The title of this article may seem confusing. Lisa is a member of K-Pop group Blackpink and a solo artist in her own right. Her Thai origins and Korean audience in Blackpink mask the global reach of her music, and the distinctively ‘western’ appeal of her solo style and songs ‘Lalisa’ and ‘Money’.
This idea resolves the paradox posed by the following facts:
1. Lisa is by far the most competent and confident member of Blackpink; and
2. Lisa tends to have fewer K-Pop fans than other members of Blackpink.
I believe this is because Lisa’s style is simultaneously global and western, and lacks the conventionally K-Pop image of other Blackpink stars, or stars from other groups like BTS or Twice, who Lisa beat to the MTV K-Pop Video of the Year award last week. In interviews of Americans, Lisa does best of all the members of Blackpink in terms of recognition and approval. Lisa’s music has a harder time in Korea, because it is bridging a gulf that has not been bridged properly since PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’. The issue is that Lisa does not work as much with producers in the West as fellow member Rose does (working with Kanye West-inspired producer Jon Bellion to make ‘On the Ground’), meaning that Lisa’s music has the artistic appeal but not the technical criteria for topping western music charts. Lisa is a western pop star. We just don’t know it yet.
I was reminded of this when coming across a video of Lisa dancing to Swalla by Jason Derulo and Nicki Minaj. This reminded me that Lisa is the new Nicki Minaj, but also the new Michael Jackson, as is evidenced by her interview with Zach Sang in which she describes her collaboration with producer Teddy Park as analogous to sibling affection, which underpins Billie Eilish’s collaboration with real-life brother FINNEAS, who composes and produces much of the music she sings. Meanwhile, Lisa’s explanation of her musical style as ‘me’ contrasts with many attempts my interviewees to defer to some higher authority. Lisa has Kanye West-style confidence, Michael Jackson-level competence, and Billie Eilish-like collaboration skills. Now she just has to take the next step to superstardom: break free.