Review: BLACKPINK creates an addictive and varied album with ‘BORN PINK’

Photo courtesy of YG Entertainment

By Jacob Pellegrino 09/21/22 00:20

Rating: ★★★★½

Top Track: “Stop”

On “BORN PINK,” BLACKPINK creates an addictive album that blends elements of pop, hip-hop, and rock, leaving listeners wanting more. Drawn from a wide range of places and forged over years of preparation in K-pop’s trainee system, BLACKPINK has found a unique sound that draws on both the strengths of its members Lisa, Jennie , Rosé and Jisoo, as well as the combined production know-how. from their agency, YG Entertainment, and producer Teddy Park.

For those unfamiliar with K-pop, the closest US equivalent to YG Entertainment’s role in BLACKPINK’s success would have to be Berry Gordy’s Motown Records in the 60s and 70s. based on each member’s strengths and provided assistance with instrumentation, songwriting and artists’ production desires. This system brought musicians like The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder to the forefront of American popular music in its heyday. Motown and similar labels have been major sources of inspiration for many South Korean entertainment companies. This close relationship between label and artist can provide a level of polish and consistency that is often more difficult to achieve in bands that form in a more traditional fashion.

“BORN PINK” kicks off with its debut single, “Pink Venom,” a track that combines a hip-hop beat with traditional Korean instrumentation. “We wanted to relay our identify in the song as much as we could. Since ‘rose’ and ‘venom’ have conflicting images, we thought they reminded us a bit,” Jennie said of the song. “Pink Venom” combines the traditional feminine beauty of the color pink with poison, emphasizing that the girl group’s music will go “straight to your dome” like the titular poison it is compared to.

This is followed by another energetic track, “Shut Down”, which refreshingly samples Paganini’s 1826 violin melody, “La Campanella”. “Shut Down” is a response to the hate received during the group’s hiatus, claiming in the original Korean lyrics that “it’s not a comeback since we never left”. The clip further emphasizes the band’s artistic progression, displaying sets from older videos with doors closing in front of them. The video ends with BLACKPINK entering an elevator as the members continue their ascent.

However, the album isn’t just an embrace of hip-hop styles – in typical BLACKPINK style, they blend a range of genres to create a distinctive sound. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” uses a ’90s rock-influenced guitar riff before expanding the track with synth flourishes. The tight groove of the guitar riff contrasting the over-the-top synth hits make the song, almost entirely in Korean, a particularly fun listen.

“Hard to Love” is an interesting inclusion on the band’s album as it is a Rosé solo. It’s an anthemic track characterized by upbeat, danceable retro-pop instrumentation that sounds almost joyous until you listen to the lyrics, which detail an inability to fully commit to a relationship. This fundamental tension only increases the effectiveness of the song as Rosé warns someone to “keep [their] distance.”

BLACKPINK isn’t just limited to making high-energy songs — they can also pull off emotional ballads, as seen on “The Happiest Girl,” sung entirely in English. The track is about putting on a veil of happiness after rejection, with Jisoo repeating “I can stop the tears if I want” throughout the chorus. The pristine vocal lines throughout the song complement a soulful piano performance to beautifully convey the feeling of masking one’s true emotions to sound happy.

“BORN PINK” is a lush mix of pop, hip-hop and rock with hypnotic vocals and polished production that only gets better after multiple listens. BLACKPINK’s confidence and delivery as a group shows how well they know each other’s strengths and leads to a balanced album that has no bad songs.

About Tracy G. Larimore

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