REVIEW: BLACKPINK’s ‘The Album’ is in our area

A photo of Times Square in New York City, featuring bright lights and a Spotify ad for BLACKPINK's new album, "The Album."
K-Pop group BLACKPINK ignites fire and empowerment in their first studio album, “The Album,” released Oct. 2. (Photo via @blackpink on Twitter)

Since their debut under YG Entertainment in 2016, BLACKPINK has helped progress K-Pop to a new level of global popularity. Selling out world tours, breaking numerous records and collaborating with big names including Lady Gaga, the four-person girl band has attracted a massive fanbase of “Blinks” from all around the globe.

Following their 2018 and 2019 EP releases, Blinks have anticipated the release of the band’s debut Korean studio album, “The Album” for four years. Excitement grew after the release of the album’s first single, “How You Like That” in June. The single was an instant hit, setting the record for the most-viewed music video on YouTube within 24 hours of its release. While the song gained immediate success, it bears many similarities to the group’s previous songs, “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and “Kill This Love.”

Like “How You Like That,” several songs from “The Album,” such as “Crazy Over You” and “Pretty Savage” are characteristic of a repetitive structure and formula. They share a similar upbeat EDM beat driving the verses. It slows down for the pre-chorus but quickly ramps back up for an anticlimactic beat drop leading into the chorus.

This pattern throughout “The Album” leads to a lack of variety in the styles of songs; however, it is worth noting that the same group of producers and writers work on the majority of BLACKPINK’s work, accounting for its commonalities. Some of the lyrics also don’t make sense (“If you get our name wrong, du-ddu-du-ddu hit” in “Pretty Savage”), and some are straight-up onomatopoeias (“Bada bing, bada boom, boom, boom” in “How You Like That”) making the lyrics feel secondary to the EDM beat.

Nonetheless, these tracks go hard with a full fanfare of whistles and percussion and layers of technology. Catchy and upbeat, the songs boost adrenaline, stimulate a momentary sensation of self-confidence and empowerment and are (thankfully) motivating in the gym.

There are some other gems that make up for the unoriginality of almost half the album. Released earlier in August, the collaboration with Selena Gomez stands out. “Ice Cream” is the epitome of “ultimate summer vibes,” and the bubblegum pop single is lighter and bubblier than the EDM tracks that dominate “The Album,” showing a fun and refreshing side of BLACKPINK.

In contrast to the more upbeat and lively tunes, “You Never Know” is chill and melancholic. The album’s eighth and final track is undoubtedly its most distinctive. Raw and vulnerable, the substantive lyrics about moving past struggles under the guise that nothing is wrong creates a melancholy yet empowering mood. The lyrics, “But you’ll never know unless you walk in my shoes / ’Cause everybody sees what they wanna see / Wonderin’ if I gotta try pretending” are especially revealing. BLACKPINK’s members’ smooth vocals perfectly blend with the same repeated five piano chords, complementing the simple melody.

The way each member sings with such sincerity is telling of the emotions they feel. Furnishing the soundtrack with emotive substance and variety, “You Never Know” might just be one of BLACKPINK’s most vulnerable pieces and definitely a top contender from this album.

Another important note about “The Album” is its role in transitioning into and facilitating an increased incorporation of English into BLACKPINK’s songs. Their recent collaborations with Selena Gomez and Cardi B in “Ice Cream” and “Bet You Wanna,” respectively, are entirely sung in English with minimal Korean sprinkled in here and there. Bekuh BOOM, a rapper and producer who works closely with BLACKPINK, explains that the girls are “going to continue to keep incorporating more English in their lyrics… to show their talent and growth, especially in language.”

Overall, the eight-song album allows listeners a preview of the growing globalization of BLACKPINK. “The Album” lacks the exploration and blending of styles that many listeners were hoping for, but the four-year wait was anything but wasteful. Though many songs are structured the same, the feeling of empowerment from their songs overshadows their weaknesses. “The Album” is an explosive compilation of energizing and addicting music that will empower listeners, a much-needed inspiration to get through 2020.

Review: Three out of five stars.

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