2PM, “Hands Up”. Despite being exciting live, this is not an especially good song (unlike their recent Japanese debut “Take Off”, which aside from some embarrassing rapping is much better - though, admittedly, the comparison is a bit apples and oranges). What makes me like it is that both the song and its “High High”-like video signal a return for 2PM to the fun and funny “beast idol” image they fostered when they first started out - see the video for their debut single “10 Points Out Of 10” (which would also be an unremarkable song but for its crazy energy, which “Hands Up” lacks in the song but kind of makes up for in the video/choreography). It’s like the kids from “10 Points Out Of 10” managed to crash a private party at the hotel where they all work.
To recap, the group’s shtick when they debuted was that they were weird and crazy and, unusual for idols, unconcerned with their image to the point of almost deliberately trying to ruin it, pulling unattractive faces or doing embarrassing stunts, exhibited on variety shows like Mnet’s “Wild Bunny” (which focused exclusively on them) and “Idol Army”. Of course, this was a cultivated image in itself (it’s what Block B are doing now on MTV), but it was fun to watch and gave the group a different appeal from other boy bands, such as SHINee, who debuted around the same time as them and to whom they were frequently compared, with predictable results (“SHINee: city; 2PM: back alley”). This variety show clip from 2009 exhibits 2PM’s early image pretty well.
However, following Jaebeom’s permanent departure from the group, 2PM’s sound turned from rock-influenced hip hop to slick K-R&B, and their increasingly melodramatic material (“Without U”, “I’ll Be Back”, et al.) became largely preoccupied with 1. preserving their fanbase as many rapidly abandoned ship in the wake of the controversy, and 2. saying “we don’t need you” to their haters/antis, a growing number of which were former 2PM fans. They more or less retreated from the variety antics that made them popular and became a group with something to prove, and the chip on their collective shoulder was boring. The teaser for their album Still 2:00 PM, a Terminator-inspired re-take of the teaser for 2:00 PM Time for Change (the last album released while Jaebeom was a member), says it all - aggressive beasts replaced by stiff robots.
But now Jaebeom has successfully returned to the public eye and they can talk about something else for a change. They’re done with lashing out at the world and they’re ready to party. They’re the stars of a new variety show, simply titled “2PM Show”, that promises to live up to “Wild Bunny”. Most of them still can’t really sing (although if there’s one good thing about Jaebeom’s departure, it’s that it allowed the talented but underused Junho to step up to the plate), but maybe their songs will start getting better, too. They’re the most consistently handsome group in K-pop, and they were once the most consistently fun to watch. I’m ready to like them again.