Rosé on the Power of Vulnerability and Why Blackpink Is Family
R osé has juggled different personas her whole life. Born to Korean parents in New Zealand, Roseanne Chaeyoung Park grew up mostly in Australia, comparing her childhood there to Hannah Montana’s double life: She was the Korean Chaeyoung at church on Sundays, attending services with the other immigrants. During the week, she was the Aussie kid Roseanne at school. Behind the Blackpink persona, she says, “I actually don’t do too much. I live a really quiet life. My mom comes over to my house … that’s about it.”
Now, she’s trying to reconcile the more down-to-earth woman fewer people know with her public self — the guitar-playing, high-note-hitting singer with the “golden voice,” as fans love to point out, the star whose 2021 single “On the Ground” (the lead track from her solo release, R) topped both Billboard‘s Global 200 and Global 200 Excl. U.S. charts, making her the first K-pop soloist to do so. “I’m trying to bring those two worlds together in the middle,” she says, munching fried rice at the pho restaurant inside the headquarters of YG Entertainment. “That fierce [Rosé] persona — it’s fun when that happens, when I can turn on this whole different character.”
(In celebration of Blackpink’s appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone, we’re publishing individual digital covers with each member of the group; check back throughout this week for more.)
What was the pandemic like for you, back when everything stopped?
Oh, it was terrible. I’ve never rested like that in my life, and it was the worst. I was sick at one point — you know, things your body goes through when stress hits you? I got the shingles. It came with me not knowing what to do in a life without work. I was a workaholic, obviously. I couldn’t stand the fact that suddenly all of our schedules were empty for the next two to three months. I started to think, “What if people aren’t interested in me, or us, by the end of this pandemic? What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” I don’t know why I thought like that. Now that I think about it, I’m so dramatic. Why am I so dramatic?
How did you use that empty time?
I used that time to get to know myself better. “How do I cope with myself? How do I deal with myself in a room that’s quiet?” I think a lot of people could really relate. I was extremely extroverted back then. It was time for me to tune into my inner self, act like an introvert. I kind of created this introverted persona — I remember being in a big room with a bunch of people, and I wanted to go home for the first time. “Wow, is this what introverts feel?”
Was music something you gravitated toward as a child, without thinking?
I think so. We had this really old piano that was handed to us from our auntie — she had it for 10 years or something. It was faded brown, very dull and boring, but it worked. It was always sitting in the living room. We had lessons growing up — I hated them. I used to cry because I didn’t want to practice. The teacher was really scary.
Oh, God, even in Australia, Korean parents forced piano lessons on their kids?
Of course, of course! I lived a very normal Korean life. I remember, one day I told my mom, “I don’t want to take lessons anymore.” She agreed. I was so surprised. I learned how to play basic chords. So that was enough to be an instrument to my singing. The internet back then was so slow. In the morning we’d wake up, and if we wanted to watch a movie, we’d click “download” and we’d have to wait, like, two days. But the piano: We don’t have to charge it. We could play it on the spot.
My parents were always out at work — surprisingly, I didn’t really hang out with friends too much back then. My friends all lived quite far from me. My sister would be studying. I’d have nothing to do. I’d watch TV for three hours, and by the end I’d be bored, so I’d start playing the piano, until my parents literally said, “We need to sleep now! Can you be quiet?”
Tell me about a moment when your parents said, “Rosé! Stop singing and go to bed!”
Actually, I remember them being, “Oh, Rosé, why don’t we sleep now?” But later, my sister told me, they used to meet upstairs in my parents’ room and discuss whose turn it [was] to go down to tell [me] to stop. They would roll their eyes: “Oh, God, she doesn’t know how to stop.” I didn’t know about that! They didn’t tell me. I mean, it’s so nice if you think about it. Thank you for not crushing my dreams of becoming a superstar, ha-ha-ha.
What do you remember from your childhood home?
It was a normal, two-story house. We had a backyard, a dog. There were a lot of elderly people living around us; it wasn’t a youthful area. It was very quiet, very friendly. We were this quiet Asian family. There were a lot of lizards. We’d wake up and put our shoes outside; there would be tiny little lizards inside our shoes. Tiny lizards, big cockroaches — I’m terrified of them still.
Let’s talk about music. You’re serious about your craft. There’s all this noise, photo shoots, interviews, the spectacle — but music is what matters.
As corny as it sounds, it’s correct, definitely. It starts with my love for music; that’s what makes me happy. It’s like a sense of — what do you call it? — healing. It’s something that calms me down during the day, it stops me from thinking. But with that, I get to do all these amazing things. Photo shoots! Being in front of the television [cameras]! It’s really fun, and I’m so grateful to be able to do these things. But then, I forget about music. I forget to sit down and pick up my guitar and sing.
During my time off, I started to realize I just love to sit and sing. Recently I started picking up the guitar again. I hadn’t been doing that for the past two or three months — caught up in life. But I had a few days when I didn’t have anything. I didn’t plan anything. I just decided to stay home and see what happens.
You and that empty room.
Yeah, basically! I even told my mom I want to be by myself for the next few days. So she didn’t come over. I started picking out my guitar. I sang a few songs I enjoyed. I wondered, “What would it be like if I sang that? How would I sing that?” And I started singing. I was enjoying it. I turned on my iPad — I did this back in Australia, too. iPads had just started coming out, and my dad got me an iPad, and I remember doing the same thing — and I recorded myself. It was fun. As corny as it sounds, I do love music.
You have high standards, and sometimes you’re harsh on yourself. Is this drive to be better sometimes a heavy burden?
For sure. Sometimes I look at somebody who’s very confident, and I admire that. I wish I was that way too. I am very insecure about it, but only because I care about it so much. I have so much respect for it. Yeah, it does burden me sometimes, but I try really hard to overcome it. Confidence is something I’m working on every single day.
Insecurity isn’t a negative thing — it’s one of the most powerful drivers of good art. Tell me about how you make yourself vulnerable to music.
I think I am just vulnerable! I’m beginning to realize how sad it is to live life without tension. In the past, if I felt nervous, it’d burden me so much, because you just want to be relaxed, right? But to be nervous about something, to really care about something, is what makes life so interesting and fun.
What made you think about all this?
Why am I crying? Oh, my God, so weird. I’m so sorry. I hate myself for this, this is so funny. This is so weird. Oh, my God. What made me think that? It’s been, how many years since we started Blackpink, six years? So it’s about time to start feeling comfortable in certain settings. I think a good amount of feeling comfortable and a good amount of feeling vulnerable is always good. I also really enjoy that feeling of vulnerability and really wanting or craving something — I really enjoy that feeling. So I don’t want to lose that, ever.
Are there any artists you’re jealous of these days?
Recently I went to a Dua Lipa concert. She was singing live. Wow, this is — I was like, her voice is — her voice, just, it was amazing. She was so good. I was blown away. I took a lot of notes. I was fangirling for sure.
You released your first solo singles last year, “On the Ground” and “Gone,” to great success. What was it like standing alone, without your bandmates?
It was very challenging — that put me more in a vulnerable position. The four of us are like one. We’re there for each other, and if one person can’t be in their best condition that day, then we are there to fill in for that other person. Standing alone was frightening. It made me realize how much Blackpink was a big support to me in the past. When I didn’t know what to do, I’d call to ask them what they felt, what their opinions were. So they were always there during my solo work.
Tell me about the lyric “Everything I need is on the ground.”
This line was initially written by the producers of the song. That’s what caught me and my producer the most. We were drawn to this song because of this phrase.
What is “on the ground” for you?
Just us as people. A year and a half ago, maybe two, I remember us eating. It was the four of us and Teddy. We were just hungry people — we got to the restaurant, very hungry, and the food was really good. This is what makes us feel like people. Just us, eating with the people we love. It feels like family, that’s what makes us happy. At the end of the day, you gotta sit down and remember that everything we need is — the most normal things we do, hanging out with the people we love, doing things we love.
Music can be big, and that’s very exciting; we love that because it creates a movement and we can gather people together; we can enjoy and celebrate life together. But then, “How did we get here? Rosé, what does music mean to you?” Everything I need is on the ground. It’s where I started.
Have you ever imagined life after Blackpink? After this is over?
I think about it. But I don’t think it will be over. Blackpink is family forever. I grew up with them. They’re a part of me. I don’t think it’ll ever end. It’s dumb of me to ever worry about that or think about it. But you know, when something is so good and you love it so much, you always think of that side, because you don’t want to lose it.