Two languages, two guests, and tons of bits of various genres are combined to gleeful effects on BLACKPINK’s debut, ‘THE ALBUM.’
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Stream: “Ice Cream” – BLACKPINK
In 2012, South Korean singer PSY came up with an ingenious little number called “Gangnam Style.” Had the track been left about 95% intact, it would surely have been a local hit in his native land, though perhaps not super well-known elsewhere other than by foreign K-Pop enthusiasts. The little extra something that allowed this track to become such an international sensation was its small dosage of lyrics in English, the global lingua franca. Before long, clubs across the entire globe were crammed full of people side-shuffling and hollering “Ehhhhh sexy lady!” while the song was pronounced “a force for world peace” at the United Nations.
Eight years later, the members of BLACKPINK – known mononymously as Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa – have taken a largely similar approach as their countryman PSY in their attempt to achieve international recognition of their own.
A considerable amount of the album – indeed, “THE ALBUM” is what it’s named – is sung in English, and that percentage often rises on songs that have been positioned for release as singles. “Ice Cream,” for instance, features the devilishly simple and infectious lyrics: “You look so good, you look so sweet, looking good enough to eat!” One can only suspect that the double entendres at work here are in largely the same vein as those in 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” – but hey, that song topped the charts back in its day, and this new ode to sweet stuff seems to be doing just fine in its own right, given its success in numerous countries.
Performing some in English certainly helps their commercial viability, but Blackpink are both able to protect their music’s foreign identity and achieve somewhat more sophisticated lyrical fare when they switch to singing in their mother tongues. Consider opening track “How You Like That” – it’s got a couple English catchphrases thrown in there (the title of the song sounds super gangsta when they utter it throughout the chorus) but more profound thematic content can be found in the song’s Korean-language verses, which detail just how strong the ladies are staying as they make their way back from the depths of a toxic relationship. “I crumbled before your eyes, hit rock bottom,” Jennie laments. Jisoo then follows up: “I’ve reached out with both of my hands to grab onto the last bit of hope.” In the end, their efforts proved to be successful, and the result was a record-busting 86.3 million views within “How You Like That’s” first 24 hours on YouTube.
No matter what the language of the moment may be, THE ALBUM is consistently bolstered by effective production. “Lovesick Girls” is one of the most engaging highlights, with its rousing mixture of acoustic guitar and EDM, but there’s plenty of high-octane production throughout the record, with bits of various genres pulled in from all corners.
THE ALBUM also makes room for a pair of high-profile guests: Selena Gomez adds to the radio-readiness of the aforementioned “Ice Cream,” while Cardi B contributes another round of her ever-stellar bars to “Bet You Wanna.” It’s a little jarring to hear the “WAP” rapper tone her act down so tremendously for this P.A.-sticker-free release, but she winds up fitting in pretty easily with the members of BLACKPINK – two of whom, Lisa and Jisoo, contribute plenty of rapping of their own throughout the course of THE ALBUM.
Fans may dispute whether the new LP (which is barely long enough to qualify as such) is overly commercial, cheesy, or thematically simplistic. But at a tidy 25 minutes, THE ALBUM genuinely makes for a brisk and enjoyable listen.
There is plenty to admire in this debut effort by BLACKPINK, and they may well be positioned to become South Korea’s most internationally omnipresent musical act since Psy and “Gangnam Style.”
Stream: ‘THE ALBUM’ – BLACKPINK
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