Review: Square Up by Blackpink

Square Up by BlackpinkBlackpink is a group powered by image. Well, all K-pop acts are like that, but it seems particularly extra important for these girls, YG’s first girl group after 2NE1, and their next big hope. Across their five singles so far – spread across three releases in a span of four months, before virtually no material for over a year – they’ve established this weird cross between the hard and the posh, with (mostly) bangers performed by girls in designer clothes. (And a kick-ass lead dancer.) Maybe it’s just weird for me, or maybe it’s because, with the exception of “Playing With Fire”, I never understood the hype. Square Up, their first mini, sees them bid for a return to the sphere, after many (unnecessary) delays, and that splits the cross down in two – and, perhaps unintentionally, shows off a problem with Blackpink. “Ddu-du Ddu-du” is all flash, all filler: it’s by-the-numbers “look at us, we swag!” Supposedly “Forever Young” would also be a single; it’s the better song, but can the girls lead with a song that’s uncharacteristically optimistic in a cheesier way than “Stay”? It’s the duality of their image – style icons and 2NE1 successors – that proves to tear Square Up apart. Well, the songs are nice, except for that shit single. But I still don’t have the answer to the question: what is Blackpink supposed to stand for? [NB]3/5