Blackpink has returned to Dallas, Texas, for a second day of its magnificent American leg of the Born Pink world tour. To skip songs one to seven, ‘Playing With Fire’ is predictably fantastic, and the crowd is surprisingly enthusiastic compared with night one of the tour. The instrumental prelude to ‘Tally’ is beautifully underlaid to Blackpink’s introduction of the band members.
‘Tally’ introduces Rosé’s singing magnificently. ‘Pink Venom’ brings Jennie’s rapping and Lisa’s singing to the fore. Jisoo remains the mysterious element of the group. The instrumental bridge between verse and prechorus echoes the introduction to ‘New Slaves’ by Kanye West in more ways than one. That album, Yeezus, was not as overlooked as Born Pink is — though the global success of the latter is undoubtable. Clearly, the first performance in the U.S. attracted a larger crowd for the second night. Impressive. This is the greatest show on Earth.
The dance interlude on ‘Pink Venom’ is spectacular. It is at once militaristic in its discipline and free-flowing in its creative expression. What a moment. What a show. The rhythmical and melodic expression from the band is also immaculate. If politics is a pact with diabolical powers, to paraphrase Max Weber, then music is a pact with phenomenal potential. Oh, but what potential. That guitar solo is something else. As is that drum solo. Whiplash, do better.
The technical brilliance of Blackpink is met with artistic ambition on Jisoo’s creative cover of ‘Liar’ by Camila Cabello. Jisoo’s singing is interesting and elusive. It is somewhat confounding that her singing does not stand out more from the group considering how distinctive her vocals are. If Camila Cabello and Jacob Collier met, one might imagine the result may be Jisoo’s singing style. But Jisoo’s style is unique, and should be congratulated for that. The mystery suggests a deeper substance beneath. When Jisoo releases her solo music, we may learn more of what truth is being masked in this intriguing game of smoke and mirrors. For music can mask, but it can also reveal. It is the great game of the modern world, and I can’t wait for where Jisoo goes next with her so-far flawless moves in the direction of authentic expression.
Jennie is next, and is flawless in her execution of ‘You and Me (Moonlight)’, her upcoming solo single, following on from her ‘Solo’, the opening gambit of Blackpink’s solo ventures. Between then and now, Lisa and Rosé have each released two solo tracks. Jisoo and Jennie feel overlooked. Jisoo seems ready to go solo. And Jennie has the song of the century. Am I kidding?
This song is remarkable. I could go on and on. The chorus ages like fine wine, and it was spectacular to begin with. The verse, prechorus, and bridge are each perfect layers on this remarkable trip to wonderland, infused with Billie Eilish-style darkness. ‘Nobody can see, it’s just you and me tonight.’ Fortune, fame, and the hunger for love are fused in this miraculous creation. The Solo-reminiscent bridge adds Jennie’s distinctive touch to this movement towards the future. How is this possible! In 2022, people often complain of the state of modern music, and yet ignore the future-makers of music. Blackpink is the revolution, and Jennie is more than worthy as the general leader of the movement. Perhaps she can become more, in time. I’m eager to find out, but happy to wait and see.
Rosé’s singing sometimes risked seeming forced. But the gentle vibrato and emotional vocal runs are welcome, as is the band’s reformulated opening, with Rosé singing in gaps between drum rolls. It is dramatic and theatrical in this aptly conceived musical interlude to a pop-driven show. There are definite retro vibes to this classy performance. Rosé is not slowing down, and rightly so. This is promising. The song, by the way, is ‘Hard to Love’, a new classic from Blackpink’s latest album.
But Rosé is better known for ‘On the Ground’, a self-reflective track. ‘Funny when you want it, suddenly you have it: find out that your gold’s just plastic’. And then the prechorus: ‘I walked my whole life just to get high, just to realise: Everything is on the — everything I need is on the ground — on the ground.’ And then: ‘No, but they don’t hear me though / What comes up must come down / You’re running out of time.’ This lyrical acrobatic act is delicate and determined. It is assured and reassured by Kanye West-inspired musician Jon Bellion’s collaboration on the production of the track. The confetti adds to the effect. A superstar is born.
And am I getting tired of noting Lisa’s greatness at the helm of renewed hip hop? No, I am not. Because it is still true. ‘Lalisa’ and ‘Money’ are classics. ‘Dollar bills, dollar bills / Dropping on me — I love the way it feels’, with that last line delivered with a braggadocio and tomboyish expression apt for the new queen of hip hop. Or something more. Time will tell. Guys, Lisa is gonna make it. Just wait for it.
Then there is an exotic instrumental interlude, and I am here for it. The next song is ‘Shut Down’ and it is perfectly delivered. Then ‘Typa Girl’ kicks in and I am won over by this live performance (yesterday, if you, dear reader, will recall, I was less persuaded by the live performance of a perfect studio-album song — but mainly because, as you will no doubt also recall, I was a little tired). Then the members, Lisa and Rosé especially, have a chat with the audience in a way that is at once authentic and designed to maximise engagement with the group’s eminent musical skills in the future. They promise to return to Dallas soon.
And then the two ‘last songs’ kick in. Amusingly Rosé slips in that the audience should sing the songs ‘As If It’s Your Last’ (an encore number), and quickly Lisa adds: Not that one. But, Rosé notes, the audience will enjoy the next songs, all the same.
And the prophecy is true. ‘Ddu-Du Ddu-Du’ is predictably dance-able, and so is ‘Forever Young’. The power of ‘Blackpink is the revolution’ endures. Music is unique in combining words, feelings, and movements into one holistic tapestry of artistry and technicality. Blackpink is the epitome of this balance, and the world tour realises their potentials in remarkable ways, but also with the question of how much more Blackpink can accomplish as a group. Whatever the limitations to that question, as individuals the members have signs of greatness, clearly. And perhaps, so does the group. I hope this tour empowers Lisa, Jennie, Rosé, and Jisoo to either go their separate ways with separate labels or renegotiate their contracts with YG Entertainment. Alternative, they could jump collectively to a new label, or stay with YG as solo artists. Whatever they decide, their future is clear: Bright possibilities await for these musical Leviathans of the twenty-first century. Let there be light.
And indeed, there is. ‘Encore,’ the crowd screams — after screaming ‘Blackpink’ on repeat yesterday. Clearly, Dallas is learning the script of Blackpink, a script which is continuously being rewritten. Blackpink is a complex alliance of doers like Lisa, dreamers like Jisoo, questioners like Rosé, and planners like Jennie. This allegiance of action, imagination, contemplation, and organisation is artistically, technically, and musically efficacious, entertaining, and exquisitely enlightening. It is necessary, it is good, and it is powerful. Blackpink is the revolution.
Is Blackpink losing their energy as a group? As BTS members join the military for their service years, and as Blackpink tours the world, new groups like NMIXX and (G)I-LDE are taking over the K-Pop scene. But BTS relies on songwriters like Ed Sheeran, while Blackpink is closer to the Jon Bellion school of Kanye West-inspired music. BTS is merely technical. Blackpink is supremely artistic. And this will remain wherever Blackpink is on the planet, and will remain when Blackpink returns to Korea. Blackpink can’t lose. Its members can only rise. The revolution can only unfurl and reach new heights.
Blackpink is still some way away from asking ‘Can we get much higher’, as Kanye West asks on the opening of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). But neither is Blackpink at the beginning of its story. Like contemporary western acts like Jacob Collier, Billie Eilish, and Kendrick Lamar, Blackpink is somewhere in the middle of its story. But Blackpink is far from reaching its pinnacle. This is only the beginning. If the group does disband for the purposes of solo ventures, I have every confidence it will return, better than ever — unless one member does become the new Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, or Camila Cabello. Perhaps there is room for each member to become their own superstar. Oh, what a world that would be. Let’s hope it’s this one.
Returning for the encore numbers, ‘Boombayah’ is assured and spectacular as ever. ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ is at once sultry and enthusiastic. It is a declaration of the group’s varied vocal competencies. Wishing band member Brandon happy birthday in the spoken interlude is adorable, and testament to the humanity at the beating heart of the Blackpink revolution.
‘Stay’ is a sweet goodbye song. It is done charismatically, compellingly, and empathically. This is the end of one story. But the play never ends. Blackpink is only beginning its tour, and the group and its members have much unrealised potential, even now. And the genre Blackpink is helping to pioneer has only just begun. Wambop is just waiting to be born.