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Meet BLACKPINK: The Latest, Greatest K-Pop Phenomenon
As Korean pop rounds the bend from its smash crossover breakout year in 2018, led by international phenoms BTS, into a sky's-the-limit 2019, the American mainstream is getting to know a few more names around the household.
Enter BLACKPINK: With an enviable fan army known as "Blinks" and nearly 600 million (!) views on their eye candy-coated video for "DDU-DU DDU-DU," the pop quartet are anything but underground. Their international star only continued to rise when Coachella announced its 2019 lineup earlier this week, with BLACKPINK being the first all-female K-pop act to play the Southern California desert fest.
But their Coachella milestone and devout online infantry are only the beginning of BLACKPINK's western takeover. On Jan. 9, YG Entertainment, the group's company, announced that BLACKPINK’s In Your Area 2019 world tour will hit North America, Europe and Australia after several already planned tour dates throughout Asia. While the new dates and venues are yet to be revealed, the international scope of their momentum is undeniable. At this point you're either in-the-know or asking: who are BLACKPINK?
BLACKPINK have been making ridiculously catchy music since 2016
As a group, Jennie, Rosé, Jisoo and Lisa came from diverse international backgrounds, with Jennie, Rosé both spending time in New Zealand, Lisa hailing from Thailand and Jisoo as the only member who has not lived extensively outside of Korea. Collectively, they arrived into K-pop's consciousness back in 2016 with their SQUARE ONE, SQURE TWO and "As If It's Your Last" offerings, which introduced their hybrid of sugary K-pop with danceable Latin trap and hyped up hip-hop, a concoction referred to by some as "K-trap."
But what sets BLACKPINK apart is production quality on all fronts, as theirs is a look and sound striving for perfection.
Consider "Stay," from 2016's SQUARE TWO three-song sophomore EP, a pensive yet peppy ballad that could be dropped seamlessly into virtually any major U.S. brand ad campaign. And as K-pop is traditionally a very visual-heavy genre, the song's video reflects this cross-continental appeal, with its imagery of blighted corporate America complete with a poignant Easter-egg Talking Heads' "Heaven" lyric lettered on the broken down backdrop's theatre marquee, all under a track that's equal parts longing and hopeful. Even in its mess of heartache and rubble, there's not a hair—or a note—out of place.
Exhibit B: the follow-up single, "As If It's Your Last," flaunts meticulously crafted sections with Lisa's stuttered-and-sliced (and all-English) rap sequences building into a soaring melodic pre-chorus before slamming into the hook. Each new musical idea is painted in its own unique temple, all arranged together in a common garden of song, making for a pleasing mix of variety and profluence. From the beginning, the creative powers behind BLACKPINK have struck this same delicate balance of intrigue and accessibility global pop music demands.
Vivifying their voices and mastering their moves on "DDU-DU DDU-DU"
The group's evolution toward perfect pop onomatopoeia is on full display in their breakout 2018 single, "DDU-DU DDU-DU," which features buoyant beats and an irresistible hook. Audiences clearly love it too; its music video is nearing 600 million views on YouTube, and the song became the highest-charting song by an all-female K-pop group on the Billboard Hot 100, entering the chart at No. 55 back in June. Unsurprisingly, the song hiked all the way up to No. 1 on South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, while hitting No. 2 in New Zealand and No. 7 in Japan.
"DDU-DU DDU-DU" also debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart and on its Emerging Artist chart, becoming the first all-female K-pop act to accomplish the feat.
BLACKPINK's American takeover hits full throttle
As the rest of the world began to take notice, Interscope Records and Universal Music Group took action, signing the group in October of 2018 to represent them outside of Asia. If a major label deal isn't a signpost to success in a country the group has not yet even performed in, what is?
On Nov. 23, 2018, BLACKPINK dropped a nine-song collection of singles constituting their full-length debut, BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA, named after the group's tagline with the aforementioned banger "DDU-DU DDU-DU" as the lead single.
BLACKPINK also bolstered their rolodex in 2018, collaborating with GRAMMY-nominated British songstress Dua Lipa for "Kiss And Make Up" from the complete edition of her self-titled debut, further deepening their cross-over campaign to an international audience. Like their male counterparts BTS, BLACKPINK maintain the highest pop production of both their music and their videos, giving them seemingly limitless potential for audience accumulation.
BLACKPINK have already won a ton of awards
Furthermore, if BLACKPINK's domestic success at home is any indication, the group's global future is blindingly bright. In the past two years they've won 23 awards and been nominated for a whopping 90 (and counting), including several Goan Chart Music Awards, Melon Music Awards and Mnet Asian Music Awards, all major music awards shows in South Korea. Their first Mnet honor came back in 2016 for Best of Next Artist (Female), proving the critics were on board since day one.
Even better news for the group, the American audiences they are primed to overtake have shown strong streaming habits for hip-hop, a perfect fit for BLACKPINK's leaning into rap to counterbalance their pop appeal. Now, with an ever-growing fan army, a litany of awards under their belts and enough buzz to light up the night sky in pink neon, 2019 appears to be BLACKPINK's to take.