The main draw for me in K-Pop phenomenon BLACKPINK’s second full-length album BORN PINK is that one song that samples classical music. Franz Liszt’s “La Campanella,” famously known to be one of the hardest pieces of classical piano music around, is sampled to winsome pop effect in main single “Shut Down”. A skittering trap beat, all the girls sound hot in the mix, and that precisely placed staccato strings pre-chorus, chef’s kiss. Purists can complain about the massively corporate ear worm daring to venture into the great canon of music legacy. Their iron-fisted label, YG I’m sure is shelling out the dollars for those copyrights.

For any pop music consumer, BLACKPINK clearly have the musical and performance chops (and fanbase!) to pull Franz Liszt off – it’s fresh, campy, conceptual – everything a good pop music moment could ride upon until their next wave of album promotions. But, it seems as soon as the girls start trudging about new creative shores, they’re pulled back under the rug into middling, predictable music. It feels so much like a marketing product, like everything else around the talent was of much greater importance. So much money is being paid into cultivating some ubiquitous mainstream’s associations: Jisoo forDior, Jennie for Chanel, Rose for Yves Saint Laurent, and Lisa for Celine. I prefer my branding with a lighter touch.

The production and presentation of every track is expensive, maximalist, beating in the same heart as their debut The Album (which I predict will likely shape the oncoming 2020’s musical landscape). But, everything seems just a tiny bit too digestible, as if BORN PINK is simply an echo of their first album’s hyperlight success. Or maybe the board of directors at YG have cracked the code on purchasable pop music, rearing something just about everyone will love. Do not mistake candor for negative criticism, because there is plenty to enjoy on BORN PINK, a palatable 25 minutes of excellent pop production. Lead single “Pink Venom” bounces between genres and tempos, Biggie and Rihanna. The surprising darkness and vulnerability of a spartan Britney Spears-esque handled existence is explored in “The Happiest Girl,” the best ballad to come out of the BLACKPINK discography. “I can stop the tears if I want to” carry heavy existential weight. Rose even gets to shine in the solo-performed “Hard To Love,” her malleable voice colouring the brash dance pop; the way her vocals are folded into the track is revelatory.

Hopefully our girls are enjoying the process of living, creating and thriving as a pop star, within whatever limitations and regulations YG have on the contracts. Because as a group and individually, there is so much room to grow beyond the realms of the mainstream machinations. Everyone can bring something even more compelling than their current packaging. We pray they do not become dolls to the industry, brilliant but burned out, they are but precious pearls, cultured in song and dance. BORN PINK feels like pickings from the same catch – beautiful still, so maybe I was expecting too much of a difference? My mistake.

A final thought: I would not be surprised if the next Spears album, with the shadow of her conservatorship illuminating the radiance of her industry karma and goodwill, sounded like BLACKPINK in their highest form.

LET ME PUT A GODDAMN MARK TO IT: “Shut Down”, “Typa Girl”, “The Happiest Girl”, “Hard To Love”

Additional reading:

“BLACKPINK: Born Pink Album Review” by Alex Ramos, for Pitchfork

“BORN PINK Is the Landmark Pop Album BLACKPINK Were Born to Make” by Rob Sheffield, for Rolling Stone

“BLACKPINK – Born Pink review: K-Pop titans consolidate their identity” by Tanu I. Raj, for NME

3 responses to “A review of BORN PINK by BLACKPINK”

  1. […] of the 16th century into the world of celeb princesses and pop stars. Like modern royalty herself, brand ambassador Jisoo of BLACKPINK continues to parade her version of the fashion house’s femininity and regality, SS2023 is a […]


  2. […] “A review of BORN PINK by BLACKPINK” for Windhill Journal […]


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