Good project, better potential
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Blackpink as a group has only been formed since 2016. As the highest charting female Korean act in Billboard history, they seem like such an established force in the musical industry, particularly in regards to KPOP’s relationship with America and the Western music scene. But this new album, The Album, is only the group’s second studio outing. And even so, the quartet continues to carve out a very distinctive sound and style, carrying on from their previous works that catapulted them to stardom.
The first thing a listener will notice on The Album is the harsh, booming, almost orchestral hits that lead off the opening song “How You Like That,” and this is very on brand for Blackpink. Like most of the songs to follow, “How You Like That” features a beat heavy on bass and an EDM/pop fusion with a stellar hook from the vocal talents of the four members. Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa’s voices blend as beautifully as they ever have. The themes of the songs are consistent across the album as well, with most of the tracks intended to be anthems for determination through hard times or inspiration to live one’s own life and not care about what others think. It’s intended as a display of confidence and power, of shrugging at those who would bring you down.
A few of the other songs on the album display distinct styles and characteristics that help to set them apart. One standout track is “Lovesick Girls,” which carries a much brighter tone and beat than many of the other songs. As the name implies, the lyrics convey emotions of heartbreak and romantic trouble and carry a message of focusing on oneself and not pushing for a love that might not be there yet. All of this is brought out over a proper earworm of a beat and a super memorable chorus that sticks in the mind until another song comes in to replace it.
The Album also has a pair of extremely interesting features. On the song “Ice Cream,” singer Selena Gomez makes an appearance. She’s not just around to drop one verse and leave like so many other features, but instead joins in on Blackpink’s spotlight-trading style to throw down two lines at a time and pass it off to the next singer. She integrates well into the beat and flow of the song vocally, stylistically, and contextually, as “Ice Cream” sounds like a song that either Gomez or Blackpink could have done on their own but is made a bit better by the appearance of the other. This is the kind of feature integration that other groups and artists should strive for. It’s a bit cleaner of a feature than, say, BTS featuring Halsey on “Boy With Luv” because she only really hops in on the chorus and does a quick post chorus, while Gomez is embedded throughout the entire runtime of “Ice Cream.”
The other major feature on the album is rapper, songwriter and money-move maker Cardi B, who appears on the track “Bet You Wanna.” While there is a fair bit less integration than there is with Gomez’ appearance (Cardi B only appears for one verse and does a little tag at the beginning and end), the track is very solid throughout. And this isn’t exactly out of character for Cardi—as a featured artist, she’s historically always delivered the same sort of flow and style that made her popular in the first place, no matter if she’s working with Maroon Five, Lil Nas X or now, Blackpink.
The only major issue with The Album is that a fair number of the eight songs on the album have somewhat unsatisfying conclusions. A lot of the songs build really great momentum with their beats and energy, and then drop off at the end. Additionally, the tracks don’t seem to have been ordered with any real care, and there isn’t a great sense of flow from the first to second to third and so on. At its core, this feels like an album of singles that were pushed together rather than an overarching musical project.
The Album is a very strong second outing for Blackpink, cementing their identity in the scene and firmly establishing their sound and style. They also have a lot of room to grow, and the hints of a truly legendary album that are present on The Album can’t help but make one anticipate their future projects to see if they can draw that potential out.