delay with this post. But for my severest critics demanding to get involved however, then it would have been up several hours ago:

38 thoughts on “I am the Best (내가 제일 잘 나가) by 2NE1 (투애니원): Lyrics, Translation, and Explanation

  1. The best girl group in the world? I realize that’s a quote of a quote, but … seriously? (Maybe because I follow mandopop, cantopop, J-pop, and English-language pop, that strikes me as a really overreaching comment. Hopefully it actually means “my favorite group” (of the other writer)…heh.)

    Anyway, hmm, quite a mishmash. Will have to rewatch/relisten.

    • Not at all, I don’t think it’s a very personal question. And yeah, they speak English (I speak only English to them, and my wife Korean), but with both of them hanging around with Korean teachers and other Korean kids all day versus the 2 hours or so they get with me (not counting the time we’re together but I’m doing something else like blogging that is) then their Korean is much better.

    • Yes they can speak English. In fact, the leader can speak Korean, English, Japanese, and French. They can all speak English and another one of them can also speak Filipino and another one can speak Chinese and another one can speak Japanese.

  2. Hey, great translation. :) And I lovvvve this video!

    I was thinking about the ‘좀’ in that ‘killing looks’ line. I haven’t learned this from an official textbook or anything, but my intuition from everyday usage is that, while 좀 can mean ‘a little’ or ‘a bit’, it also can just have the effect of slightly softening something – or even just giving lip service to softening it or being modest. The way we might say, “Yeah, I’m basically hot enough to kill” or “Not gonna lie, my looks are to die for,” or whatever.

    Again, just my intuition, but there’s some food for thought!

  3. Nice work on the translation; I have a hell of a time trying to translate my favourite Korean songs. Running into lines like #4 make me want to bang my head against the table.

  4. I love your posts – continue the translations (even though they must be a pain the neck)! They even help me understand Korean better (the little of it I understand). And thanks for the link :)

  5. Hmm, I have been reading your blog for just a short time. I really enjoy it but for some reason I had this image of you in my head as someone a little more, um, rotund. Now that that is cleared up I can picture you more accurately as someone kinda handsome.

    • Erm…thanks *embarrassed* But now I fear that if we ever did meet in real life then you’d be very disappointed, as I have indeed put on a lot bit more weight since that photo was taken in…let’s see…July 2007 (that’s my daughter Alice’s hand on my shoulder, and her and her sister literally absorb all the energy I used to use for exercising). But I’m going to try really hard to lose some weight this summer!

      (Update, 2014: That picture of me has since been replaced with one from last year. Hope I’m still handsome though!)

  6. Sometimes these posts turn strange. I mean, how many times can one dissect the use of sex to sell alcohol, music, clothing, lifestyle or fridges for that matter?

    But c’mon, a grown man claiming that one of these cookie cutter girl groups is one of the best musical talents ever?

    How about analyzing that claim for its sexually deviant, socially-revealing elements.

  7. First of all, thank you for the translation and analysis. It’s a shame that YG is boilerplating such a great song and an even greater girl group, but business is business. I pine for the day they let Minzy choreograph an entire video, recalling the amazing dancing and popping skills I’ve seen elsewhere on YouTube. As one who has absolutely zero Korean language skills, the lyrics’ meanings (or lack thereof at times) means very little to me, aside from the interest in the art of translation itself, but it does provide insight.

    But what REALLY made me grant WordPress access to my precious Facebook info in order to post this comment was that UTTERLY ADORABLE video at the end (and oh, what a cute surprise it was way down at the bottom of the page!) of your “most severe” (“severest” is incorrect, pardon me butting in as an English teacher here…) critics.

    Honestly, I was gushing in tears of joy and sheer amusement watching that video! Even more than the 2NE1 content, I want to thank you for completely making my weekend by sharing that clip!!

    • Thanks very much for your comment. 3 year-old Elizabeth by the way, is saying the the blue basket is broken in the video, then demanding glue from her mother and I to fix it.

      I beg to differ on “severest” though (after all, I’m an English teacher too!).

      • This happens to be the only issue on which a fellow teacher and I found grounds for dispute last semester, lol! I know her reasoning was wrong, but have to admit I’m less sure about either of our conclusions. Guess I’ll have to get around to looking it up!

  8. Don’t they release official lyrics? Seemed like you and your daughter were trying to hear what they were saying and writing it down. I have to really concentrate to figure out what most pop musicians whose music gets played here are singing, and that’s supposedly in my native language. And even then it’s often a struggle. Forget another language.

    • Yes they do: that’s a copy from Naver on the clipboard that Alice is holding (with all my notes scribbled in).

      Likewise, I’d have no chance of figuring out the lyrics if I had to write them out myself!

      • So you’re checking the official lyrics? Do I want to know how many times you listen to each song?

        And your kids are cute.

  9. “네가 나라도 이 몸이 부럽잖아”

    Looking through a Google search of “even if you were me” -2NE1 is enlightening. There’s this:

    I’d hate you even if you were me.

    And then there’s this (fucking painful) song, where the actual line seems to be “I swear, you couldn’t handle it even if you were here”, but a version with “me” instead has made it onto lyrics sites.

    Then there’s a nice response to ridiculous senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell last year:

    “I’m not a witch, I’m you”

    Well, Christine O’donnell, even if you were me (doubtful), I’d rather not elect myself to the US Senate.

    Finally, there’s some chatroom dude taking it to the next level:

    I’m so win, that even if you were me and you lost, I’d win, because I’m so win, and you are so lose

    2NE1 — on the forefront of linguistic wit!

  10. I had to turn off that last video after 29 seconds before I went completely mad and started ripping out my eardrums. Your daughters are growing up fast, aren’t they? In elementary school, the girls are allowed to have long, flowing hair, but in middle and high, they have to follow hair regulations, don’t they?

  11. Pingback: Finding K-Pop Songs to Learn « Beginner's Mind: South Korea

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  14. What is the purpose of trying to deconstruct a pop song. It’s a pop song, even more it’s a dance pop song. Dance pop songs are vague by nature and necessity. As far as the phrase which translates to the equivalent of “I’m kinda a killer” or “I’m kinda to die for.” It’s MEANT to be contradictory, it’s a turn of phrase. The purpose of phrasing it that way is to convey something along the lines of a false humbleness…”I’m kinda hot…I’m kinda bad ass, I’m really kinda awesome, etc” it’s meant that way, that’s the way people speak nowadays…not formally (at least I hope) but that’s common. No deep meaning or discussion needed there.

  15. Do you think this line:

    지금은 여덟 시 약속시간은 여덟 시 반

    translates as “now my eight o’clock date is at 8:30″? From the intonation I took 여덟 시 약속 to be a noun phrase, and the line seems to refer to being purposely late.

  16. I wish I knew where to buy CL’s jacket. You know, the one with the spikes XD
    It’s a good song, thanks for the translation

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