To be clear, there may be bias because I am both a fan of kpop and a fan of Blackpink. Ever since the minimalist intro to their freshman track “Whistle” along with an eye-catching, stylish, well-choreographed music video dropped, they have garnered attention. After “Whistle”, “Boombayah” ushered in even more fans who were taken with the beats, lyrics and overall style that Blackpink epitomizes. There seems to be a misunderstanding that girls are only adorable, or tough and many of us are a mixture, not always balanced but always surprising and Blackpink could be this generation’s Spice Girls.
The documentary, directed by Caroline Suh, gives new behind the scenes footage of the quartet that makes up this powerhouse group: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa. Being globally known thanks to their consistent record setting—they are the first female Kpop group to perform at Coachella and their track “How You Like That” broke Youtube’s 24-hour viewing record—doesn’t mean all that fame has gone to their heads. On the contrary, the documentary shows the joy they feel being an inspiration to millions and also the stress it took to get there.
It’s a sweet, at times raw look at how they felt and feel. Each member gets screen time to discuss how an when they initially decided to pursue being an artist and, for some, the shock and hardship of leaving home early and being in a new place. We get to see footage of their individual auditions for YG Entertainment, and the rigors of the trainee process from their firsthand accounts of 14 hour days with one day off every two weeks. Some will marvel at the dedication, some will be horrified that children are training that many hours, but the members regard that time as a necessary step to achieve their dreams. Some even recall those times fondly as they had more time to be in the music.
Those trainee days weren’t easy on any of them as you build up a friendship with other trainees who are sent home. Each member is unique because their experiences and upbringing are different—from Jisoo (strong and bright) who was born and raised in Korea, to Lisa (positivity personified) from Thailand to Rosé (passionate about music) who grew up in Australia (and has the accent to prove it) and Jennie (perfectionist) who was brought up in New Zealand. The fame and success is clearly not without its pitfalls as they often rarely sleep more than a few hours, not only due to their busy schedules but, in the case of Rosé, using the time to write and play music.
They also talk about the pressures—they pressure to look a certain way, to make another big hit, to be a role model. When you skyrocket on your first attempt, there’s no build. You are expected to surpass your first and all members are keenly aware of this.
We get to hear clips of tracks we’ve never heard before as well as how they had to fight to put their initial track “Whistle” out, because it’s minimalist sounds were not expected to be well received but the members, in edition to Teddy Park, the producer and songwriter for the group, pushed ahead. They also challenge the kpop label because why of course isn’t it just called pop music? Why is the ‘k’ used to differentiate American pop music from Korean pop music when the only difference is language?
The timing of this documentary also comes out less than two weeks after their first full length album, ironically titled The Album released October 2 and has songs with Cardi B and Selena Gomez. Knowing they have so many tracks already made, will get Blinks screaming, but as they are releasing a full length album finally, this may stymie the frenzy. Particularly, since in kpop full albums are largely unheard of since mini albums are preferred. Fans of documentaries, kpop or Blackpink should enjoy this film as we get to see more footage of the individuals that makeup such a special group.
They consistently put out bops that are empowering a generation of girls who are demanding their value. Ignore them at your own peril. Their global fan base, literally portrays their music intro “Blackpink in your area”.
Feature photo courtesy of NETFLIX/Netflix © 2020