Review: Blackpink’s K-Pop Formula Keeps Working on ‘Kill This Love’
Most of the K-pop acts that have attained large-scale success in America are boy bands. One exception to this rule has been Blackpink. The four-member girl group-which combines EDM, trap and hip-hop elements with bubblegum hooks–have set records on the charts in America, collaborated with Dua Lipa, snagged a slot at Coachella 2019 and even trumped their male peers with YouTube’s most-watched video by a K-pop group.
The title track from their new EP plays off the same production formula that drove last year’s breakout U.S. single “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du”: a beat drop, percolating synthesizers and ad-libs from members Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa, this time with regal horns and Jennie’s fiercely growled vocals acting as centerpiece. “Kick It” shows Blackpink’s knack for blending sweet come-ons over elements of Southern trap (as they did on their 2017 album cut “Really”), while “Hope Not” displays how well they can deliver soft, acoustic rock-pop (a la their 2016 single “Stay,” an important career moment that distinguished the quartet as more than flashy femme fatales).
That’s not to say there aren’t encouraging moments of growth here as well. The emotional standout “Don’t Know What to Do” boasts warm production that suggests a contemporary take on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream as Rosé, Jennie and Jisoo offer some of their most impassioned vocal performances to date. Elsewhere, rappers Jennie and Lisa further find ways to stand out as MCs; Jennie sprinkles some raspy yelps in her verses, while Lisa’s slithery purr sounds at once seductive and intimidating. There will be time for Blackpink to experiment—ideally in a full-length project. Until then, the women are deepening their brand of K-pop for a quickly growing, language-agnostic fanbase eagerly anticipating every fierce new beat drop.
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