In today’s Instagram-focused age, festival-poster placement matters. When Blackpink was listed boldly on the second row of the Coachella Day 1 lineup, alongside Janelle Monáe, Diplo and the 1975, it drove home just how much of an impact the K-pop girl group has made despite the California fest marking their first-ever U.S. performance.
The group had a huge 2018. With a Top 40 EP (Square Up broke a four-year-old record for highest-charting Korean release by a female act on the Billboard 200), a hit collaboration with Dua Lipa (“Kiss and Make Up” has 125 million Spotify streams and entered the Hot 100 singles chart) and one of the biggest 24-hour debuts on YouTube ever (“Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” earned more than 36 million views in its first day out), Blackpink spent the year making significant mainstream inroads that led to signing with a U.S. label in Interscope Records — all without spending a minute promoting in America or singing in English.
Coachella 2019 will likely mark a pivotal moment for the group, the latest outfit backed by South Korean superlabel YG Entertainment, home to international breakouts like Bigbang and CL, as well as the former home to Psy during his “Gangnam Style” breakthrough. Before the revolution gets underway, get to know the quartet and find out why they’re the next international act you ought to be watching.
1. The name Blackpink represents a dual-sided identity.
Upon their group reveal, Blackpink’s name was said to represent a twist on what the color pink traditionally represents. Combining the soft, feminine associations of pink with black gives the group an additional edge and mystery.
That duality also crops up in the outfit’s imagery: An early press image shows the women posing in soft blue and yellow hues with stuffed animals, while one member subtly flaunts a gun. The group’s sound mirrors this blend with its mix of accessible dance-pop and gritty hip-hop, described by Rolling Stone as “a perfect marriage of K-pop and A-town trap” upon the group’s 2016 debut.
2. They’re based in South Korea, but have a multicultural makeup.
While they operate as a Korean-pop group, the members of Blackpink represent four different countries and multiple languages. Main rapper and vocalist Jennie was born in Korea, but spent five years in New Zealand while main vocalist Rosé was born in Auckland, New Zealand, making both fluent in English. Main dancer and youngest member Lisa was born in Bangkok, Thailand, but moved to Korea to train for her K-pop career in middle school. Vocalist and eldest member Jisoo is a Seoul native through and through. Several of the members are also fluent in Japanese and the ladies have released compilation albums in Japan, recording their Korean hits in Japanese.
3. Their group identity is especially strong.
From the opening line of their debut single “Boombayah” —where Jennie coolly slurs “Blackpink in your area” over zipping synthesizers — the quartet has committed to making their name a centerpiece of the music. There are hooks like Jisoo’s “Black to the Pink” on “Boombayah,” multiple shout-outs of their name on “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du,” and ferociously feminine lyrics like “We the only gang to run the game in high heels” on their remix of K-pop classic “So Hot.” And on Square Up track “Forever Young,” the four women come together to declare “Blackpink is the revolution.”
4. Blackpink’s visuals have included social commentary.
Featuring everything from a cockatoo to a jewel-encrusted army tank accenting the striking choreography, Blackpink’s “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” more than earned its spot as one of the best music videos of 2018. Crucially, the visual also includes some deeper messages that see the quartet using their platform to comment on society. Most notably around the 1:45 mark, we see fans, with cell phones in hand, fawning over a mural of Jisoo. But when the real-life Jisoo trips and falls, the fans only then take notice and turn their cell phones at her in an intimidating, pistol-like style.
The foursome shared how the scene is a commentary on the pressures of celebrity life and the public’s eagerness to turn on those in the public eye, particularly felt in the notoriously tough K-pop idol life where everything from an artist’s looks to their perceived attitudes gets harshly judged. There are also empowering images of self-love, expression and freedom within the video as the women wield samurai swords, stroke wild animals and wear contrasting colored outfits.
5. You can expect to see more Blackpink appearances in the U.S. soon.
In late 2018 it was announced that YG Entertainment had linked up with Interscope Records and the larger Universal Music Group to represent Blackpink outside of Asia. While fellow YG artist Epik High played Coachella in 2016, Blackpink’s Coachella appearance feels like the start of a promising relationship between the labels and a hint that North American dates might be added on to the In Your Area world tour, which currently has 2019 dates scheduled exclusively in Asia.
At the time of the signing, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Sir Lucian Grainge seemed keen to expand the act’s reach. He shared, “We look forward to building upon Blackpink’s remarkable early success by putting the global resources and expertise of UMG behind them and growing their audience around the world.” YG chairman and founder Yang Hyun Suk added, “We will work closely with the biggest music company, Universal Music Group, globally for the successful global debut and promotion of Blackpink.”