It’s been a long time coming, but BLACKPINK’s official debut full-length album is finally here. From their debut in 2016 with the infectious “Boombayah” and “Whistle,” BLACKPINK has exploded in popularity around the world in historic measure. The 2010s had Little Mix, who were wildly popular in the U.K. but struggled to breakthrough Stateside, and the perpetually messy Fifth Harmony, but, in general, the decade was not kind to girl groups. BLACKPINK, however, offered a glimpse into the new heights that a girl group could reach in this new musical era. The K-Pop group, comprised of Jennie, Lisa, Rosé, and Jisoo, has a unique spunk to them. Their charisma shines through every music video and performance, and their music, an eclectic blend of dance, hip-hop, R&B, and pop, is simply irresistible. In the years long lead-up to The Album, BLACKPINK released such hits as “Kill This Love” and “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du”; each song lifted them to higher heights than the last. It truly is a testament to their allure that BLACKPINK was able to keep fans waiting for so long. The group has also collaborated with Western artists, most notably, Dua Lipa (“Kiss and Make Up”), Lady Gaga (“Sour Candy”) and Selena Gomez (“Ice Cream”).
Titled simply The Album, this record is a declaration of dominance. The girls are making it known that, if it wasn’t painfully clear before, they are the current pinnacle and standard of girl group success. Introduced by the bombastic lead single, “How You Like That,” and the admittedly disappointing second single, “Ice Cream,” The Album is a short, but punchy, collection of tracks that command you to dance. Upon release, “How You Like That” was already an awesome track, but in the context of the full project, those dramatic horns and iconic “BLACKPINK in your area” tagline are extremely effective openers. They set the scene perfectly; it’s BLACKPINK’s world, and we’re all just living in it. As for “Ice Cream,” The Album‘s second track, it sounds marginally better as the token flirtatious song on the record, but the grating production still hinders it.
After the first two tracks, the new music starts rolling in. “Pretty Savage” blends a sleek guitar line with a raucous trap loop for what essentially functions as the girls’ anthem. Their attitude is playfully cocky throughout the album, but they really play it up on “Pretty Savage.” As self-proclaimed “bitches you can’t manage,” BLACKPINK consistently holds their own against the most eclectic instrumentals. The trap loop almost sounds like a taunt, but when it transitions into the whistle-backed slowed-down outro, it’s perfection. The best part of this song, besides Lisa’s part in the pre-chorus, is the way that it constantly shapeshifts and rejects predictability. “Bet You Wanna,” the first all-English song and second Western collaboration on The Album, is another standout. The song expands on the guitar introduced in “Pretty Savage” and builds it into a bubbly track that truly understands the effervescence of pop music. The ascending melody in the hook combined with Cardi B‘s 90s-esque flow and Jisoo’s fluttery falsetto truly make for an outstanding track. “Lovesick Girls,” the latest single from the album, is the polar opposite to the lighthearted vibe of the previous two songs. The heavy synths and bass sound straight out of 2010s EDM, and, truthfully, the song feels dated. A lot of the blame falls on David Guetta, one of the main producers on the song, whose production hasn’t aged or evolved particularly gracefully. More importantly, perhaps, is the purpose “Lovesick Girls” serves in terms of strengthening the album’s thematic foundation. The girls sing of a search for love but are careful to make the distinction that they are not dependent on love: “Yeah, we were born to be alone/But why we still looking for love?”
Criminally short, The Album makes sure to pack a punch with its final triad of tracks. “Crazy Over You” features an unexpectedly subtle beat drop that actually makes sense given how jam-packed the verses are. Lyrically and thematically similar to “Ice Cream” in its exploration of love and flirting, “Crazy Over You” is simply a more interesting track in terms of structure. “Love To Hate Me” expands the lyrical scope of The Album by slyly addressing, and taking down, the girls’ haters. From the first line, “Kinda sad that you always been like that/See me making waves and you don’t like that,” the girls are steadfast in their self-confidence and refuse to let detractors distract them. Finally, “You Never Know,” the album closer, gifts us the first thing to resemble a ballad on The Album. Anchored by earnest and emotive vocal performances, the song tackles the incorrect images and expectations often projected onto idols by outsider who truly do no, and will never, know what life is like for them behind the glitz and glamour.
In just under 30 minutes, BLACKPINK tackle a variety of subjects and musical influences. Nevertheless, these two things continue to set the girls apart: 1) their ability to adapt to any sound and remain in control regardless of the eccentricity of the production and 2) their understanding of pop music and how to sell it through their vocal performances and overall charisma. Stream The Album here.
Key Tracks: “Bet You Wanna” | “Pretty Savage” | “Love To Hate Me”