Blackpink: What You Need to Know About K-pop's Biggest Girl Group
2020 might be the year Blackpink rose to the top of the US pop charts, but this is not the group's first time in the spotlight
The four-member South Korean girl band — who get their name from the mixture of tough "black" and flirty "pink" of their songs — have been global superstars since the release of their June 2016 single "Boombayah."
Why are they called Blackpink?
Formed by YG Entertainment under the famous K-pop trainee system in South Korea, the members auditioned with the entertainment agency to become students or 'trainees' with the hope of one day making their debut as a recording artist. When Blackpink debuted, their label YG Entertainment said the name intends to convey that the group embodies more than beauty — there's a toughness, too.
"The meaning of BLACKPINK aims to contradict the common perception of the color pink," the statement read. "Pink is commonly used to portray prettiness, but BLACKPINK actually means to say that 'Pretty isn’t everything.' It also symbolizes that they are a team that encompasses not only beauty, but also great talent."
How is Blackpink different from other K-pop groups?
Between their debut in 2016 and the 2020 release of The Album, Blackpink released fewer than 22 songs, all singles. Despite the small discography, the group's glam look and fun choreography were quickly replicated by other K-pop groups and fans in their social media videos.
The biggest part of Blackpink's popularity lies in their songs, which talk about independence and vulnerability, bilingual lyrics, and undeniable stage presence. Blackpink is also known for the styling of their videos, otherwise referred to as 'concepts' for each song. Where some K-pop videos might have two or three concepts in their music videos, Blackpink will often have five or six completely different concepts (complete with different hair colors and clothing) featured in their video.
Who are the members of Blackpink?
Kim Jisoo is a singer, often referred to as "adorable" by BLINKs (the official name of Blackpink fans). She's known her steadiness and composure — and for balancing random objects on her head or shoulders — previous videos showed her with a cup or an award on her head. Jisoo acted in commercials prior to Blackpink, and was recently announced as a star of the new drama Snowdrop. Although she is the only member who does not speak English fluently, the singer speaks Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.
During a 2019 appearance on The Late Show with James Corden, Jisoo's unflappable calm impressed the host.
Kim Jennie was in the trainee for just shy of six years — the longest of the members. Jennie lived in New Zealand before moving back to South Korea in 2010, and speaks fluent English, Korean, and Japanese. She was the first member of Blackpink to release an individual track, titled "SOLO."
Park Chaeyoung (Rosé) was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia — where she auditioned for YG Entertainment. Rosé is fluent in English and learned Korean after moving to South Korea to take part in the trainee program. She is the group's main singer, and fans claim her distinct voice is easy to recognize. On a promotional appearance for The Album, Rosé impressed fans (and Shakira herself) for her impressive take on the song "Waka Waka."
Lalisa Pranpriya Manoban is known for both her rap and dance skills. Born and raised in Thailand, Lisa (like Rosé) — learned Korean after moving to South Korea in 2011. Lisa also speaks English, Japanese, and Chinese. During promo appearances, Lisa often showcases her impromptu dancing skills, creating viral moments for the group.
How long has Blackpink been together?
Blackpink debuted in 2016 with the mini album Square One, which consisted of only two songs — "Whistle" and "Boombayah." The debut was heavily promoted in the K-pop scene as Blackpink was the first girl group from YG Entertainment in seven years. "Boombayah" galloped straight out of the gate to hit No. 1 on Billboard's World Digital Songs chart, and their popularity continued with additional releases in the following year.
In 2018, Blackpink made headlines again with their single "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du" from the EP Square Up. A few months later, the group branched out by working with Dua Lipa on the track "Kiss and Make Up."
YG Entertainment positioned Blackpink for a global market by partnering with Interscope Records and Universal Music Group in October 2018. In short order, Blackpink then focused on the U.S. market with performances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Good Morning America, and the 2019 Coachella music festival.
What about Blackpink songs?
For an introduction to Blackpink music, start with them at the beginning: their debut single "Boombayah." The video for the song has an upbeat and fun girls-night-out vibe (ending in a party at a retro rollerskating rink). The video offers viewers a peek at the group's impending stardom with sharp choreography and a flair for visuals.
Next, move on to "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du" -— the 2018 comeback single is a rapid-fire whirlwind of tough-girl cool; follow up with "Whistle," "As If It's Your Last," "Lovesick Girls," and "Playing With Fire," each of which have introspective melodies with lyrics full of love, eagerness, and passion. The track "Ice Cream," on the other hand, is a rare sexy song from the group, showcasing double entendre lyrics against a hypnotic beat. Check out the animated version of the video to see Blackpink rendered as Zepeto — an app that allows users to turn themselves into 3D animated characters.
"Pretty Savage" and "Crazy Over You," songs from the band's new album, highlights the group's vocal prowess, with maple syrup smooth lyrics against a can't-get-it-out-of-your-head melody. "Bet You Wanna" featuring Cardi B, is a fun song for the brand, with bubblegum pop lyrics meant for summertime pool parties or dancing in the kitchen while you make dinner.
What does 'Blackpink in your area' mean?
The band's signature phrase, first uttered in their debut song "Boombayah," declares the group's global domination plan. With every new song, Blackpink teases snippets of new concepts, hair colors, and clothing. And boy, has the publicity has paid off. The group now has over 54 million subscribers on their YouTube channel — with the video for "Kill This Love" currently sitting at over 1.1 billion views.
Loyal fans count everything from each member's line distribution on songs to who keeps the center position in the choreography. Blackpink, eager to give the fans what they want, often upload practice videos of the group practicing their choreography. The practice video for "Lovesick Girls" has 96 million views at the time of this writing.
Fans also flock to what's known as 'fancams' — concert videos that focus on one member of the group's performance. Search for 'Blackpink fancam' on YouTube, and you'll find dozens of videos from each of their live performances, each highlighting one member at a time. The popularity of Blackpink means new business ventures for its members: Jisoo has signed as a Dior ambassador, Jennie for Chanel, Rosé for Saint Laurent, and Lisa for Celine.
Netflix paired with Blackpink to air their documentary Light Up The Sky — a first look behind the scenes of the inner workings of the band. For a peek into the (almost) off-duty personality of the band, look for 'Blackpink 24 365' on YouTube. The program, the title of which is a reference to a line from their song "Whistle," is set in a Big Brother-type camera-outfitted house, is a hub where the bandmates live during the promotional periods surrounding new singles.
Don't speak Korean? Fans produced videos are here to help, with a color-coded who's-singing-this-line guide to lyrics in Korean, Korean to English translation, and English.
Still want more? On Dec. 3, the band announced a Livestream concert performance, called "The Show," to be held Dec. 27 at 12 a.m. EST on YouTube.