Five Burning Questions: Blackpink Debut in the Top 40 With 'How You Like That'

BLACKPINK How You Like That
Courtesy Photo

BLACKPINK, "How You Like That" dance performance video.

It's a huge week for Blinks, as South Korean girl group Blackpink debut at No. 33 on this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart with new single "How You Like That," while also setting a couple new YouTube records in the video's debut week.

"How You Like That" marks the group's second top 40 hit on the Hot 100 -- matching the No. 33 bow of their Lady Gaga collaboration "Sour Candy" from earlier this year -- and their first without a Western co-star. The single is expected to be the lead single from what's being billed as the group's first official album, scheduled to be released later this year.

What do we hope to hear from that album? And how have Blackpink continued to climb as high as they have? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below.

1. It seems like every time Blackpink return with a big new single, it performs just a little better than the song before it. On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to see Blackpink in the top 40 with "How You Like That"? 

Anna Chan: It feels a little difficult for me to completely separate race from this -- but as an Asian woman, I'm crazy excited to see representation on the Billboard charts, so gimme a 10! Speaking purely from a musical standpoint, sure, I may not always personally engage the most with their songs, but I can't deny that they're ridiculously catchy and fun. So overall, maybe a 7.5.

Nolan Feeney9, if only because I thought it was going to debut a little higher? I thought the tee-up of Lady Gaga’s “Sour Candy” was surely going to vault them into the top 30 -- it felt like a well-timed introduction for new listeners. I also distinctly remember watching Blackpink’s “Kill This Love” video on Thursday, which means its first-week performance was split across two tracking periods for Billboard charts, so that’s another reason why I was perhaps expecting a more dramatic difference this time around. But clearly appetite for Blackpink music is growing: The video broke some YouTube records, including the biggest 24-hour music video debut of all time with 86.3 million views.

Gab Ginsberg: While I liked previous singles "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du" and "Kill This Love" a tiny bit more than “How You Like That,” I’m thrilled they’re getting the recognition they deserve, so it’s a 10 for me!

Jason Lipshutz: An 8! Blackpink is a really compelling pop quartet that appears to be coming into their own as far as sound, style and confidence; I was excited to listen to “How You Like That,” not just because of the fan fervor surrounding the new single release, but to see where Blackpink was headed next. The fact that the group continues to reach new commercial heights as they perfect their formula makes me hopeful that they’ll soar even higher whenever they reach their creative apex.

Andrew Unterberger: I'll say an 8, as I also expected this to land just a little bit higher on the Hot 100. But I respect how the Blackpink takeover has been so incremental, and if they didn't break the top 25 this time, chances are pretty good they'll get there next time around.

2. What do you think is the primary reason that Blackpink have been able to crack the top 40 on their own -- chart terrain that's basically been off-limits to decades of Korean girl groups before them? 

Anna Chan: Who doesn't love a strong girl group? And by that, I'm not just talking about the music being good or the level of talent, which are both there. Blackpink has the attitude down too, which I think is a big reason for this latest success. They're not meek, quiet young women lamenting a lost love or yearning for some imaginary perfect man. Just look at their videos, and even some of the English lyrics. Take "Kill This Love," for example. They know the romance is toxic, so boy, bye! Plus, those military-inspired outfits in the video? BAD. ASS.

Nolan FeeneyOne of the biggest factors is that a desire for global domination seems baked into the songwriting process. Sure, their sound is omnivorous: In addition to the obvious fusion of hip-hop and EDM, you also have flashes of reggaetón (“Forever Young”), sugary ‘80s pop (“As If It’s Your Last”) and folksy balladry (“Stay”). But the generous scattering of English phrases throughout their songs means a lot of non-Korean listeners feel like they can sing along to the whole thing, and Blackpink choruses seem especially designed to reach global audiences: You’ll notice that the hooks on “Kill This Love” and “How You Like That” don’t have a lot of words in them, and a track like “Ddu-Du” and its titular refrain don’t require a grasp on any language to join in the fun.

Gab Ginsberg: I think it’s a combination of the group building international recognition over the past few years in a way that no other Korean girl group has, and their fans. When I was listening to Girls’ Generation in college, for example, they were popular within my friend group, but we were not tweeting or otherwise posting on social media about them, since many social media platforms were just starting to become popular, and the group wasn’t really mainstream in the U.S. Now, groups can reach fans around the world through social media -- and fans can rally together to support singles and other releases in an extremely organized fashion.

Blackpink specifically has built a huge and loyal fanbase, and in return, those fans will do anything to help the band. In this case, the work from both sides paid off!

Jason Lipshutz: Credit the Blackpink fandom in general: there’s such palpable online interest in their music that it’s not a surprise “How You Like That” performed so well on streaming services during its first week of release, or that its official music video racked up millions of YouTube views in a matter of hours. It will be harder to bust through the glass ceiling at U.S. radio -- where even the biggest K-pop hits have struggled to make a significant dent -- but what Blackpink has already accomplished commercially in the United States is pretty breathtaking.

Andrew Unterberger: I think it's just a matter of so convincingly sounding like they're the biggest girl group in the world, with their juggernaut hooks and unflinching confidence, that you almost have no choice but to cede to their authority and get out of their way. Sorta telling that there's no question mark at the end of the title of "How You Like That" -- at the end of the day, they're not really asking.

3. "How You Like That" matches the Hot 100 debut of their Lady Gaga collab "Sour Candy" with its No. 33 debut. Which song would you prefer to see catch on with radio and wider pop culture this summer? 

Anna Chan: Hands down, "How You Like That." For me, it's a stronger, catchier song. On top of that, I'd like to see them celebrated for their own work, and not have their success be thanks to a collab with a major international star.

Nolan FeeneyGoing with “How You Like That,” not just because it’s Blackpink’s own single instead of a collaboration with a more established artist, but also because that hook -- “Look at you, now look at me! Look at you, now look at me!” -- deserves to be blasted out of every car speaker system. Plus, I appreciate the journey of “How You Like That”: After 30 seconds of “Sour Candy,” there aren’t many surprises left. But I don’t think anything about “How You Like That” gives away the fact that it’s going to end in this over-the-top, four-on-the-floor dance breakdown.

Gab Ginsberg: Wow, that’s a cool coincidence. Kudos to Blackpink for achieving the same chart feat on their own! Personally, "Sour Candy" is more my taste, if you will, so I’ll go with that one.

Jason Lipshutz: Give me “Sour Candy,” a song that serves as the spectacular fulcrum between the first and second halves of Chromatica, and which perfectly marries the modern pop aesthetic of Blackpink with Gaga’s theatricality. “Rain On Me” is the single that went No. 1 from that album, but “Sour Candy” is just as delicious of a collaboration.

Andrew Unterberger: Going with "How You Like That," just because it's the more representative example of Blackpink's peerlessly indomitable stomp-pop. But really, I'm hoping the next advance track to come from the upcoming album ends up even being more undeniable.

4. Blackpink's upcoming Korean-language debut LP will undoubtedly be one of the most anticipated pop releases this year. What's something you'd like to see them try out -- a new sound, a new collaborator, a new concept -- on the album?

Anna Chan: Blackpink seems versatile and already has pop, hip-hop, and what I think of as the '80s anime sound down, so why not try going a little harder and darker? Perhaps a collab with '90s U.K. trip-hop icon Tricky. Based on "How You Like That," I can imagine them meshing well with the electronic artist, maybe something along the lines of what he did with Massive Attack or his early solo work. A song with Garbage would also be fierce! You'd have not only the brilliance of Butch Vig, but imagine the empowering message they could bring with Shirley Manson!

Nolan FeeneyI’m excited to see if the group will work with other producers outside of its usual crew. We know Blackpink logged some time in the studio with producer Tommy Brown, a close collaborator of Ariana Grande, so I’d love to hear their version of something like “thank u, next” -- some softer R&B sounds they haven’t really touched on before -- or even a more understated banger along the lines of “7 rings.” I think it is really exciting that K-pop acts have shown they can be successful in the U.S. on their own terms and without compromising, and I hope that doesn’t change. But I’m also curious what a Blackpink album would sound like if the group could assemble one the way most major pop divas do: by working with a small army of producers and songwriters and covering an even wider range of songs and styles.

Gab Ginsberg: I wouldn’t say no to a few features from other badass women. I loved their collab with Dua Lipa! This time, maybe Gaga can return the favor, or perhaps Janelle Monae or even Beyoncé would be willing to hop on a track. How cool would that be?

Jason Lipshutz: How about a full-blown ballad? Blackpink’s 2019 song “Hope Not” hinted at the type of emotional range the group possesses, but something even more heartfelt, in the classic mold of Spice Girls’ “Goodbye” or Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion,” would serve them well on their upcoming full-length.

Andrew Unterberger: Bigger is basically always better with Blackpink, so why not go full multi-part epic? Girl's Generation's "I Got a Boy" is the gold standard here, obviously, and "How You Like That" even suggests a little switch-up ambition with some of its unexpected beat evolutions and melodic twists. But I'd like to see them get really wild with it. Maybe even invite a special guest to join in and go full "Sicko Mode" with the transitions and trade-offs. Hell, maybe get Travis Scott himself.

5. Blackpink's success is rare for a girl group of any nationality in 2020. What other all-female vocal group of the last decade would you have liked to see get more mainstream attention? 

Anna Chan: Girl groups don't often catch my attention (so bravo, Blackpink!), but perhaps Icona Pop -- yes, I know, technically a duo -- is due for some renewed attention. They exploded with wholly irresistible debut single "I Love It" thanks to Charli XCX in 2012, and their two most recent singles -- 2019's "Next Mistake" and 2018's "Rhythm in My Blood" are full of energy and super danceable with an appetizing nostalgic sound to them. With more new music coming, they could be poised for some overdue top 40 love.

Nolan FeeneyAdding my voice to the chorus of people wishing Little Mix were bigger in the U.S! But I’m also going with an unconventional choice here and saying that I wish more people were also following the return of the Pussycat Dolls. I know, I know -- they are not exactly underdogs here. PCD is one of the most successful girl groups in pop history, and like Little Mix, they have a huge following overseas. (Prior to the pandemic, the group was set for a European arena tour.)

But comeback single “React” feels, frankly, more effortlessly cool than a lot of their biggest hits, and I didn’t realize some of the uphill battles the group, which now releases music independently, faced with its return. “There were reservations about whether there was even a market or interest in five women of our age coming back and doing what we do,” Nicole Scherzinger told Billboard recently. “Executives were reluctant to get behind the reunion project and invest in it, and a lot of doors were closed in our faces.” So I’d like to think the pose they strike at the 1:12 mark in the “React” video is their cheeky version of a middle finger.

Gab Ginsberg: JUSTICE FOR LITTLE MIX!!!!

Jason Lipshutz: Look, obviously Little Mix is a very big deal overseas and especially in their native U.K., but the fact that their polished pop songs play to arenas across the pond but not in the U.S. feels like an American failure. Perrie, Jesy, Jade and Leigh-Anne should be household names in America.

Andrew Unterberger: I'd love to see Red Velvet -- makers of some of the most consistently imaginative and captivating pop music (and music videos!) of the past half-decade -- start to scale to the Billboard chart heights that Blackpink have reached.

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