Review: Kill This Love by Blackpink

Kill This Love by BlackpinkWell, a midnight release! We haven’t seen that in K-pop in years, not since everyone decided to minimize the efforts of overzealous fans by releasing everything six hours earlier. But I guess Blackpink are more than happy to go against the grain – well, that, and they now have to please those in North America, considering their attempts to break across the Pacific last year. (They may have had a Billboard cover, and they may be slated to appear at Coachella, but it’s too early to call it a success. BTS was there first, you know.) So, Kill This Love, another mini designed to reinforce the group’s fierce, independent, stylish image. It’s really like Square Up: the title track is incredibly swag, slightly reminiscent of drill music, and like before, heavily reliant on the concept. It’s not my thing, I’ll admit. But it doesn’t matter, because it does its job. The rest of the mini, however, slows down a bit, with less of the actual party and more of the moments right before the come down. “Hope Not” actually shows their vocals off better – and that clean electric guitar builds on the thread that seems to have been left behind with “Stay” from a couple of years back. Again, it’s just me, but that suits their direction more. [NB]3/5

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