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BLACKPINK Talk 'The Album': "The Spotlight Shed On K-Pop Is Just The Beginning"

BLACKPINK

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BLACKPINK Talk 'The Album': "The Spotlight Shed On K-Pop Is Just The Beginning"

Ahead of the release of 'The Album,' GRAMMY.com sat down with the K-pop superstars to discuss their career, achievements, motivations and future

GRAMMYs/Sep 29, 2020 - 08:11 pm

At some point during the conversation, the topic of the pressure of being BLACKPINK comes up. There’s a short silence on the other end of the call. Starkly different from the effervescent laughs until then, it’s pregnant with introspection as the four members of BLACKPINK—Lisa, Jennie, Jisoo and Rosé—think about the title that’s most often associated with their name: "The Biggest Girl Group In The World."

It isn't hyperbole, either. A look at the numbers is enough to prove that. Within 24 hours of its release earlier in June, the first pre-release single from The Album, "How You Like That," broke five Guinness World Records. With 86.3 million views in that time, it became the most viewed YouTube video and the most viewed music video in the world. "How You Like That" also debuted at No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100, tying with Lady Gaga’s "Sour Candy"—a song the group featured on—making BLACKPINK the highest-ranking female Korean act at the time.

Earlier in 2019, the quartet became the first K-pop group to hit 1 billion views on Youtube with their single "Kill This Love." They followed it up with a sizzling performance of the single at Coachella, making history again as the first K-pop girl group to do so.

Along with the weight of the epithet, thus, the title encompasses a vast journey that the quartet has covered in just a fraction of the time it takes established acts—four years to be precise. So, excuse the members of BLACKPINK for taking a couple seconds to reflect, please.

"It's very surprising to us," Jennie says at last. "Every day we try to acknowledge how grateful we are, but more than the pressure, we are ready to give them back as much as they [their fans, BLINKs] gave us. It just gives us more motivation to go further than we ever dreamed of."

If you’ve been acquainted with the BLACKPINK ethos, you will have seen this coming. For the better part of four years, the members of BLACKPINK have stood tall on the backs of the self-assured, self-aware messages in their music. Whatever the challenge, the BLACKPINK way is to always go up. Now, as they get ready to reacquaint themselves with the world with their first full-length release, The Album, the same determination abounds.

"We tried to put more colors into our music, say black and pink," says Lisa. "I wish each member has a stronger presence on the stage and explores more various genres. I hope people don’t know what to expect from us, except for something better than before. We want to be unpredictable."

Ahead of the release of The Album, GRAMMY.com sat down with BLACKPINK to discuss their career, achievements, motivations and future.

This is going to be your first full-length album after your debut, so the hype is very real. What was the mood when you heard it was happening?

Rosé: At the very start, when they said that we were going to [be releasing] our first album, we were very stoked, because we do know that our fans have been waiting for this moment for a very, very long time. We were very excited but also nervous at the same time because we do know that it is a big deal. It's the first time we were able to put all of our colors into something. We had mixed feelings, but overall it was very positive vibes, and we were very stoked to be able to finally release the full album.

The Album is coming after almost four years of your debut, which is a long time. Why do you think that this is the right moment for it?

Rosé: We had four years to kind of build our own colors as BLACKPINK. Throughout the four years, we got to explore different genres and really find out our exact, distinct colors. So, I feel like [in] this album, we were able to put our prepared music style and contribute with new music genres that we're still exploring recently. [That's why] I think now is the best time to come out, because any later would be too late and any earlier, we might have been in a rush. We definitely feel like, right now, we are fully ready to put out a full completed album.

How do you think this album represents the kind of artists you are? How does it represent your colors?

Jennie: I think we've said this before, but our new album is full of surprises. We like to believe that it's something no one has tried before. We just want to bring something new. The album is cool, you know, and we tried to put together all the colors of BLACKPINK that we've built before into one.

You started this year with some amazing collaborations. What do you look for while working with other artists? Where is that middle ground between your style and their style?

Jennie: Since there are already four of us, we're very adjusted to working with people, so somebody new is always welcome. They bring a new perspective to the group, and it's an amazing experience. It's like stepping outside of our usual boundaries and into a world that we haven’t been to. To create something new with a great artist, like Lady Gaga and Dua [Lipa] and much more to come, it's just a great chance for us as artists and groups.

How was working on The Album different to working on your previous EPs? The Album is more cohesive, it's longer; there are more songs, more opportunities. What was that like?

Rosé: Definitely, because it's not like separate projects that we were working on. In the past, when we were working on individual projects, it was mainly all about that "one" song or that "one" concept that we were coming out with. But, because this was an album, we really had to think about the flow and the meaning behind this. I feel like this time around, we do have personal songs in there, something that tells our story, something that is fun.

And since our name is BLACKPINK, we represent the diversity in our personalities as individuals and as artists. So, we feel like we really had to put that forward and address that as well as we could.

You told me how the album went from concept to final form and how you showed your colors; are there any parts of the production process that you paid special attention to?

Rosé: I feel like we stayed in the studio for a while. We didn't want to just have a bunch of tracks and songs written for us and for us just go and record. We did spend a lot of time in the studio trying to find what we really wanted to sing about, what kind of music we wanted to put out. It took us a while to get together a list of good songs so we could get into recording mode. That's the really big process: just hanging out in the studio and making sure we have fun there so we can be honest.

Let's talk a little bit about your recent achievements. You've broken records that at one point a lot of people thought were unachievable, especially for Asian artists. You performed at Coachella, you’re the most followed K-pop act on YouTube, "How You Like That" broke so many records right after its release. In context of all that, the pressure of being BLACKPINK must be so intense.

Jennie: It's very surprising to us. All the records are the results of our fans, BLINKs, and their unconditional support. Every day we try to acknowledge how grateful we are, but more than the pressure, we are ready to give them back as much as they gave us. It just gives us more motivation to go further than we ever dreamed of.

There's always a line between the persona and the person, so how do you make sure that the expectations people have of you are realistic, that what is going on in your professional life is either a reflection of who you are or a separation from it?

Jisoo: We are grateful, as artists, as individuals, that people have such big expectations of us, and we are ready to take on the burden that comes with the expectations. We chose to do this: we try to send that message in our music, to show our confidence and the boldness to take on the challenge.

I feel like you’ve gone beyond the concept of a traditional girl group now. BLACKPINK is not just a name, it’s sort of become a force of nature where everybody knows who you are. With a position like that, there's always a danger of thinking: "I'm fine here. I'm good. This is comfortable." The position limits growth. How do you guys ensure that you always keep on reinventing?

Rosé: While we are very grateful for the amount of things that we have achieved and everything that follows this, we are just four girls who always really loved music and we just enjoyed performing. So [staying] creative is not too hard, because once we do one thing, we are always looking at the next thing, always dreaming of things that we have always wanted to do. But we definitely don't settle with what we have right now. We're all very greedy when it comes to. [Laughs.]

Jennie: We have each other to look and be inspired by. We let each other know what we're doing and where to head.

Lisa: We're like the same person.

Rosé: I think all of our members try to remind each other of how we're all just human. The hype, we try not to let it get to us. We don't really go: "Oh my god, we broke these many records or da di da..." We just look at each other and like…

Jisoo: We're just happy with how far we've come.

How do you think you've grown since your trainee days?

Rosé: We definitely have become a little more professional when it comes to this job, I guess? When we were trainees, we were only training for the music. This job is actually a job.

Jennie: There is much more stuff to care about than just music, but to carry ourselves as somebody to influence or [somebody to] look up to.

Lisa: We just enjoy every little step of it, and when we're off camera, we're pretty much like, still four girls.

Rosé: Teenage girls. [Laughs.]

Tell me how you're going to relax after the album comes out. Will there be a party, or a girls' night in?

Rosé: The crazy thing is right after our album releases, we're going to be promoting it and trying to get as much content out there for our fans. Definitely there will be a celebration at some point, but I still think we will be at working mode.

Jennie: But an excited working mode, since our fans have the album in their hand.

Lisa: [From the back] We're workaholics!

Rosé: And our biggest celebration is kind of like, staying at home in bed. Sleeping all day, so that's going to happen, hopefully.

A lot of your plans for promotion might have been thrown off course with COVID. How does this synergy with fans affect your performance? What are you expecting this time around?

Jisoo: Even though the opportunity for us to meet our fans in person has decreased, we're very grateful for social media at this point. I actually feel like since we do have social media we have more of a platform to connect with our fans on a bigger scale, so we're grateful for that at this point in time. We just hope to reach out to our fans and give them more hope through our music and content.

You guys are in a position where you are some of the people spearheading the modern K-pop expansion. Since your debut, we have seen K-pop grow so much. What kind of responsibility do you think you personally have towards its global expansion?

Rosé: It's amazing that K-pop is spreading around the world as a culture in itself. There are a lot of other K-pop artists out there who are trying to put out their music right now, and we are really grateful that we get to step in and be a part of that.

Jennie: Since we get such amazing opportunities and records because of the people that are interested in watching K-pop right now, we'd like to take the responsibility. We are fully committed to the work. We want to be proud when we look back on our history when we grow old.

[Rosé laughs.]

Jennie: We want to be proud of ourselves. I don't want to let ourselves down, so we put extra time, extra effort into every single thing we put out. I think that's why it takes a bit of time for us, but we really want to perfect the quality of the stuff we put out, so we can be represented to the world as a K-pop group.

Rosé: It's amazing how things are going. It's a big responsibility but a good responsibility that we have.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

Beyoncé Releases International Day Of The Girl 'Freedom' Video

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"GRAMMY Effect" Spikes Sales

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

"GRAMMY Effect" Spikes Sales
The 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards drove a 3.3 percent increase in album sales compared to last week, according to a Billboard report. The 2010 GRAMMY Nominees album jumped to No. 5 with sales of 71,000 units, a 55 percent increase. Top GRAMMY winner Beyoncé's I Am…Sasha Fierce rose to No. 14 with sales of 32,000 copies, a 101 percent increase. Other GRAMMY performers experiencing sales increases include Pink (up 234 percent), Dave Matthews Band (up 114 percent), the Zac Brown Band (up 82 percent), the Black Eyed Peas (up 76 percent), Taylor Swift (up 58 percent), and Lady Gaga (up 17 percent). Lady Antebellum, who also performed on the telecast, remained at No. 1 for the second consecutive week. (2/10)

Grainge Promoted To UMG CEO
Universal Music Group International Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge has been promoted to CEO of Universal Music Group, effective Jan. 1, 2011. He will succeed Doug Morris and report to Jean-Bernard Lévy, chairman of the management board of Vivendi. Grainge will relocate from London to New York to serve as co-CEO of UMG in tandem with Morris for six months starting July 1. Morris, who has served as UMG chairman and CEO since 1995, will remain as company chairman. (2/10)
 

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Ladies Antebellum And Gaga, Jeff Beck, David Frost, John Legend Win Three GRAMMYs Each

Arcade Fire wins Album Of The Year; Esperanza Spalding wins Best New Artist

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

(To view a list of 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards winners, click here.)

The evening began with a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, but by the time the last of the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards was handed out on Feb. 13, several other singers and bands looked something like royalty. Foremost among them was Lady Antebellum, who walked away with three trophies while the group members earned two more each for songwriting categories.

Lady Antebellum at the GRAMMYs

 

During a show memorable for its range of fully fueled performances, the country superstars sang a pitch-perfect medley of tunes that ended with a quiet rendition of the song that launched them, "Need You Now," and shortly afterward collected the Song Of The Year GRAMMY for it (along with co-writer Josh Kear, with whom they also took Best Country Song). But there was plenty more to come for the trio. They also took home the GRAMMY for Best Country Album for Need You Now. Accepting that award, lead singer Charles Kelley said, "This song has completely flipped our world upside down." By the time Lady Antebellum stood up to collect a trophy for Record Of The Year for "Need You Now," they were in disbelief, and possibly discombobulated: "Oh my gosh, we're so stunned we started walking the wrong direction," said singer Hillary Scott breathlessly.

Also racking up awards was Lady Gaga, who claimed three: Best Pop Vocal Album for The Fame Monster, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Short Form Music Video for "Bad Romance." Never one to miss the chance to make an entrance, she hatched herself onstage from a giant opaque egg. That was a riff on her new single, "Born This Way," and perhaps her bared shoulders, which sprouted a pair of pointy elbows, were too. Her dancers and outfit gave off a Cleopatra vibe, but Gaga can't be stopped from seeming ultra-modern, and her performance of "Born This Way" reflected that; it was a warp-speed whirlwind.

Lady Gaga at the GRAMMYs



 

In keeping with that same modernist — or maybe futurist — spirit, she accepted her award for Best Pop Vocal Album in black body armor. But Gaga also proved she can be an old-fashioned girl with a soft side. In an emotional acceptance speech for that award, she surprised the audience by thanking Whitney Houston: "I imagined she was singing…because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar. Whitney, I imagined you."

Leading the nominees with 10 nods revolving around Recovery, an album that detailed his struggles with addiction but also reestablished him as a rap force to be reckoned with, Eminem took home trophies for Best Rap Album — a triumph over rivals including Jay-Z, Drake and B.o.B — and Best Rap Solo Performance for "Not Afraid." Onstage, his swagger proved undiminished.

A flame-haired Rihanna opened Eminem's performance with a searching rendition of their duet "Love The Way You Lie," but it was Slim Shady who came out blazing, spitting the lyrics to that song before raging into "I Need A Doctor" with Dr. Dre and singer Skylar Grey; Adam Levine from Maroon 5 handled piano duty.

Closing the show and likely lifting the Sunday-night spirits of indie kids everywhere was the Canadian collective Arcade Fire, who won the Album Of The Year GRAMMY for The Suburbs and, before the night's final performance, turned in a frothy and fierce rendition of the rocking "Month Of May."

Arcade Fire at the GRAMMYs

 

Other multiple winners for the evening included classical music producer David Frost, legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck and R&B artist John Legend, who each earned three awards. Among those who won two each were alternative rock band the Black Keys, jazz giant Herbie Hancock, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, urban/alternative group the Roots, Keith Urban, and gospel singer BeBe Winans.

And in a bit of surprise, jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist over teen phenom Justin Bieber, as well Canadian rapper Drake, and adventurist rock outfits Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons.

Esperanza Spalding at the GRAMMYs

 

The show also featured a few firsts, including a first-time ever GRAMMY performance by Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger, who helped pay tribute to fallen R&B singer Solomon Burke.

But if there was also a constant, it was the annual, high-profile celebration of music that the GRAMMYs represent, and the 53rd GRAMMYs fit the bill once again, with performances, pairings and awards presentations that were full of pleasant musical surprises.
 

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