Miles Davis, the Beatles, Blackpink, Michael Jackson, Lisa, and the Origins of Wambop

It is a somewhat audacious claim that a new genre of music is beginning. I don’t expect anyone will believe me for some time, as the genre still looks too similar to the immediate preceding genres of hip hop and its pop superstructure. Blackpink is often identified as a pop group, but also as a hip hop group. I think Blackpink is in some ways equivalent to the Beatles in its position in the new genre, just as the Beatles laid the foundations for rock music. But I’d like to draw another comparison from the post-war era: between Blackpink and Miles Davis, who brought jazz music to its technical pinnacle with Kind of Blue.

A storm is born.

In his early career, as Ian Carr’s ‘definitive biography’ details, Miles Davis was one amongst many jazz trumpeters, many of whom used intensive vibrato. Miles Davis did not use so much vibrato, with a down-to-earth approach that emphasised the melodic line and the sound of the music itself, rather than adhering to stylistic niceties. He cleared out the cobwebs of a now-ageing genre, reinvigorating and revitalising it.

Blackpink also rely on vocals, but through singing rather than trumpeting. And their singing has been criticised for its lack of vibrato, with the assumption that this reflects poor technique. I think this is demonstrably incorrect. In the ballad ‘The Happiest Girl’ from Blackpink’s second album Shut Down, the first YouTube comment praises Lisa’s role in the chorus and bridge of the song, with one comment reading ‘Lihanna’, reflecting similarities between Lisa’s performance and Rihanna’s.

Jennie and Jisoo are also extremely competent singers and rappers, but most of the praise tends to go to Rosé, who aspires to western country-pop musicians like Taylor Swift, saying her life was complete when she received a guitar from John Mayer. On the surface, Rosé may appear to YG Entertainment (Blackpink’s label, collectively and individually) as the artist with the greatest western appeal. But Lisa is much more likely to succeed in the West. Her style is not forced; it flows. Lisa doesn’t have to try to be a western pop singer, R&B dancer, and hip hop rapper; she already is. (Afternote: From seeing Rosé’s performance on the Blackpink Born Pink tour, I think they both may be able to, as Camila Cabello and Grey put it in the prophetic Crown, run for the crown.)

Comparisons between the foundations of jazz and rock and contemporary classical eclecticism encapsulated in the work of Jacob Collier are misled, principally because they confuse the foundations of a new genre with echoes of a bygone era. Jazz ended a long time ago. The moment Hollywood movies are made about Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, we will know that hip hop is over, too. Indeed, it is ending. To go back to jazz is almost absurd. For the new Miles Davis will not be a jazz musician, or a classical musician, though they will draw on these established genres. They will be more rooted immediately in rock, hip hop, and ‘pop’. Michael Jackson’s stardom was rooted on the soul offshoot from jazz. Today’s Michael Jackson will draw on hip hop, in the line of Billie Eilish’s alternative music, drawing on mainstream pop styles from Ariana Grande, in the line of Madonna, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga.

The new superstardom will be neither ‘mainstream’ nor ‘alternative’. The new pop star will be neither peripheral nor central in their music tastes, but something like ‘off-centre’. I think it is clear which member of Blackpink is best positioned to take centre-stage. For when Nicki Minaj was given the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award at the MTV Awards, the award was tacitly or implicitly given, too, to the heir to Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Michael Jackson’s legacy: LALISA.

For Wambop is more than a new genre. It is the new jazz music. It is the new baroque music. Which makes Lisa closer to Miles Davis than almost any of the pretenders to the throne in recent years. This is only the beginning.

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