Blackpink is an undeniable force right now. And anyone who doesn’t yet understand the hype will have the chance to check it out for themselves when the group hosts its top-of-the-line livestream concert on YouTube this weekend.
Since signing with Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records in the United States in 2018, and also striking a global partnership with South Korea’s YG Entertainment, Blackpink has pulled off the highest-grossing tour by a Korean girl group of all time and become the second most-followed act on YouTube. (Justin Bieber is the only artist who ranks higher.) What any “Blink,” or Blackpink fan, will tell you is how visually energizing the group’s performances are: A Blackpink concert is the epitome of pop showmanship, produced with choreography and costumes that burst with dazzling flair. The group’s 2020 debut album The Album was supposed to be paired with a blockbuster world tour — but because Covid derailed those plans, Blackpink decided to translate the spectacle into a livestream on January 31st.
In a Zoom interview with Rolling Stone, Blackpink members Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa said fans should expect multiple surprises. “We want it to be a secret,” Jennie said in December. “It’s our first online concert too, so we are trying to take advantage of that and create stages that wouldn’t be possible if we were going to do it live — especially regarding choreography — and make it ‘Blackpink.'” On Tuesday morning, Blackpink also announced it would appear on CBS’s The Late Late Show With James Corden to share a preview of what its livestream will look like.
The Show wasn’t announced until December 2020, but it had been in the works for at least eight months. Jisoo said the group started preparing for the livestream the moment they learned they’d have to postpone the planned tour. “We are rehearsing every day and spending as much time as possible,” said Jennie, adding that a production like this requires more than a month of rehearsals. Although YG declined to provide details surrounding production costs and expected viewership, The Show is clearly a large undertaking and priority for the company.
The set list will comprise 15 to 20 songs, though it isn’t set in stone yet. “It changes all the time,” Lisa told Rolling Stone. “We are adjusting to whatever sounds right.” Jisoo confirmed that all eight songs from The Album would be included. When asked what songs from The Album they are most excited to perform, Jennie said the band members all have different favorites. “For me, I think I would say I am excited for ‘Pretty Savage’ because it was one of the songs I wanted to see as a big production,” she said. The group also confirmed that Rosé will perform a sneak peak of a song from her solo career for the first time on The Show.
The choice to partner with YouTube, even amid an abundance of livestreaming platforms, was a no-brainer to the band. For one, YouTube is used to handling immense online traffic. “We are confident in our capability to host millions of concurrent viewers at one time,” Vivien Lewit, Global Head of Artist Relations at YouTube, said during a separate conversation with Rolling Stone in January. This is the first time YouTube’s music team has partnered with an artist on a livestream through channel memberships — but the company has plenty of experience in the livestreaming sector and has spent the last year upgrading the quality of its live audio and visuals, and introducing extra capabilities like tipping.
Moreover, Blackpink’s relationship with YouTube goes back years. Though The Show will be Blackpink’s first online-only concert, designed specifically for at-home screens, YouTube also livestreamed Blackpink’s acclaimed 2019 Coachella show into Times Square. (Blackpink was the first K-pop girl group to ever perform at the festival.)
“Blackpink is super leaned in to YouTube,” said Lewit. “They activate across new features when we roll out new features, they’re avid testers, they were immediately using the premieres feature on the platform when we rolled that out. Not long ago, when we rolled out our live redirect feature, which enables an artist to go live on the platform, they were one of the first artists to do that when it was still in a beta form.” Lewit added that YouTube and Blackpink began to piece together what a “multi-pronged partnership” could look like in the landscape of the pandemic, starting with YouTube featuring Blackpink in the first episode of its Released music show in September.
Because fans will unlock access to The Show by becoming a paid member of the Blackpink YouTube channel, the livestream is actually more than just a singular event. Membership lasts for two months after purchase, and in that time, YouTube says the artist is able to upload whatever behind-the-scenes and additional content they desire. While Lewit wouldn’t get too specific, that timeframe means there could, in theory, be an encore of sorts at a later date, as well interviews and quizzes.
The Show, which will be performed in South Korea, was originally scheduled for December 27th. But a rise in Covid-19 cases resulted in it moving to January, thus giving the members an extra month of rehearsals. “The postponement allowed us to add a special stage that would have been difficult if it had been carried out as scheduled,” Blackpink shared over email a couple weeks into the new year. “We are super stoked about it and we are confident that this will be a great gift for our fans.”
Despite the upsetting challenges of Covid-19, Blackpink has found a silver lining in the sense of global togetherness in its fanbase. “It’s very special because our Blinks from all over the world are going to tune into our stage at the same time,” the four said in their note. “Although we are physically in different places, we are connected through the emotions of each stage but safely. We think it will also be a great opportunity for those we haven’t seen our performance during our recent tour. We’re nervous but our expectations and excitement are greater.”