Breaking free from a group is hard. Already three Blackpink members have gone solo, along with two of BTS’ members — albeit in collaborations with Charlie Puth and PSY. Lisa’s solo venture, drawing on Blackpink producer Teddy’s production skills in various styles in global pop and hip hop, is remarkable if only for its sheer audacity. Her fellow Blackpink member Rosé’s drawing on Taylor Swift and John Mayer seems more straightforward in its western appeal, while Lisa’s echoing of Nicki Minaj on her solo songs ‘LALISA’ and ‘Money’ is straightforwardly incendiary. Hip hop fanatics are sceptical; K-Pop fans are confused; but global audiences are already won over, awarding over a billion views on YouTube alone to the solo double release, surpassing even original solo Blackpink artist Jennie’s ‘SOLO’. Lisa is ready to go to the top, and take the crown of the queen of K-Pop and global hip hop. All Lalisa Manobal needs now is a solo album and a solo world tour. But alas, YG Entertainment, the Blackpink label to which Lisa is signed, is not releasing her full chart performance data, presumably for fear of increasing her already outsized role in the collective Blackpink group, whose new song Pink Venom is straight out of the Lisa hip hop-focused playbook. Even her historic victory at the MTV Awards is downplayed across social media.
The significance of Lisa’s MTV Award victory should not be downplayed, however. Echoing Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish’s incredulity in winning awards, in contrast to her Nicki Minaj- and Kanye West-style confidence in studio and on stage while singing, Lisa accepted the MTV Video Music Award for Best K-Pop Video with surprise and gratitude, as she unseated BTS from their three-year run of winning the award. Competitors included prominent K-Pop groups Itzy and Twice.
Lisa is clearly the Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Camila Cabello, or even — dare I say — Michael Jackson of Blackpink. Recall Michael Jackson’s confident competence on stage versus his humble, self-effacing attitude in interviews. Lisa’s eloquence on the Zach Sang show for upcoming artists — whose previous guests include Ariana Grande, FINNEAS, and Sabrina Carpenter — speaks to her potential appeal to western audiences. There is no doubt about Lisa’s musical abilities, which range from rapping to singing to dancing without any apparent mistakes. Above all, especially in today’s artistically confused world, unbeatable confidence is crucial to a winning performance, and Lisa’s stage and studio presence is nothing it is not bursting with confidence, and undeniable competence.
Artistically there are always questions to be asked about whether technical skill will lead to true musical greatness. But such questions are only answered with time, and the already strong commercial performance of Lisa is testament to her abilities as a musical performer and recording artist. If we compare LALISA and Money to Nicki Minaj’s Superbass and Kendrick Lamar’s Backstreet Freestyle, we see evidence of something new growing in pop music — something that is a new fusion of hip hop and pop styles. A new genre is being born, and it is being brought about by an eclectic synthesis of seemingly separate styles. And every new genre needs guidance, leadership at the helm. Who better to lead us into this whole new world of modern music than Lisa?
For heaven’s sake, whoever is listening, let her record a complete solo album — with more than two songs — already. It has been too long, and music cannot wait forever. It is time. Begin.