Is Blackpink the revolution? Here’s why they’re not


“Pink Venom” concept photo

The queens are back. Or, at least, that’s what the fans say.


K-Pop group Blackpink debuted in 2016 and have made quite an impact on the international music scene. Their debut, “BOOMBAYAH,” has reached over a billion views, all their solos have been smashing successes, and all of the members have not only become stars within the music industry, but in the fashion world as brand ambassadors for household names such as Dior, Chanel, Celine, and Yves Saint Laurent. With hit after hit, an evergrowing fanbase, and boundless charisma, it seems as if Blackpink is the revolution as they claim.


Or are they?


If you look at Blackpink, they definitely seem like the revolution of K-pop. They’ve conquered K-pop and the world. They’ve successfully infiltrated the west. They have legions of fans from all over the world. However, it’s important to remember that Blackpink is a musical group. Strip away all of their acting careers, modeling, the glorious brands that dress them, and look at them in the most literal sense that they are supposed to put forth music and performances. In that sense, they are most definitely not the revolution.


Blackpink just released their second album: BORN PINK. It’s certainly something to be excited about since the last time Blackpink had a proper comeback was two years ago. Despite all the excitement, I can’t help but be disappointed by their newest album. Not only was there a measly eight songs, but poor production, creativity, and lyricism.


“Born Pink” album cover


The first song released was a collaboration with PUBG Mobile, a battle royale video game, that also worked as a b-side for the album. Although many fans were impressed with “Ready For Love,” some were confused. Yes, it’s not their official comeback but couldn’t they have put in a bit more effort?


Sure, the beginning is quite gorgeous and reminiscent of Blackpink’s earlier days. There are dynamic moments such as the charismatic rap or the invigorating bridge but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The chorus is lazy and nothing impressive: a simple beat drop with a repeated chant. We first heard the sample for this song two years ago in Blackpink’s documentary, Light Up The Sky, and yet this is the best they can come up with? 


Blackpink makes the song memorable with their charisma and unique tones, but at the end you’re left feeling extremely unsatisfied. As the biggest girl group in the world, it’s disappointing for them to release something so dull and predictable. It’s simply “Forever Young” 2.0.


In August, Blackpink announced their pre-release: “Pink Venom.” The title is extremely “Blackpink-esque” and suggested the song would be a mishmash of previous songs. And that’s exactly what happened. Like most of their songs, the beginning holds a bit of promise, but the chorus lets listeners down. Yes, it’s catchy. It’ll stick in your head but just because it’s a catchy hook, does not mean that it’s a good chorus. Moreover, the chorus is simply an awful beat drop paired with another chanty phrase that sounds unsurprisingly hollow. 


The combination of traditional tones infused with a ’90s-inspired rap is interesting, but not enough to keep me intrigued. The bridge is by far the most interesting due to its climatic buildup but the excitement crashes once the outro hits because it is simply an irritating “ra-ta-ta” hook. It’s not badass nor is it particularly listenable. I could only hope that the title track would be better with a spoken chorus or just a song with an anthemic background such as “Lovesick Girls.” However, Blackpink managed to confound my foolish hopes.


The title track, “Shut Down,” is slightly more interesting but once again, nothing exciting. This time, Blackpink took a more compelling route: they infused Niccolo Paganini’s “La Campanella” into their song. Many K-Pop groups have been inspired by classical music (Red Velvet’s “Feel My Rhythm”) so I was curious to see how Blackpink would insert it into their song. I credit Blackpink for slightly deterring from the usual “Teddy formula” (intro, a galvanizing pre-chorus, beat drop chorus, chanted dance break music fest) and trying something new. 


However, this experiment is not a success. Like their other pre-releases, the song is tedious. While simply reusing their old music video props and stages, Blackpink drones on for three minutes about how great they are with a repetitive hook. I don’t have a problem with groups lifting up themselves against their haters but if that’s all they have to say (with the occasional “whip it, whip it, whip it”), it starts to sound brash or even insecure. Blackpink doesn’t seem to realize that they can be badass without telling us. 


While bland and thankfully not as obnoxious as “Pink Venom,” Blackpink manages to add their own sense of flair and charisma to keep the song going. However, personality and charm were not enough to beef up the underwhelming song with such a repetitive melodic backbone. 


Aside from the above mentioned songs, we get a whopping total of five new b-sides: “Typa Girl,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” “Hard to Love” (Rosé’s solo), “The Happiest Girl,” and “Tally.” “Yeah Yeah Yeah” is arguably the best song not only among the b-sides, but in the whole album. The euphoric rush of a retro disco beat is refreshing to hear and yet it sounds like something from the 2010s. It has the feeling of “been there done that.” Blackpink declares they’re the revolution but why are they releasing songs using outdated beats and structures? The retro sound was on a high during 2020 so why is Blackpink bringing out old trends? If they were going to keep the retro sound, why didn’t they flesh out that gorgeous disco beat into something more exciting? Add some ad-libs or even a spoken chorus? Experiment with something new instead of staying in their comfort zone?


Blackpink seems to be facing a dilemma: they stepped out of their comfort zone but quickly retreated. They attempted to endeavour in uncharted territory with “Pink Venom” and yet it ended up sounding like a mashup of their other singles. They dabbled with classical music but ended up with a song that sounded hollow and tedious. They played it safe with some standard-sounding ballads such as “The Happiest Girl” or disco pop like “Yeah Yeah Yeah.”


It’s disappointing to watch Blackpink climb higher and higher as their music falls into second-rate territory. Show me that you’re the biggest girl group in the world. Show me with quality music. Show me with inventive music that isn’t recycled from your past glories. Judging by past releases, Blackpink may not release another song until the next year or two later. Beggars can’t be choosers, but we were all expecting just a little more than a mere 8 song album that borders on mediocracy after years of waiting.


Photos: Blackpink