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Blackpink and the Limits of K-Pop Maximalism

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As K-pop was expanding its global ambitions in the late 2000s and early 2010s, so was its desire to become the hungrier pop music scene on the planet. Especially enjoying American pop, hip-hop, R&B, and dance music, alchemizing it all into a maximalist fantasia, creating an aesthetic of absurd excess that for a while became the world’s most progressive and most popular approach.

It acts like YG Entertainment’s girl group 2NE1 thrived in that environment (along with boy band compatriots BigBang) and helped set the stage for the genre’s global takeover. There was music there, masterminded largely by producer Teddy Park, and it was curious, chaotic, and stately. Other pop scenes have since seemed dematerialized.

Blackpink, the next-generation YG girl group that debuted in 2016, are ready to carry that torch with the early success of singles like “Whistle,” “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du,” and “How You Like That.” It looked like it was done. But by the time they released their first full-length album, The Album, in 2020, the group’s music had become more bombastic and fragile than its predecessors, and the blueprint was showing seams.

‘Born Pink’, Blackpink’s second full-length album, is, in theory, an opportunity to innovate both the group and the genre itself. And then we discovered that Blackpink — Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé — was at a crossroads. Whether to continue high energy sound collisions. Whether to fully embrace the English market. Whether to demolish your own house.

The first single, “Pink Venom,” is classic Blackpink. Jisoo’s songs are as rich and solemn as ever, and Jenny’s raps are supple and sprinkled with subtle fine lines.

“Pink Venom” plays like a theme song, more like a group jingle than a pure musical statement. is a little relieved.

“Born Pink” is occasionally galvanic and occasionally repetitive. When a group ventures into new territories, or, more precisely, unshackles from the familiar, it leaves less of an impact. “The Happiest Girl” is a fragile melodrama of piano ballads, and “Yeah Yeah Yeah” is his hilarious simulacrum of ’80s pop that also nods to Weeknd and his Daft Punk.

Four of the songs are written entirely in English, including “Hard to Love,” performed entirely by Rosé (Blackpink are far more effective in this idiom than, say, BTS). It’s nothing new to the group, but it’s still a sharp gesture.

The densely layered production remains central to the group’s mission and positioning, especially on Park’s songs. And throughout the album, the samples and references of G-funk swirls and classical music strings are so buried that they may not exist at all, so there are layers of intense sound. ‘Still Tippin” from ‘Typa Girl’? ‘Mighty D Block (2 Guns Up)’ from ‘Pink Venom’? who can say

Blackpink’s smorgasbord, or 2NE1 before it, was, at least in part, a response to the wave of early girl groups that helped establish K-pop’s ambition and scale, but flirting with Western influences. was more prominent.

Last month, Girls’ Generation, one of the key acts of the era, released a new album, ‘Forever 1′, 15 years after their debut. Over a decade ago, Girls’ Generation was one of the first K-pop artists to release an album from her label on a major American label. But that ambition isn’t as relentless as his Blackpink.

“Forever 1” is a refreshing throwback to the genre’s not-so-exciting moments. The production is mostly mellow and bright, and the songs are sweet and uncomplicated. It’s reminiscent of a time when K-pop still had its own grammar. There’s a light flicker of hip-hop and New Jack swing, like “Seventeen” and “You Better Run.”

But basically, this is classical music. It’s the pure brightness of the piano on “Closer,” the light sachet on “Summer Night.” It positions music not as the killer of the world, but as rest and dreams.

As captivating as “Forever 1” is, it’s more of a rediscovered memory than a feel of the moment. That’s especially evident when the wave of interesting girl groups that arrived after that group, rather than simply alongside Blackpink, are also contextualized, identifying the contours of their success and building on them.

Among these acts, Aespa has played the most prominent role in recent years, with their recent EP ‘Girls’ making it one of the year’s most impressive K-pop releases due to its dual mastery of complexity and elegance. It’s one. It’s the warrior stomp “Black Mamba,” which conveys the flamboyant pop of the early 2000s, the throwback uptempo ballad “Forever,” and “Dreams Come True,” a nod to his early K-pop involvement. ‘ is captured in the closing run. in R&B.

By contrast, Itzy stands out for her determined quirks. Its recent “Checkmate” EP continues the group’s raucous mayhem with extremely nimble, jubilant vocals and production that seems to bubble in real time. “365” evokes industrial or avant-garde club music, while “Racer” sounds like Disney theme park music flowing through a glittering factory.

Finally, and perhaps most promisingly, new jeanshas just released a stellar self-titled debut EP that is totally cool and poised.

On the surface, NewJeans are reminiscent of the less busy moments before 2NE1 in K-pop. But the references in it are very modern, especially the detour to New Jersey club music on “Cookie.” NewJeans, however, deploys a modern reference point to provide an ancestral idea. Or, to put it more bluntly, learn all the lessons the world has to offer and take them home.

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