On August 8, 2016, the gods of Hallyu gave birth to what is demonstrably the biggest girl group ever to walk the face of the planet.
I am talking, of course, about the South Korean girl group Blackpink.
Composed of members Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa, Blackpink—often stylized in all caps or as BLɅϽKPIИK—is best known for their unique blend of catchy melodies, bold beats, and stunning visuals, all of which have captivated audiences around the globe and solidified their place as one of the biggest names in pop culture today.
Much like the rest of the world, I first heard the group by way of their first two official single albums, Square One and Square Two, which were released in August and November of 2016 respectively.
The single albums each had two songs in it—“Whistle” and “Boombayah” called Square One home, while Square Two had “Playing with Fire” and “Stay”— all of which have hallmarks of what would become known as the Blackpink sound: bombastic hip-hop rhythms, slick beats, and a whole lot of swag.
It wasn’t until the release of “As If It’s Your Last” in 2017, however, that I became a fan.
Considered by many to be one of their best songs, “As If It’s Your Last” combines elements of dance, Synth-pop, house, reggae, and moombahton, making it one of the most dynamic and dance-able songs in K-Pop. Given its joyous vibes, the track eventually made a home for itself in my playlists, and thanks to its infectious and radio-friendly nature, even became a staple in the bars my friends and I would frequent during those times.
By the time they released the trap-infused “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” from their EP Square Up in 2018, I was hooked: not only did my YouTube algorithm become trained on Blackpink’s songs, but fan edits were also making their way onto my personal social media feeds, ensuring a constant stream of Blackpink-related content for both my ears and eyeballs.
Lest you get the wrong impression, however, Blackpink didn’t pique my interest in the world of K-Pop—it just revived it.
To bring you up to speed, I was a fan of the girl group 2NE1—a girl group which counts pop superstars CL, Minzy, Dara, and Bom as its members—back in college, to the point that I would stay up for their midnight releases, and even save up what I could just to collect their albums. By the time the group and its members left the (musical) limelight, however, my interest in the genre did as well.
Blackpink, who incidentally shares the same management team as 2NE1, changed all of that.
BLINKs—the name given to Blackpink’s most hardcore and ardent fans—point to the group’s skill at effortlessly blending different musical genres to create something that’s entirely their own as one of the key factors behind their superstardom, followed by their ability to seamlessly switch between different languages and make their music accessible to even the most K-Pop avoidant listener.
“I like them because they’re a good intro to the world of K-Pop. The songs are good, often with simple and repetitive hooks that you can sing even if you don’t know any Korean,” Joey Santos, a Manila-based DJ, producer, and self-avowed BLINK, said in one of our conversations.
And introduce more listeners to K-Pop, they did.
At present, Blackpink—who has since signed a contract with US-based label Interscope Records—holds several world records: they are the first female K-pop group to reach No.1 on the UK albums chart, the first female K-pop group to reach No.1 on the US albums chart, and the most streamed female group on Spotify with over 8.8 billion individual streams.
In addition, the Guinness Book of World Records notes that Blackpink’s YouTube channel has registered 30,151,716,121 video views as of April 12 this year, making it the most-viewed music channel on the site, surpassing that of One Direction.
Since signing with Interscope, Blackpink has released several critically-acclaimed collaborations with major music stars such as Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, Cardi B, and Lady Gaga, as well as secured historic headlining gigs at Coachella in 2019 and 2023—a far cry from the lukewarm response received by groups who made the same trek around a decade earlier.
Aside from their music, another factor that attracted me (and the rest of the world, for that matter) to the group was their strong sense of style.
Blackpink, much like other musicians such as Madonna, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga, understands the importance of fusing the worlds of music and fashion. After all, what good is their incredible discography if they don’t have the visuals to back it up?
This uncanny understanding of fashion—honed and sharpened by their stylist Choi Kyung Won—has since made Blackpink hot ticket items for some of the world’s top fashion labels, with the group’s members getting signed as muses left and right within the last few years. Rosé, for instance, is Anthony Vaccarello’s muse for Yves Saint Laurent, while Jennie fulfills the same duties for Chanel. Lisa, on the other hand, is Hedi Slimane’s muse du jour for Celine, whereas Jisoo serves as the beauty ambassador for Dior. Not bad for a group of girls who started out as relative nobodies in the fashion scene.
With all of their achievements, it’s safe to say that Blackpink’s Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa are the reigning Queens of K-Pop. They are also queens of my pop culture-loving heart.
I got into K-Pop as a shy, closeted gay boy in college, and their vibrant music videos and sugary melodies gave me confidence and space to escape whatever troubles I had during those times. Take, for example, the top track on my iPod at that time, in which 2NE1 sang ad infinitum about how they are the best—a chant that, in the years that followed, I have since regarded as a mantra of my own.
Much like 2NE1, Blackpink came into my life just when I needed them to.
I was in the middle of a situationship with a boy who had issues with my femininity, among others, and the lyrics to Blackpink’s As If It’s Your Last mirrored my emotions toward him during that time, obvious red flags be damned.
Suffice it to say, my fling with that boy (thankfully) didn’t work out. My fascination with Blackpink, however, did.
Taking a page from the pop queens that came before them, Blackpink showed me the importance of standing my ground, that there is power and strength in being myself, and that there is no need for me to shed the parts that people might find unattractive.
It’s a message that resounds well with other fans, and it is this message of positivity and confidence—coupled with their catchy melodies and stunning visuals—that has helped them cement their status as global superstars. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish next, as well as the impact they’ll continue to have on the industry. Blackpink, after all, is the revolution.
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