If you’re a prominent Billboard chart this week, BLACKPINK is definitely in your area. The K-pop quartet’s second album, Born Pink, becomes the group’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, with 102,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending Sept. 22, according to Luminate. Meanwhile, BLACKPINK hits the top spot of the Artist 100 chart; Born Pink standout “Shut Down” debuts at No. 25 on this week’s Hot 100, the chart’s highest debut; and also starts at No. 1 on the Global 200 and Global Excl. U.S. charts.
How significant is the No. 1 debut of Born Pink for the group? And how did BLACKPINK become the first female group in over a decade to top the Billboard 200? Billboard writers discuss these questions and more below.
1. On a scale of 1-10, how big a deal is it for BLACKPINK, already global stars, to score their first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with Born Pink?
Jason Lipshutz: An 8. BLACKPINK didn’t need a No. 1 album to validate their rise to international fame, but the success of Born Pink speaks to the continued expansion of the group’s U.S. fan base, after years of investment in listenership growth. Topping the Billboard 200 is not a sure thing for any pop group — just look at the 14-year drought between chart-topping projects by a female group, which Born Pink finally put to an end. BLACKPINK would have kept soaring regardless of where Born Pink debuted on the albums chart, but the No. 1 bow highlights their stateside popularity in a meaningful way.
Josh Glicksman: I’ll go with a very strong 9 here, verging on a perfect 10. As the question suggests, there’s no doubt that BLACKPINK are established global powerhouses, so on one hand, the feat is just another reminder that BLACKPINK is in everyone’s area. At the same time, it’s hard to understate the significance of the group scoring a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 — it’s a loud-and-clear signal that BLACKPINK’s stateside presence is rock-solid, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Lyndsey Havens: 10. While BLACKPINK is already a global force, solidifying that status with a Billboard 200 No. 1 album is huge, and feels right on time. Considering Born Pink is the act’s second full-length, it proves every milestone along the way — from making history as the first all-female K-pop group to perform at Coachella in 2019, to earning the biggest music video debut of the year so far with Born Pink lead single “Pink Venom” — were steps in the right direction, toward undeniable stardom.
Starr Bowenbank: Definitely a solid 10. While BLACKPINK has of course managed to see major chart success here with their previous release, The Album, very few K-pop groups have managed to score a No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200 — in fact, only BTS and Stray Kids have managed to accomplish the No. 1 album feat this year — making BLACKPINK part of a very exclusive class of K-pop stars.
Stephen Daw: I’d say this is a very solid 8. There is no debate over whether or not K-pop is a mainstream, marketable genre for major labels (it very obviously is), so BLACKPINK scoring a No. 1 album is only further proof of that fact. But getting a No. 1 album when up against a chart behemoth like Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti is something that multiple established acts have been unable to do in recent weeks, so seeing an act like BLACKPINK soar up the charts for a No. 1 debut is a massive deal.
2. The group’s 2020 debut The Album, which featured collaborations with Cardi B and Selena Gomez, bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Why do you think Born Pink was able to surpass that chart peak and reach the top spot?
Jason Lipshutz: Simply put, there are more BLACKPINK fans now than there were two years ago, and Born Pink acts like it. The Album represented a strong introduction to the quartet’s studio personas for those previously unfamiliar with the group, but Born Pink expands upon that first step sonically and lyrically, with bolder production choices and less hesitancy to let their individual personalities shine on each track. Born Pink recognizes the wider audience that BLACKPINK speaks to now, and effectively communicates with the masses.
Josh Glicksman: A good deal of it has to do with happenstance: The Album arrived on the same day as 21 Savage & Metro Boomin’s streaming juggernaut Savage Mode II, and debuted at No. 2 as a result. (For reference, The Album’s 110,000 equivalent album units earned in its opening week would’ve been good for a No. 1 debut this week as well.) Of course, the group continuing to level up and the Blinks showing up in full force played no small role, but a chart-topping entry has been a long time coming for BLACKPINK.
Lyndsey Havens: I think part of it is that it’s the group’s second album, so the simple factor of time in between its debut and now — during which a handful of records were broken — went a long way in building up their global fan base. I also think repeating its eight-song length was a smart move, because, in spite of its growing fan base, Born Pink doesn’t feel overstuffed and therefore prompts unlimited replays. Another smart play? Abandoning features altogether this time around — if nothing came about naturally, I’m glad the girls didn’t feel a need to force it. The result is a swift 25-minute album that’s all them.
Starr Bowenbank: Girl group drought aside (more on that later), I think Blinks were really starving for more songs from the group! While Lisa and Rosé’s solo releases were able to whet fans’ appetites for new material in 2021, the fans longed for the group to have a bit more togetherness, with several fans remarking on social media that they missed the girls spending time together and working as a quartet. Apprehension might have also been a factor in the No. 1, as fans were unsure if BLACKPINK was going to renew their contract with YG, so when the first murmurs of new material came about, Blinks devoured it – and Born Pink – as a result. But from a less subjective standpoint, I think the No. 1 spot can be attributed to a few more things — like the fact that Born Pink is recorded largely in English, the intrigue that comes from all the f-bombs in “Tally,” or the surprise Rosé solo on “Hard to Love.”
Stephen Daw: There’s obviously a lot of factors at play here — the group has grown their fan base over the last few years, they utilized public performances of their lead single “Pink Venom” very strategically, so on and so forth. But the simple fact is that the Blinks were on a mission here, and successfully organized themselves well enough to boost this album’s streams and sales to give it a No. 1 debut.
3. Born Pink is also the first No. 1 album by a female group since Danity Kane’s Welcome to the Dollhouse in 2008. Why do you think BLACKPINK became the ones to end that 14-year drought?
Jason Lipshutz: A combination of coincidence — pop groups like Fifth Harmony and rock groups like Haim have certainly been prominent enough to score top 10 albums without having the opportunity to hit the top of the Billboard 200 — and the reality of a relatively quiet time for arena-level female collectives, compared to previous eras in popular music, caused that unfortunate drought. But BLACKPINK is exciting enough to appeal to K-pop diehards as well as cross over to casual listeners, and Born Pink is arriving with a mountain of hype after a two-year wait. Farewell, 14-year drought! We won’t miss you.
Josh Glicksman: There is a combination of factors in play here, but a chunk of it goes back to my response from the last question: oftentimes, a No. 1-worthy album can get stuck behind any number of huge projects during its release week. Still, Born Pink is chock full of hits to get wrapped around your brain, bouncing genres seamlessly as the group’s members trade turns in the spotlight with the microphone. BLACKPINK has an undeniable charisma — and, of course, an undeniable following — that propelled the album to No. 1.
Lyndsey Havens: Well, outside of Pussycat Dolls, I’m struggling to recall many girl groups that have formed or really taken off since… I think BLACKPINK burst onto the global scene with such force, and at a time when K-pop was having and is continuing to enjoy a major mainstream moment, that of course they are the ones to end the drought. The combination of the act’s music and choreography delivers everything that pop fans came to crave, and BLACKPINK brings it at the highest level possible.
Starr Bowenbank: BLACKPINK managed to come along at the right time. Considering how popular K-pop has become over the past few years, I think that has really allowed the girls to swoop in for the crown. It also helped that the institution of girl groups as a whole was experiencing a major drought in the years after 2008 – sure, Fifth Harmony and Little Mix both were shaking things up in the early to mid 2010s, but neither of those groups had the chance to perform at Coachella in 2019, one of the most globally recognized music festivals in the world. The pandemic proved to be a major shift for people discovering K-pop for the first time, and once the boom reached stateside, BLACKPINK was notably one of its defining figureheads. And with the debut album release, solo projects and attachment to big pop powerhouses, it was only a matter of time before BLACKPINK would go No. 1 with an album. It was a culmination of many moving parts and cultural moments over the years.
Stephen Daw: There’s something to be said for the fact that girl groups over the last decade were not as popular as they were in their turn-of-the-century heyday. Sure, you had acts like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix that broke through, but even then, the results were never quite as massive as the earlier smash-hit makers. But the rise of K-pop has brought about the collective re-interest in girl groups, and there’s no denying that BLACKPINK have long been at the forefront of that movement. So, if there were a group to end the drought of girl group No. 1’s, it’s fitting that it comes from BLACKPINK.
4. Meanwhile, BLACKPINK also scores the highest debut on this week’s Hot 100 chart, as “Shut Down” starts at No. 25. Do you see that song becoming a U.S. hit for the group?
Jason Lipshutz: I do! The dramatic strings, the start-stop rapping, the crackling beats, the “VROOM-vroom-vroom-vroom” — there’s a lot to like in “Shut Down” from both a pop radio perspective and the point of view of TikTok users looking for 10 cool seconds to soundtrack a clip. “Pink Venom” started higher as the Born Pink lead single, but I think “Shut Down” will have a better chart run.
Josh Glicksman: It certainly has worldwide appeal to the masses, including in the U.S., as evidenced by its debut atop both the Global 200 and the Global Excl. U.S. charts. BLACKPINK is no stranger to the Hot 100, either, with “Shut Down” marking the group’s eighth entry on the chart. Still, with all but one of the current Hot 100’s top 20 — Nicki Minaj’s “Super Freaky Girl” — having logged at least 12 weeks on the chart, cracking the upper reaches is no small feat. It’ll take a full force effort to get it there.
Lyndsey Havens: While I don’t see it climbing to the heights that “Pink Venom” has, I do think the song’s take on a string-led production is intriguing enough to prompt more plays. It has all the usual sting of a BLACKPINK song, and is equal parts melodic and menacing, making its staying power seem likely — it’s just a matter of how high it will climb, and how long it will sustain.
Starr Bowenbank: Considering that the song has been stuck on an infinite loop in my head for the past week, I’d like to say yes. The track is a delightful combination of swag and braggadocio-filled verses – which has admittedly been a little absent from mainstream pop releases in the past year – and a sticky chorus, which happens to have a rather fun portion in English (“Whip it, whip it, whip it, whip it”) and thus provides an A+ for listeners to sing along to. With a strong label push, a few more late-night show performances of the track and possibly a viral dance moment, I think the chance has a strong chance of moving at least a few spots up the Hot 100.
Stephen Daw: I’m 50/50 on this song’s chances at becoming a hit. It’s incredibly catchy, and their performance of it on Kimmel certainly indicates a level of broad appeal. But it being autumn, there’s still a lot of massive albums and singles still to come, as well as monumental hits from earlier this year that refuse to stop crushing on the charts. That means BLACKPINK might have a harder time reaching that top slot — but never say never! With the right marketing, “Shut Down” could easily enter the top 10 of the Hot 100.
5. What’s your pick for an album from a female group released in the past 14 years that didn’t hit No. 1, but deserved to do so?
Jason Lipshutz: DNA, Little Mix’s supremely likable 2012 debut, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 thanks in part to the riotous lead single “Wings.” The UK quartet released some flat-out great pop music during its extended run, and DNA should have been a U.S. coronation for a thrilling new group.
Josh Glicksman: Take your pick from Fifth Harmony’s discography. The fact that they never got there simply feels wrong.
Lyndsey Havens: My obvious pick is the Pussycat Dolls’ 2008 album Doll Domination, but I’d also like to use this space to say justice for Cheetah Girls’ self-titled album… although that did come out a bit before Danity Kane and the Dolls debuted, if you can believe it. Total innovators.
Starr Bowenbank: Haim’s debut album Days Are Gone deserved so much more — the record is truly timeless. The album’s debut week on the chart has some pretty tough competition – Justin Timberlake’s second part to The 20/20 Experience, understandably, took the top spot while Drake (Nothing Was the Same), Lorde (Pure Heroine) and Luke Bryan (Crash My Party) all rounded out the top 5. Had the week been a little less stacked with major releases, I think Days Are Gone could have scored Haim a No. 1.
Stephen Daw: Justice for Little Mix’s 2016 album Glory Days! I get it, they were up against massive records from Ariana Grande, Drake, Metallica and a bunch of Christmas records… but Glory Days deserved better than a No. 25 debut. It is their best album, hands down, and it deserved to do better numbers.